Pastor Tom Sawhook
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Fellowship Bible Church
“DEALING WITH THOSE DIFFICULT TIMES”
(The Church at Smyrna)
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.
I. THE CHIEF INSPECTOR: The Lord Jesus
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.
III. THE CITY: Smyrna
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
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,
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
*Feelings of worthlessness
*Loss of a job or being laid off
*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
*Being pregnant and not married
*Unable to find a companion
*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
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:
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.
Old adage "Good things come to those who wait"
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
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
ALL THESE LEAD TO A RICH EXPERIENCE
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
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
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.
V. THE COMMAND
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
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:
*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
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
*Keen insights into His Word
VI. THE CHALLENGE
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:
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."