Pastor Jim Hammond | July 17, 2022

We’re right in the middle of the seven letters of Revelation written to seven different churches. These letters are important to understand for they lay the groundwork for things we need to be aware of as a church today. The letter Pastor Jim focused on this past weekend was the letter to the church at Smyrna who faced intense persecution. Jesus wanted them to know that they didn’t need to be afraid of persecution, but they could stand strong and hold onto their faith no matter what came their way!

Dive Deeper:
No one wants to be persecuted. Everyone would prefer to be well-liked by others and avoid the scrutiny that persecution brings. The church at Smyrna, however, wasn’t able to do that. False teachings were prevalent. In fact, they were one of the first cities to sponsor Caesar’s worship under the Romans. This included a gesture of formality that citizens had to annually and publicly acknowledge that Caesar was Lord. Rome didn’t necessarily care who you worshipped throughout the year. They simply wanted you to acknowledge Caesar that one time. Once you did, you could get a document that showed proof you obeyed.

Some Christians at that time figured it would be fine to say Caesar was Lord and then go back to church. Others recognized that their words were powerful and meant something. To say both Caesar and Jesus were Lord was incompatible and untrue. What that meant, though, was Christians were persecuted, burned at the stake, or fed to the lions if they didn’t obey.

Jesus encouraged these Christians to stand fast. He saw the trouble coming and what was awaiting the church, and He let them know that they did not need to be afraid of the certain persecution that was headed their way. Even when the Jews persecuted the Christians, they should stand firm in their faith.

May the Lord give us that same stamina, perseverance, and faith as well to hold to our faith! We don’t have to be afraid. We can choose Him!

Read About It:
Revelation 2:8–11 KJV
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

1 Corinthians 1:5 KJV
That in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

Hebrews 10:34 Amp.
For you did sympathize and suffer along with those who were imprisoned, and you bore cheerfully the plundering of your belongings and the confiscation of your property, in the knowledge and consciousness that you yourselves had a better and lasting possession.

Ephesians 2:4 KJV
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

Discussion Questions:
1. Have you ever faced persecution of some sort?
2. What can we do today to strengthen our faith so we are ready for persecution that comes our way?
3. Why would people choose to claim that Caesar is Lord even when they knew it wasn’t true?

Rewatch or catch up on the full sermon with the link below!

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