“The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.” C S Lewis.
The persecution that we face everyday is a chance for us to overcome and stand for God. Someone once said, “God often has to put us on our backs in order to make us look up.”
Jesus Christ dictated to the Apostle John seven letters to seven churches in Asia Minor. Each letter spoke directly to the needs of each church. The second letter was sent to the highly persecuted church at Smyrna. The name itself is related to the incense myrrh and the process of being crushed in order to release beauty.
Jesus Christ gave two main directives to overcoming in suffering: 1) Fear none of these things, and 2) Be faithful. He did not promise them relief, but the empowerment to face even death. The greatest example of this is Jesus Himself, who suffered unto death, but rose victorious. He reminded the believers at Smyrna that death is not the end—there is a crown of life to those who overcome.
Having witnessed many hardships himself, the Apostle John knew how to encourage those in persecution. His brother, James, was the first disciple to be martyred. In fact, at the time John wrote the book of Revelation, he had been boiled in oil, survived, and been exiled to the Roman slave camp on the island of Patmos. Through John’s pen, Jesus Christ reminds us that He knows our works, tribulation, and the poverty we endure for His name.
Fifty years after the delivery of this letter to the church of Smyrna, their senior pastor, Polycarp, had a dream that his pillow had burst into flames. He took this as a dream from God and told his church that he would be martyred. A few days later, the Romans came to arrest Polycarp. He offered the soldiers a meal and asked if he could pray in the adjoining room. They agreed and listened as Polycarp prayed for the church of Smyrna and the soldiers arresting him. Moved, the soldiers begged Polycarp to just concede with the Roman authorities so he could live. He refused and went willingly with them to the Roman Council. The council also begged him to simply deny Christ by honoring Caesar and Rome. But Polycarp refused and answered with these famous words, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King Who saved me?” He was burned at the stake that same day.
The crowning promise to all those who suffer for Jesus Christ is that there is life after death. We need not fear any hardship for our Lord has conquered, therefore, we shall overcome!