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Prayer Blog

March 14, 2023 Prayer Blog

Posted by Carol Gilbert on

Revelation 2:8-11
Jesus has only words of comfort and encouragement for the embattled church in Smyrna, suffering persecution from the Roman authorities and also from the Jews. Jesus uses a paradox to describe their situation. Persecution has made them poor – perhaps due to loss of employment or seizing of property – but yet they are rich. Pastor Dave taught that “you are rich” is the heart of the message to the church in Smyrna. He also said we need to redefine rich. It’s not your zip code or square footage; it’s not the model year and badge of your car. So, what is it? Before the Lord, consider what makes you rich in the eyes of Jesus.
Dave told the story of Polycarp as an example of someone who was “faithful unto death.” The 86-year-old bishop of the church in Smyrna was martyred in 155 AD because he refused to recant his faith in Jesus, saying, “How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Do I have Polycarp’s courage? When my small group studied Revelation five years ago, we took a field trip to see the movie Tortured for Christ about the severe persecution of Christians in Communist Romania under Nicolae Ceausescu. It was hard to watch. I asked myself whether I could stand firm in those circumstances, and I feared the answer was no. I wondered, does the Lord give special grace in the moment to someone facing horrible suffering for His sake? Let’s ask the Lord to teach us courage now when the closest thing to persecution most of us in the U.S. face as Christians is derision.
Millions of believers today live in modern Smyrnas. The organization Open Doors tracks persecution of Christians around the world. It lists these eleven countries in the category of “extreme” persecution: the Muslim-dominated countries of Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Sudan; North Korea; and India. Since you and I are part of the kingdom of God, which transcends time and geography, we somehow share the suffering of these brothers and sisters. Too often, though, I am apathetic about their plight. Join me in praying this week’s passage for persecuted believers today. You can find more information from Open Doors here.

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