Yesterday I preached a sermon on the church suffering from Revelation 2:8-11. The Church at Smyrna was told by our Lord that they would suffer, and that suffering may even be unto death. At the close of the sermon I quickly went through some application points to think through when it comes to suffering and what we can learn. Here they are:
1. If we are to pray “Let your kingdom come, let your will be done,” this surely means that the Kingdom of God hasn’t fully come on earth. This reminds us that God’s kingdom is both a here and not yet reality. Thus, this world will show the effects of sin until the consummation of God’s kingdom. The effects of sin will include suffering and death.
2. We live in a war zone and must develop a warfare mentality. We war against the devil, the world, and the flesh. If we don’t understand that we are in a war as Christians, we won’t understand the suffering that we go through as combatants in this war.
3. As in any war, there will be casualties. I am grateful that those martyred for their faith and those suffering as Christians do not face these things without hope. Yes there are casualties, but there are no senseless casualties for God is working out His purpose for His glory and the exaltation of His Name among the nations.
4. These casualties are to the glory of God. (See #3 above)
5. We suffer with love in our hearts for our accusers praying for them. The church at Smyrna would face slander from the synagogue of Satan. So there would be earthly faces to those who would cause them suffering and even death. And yet we are reminded of the example of Jesus that we should pray for our enemies just as He did on the cross.
6. We suffer that the gospel of Jesus Christ might be preached to all peoples. Often times the greatest suffering of the saints brings the greatest spread of the gospel.
7. We suffer that the truths of God’s Word might be proclaimed. Standing for the clarity, sufficiency, and authority of God’s Word may bring suffering.
8. We suffer as an example for others so that their faith might be strengthened and encouraged. I reminded the congregation of many times I’ve been encouraged as I heard the testimony and observed the faith of those who were suffering. What a gift is given to us when Christians suffer well.
9. We suffer to show that earthly treasure isn’t gain nor is suffering and death loss. Yes we grieve, but not as those who have no hope! Our suffering is temporary, even if extended over a lifetime. What is a lifetime in comparison to eternal life? As we suffer well we teach that there is a greater and better reality than the stuff of this earth, even life and health.
10. We must say and show that following Christ means He is our ultimate treasure. The treasure we seek isn’t stuff on earth, it’s the person of our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our gain.
I pray that these thoughts will encourage you as the reality is you are coming out of suffering, you are suffering, or you will soon suffer. May we suffer well to the glory of God!