Second in a series
The year was A.D. 155 and he was told to curse God and live. The alternative was to be burned at the stake. His name was Polycarp and his response was, “Eighty and six years I have served Him and He has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who has saved me?”
You probably know the rest of the story. Polycarp proved faithful to God, and it cost him his life, but did you know that he was the bishop of Smyrna and many would say that he is the angel in Revelation 2:8-11?
Smyrna is known as the poor church that was rich, and its story can be compressed into a single word: tribulation. Their challenge was to be faithful. Jesus says to them that He knows what they have been through and reminds them that He is the first and the last, and with Him they are rich.
I believe we can be encouraged by these words as well, even when things are difficult.
A relationship with God is personal so we must take a personal look at our faithfulness. Jesus is having a personal conversation with John when He says, “I know.” Don’t ever forget that Jesus knows what we are going through, and His answer is that He is the first and the last. The people of Smyrna faced being tested, thrown into prison and even death, but were promised the crown of life for their faithfulness.
My encouragement to you is to remain faithful because, in the end, it will be of great worth.
The people of Smyrna are also challenged to have a permanent faithfulness – faithful to the very end, through temptations, trials and tribulations. They are told not to fear what they are about to face but to take courage because it is only temporary. The promise is beautiful.
Listen carefully: “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” Aren’t you glad that death holds no power over us because of Jesus the Christ?
The best part of the Smyrna story is that their faith will be perfected. What we hope for in this life, we will one day see in full. This church was poor by the world’s standards, but Jesus said they were rich.
They had a personal faith and that faith was permanent, to the very end, even when facing prison and death. Jesus says that’s the kind of faith that is rewarded with the crown of life.
Imagine with me standing before the one who died for us knowing that we have been faithful.
Just like Polycarp, not afraid of the wild beast or the flames, and hearing these words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
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(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article is part of a series on the theme of the 2018 North Carolina Pastor’s Conference, “7 Churches of Revelation.” This year’s event will occur Nov. 4-5 in conjunction with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting. Visit ncpastorsconference.org for more information. Lee Pigg is senior pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Monroe and outgoing BSC president. Each column in the series will be written by a different N.C. leader and refer to one of the seven churches in Revelation.)