I grew up at a time when the church was prosperous and the powers that be, the establishment, was, for the most part Christian. That type of Christian was interesting and a cause for some study because I believe that it was the moralizing of Christians that eventually lead to the issues we face today. Get immoral pagans and moralistic Christians talking about their “rights” and you have some issues. Talk of persecution and suffering for the faith was something that happened “over there”, behind the Iron or the Bamboo curtain. That in itself is an issue because most people today do not know what those two curtains were. Persecution and suffering for the church in my world was having to tell my football coach that I had confirmation class on Wednesday afternoon.
If you read the Bible you begin to see that persecution and tribulation and is God’s perfecting work. Peter says after you’ve suffered a while the Lord will make you perfect. And so we know that the church which suffers is the church which is purified. In 2 Thessalonians Paul talks about suffering and how suffering has produced endurance and perseverance and great hope.
The church at Smyrna was going to suffer according to John’s letter but if she remained faithful she would get the crown.
For whatever reason the letter to this church reminded me of a prayer by C.F.W. Walther the first President of our church. Here it is –
“Lord Jesus, You Son of the living God. You have come into this world to save
sinners. Thanks, praise, glory and honor be to You today, on the day of Your
gracious and saving birth, that You not only came into the world to save us poor
sinners, but also that You as the Good Shepherd followed us, who all like sheep have
gone astray, called us to Yourself through the shepherd’s voice of Your sweet
Gospel, brought us to faith in You, and also preserved us in the same until today.
Oh, how in time and eternity can we sufficiently thank You for this? We did not seek
You, but You sought us; we did not come to You, but You came to us. How have we
deserved it that You had mercy upon us rather than millions of others? Ah, it is
Your undeserved grace alone that we have to thank for this. You saw us lying in the
blood of our sins, and behold, Your heart broke, and You said to us: ‘You shall
live!’ Oh, Lord Jesus, You today once gave Yourself for us; today we give ourselves
to You. Here is our heart. Take it, cleanse and adorn it for Yourself as Your
dwelling and rule in it until our death. For this, with all angels and archangels,
cherubim and seraphim, thrones and dominions, with all blessed and chosen ones, we
will in heaven give You thanks, glory, praise, and honor through all eternity.