Clouds Parting Revealing the Heavens

Devotion for Today — July 12th

Suffering and Testing

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

Rev 2:10

As the letter to the afflicted church at Smyrna continues, Jesus says, Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you. This is the first mention of the devil in the book of Revelation. The Lord acknowledges that he who is the First and the Last is going to allow the devil to put some of them in prison. Those Roman prisons were terrible places where prisoners were faced with the threat of execution at any moment. But our Lord says three very encouraging things.

First, You are going to be put into prison to test you. Many read this as though it is God who is the one who is going to learn something by this test. But that cannot be, since God already knows our hearts. He knows what you can take before you ever have to endure it. He does not learn anything new from your testing. But you do! It is to test you that this hardship is given. It is to show you how much you have grown. It is to strip off the superficial supports you have been leaning on and to show you how much you have truly learned to rely upon the grace and the strength of God.

Second, he says it will be only for a limited time. He is going to test you ten days. We do not know when or how this took place, though it undoubtedly did occur to this church at Smyrna, but the encouraging thing is that the Lord determined the limits. The test cannot go beyond it. No force or power on earth could make this last eleven days! It was ten days that he had determined.

Third, he says, Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. Surely that is intended to be a contrast to the Crown of Asia, the pagan temple buildings that were built on the hill of Pagos. That was an earthly crown, a recognition of earthly status, and a source of great pride to this city. But our Lord says that he will give something much better — a Crown of Life, of eternal life. What a much greater thing that is! The Apostle Paul tells us, This light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us to produce an eternal weight of glory, (2 Corinthians 4:17). We are constantly encouraged by the fact that these trials and testings and pressures are doing something valuable to us.

The whole period has been termed the Age of the Martyrs. One of the first was a man named Polycarp who was the bishop of this very church at Smyrna. In 155 A. D., at the age of 86, he was sentenced to death by being burnt at the stake for his faith. When the Proconsul said to him, Reproach Christ, and I will set you free, Polycarp responded, 86 years have I have served him and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior? In his death he gave an eloquent testimony to his love for Christ.

Thank you, Father, for the way you test me and mature me through my testings. Help me to be faithful to the point of death. Amen.

Life Application

What has the Lord revealed to you through your testings?

This Daily Devotion was Inspired by one of Ray's Messages

Smyrna and Pergamum -- The Pressured Church

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