In their life time, every person will suffer; believers and non-believers. But believers of Christ are different in many ways. Believers of Christ will suffer as well, but we need to endure this, but in the end we know we will overcome this pain with the help of Jesus. Christians know that Jesus is our helper. He is the only one, upon whom we can depend. Rev. 2:8 says, “Jesus is the First and the Last. He is the one who died and came to life again.” He is the beginning and the end. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He was given authority over the world by God. He died and he was raised back to life.
This made it very hard for believers of Christ in the church of Smyrna to survive. Their suffering were great. But they could overcome their hardships, because they believed that God was with them and Christians were to endure suffering.
In the book of Revelation, God showed to John what would happen in the near future. In Rev. 2:9, John says “I know that you suffer and are poor.” Believers of Smyrna suffered and they were very poor. We understand what this means. But the Greek language is very clear and straight forward. Suffering is θλῖψιν:thlipsin. It generally means “persecute or press or tribulate.” And, the person who was suffering could not overcome wi:h such severe trouble by themselves. The word Poor is πτωχείαν:ptocheia in Greek. It is more than just poor. It means very very poor. A poor person had nothing at all. This is hard to imagine from our own perspective.
Believers in Smyrna endured. They lived and worked for God. They followed the truth of God. And, they never made a compromise with the world. At that time, Roman citizens and even Jewish people obeyed the law, the human law set by the Romans. They worshipped idols and bowed down to the Roman emperor. This was evil in God’s eyes. The city was ruled by the law. In order to survive, one had to obey the law. Otherwise, it was very dangerous. Believers of God were supposed to worship idols and bow down to the Emperor. But they refused. The result was that they suffered and they were very poor.
For those believers of God, God said, “you are rich.” Even in dangers and troubles, God said that they would be rich in God’s eyes. We might wonder how somebody could be rich if he or she were troubled. As disciples of Christ, we understand what this means. Because through hardships, our beliefs could grow.
Living in this world is not easy. But Our Lord is talking to us, in Rev. 2: 10, it says, “Don’t be afraid of what you are going to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test to you.” We know devil will attack us. Like Job in the bible, we should not complain. But continue to have the strong faith in God.
Suffering is hard, but it will help us to grow our faith in God. 2 Corinthians 1:5 says (NirV), “We share very much in the sufferings of Christ. So we also share very much in his comfort.” There is a Chinese saying, 同病相怜tóng bìng xiāng lián. This means that we are in the same boat. Each one of us are so precious in this boat. And thus we are to help each other no matter what happens, because we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
It is amazing that the believers of Smyrna survived. God was with them. God blessed them. Our own life might be a struggle and you may be distressed. But believe that God is still with us. He will help us where we go and what we do. Because he is our Lord and Saviour.
Do you think that suffering is needed for believers of Christ to grow their faith in God and why?
Rev Dr Je Cheol Cook