Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Pastor Tom Sawhook
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Fellowship Bible Church
Hamilton, Ohio

A Study in the Book Of The Revelation

  (The Church at Smyrna)

This morning I want to talk about something we all face from time to time and which some of you are facing
right now----Trials, Tribulations, Hardships, and Difficult Times.

Before we get to the principles, I want to use the format we used last week when looking at the
church of Ephesus.

    Rev. 2:8  And unto the angel of the church of Smyrna write;  These things saith the first and the
    last, which was dead and is alive;

    Rev. 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and
         have the keys of hell and of death.
II. THE CHURCH: Church of Smyrna
     Rev. 2:8  And unto the angel of the church of Smyrna
             Smyrna and Ephesus were about 35 miles from each other.
    1.  There is nothing said as to how or when the church started.
    2.  However, we know that during Paul's ministry to the Ephesians, he had an affect on all
        Acts 19:10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which
                dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
    1.  It was a beautiful city---called "The crown of Asia"
    2.  It had a great harbor for ships to bring their goods and for cities to ship their goods
    3.  It was said that the winds blew from every part of the city and made it smell fresh.
     4.  However they had a sewage problem---and when the wind blew from the West, the odor was
        very disturbing.
    5.  The city was lined with beautiful buildings and huge temples.
    6.  Smyrna was a "free city" in that no Roman garrison was assigned there.  Rome felt they
            could be trusted to handle their own affairs.
    7.  It definitely was a pagan city with temples erected to the gods and goddesses of--Cybele,
            Apollo---Ascelpius--Aphrodite---Zeus---Emperor Caesar.
    8.  Smyrna was a staunch ally of Rome
    9.  In fact, its citizens were so infatuated with Rome that in 195 B.C.  they built an temple
            in which Rome was worshipped
    10. A century later the Roman general Sulla's ill-clad army faced bitter winter weather
    11. When the Roman soldiers' plight was announced in a general assembly of Smyrna's citizens,
            they reportedly took off their own clothes to send to them.
    12. As a result, Rome rewarded Smyrna's loyalty by choosing it above all other applicants
            as the site of a new temple dedicated to the Emperor  Tiberius (AD 26)
     13. Later an earthquake destroyed the city late in the second century, but the Emperor
            Marcus Aurelius rebuilt it.
    14. The streets of the city were well laid out, and many were lined with groves of trees
    15. Smyrna's most famous street, was called "Street of Gold" because of the great temples
            built upon it.
    16. They also had erected a glorious monument to the great poet Homer
    17. So this is the city in which the church of Smyrna exists.
VI.  THE COMMENDATION: Jesus commends them for their steadfastness during their difficult times
     Rev. 2:9  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.

    1.  We know they are going through difficult times because of the TRIBULATION - in the Green
            meaning "pressing together, to be squeezed, pressure, to be crushed, great distress"
    2.  Why was this happening to them?
         1) Emperor Worship

        1. About 200 years before Christ was born, a statue of a goddess calle the "Dea
                   Roma" (Rome personified) was erected in Smyrna.
        2. As time  past, the emperors of Rome declared themselves as God and demanded to
                   be worshipped as such.
        3. There was a bust of Caesar with a flame around it, and people were to sprinkle
                   incense to it as an act of worship.
        4. The believers of Smyrna refused and as a result they were accused of a lack of
                   patriotism and were boycotted by the entire society
        2) Pagan Worship

        1. There were festivals by the thousands in honor of their gods and goddesses
        2. In our country, we have street lights that line the roads,
        3. But in Smyrna, pagan idols lined the roads
        4. The believers wouldn't honor them and again were ostracized from society
        3) Unbelieving Jews
            Rev. 2:9 I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not,
                        but are the synagogue of satan
        1. Blasphemy - injurious speech, slander, defamation
        2. They were Jews by race, but NOT Jews by faith.  We would say they were not believers.
        3. Unbelieving Jews commonly accused Christians of cannibalism (based on a misunderstanding
                   of the Lord's Supper.)
        4. They accused them of immorality (based on a perversion of the holy kiss) with which
           believers greeted each other
        5. They also accused them of breaking up the home, when one became a Christian
           and the other one was not
        6. They accused them of atheism for their rejection of the many gods and goddesses
               that were available for worship
        7. They pointed out their disloyalty to Rome for refusing to involve themselves
                   in Emperor worship.
        8. So hoping to destroy the Christian faith, some of Smyrna's wealthy, influential
           Jews reported these blasphemous, false allegations to the Romans
        9. These believers were truly experiencing difficult times
        10. Let's make it personal
        11. Some of you are going through your own difficult times
            Centered around:
            *Feelings of worthlessness
            *Loss of a job or being laid off
            *Unjust criticism
            *Bias of a coach
            *Your studies at school
            *Trying to make ends meet financially
            *A mate who pays little attention to you
            *Struggles with your weight and eating habits
            *Overloaded schedules
            *Being pregnant and not married
            *Unable to find a companion
            *Physical limitations
            *Possible career changes
        The point is difficult times are real and we all face them in some form.
         But what can we do about them?
        Rev. 2:8 and unto the angel of the church of Smyrna write: these things saith the first
            and last, which was dead and is alive
        When going through difficult times, remember you have Someone who will stand by you (Jesus)

