REVELATION 2:10: “Don’t be afraid of what you are going to suffer. Look! The Devil is going to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested. For ten days you will undergo suffering. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the victor’s crown of life.” (ISV)
OBSERVATION: What is the most misunderstood concept of Christianity in our Western culture? I believe it is the concept of what it means to be successful. Somewhere in our affluence, we have overlaid the concept of wealth and ease over the definition of true success. The common thought is this – If we are walking by faith, then we will be living in abundance. This is the picture of success for the world, why should it be anything different for the believer?
When one reads the Bible honestly, it is hard to continue to hold such a view. The paradox of Scripture is quite clear. Jesus said,
- “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:24-26 NKJV
So if true success is not found in “gaining the whole world”, then where is it found? It is found in faithfulness! The Church of Smyrna was a small persecuted church. To everyone else they appeared to be poor, broken down, and suffering. Yet, to the Lord, they appeared quite differently.
- “To the messenger of the church in Smyrna, write: ‘The first and the last, who was dead and became alive, says this: ‘I know your suffering and your poverty—though you are rich…”. (Revelation 2:8-9, ISV)
In the Lord’s eyes, the first and the last, the one who was dead and became alive – they were rich! This proclamation was not referring to worldly riches. It was referring to the riches of their faith in Jesus Christ. There are two things you will never find in a persecuted church. You will never find a lack of vibrant faith, or an abundance of complacency.
The Church of Smyrna was rich in faith, and their faith was shown in their faithfulness!
The call to faithfulness is not a call to simply hang in there so that you can get what you want. The Biblical call to faithfulness is the call to endure in faith – no matter what. Jesus told this small, yet rich church, that they would be persecuted for a period of time. Yet, if they were faithful until death – they would receive the victor’s crown of life. This did not mean that they were all going to die in the persecution. It was simply a call to be faithful to the end – no matter what!
Paul is a model of this call to faithfulness. He endured great suffering for the cause of Jesus Christ, yet he did not waiver from his calling. He learned in every situation to walk in faith. Paul was faithful when he was in want, or when he abounded.
It was not about what Paul had – it was always about Who had Paul!
- “…To which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (II Timothy 1:11-12 NKJV)
- “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV)
Paul, like the Church of Smyrna, was looking forward to the reward of true success. It is not a crown of gold, silver, and precious jewels. It is the Crown of Life that the Lord Jesus Himself will place on each one who has walked in faith – until death. It is the reward of those who finish the race of life in faithfulness. This is the true measure of success!
Lord, grant me the grace to be successful today – by walking in faithfulness to Your commands. May I truly seek first Your Kingdom in all that I do, and may I hunger for Your righteousness in all that I am becoming. Lord, help me to be faithful!
In Jesus Name!