Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. —Revelation 2:10
A man was warned not to go to Jerusalem because he would be delivered to the authorities. His friends persuaded him to desist. He answered: “I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).
Many believers live their lives asking the Lord to deliver them from evil. But few realities are emphasized in the Scriptures as much as the suffering of the believer. Far from being delivered from present difficulties, many more are added to us for Christ’s sake.
So, in this text, the Lord does not conceal the suffering that is coming to the church in Smyrna, but gives details of what will ensue. The forces of Satan would attack this poor congregation. Weren’t their sufferings enough? Was it not enough that they were in poverty and being slandered? Why would Jesus’ message bring worse upon them? The author of Hebrews tells his audience: “you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4). Jesus tells the church in Smyrna that she will have this privilege. Wouldn’t these words make them falter? The answer is a resounding NO. Because this was not the only thing he told them; the key is what adorns these words: “Do not fear… I will give you the crown of life.”
Have you heard this famous phrase? “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). The context here refers to the worries found in this life, and the provision of Jesus for them is the same; there’s no other medicine. But there is an encouraging detail in the passage from Luke. It would seem that the crown of Smyrna is conditional, but Luke shows us that this crown is already ours.
Fear causes man to escape what he considers risky or dangerous. Then fear can be a powerful impediment for a joyful and strong walk in the Lord’s will, because the road is full of obstacles that might slow us down. Jesus says fear not, stay faithful, because nothing can or will take away what I bought for you on the cross. The worst thing in this life can be defined as “suffering unto death,” and not even this can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. This is not a message to Smyrna. It is for you, dear child of God, as you endure severe afflictions. Jesus lovingly says to you, “Do not fear.”
On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is your present suffering?
What do you value more, a life free from suffering, or a glorious, eternal future with Jesus?
How does Jesus’ promise of the crown of life provide hope and encouragement in the midst of your trials?
Pray to the Lord that he would find you faithful unto death. Ask that your longing for heaven may be greater than the fear of present afflictions.