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Isaiah 49:16

“Smyrna, now the city of Izmir, Turkey, was and is one of the great business and trade centers in that area of the world…

Philadelphia, due east from Smyrna, was built on a plateau looking out across the valley of the River Cogamus…We know almost nothing about either of the Christian churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia except from these two short letters dictated to John by the risen Christ on the island of Patmos.

We do know that both churches were faithful. There is not one word of criticism in the letters to the Christians in either church…

The irony of these two letters is immediately apparent. In the difficult times to come–or, as John writes to Philadelphia, in ‘the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth’–one church (Smyrna) will face terrible suffering. The other church (Philadelphia) will escape unscathed. All the assumptions we can make about suffering are tested by these two short letters. Both churches seem equally faithful. Yet one will suffer ‘even unto death.’ The other will not suffer at all…

In these passages and others we are reminded that suffering has a mysterious, unknown component. John, too, assumes that suffering is a natural part of Christian faith. He doesn’t question why one church will suffer and another church won’t. He doesn’t even expect God to rescue Smyrna from suffering, yet he credits God with protecting Philadelphia from the suffering that lies ahead…

There are several assumptions here that we must not forget in our own days of trouble that lie ahead.

First, expect suffering. Don’t feel surprised or put upon or proud or afraid. Suffering is part and parcel of the Christian life.

Second, don’t look at anyone else and what he or she does or doesn’t have to bear; comparisons are demoralizing either way.

Third, recognize that it doesn’t take great wealth or social influence to be faithful (note how few resources these two churches had), but it does take patience and endurance. Remember; one of the fruits of the Spirit is patience (Galatians 5:22).

Fourth, remember that one day all earthly suffering ill end and that second death, the eternal death of the spirit, will not touch us.

Fifth, keep in mind that, when one bears suffering faithfully, God is glorified and honored. The suffering servants of Christ will be honored in a special way and given a new name which ‘no man knows except he that receives it.’ Christ said to the church at Philadelphia, ‘Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God. (Revelation 3:12).

Some years ago the great Canadian photographer, Yousuf Karsh, sent me a book of his photographs. On the wrapping paper the customs official had stamped the words, ‘Value of Contents.’ Under that had been written, ‘Autographed by the author.’ Inside, it was autographed to me.

Our value is the fact that we are going to be autographed by the Author.”

Source: Billy Graham- “Approaching Hoofbeats – The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” Word, Inc.

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