    1. He refreshes by His presence
        1) Often when going through difficult times, you feel so alone.  So deserted.  So
               by yourself
        2) But when you have Jesus, you have someone who will stand by you.
        3) It hurts when you are unjustly:
                   Criticized- Accused- Blamed and nobody seems to step in and come to your aid.
        4) As  believers, it hurts as well.
        5) And when we're hurting Jesus refreshes us with His presence and stands by us
           through the tough situation.

    2.  He relates to our pain
        1) His death was associated with great pain and suffering
           I Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he
                    might bring us to God
               Heb. 13:12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own
                    blood, suffered without the gate
        2) As a result, He can relate to our pain and suffering, and strtuggles that we face
        3) That doesn't mean He had to experience the exact same thing you're facing to understand
        4) The point is He understand what pain is and therefore can relate to it regardless of its
               various ways it manifests itself.
        5) So again He stands by you being able to relate to your pain.

    3.  He releases His power
              Rev. 2:8 These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive.
        1) The fact that He is alive, stems from His mighty power over death, as displayed by His resurrection
                   Romans 1:4 And declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness,
                    by the resurrection from the dead.
        2) So He stands by you, releasing His power to help in our difficult situation.
            a) Sometimes by His power He alters the situation in your favor.
            b) Sometimes by His power He completely resolves the situation.
            c) Sometimes by His power He provides sustaining grace to endure the situation.
           Rev. 2:9  I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich)
       Poverty in the Greek = one who is facing absolute and complete destitution
           Since the whole society ostracized them and boycotted them.
            a) They couldn't get jobs
            b) They were robbed and plundered of the things they did have
            c) They would make our "poverty level" look like kings in comparison
       Notice what Jesus said to those that were in utter destitution
                 Rev. 2:9  I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (BUT THOU ART RICH)

    When facing difficult times, remember you can turn it into a rich experience if you want to.
       (It depends on how you deal with it)
    1.  When going through difficult times some seek various solutions to their problem.
    2.  Some seek:
         1) Self solution  (I'll just try harder)
        2) Social solution (party---party---party)
        3) Sensual solution (sex is the answer--an inappropriate relationship is okay)
        4) Strong drink solution
        5) Suicidal solution (I'll end it all and won't have to deal with it)
    To turn your difficult situation into a rich experience it requires:
    1. Trust
        Psalm 56:3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee
        Psalm 56:11 In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
        Pro. 3:5,6  Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own
        understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He  shall direct thy paths.
    2.  Time
        Old adage "Good things come to those who wait"
    3.  Tenacity
        To hang in there and not quit

    The rich experience occurs in that it draws you into the awareness of:
    1. Savior's Presence
        Phil 3:7,8  But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
           Yea, doubtless, and I count  all things but loss for the excellency of the
                   knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I suffered the loss of all things
                   and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ
    2.  Scripture's Precepts
        Psalm 119:71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn
                  thy statutes.
    3.  Suffering of People
        2 Cor. 1:3,4  Blessed be God, even the Fath of our Lord Jesus Christ,the father of
                 mercies, and the God of all comfort
         Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which
         are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
    4.  Salvation Needs to be Proclaimed
        Acts 8:3-5 As for Saul he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and
                haling men and women commtted them to prison.
                Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.
        Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
                 ------ People need the Lord

        When going through difficult times, remember it can make you bitter or sweet

    1. Smyrna  is also translated 'myrrh'
               Matt. 2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary
        his mother and fell down, and worshipped him, and when they had opened their treasures
        they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
        Mark 15:23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh; but he received it not
        John 19:39 And there came also Nicodemus which at the first came to Jesus by night and
        brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight
    2.  Myrrh is a spice that comes from a balsam or herb tree
    3.  The interesting fact about myrr is that it has to be crushed and squeezed before it gives
        off any fragrance
    4.  The more it is crushed, the more fragrant it becomes
    5.  The believers at Smyrna were being squeezed and crushed due to the difficult times they
        were facing
    6.  As a result they were giving off a sweet fragrance to the Lord
              Again, trials can make you bitter or sweet.
    7.  For some believers, trials only make them bitter.
              Why me?   I hate this!!  This makes me so angry, I don't need this in my life right now!
              Why is God picking on me?   You call this a loving God who makes me go through things
          like this??
    8.  All you hear are words that reflect a bitter heart
    9.  However, trils or difficult times can also make you sweet
    10. No one enjoys the trial itself, but when you look to Jesus during the trial and continue
        to rest in Himn.. the Holy Spirit produces a sweet fragrance in your life.
    11. You begin to display:
          * Sweet disposition    
            * Sweet spirit
        * Sweet communication with others
        * Sweet relationship with the Lord
    12. So it's whoever you yield to during the trial that determines whether it will make you
        bitter or sweet    
    13. If you give into the flesh, the trial will only make you bitter
    14. If you give in to the Lord, it can produce a sweet fragrance in your life.

