In the second and third chapters of Revelation are letters from Jesus to seven of the first century churches in what is today Turkey. While I believe these letters were addressed to real churches of that day, I also believe they have great application to our churches today. The second of these was to the church of Smyrna. This was a church that was faithful in spite of the opposition they faced.
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.Revelation 2:8-11 NIV
A Seemingly Insignificant Church
I suspect that most people, if they are church shopping, would not give Smyrna a second look. They appeared to be a church that was experiencing difficulties and had little to commend them materially. Imagine a church today who can barely afford to keep the lights on; the heat is minimal; all of the furnishings are old and drab; the sound system is non-existent; and the building is in need of a coat of paint. Pretty attractive isn’t it?
Smyrna was also a church that seemed to be experiencing some opposition from other local churches. It could be because of the message they proclaimed. Or it could be because of their ministry efforts to less desirable elements of the community. There were those who wished that the church of Smyrna would just quietly close their doors and quit being an offense to their sense of how ‘church’ should be done.
But someone very important didn’t share that opinion of this church; and that someone was Jesus. Where many saw a poor church, Jesus saw a rich church. One that was faithful, laying up riches in heaven, following his example in reaching out to the poor, the disadvantaged, the outcasts of society. Where the world saw a church that was dying, Jesus saw a church that was very much alive and victorious.
But a Faithful Church
We would like to think that if a church is really being faithful to Christ, like the church at Smyrna was, that they would not have budget problems; that they would not face challenging times; and that life as a church would be grand. And while some of that may be true some of the time, for Smyrna it was not. Jesus warned them of continuing challenges, some that were worse than what they were currently experiencing. And he encouraged them to remain faithful, and to experience the victor’s crown.
Smyrna was a faithful church, one whose focus was not on their problems, but rather on Jesus. In Jesus eyes, success as a church is not based on how many attend. It is not measured by how elaborate and well maintained the facility is. Nor how many programs are offered and how well they are run. And how polished the worship team is doesn’t matter. To Jesus, success goes hand in hand with faithfulness.
What is the mark of success for the church you are a part of? Is it based on numbers, whether people, money or programs? Is it based on appearances, in the form of facilities, worship or prestige? Or is it based on faithfulness to his call to be the body of Christ? And, even more importantly, are you faithful to God’s call in your life, and service within his church?
The Seven Churches Series
- Ephesus: Losing Their First Love – Revelation 2:1-7
- Smyrna: The Faithful Church – Revelation 2:8-11
- Pergamum: The Compromising Church – Revelation 2:12-17
- Thyatira: The Tolerant Church – Revelation 2:18-29
- Sardis: A Dead Church With A Reputation – Revelation 3:1-6
- Philadelphia: The Enduring Church – Revelation 3:7-13
- Laodicea: The Lukewarm Church – Revelation 3:14-22
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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