What’s Wrong with the Church?
We Can Be at Our Best Even When Life Is at Its Worst!
If the question was asked, “how many of you would like some suffering in your life”, no one would raise their hand. Suffering is not something we seek out or ask for; it is a part of life. There are only two churches in the list of seven that Jesus had no correction for, only comfort. This church in Smyrna is one. What is it that Jesus wants us to know and learn through suffering?
“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. 9 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. 10 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. 11 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.
Share a way, big or small, suffering has touched your life this week. How did you react?
Did your circumstances or your reactions to those circumstances reveal anything about the character of God? If so, what?
The believers in Smyrna were very poor, but Jesus told them they were rich. What did He mean by that?
What are the two things Jesus wants them to do through suffering according to verse 10?
1. Do not be __________. 2. Be ___________.
Why are those two things so important to do through suffering?
How often do you think about eternal life? Why or why not?
Spend some time in prayer or the persecuted church around the world. Pray for those in your group that are experiencing suffering of any kind.
How might we as a group help each other find joy in Christ in the midst of trials?
Consider taking 50 days to pray for the top 50 most persecuted places in the world. (opendoorusa.org)
2:8. Like Ephesus, Smyrna, 35 miles to the north, was a harbor city. Its large Jewish population bitterly opposed Christianity. When Domitian issued an edict declaring emperor worship mandatory for all inhabitants of the Roman Empire, he exempted the Jews from this requirement. The Jews did not want this religious freedom extended to Christians. The church in Smyrna was likely founded during Paul’s third missionary journey (Ac 19).
2:9-10. The church at Smyrna, against whom Christ voiced no criticism, was suffering through spiritual warfare. A local synagogue of Jews was engaged in slander that resulted in church members being jailed for a short time (10 days). All of this represented a test of their faith. The phrase those who say they are Jews and are not does not deny the Jewish bloodlines of the persecutors. Rather, it mirrors Paul’s assertion that, ultimately, Jewishness is not just outward but inward, related to the “circumcision is of the heart” by faith (Rm 2:28-29). The crown of life is also referred to in Jms 1:12, where it is received by those who love the Lord and endure trials, probably at “the judgment seat of Christ” (2Co 5:10).
2:11. The second death is the lake of fire (20:14), the place of eternal torment for the Devil, the beast, the false prophet (20:10), and all the non-elect (20:15).