Our church may be small, but we are incredibly powerful because of God. With God by our side and His unwavering promises, we are rich in spirit and abundance. As we continue to spread God’s love, we believe that our impact will grow stronger.
The church in Smyrna was small but very prosperous in spirit. Smyrna Church is one of the seven churches written in the Book of Revelation. The Smyrna was located on the coast of what is now Turkey. This church was founded by the Apostle Paul and later run by Polycarp.
The church in Smyrna faced extreme poverty due to the oppression of the Roman emperor, who had made emperor worship a central practice in the city. The local Christians, who refused to recognize the emperor as a god, faced frequent conflicts with the government. The believers in Smyrna were unjustly fired from their jobs and had their property confiscated, while some were even imprisoned and sentenced to death. Despite these immense challenges, the Christians in Smyrna remained steadfast in their faith, refusing to renounce their beliefs despite the harsh persecution they faced.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the persecution was not one-sided. Even the Jewish community, who should rely on each other for support and share a life of faith, also engaged in acts of persecution against members of the church.
To the church that was powerless and oppressed, Jesus spoke these words of encouragement to Smyrna church members: “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!”
The church in Smyrna was poor in material possessions, but they were rich in faith. The church was able to persevere amid persecution because they had faith in Jesus Christ.
Although our church (and our church members) may not be lacking in material possessions, our church is small in ministry. It may seem insignificant in comparison with other mega-churches programs. As a result, we may feel limited in our ability to make a significant impact.
In addition, despite the fact that we are not facing the same level of persecution as the church in Smyrna, we may still be hindered by the prevailing social climate that opposes our faith and limits our ability to exercise more significant influence.
However, God speaks to us through the Bible, reminding us that “you are rich.” Do you agree with this statement? Can you feel the abundance that we currently possess? What areas of richness can you identify within our church?
Our church may not have many programs and various ministries, but we are rich in God’s love. Through the Holy Spirit, God reminds us of the history of our church and how it came to be. Through the Holy Spirit, God says, “In 1945, in the beginning of this ministry of church, I came here as food when you were hunger in spirit. Your desire for me led this ministry to begin. Every day, I came to this congregation with small and large graces, providing this church with nourishment. I founded this church with love, and I remain with you now, with the same loving heart.
Whenever you feel weary, come to me, and ask for help, and I will provide you with new spiritual nourishment. I will answer your prayers. Come and partake, for I offer you eternal sustenance. The drink I have given you will quench your thirst forever, and the food I have given you will satisfy your soul. If you feel lacking in any way, seek me out and I will fill you with myself. When you worship and praise me with joy, I will multiply that joy a hundredfold. My beloved Lakeridge peoples! Let us deepen our love.”
This is the heart of God and His promises to our church. How can we deepen our love for God? The answer is a prayer. As we pray and continue to seek Him fervently, our hearts will be filled with God’s love. Then, we can cultivate strong faith and grow in our relationship with Him. Let us commit to the practice of prayer and allow God’s love to transform our hearts and strengthen our faith.
The love of God transforms into an immense power that settles deeply within our hearts. Our unyielding faith cannot be shaken by any persecution or temptation. The holy mission entrusted to us by God will undoubtedly come to fruition. We will have the strength to overcome any worldly temptations that seek to divert us from our commitment to God’s work.
The church in Smyrna possessed this power and emerged victorious, serving as a model for our church today. While there are numerous outstanding churches worldwide, how many have been recognized by God as perfect in the present world, just like Smyrna’s church? They held fast to the faith that Christ instructed them to keep. The faith was fueled by the love of God that granted them wisdom and fortitude to conquer the adversities of the world.
God has pledged to bestow the crown of life upon church members who attain triumph, signifying victory over death and eternal life. The crown of victory is awarded to those who, like the Smyrna church, remain steadfast and unwavering in their faithfulness to God. This reward is bestowed upon God’s devoted people who remain constant, and they shall never taste the bitterness of the second death.
The second death is the final judgement and the eternal punishment of the wicked. Regarding the second death, the book of Revelation mentioned in 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, and 21:8. Especially, let us look at Rev. 20:12-15
“And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and each one was judged according to their deeds. 14 Then the dead were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death.”
In verse 13, the “sea” symbolizes Hell, the realm of the first death where souls are punished for their sins. During the final judgment, these souls will be released from Hell and appear before God’s judgment seat in front of a great white throne of God. Once judged, they will face the second death, where they will be held accountable for all the sins they have committed in Hell. While the punishment during the first death is inflicted on the spirit alone, during the second death, the spirits of the condemned will be reunited with their bodies, similar to the resurrection experienced by true believers.
Although the way and process may be similar, the end result is vastly different. The resurrection brings a joyous experience where the body and soul are reunited in completed union. On the other hand, the second death results in excruciating pain that is thousands of times greater than any pain experienced when the soul is united with the body.
Beloved people of Lakeridge! In the Bible, “death” signifies a state that is far more intricate and graver than we may realize, particularly the second death, which entails separation from God eternally.
Here is Gospel for all of us. The crown of life has granted us as a promise through Jesus. We won’t be harmed by the second death. By keeping rich in faith, we can overcome both the first and second deaths. In God’s grace, we can find the power to conquer death. Jesus Christ has shown us the path to triumph, and through Him, we have access to God’s abundant life, power, wisdom, and grace. It is our responsibility to utilize these gifts to their fullest extent. Let us strive to be rich in faith and abundant in God, allowing our lives to be enriched in His name. May the life of Christ be with you now, always, and eternally.
Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 14th, 2023, Rev. 2:8-12
Pastor John Kim, Lakeridge Lutheran Church