Sermon Overview & Prayer: "A Dangerous Business"

Revelation 2:8-11 – PRAYER POINTS

"A Dangerous Business" - Jeff Purswell
These written prayers are intended to fuel your meditation on this passage and your enjoyment of God in prayer.

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last,  who died and came to life. “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty ( but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’” (Revelation 2:8-11)

A topic that can be particularly uncomfortable—one that most of us would prefer to avoid—is the reality of persecution. There should be no egg-shells surrounding it. Avoiding it will not serve us. If you are not prepared, if you don’t have a theology of persecution, then you are vulnerable...vulnerable to surprise, vulnerable to discouragement, vulnerable to fear, and most seriously, vulnerable to compromise.

PRAYER: Father in heaven, please open my heart to the essence and implications of persecution.  Remind me that persecution means I have been delivered out of the kingdom of darkness and am now in the kingdom of the true King. Remind me that it means I am following you and not the ways of this world. Remind me that this is the path Jesus walked...all the way to the cross. Strengthen my faith, my courage, and my compassion for the lost. May my anticipation of persecution bring faith-filled trust, and not fearful resignation.

Those who follow Jesus have the privilege of suffering with Him now, and delighting in Him forever. Because we are strangers and aliens in a world whose project is self-exaltation and antagonism we will often be treated as He was treated. But when Christ’s purposes unfold, his authority is fully manifested, and his enemies are subjugated, we will partake in the glory that is His, the glory He shares with those He purchased on the cross.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for this reminder that this is not our home. Fill my heart with reminders of your goodness, glory, and grace – that though glorious, are but a foretaste of the age to come. Invigorate me to say with Paul, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

Jesus’ Commendation

Be sure to not miss those two precious words: “I KNOW.” “I am aware of your suffering.” “I see every pain, every heart-ache; every injustice, every sleepless night worrying about how to provide for your family, every sacrifice, every act of faithfulness.” Not only does he know but he also sees: “I am with you!”

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for your constant care, comfort, and encouragement. Thank you for your grace that supplies me with steadfast faith and faithful endurance. Your grace is indeed sufficient.

Jesus’ EXHORTATION

Do not fear.  Here we see part of the theology of persecution. Far from being strange or unexpected, persecution is a function of a world that is opposed to God and under bondage to Satan.

All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim 3:12). Persecution is not strange, but rather a badge of honor! It’s a function of our existence as God’s redeemed people, and our mission to glorify Him in the earth.

PRAYER: Father, I confess that the realities of the world around me can tempt me. I can fear hostile persecution. I can resent what appears to be injustice. I can be tempted to be just as bitter as those at whom my bitterness is directed. And I can forget that you rule and govern all...even persecution. Holy Spirit empower me to walk in a manner that pleases the Lord and displays the power and hope found only, and infinitely, in the gospel.

Be Faithful. Slowly & subtly, truth is undermined; sin gets redefined; our hope gets transferred; the church’s witness gets blurred--Jesus himself gets marginalized--the gospel is lost. Beware of being enticed by worldliness, or intimidated by threats, or seduced by success.

PRAYER: Gracious Lord, help me to be alert and to be faithful. Empower me to be faithful to Jesus; to be faithful to His Word; to be faithful to love him and cherish him. Help me to be faithful to worship him only, and to obey him exclusively. Compel me with compassion to offer him to others, as the only hope for forgiveness and life, for satisfaction and joy forevermore.

JESUS'S PROMISE

We get a glimpse of this life at the end of this book. There is a New Heavens & New Earth completely cleansed from all the effects of sin, all that twists & distorts & destroys & disappoints. There will be no more death, no more crying, no more pain, heartbreak, temptation or weariness, disappointment or distrust. All will be new!

Is there anything broken in your life? It’s going to be NEW! The greatest thing about this life is that He will be there!  We will never experience the punishment we deserve because Jesus suffered that punishment for us on the cross, in our place, becoming sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God. And because He did, we get the “crown of life” we do not deserve, instead of the “lake of fire” we do deserve.

PRAYER: My Lord and my God, I thank you that no matter what happens in days to come—in our nation, or in my life – I can rely on the personal presence of the risen Christ. I can trust and rely on the one who will never leave me, or forsake me, but who will sustain me, faithful, until the day He welcomes me home.

 

OVERVIEW OF THE SERMON:
Jesus’ letter to the church in Smyrna is meant to encourage and strengthen the church amidst severe persecution. For the church today, the letter teaches us that those who follow Jesus have the privilege of suffering with him now and delighting in him forever. Jesus commends, exhorts, and reiterates his promise to the church. He reminds believers who are being persecuted that he knows their persecution, tells them to not fear and be faithful, and reminds them of the promise of the crown of life to come.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  1. What comes to mind when you hear the word “persecution”? Do you think of it as something to avoid, an honor, or something entirely removed from you?
  2. Reread verses 9 and 10. How do these commendations and exhortations strengthen our church like they would have for the church in Smyrna?
  3. How does God use persecution to work good for believers? How have you seen him use it in yours or others’ lives?
  4. How does this sermon motivate your prayers for the persecuted church here and around the world?