    1.  Be Fearless
        Rev. 2:10 "Fear one of those things which thou shalt suffer; behold, the devil shall cast
            some of you into prison, that ye may be tried.
        1) Some of you here this morning are very fearful in the difficult time you're engaged
            a.  You worry about it constantly
            b.  It haunts you when you go to bed, not letting you get a good nights sleep
            c.  Your imagination runs wild with thoughts of "what if this happens? or what if
                        that happens??"  (Fear is making you a slave)
        2) But Jesus is saying to you:
             *Keep trusting ME
            *Keep depending upon ME
            *Keep praying to ME
            *Keep leaning upon ME
            *Keep loving ME
        I John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear because fear
                     hath torment
    2.  Be Faithful
        Rev. 2:10.. and ye shall have tribulation ten days; be thou faithful unto death, and I will
                give thee a crown of life.
        1) Ten days ---it's short in light of eternity
        2) It during times of great difficulty when:
               *Pressure is great
            *Tension is insurmountable    
            *You feel like you're being squeezed
        3) During these times it's very easy to want to:
            *Give up
            *To walk away from it all
        4) Satan would love to see you do it because then you won't be a threat
            *To show loyalty to Christ
            *To encourage others
            *To turn others to Christ
            *To let the fragrance of your suffering be used as a testimony
               for the Lord
        5) Notice the Lord's reward for faithfulness to these believers in Smyrna
          Rev. 2:10 .. be gthou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a CROWN OF LIFE.
        6) They will seek to put you to death, but I will give you life
         7) The crown of life---is the reward for their faithfulness.  It is the
                    reward of eternal life.

    When going through difficult times, let the Lord reward you for your faithfulness

    1.  Not all your trials are going to lead to death    
    2.  So be faithful in the tough situation you're faicing and experience
        His reward
    3.  It's the principle that faithful obedience leads to the blessing of reward
    4.  When you are faithful, His reward might consist of:
            *Drawing you closer to Himself
            *Greater effectiveness in reaching others
            *Financial or material gain
            *Changing the stubborn heart of your mate
            *More appreciative spirit from your children
            *Physical healing
            *Keen insights into His Word


    1.  Listening to the Spirit's message
        Rev. 2:11 He that hath an hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches
        1) The Church at Smyrna
        2) To us individually -- To listen.. to learn and to live out what has been said
               In particular to those things pertaining to difficult times
    2.  Loving the Son's promise
        Rev. 2:11 ... He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death
        1) Second death pertains only to unbelievers
        2) It's the old spiritual adage--If you're only born once.. you will die twice
                   If you are both twice (physically and spiritually), you will only die once.
        3) We see the 'second death' come into play at the Great White Throne
               Judgment, which is for all unbelievers.
        4) At the end of that judgment it says this:
                   Rev. 20:14,15 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the
                second death.  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life
                    was cast into the lake of fire.

     When going through difficult times learn to keep an eternal perspective

    1.  You begin to realize that some of the things you are experiencing might be difficult, but
            in light of eternity you realize it's no big deal.
    2.  The Apostle Paul put it this way:
             Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be
          compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

    In closing, a story about H.G. Spafford:

    He was a Christian and a successful Chicago attorney in the 1800's.  He had a wife, four daughters,  and a son.   He was a supporter of the evanglist D. L. Moody.  But tragedy struck when his only  son died followed by loss of his financial investments in the Chicago fire of 1871.  To get his  mind off those hurtful events, he planned a trip to Europe for his wife and four daughters to
    coincide with an evangelistic crusade with D.L. Moody. At the last minute, a business development   delayed him, but he sent his wife and daughters ahead on a ship crossing the Atlantic to Great  Britain, where he was planning to meet them in a few days.  The ship carrying his family was struck by an English vessel and sank in 12 minutes.  All four of his daughters drowned, but his  wife survived and cabled her husband with the words, 'SAVED ALONE'.   Spafford immediately left by ship to join his wife.  The captain of the vessel, knowing Spafford's deep bereavement, paused on his  journey across the ocean to show him the place Bessie, Annie, Maggie, and Tanetta had died.

    It was there that he penned those words that people have sung and found comfort in over the years.

    "It Is Well With My Soul"
    When peace, like a river, attendeth my way
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
    It is well, it is well, with my soul.

    Spafford was a man who learned the lean on Jesus in his difficult time.

And this morning, beloved, may we too lean on Jesus in our difficult times, as He teaches us to say
"It is well, it is well with my soul." 
Is it well with your soul this morning?

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