Week of Dec. 29
Refined by Fire
What happens to precious metal when it is refined by fire? It is purified and made even more beautiful. Throughout the Bible we see images of God's people being refined. In the New Testament, Peter encourages us, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:6, 7).
The believers in Smyrna faced intense persecution, but it served as a refinery for their faith. The church in Smyrna not only followed the Truth, but they loved Jesus wholeheartedly. They were a people known for their devotion to the Lord. The pagan society hated these Christians because of this faithfulness. These believers suffered persecution, intimidation, and hatred by the culture around them. Yet instead of losing hope, the Smyrna church grew in its love and dedication to Christ.
As today's church faces increased persecution, we can gain comfort and assurance from Jesus' words in His letter to Smyrna: "I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 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 the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death" (Revelation 2:9-11).
Like the church in Smyrna, we live in a culture that worships anything and anyone except the one true God. While the world preaches tolerance, it is intolerant of one thing: the Truth of the Gospel of Christ. Satan is using the same tactics today that he did two thousand years ago. He tries to intimidate and frighten us. He knows we do not want to be rejected. He knows we do not want to be hated. His goal is to silence us about speaking about Jesus Christ.
But no matter what opposition we face, Jesus will remain with us. He knows the false accusations against us. He knows the price we pay for integrity and faithfulness. He knows that the world hates us because of our love for Him. He knows that Satan will try to intimidate us into silence and compromise.
This is why Jesus encourages His church, "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer" (Revelation 2:10). Nothing can banish our fears like the power of the resurrected Jesus Christ! Jesus can give us confidence and strength in the midst of trouble, hatred, and persecution. He gives us comfort and understanding in our afflictions, because He has experienced far worse than we can imagine. He holds us in the very palms of His hands during our darkest hours. He can turn around the evil working against us in order to work for good. As Paul explained his own suffering for Christ, "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel" (Philippians 1:12).
Persecution and suffering are never easy, but they will eventually come to each of us in some form. Are you allowing God to use your persecutions for the advancement of the Gospel? Or are the devil's schemes winning by keeping you silent? When confronted with taunts and sneers, do you distance yourself from Jesus or does your love for Him grow? Pray for willingness to allow Christ to refine you today.
"Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes."
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