November 15, 2009
Stand Your Ground – Part 3
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Revelation 2: 8-11

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Take our Bibles and turn to Revelation 2 as we come for a final time to look at the letter the Lord Jesus issued to the church at Smyrna. If you’re visiting with us this morning, we are in a series of expositions in Revelation 1 to 3. We’re looking at these letters from our Lord to seven churches located in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, and there’s much to learn from the past and then to the present.
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, “These things says the first and the last who was dead and came to life. I know your works, tribulation and poverty, but you are rich and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison that you may be tested and you will have tribulation 10 days. Be faithful unto 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 shall not be hurt by the second death.” We trust that God will use His word in our lives this morning.
There are those impacting the church today who falsely teach that it’s the Christian’s birthright, spiritual birthright to enjoy unending health, wealth and happiness. They say that with some positive thinking, mixed with a little faith in God, you and I can enjoy a fairytale existence this side of heaven. In fact, they teach that you can go from being the Cinderella to the belle of the ball. Health, wealth and happiness is the lot and the birthright of Christians on earth. That is what we’re being told by many.
But you know what, I don’t know what script they’re working off, but it’s certainly not the Bible because as we come back into this portion of God’s Word, we find a body of faithful Christ-lovers. We find them in the trenches caught up in a cosmic conflict. We find them with losses and crosses. We find them in a state of tribulation, facing destitution and death, all because of their faithfulness to God.
See, there are those that would say that our losses and crosses are marks of unbelief and disobedience. But here we find the church facing losses and crosses, but it’s because of their belief and obedience. As we come into this letter, we find our Lord Jesus Christ trying to rally the saints at Smyrna and we’ve been trying to learn some great lessons from this letter, as Jesus calls the church there to stand their ground and may God give us grace and gumption to stand our ground in a hostile spiritual environment, to be found standing when death calls or when Jesus comes.
So we have been unpacking this text under three general headings. So far, we have seen their savior. Jesus seeks to encourage them by reminding them of who He is in the midst of all that was going on. And we established His sovereignty over life and we established His supremacy over death and what an encouragement that must have been to them.
Then we moved on not only to see their savior, but we started to look at their suffering. Jesus anticipates for them a season of suffering. Do not fear any of the things which you are about to suffer. This church was marked by and marked out for suffering.
It’s interesting that the word Smyrna itself has at its root the word myrrh, which was the bark from a tree that was crushed and it omitted a sweet aroma. And it seems fitting that the Lord Jesus would address a church that’s suffering in Smyrna and He calls them to endure the crushing and to face the pressure so that they may emit the fragrant aroma of faithfulness to God under such pressing circumstances. Because there’s nothing more aromatic to God than suffering sins.
As we looked at their suffering, we started to look at three things. It’s threats, it’s test and it’s time. So this is where we pick up, where we left off last week.
What about its threats? This season of suffering was marked by certain threats. They were facing tribulation. They were in the vise grip of pressure from a culture that hated Christ and His church. That pressure, that tribulation triggered a time of material destitution.
They not only faced persecution, they faced poverty. And we saw that last week. There were no jobs to be found for the saints in Smyrna. Businessman lost contracts because of their commitment to Jesus Christ. They worked according to different values to the culture they were working in and that came at a loss to themselves.
Jesus said in verse nine, “I know your works, tribulation and poverty,” but we did see that caveat, although they were facing physical destitution and material poverty, they were rich in Christ, rich in God’s love, rich in heaven’s mercy, rich in eternal hope.
But they not only faced tribulation, poverty, they faced slander. They faced slander. Jesus says, “I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan.”
Piecing the historical data together we see that John is acknowledging the fact that certain Jews, who should have been natural friends to the Christians, had turned out to be their worst enemies. In fact, Jesus did warn His disciples that they would be delivered up by the synagogues in Luke 21:12. Jesus is saying although they’re Jews, they’re not really Jews because true Jews put their faith in Christ, the seed of Abraham. This is not an assembly of God. In fact, Jesus calls them the synagogue of Satan.
It seems that the slander involved the Jews turning the Christians over to the Roman authorities and willingly offering themselves as witnesses and that seems to be because the Jews enjoyed a certain exemption under Roman rule. They had a privilege that they feared could be revoked at the whim of the state and the privilege was this. They could worship God without participating in the worship of Caesar. They were made an exception to the general rule.
But what the Jews feared was that this sect, these Christians who were now getting in trouble with the state because of their unwillingness to abide and acknowledge Caesar as Lord over and against the fact that Jesus Christ solely is Lord, they feared that the Christians would be lumped in with the Jews and, therefore, that the trouble that Christians were making would come back to haunt them.
So they sought to separate themselves from the Christians and that’s what seems to have been going on here. They became Witness A in the state’s case against these pesky Christians. They lodged complaints against the Christians, just as the Jews had previously done with the Lord Jesus before Pilate. You read about that in Luke 23:1-5.
But there was one more turn of the thumbscrew of persecution as we look at its threats. “I know your works, tribulation and poverty, but you’re rich. I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you’re about to suffer for indeed the devil is about to throw some of you into prison.”
Pressure, poverty, slander, now imprisonment. The snitches in the Jewish community triggered a series of arrests that led to some from within the church at Smyrna being incarcerated. And as we noted last time in the First Century Roman world prison was usually not punitive. It was a prelude to trial and anticipated execution. That’s why Jesus has to immediately say, “You’re going to be thrown into prison, but be faithful unto death” because often that was the natural course of things once you were imprisoned.
So when you add all these things up, when you put all these threats together, the church at Smyrna was on the society’s blacklist and on Satan’s hit list. They were learning what Jesus had indeed said in John 16:33, that in this world you will have tribulation. Jesus never promised us a rose garden.
But here’s the point I want to get. This is the encouragement. There was consolation in the midst of their conflict. There was hope in the midst of their hurt and the consolation came in the knowledge that Christ knew all about them and what they were going through. “Jesus,” said the hymn writer, “knows all about our struggles and He will guide us till the day is done. There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus know not one and there will never be one.”
I want you to note, how Jesus prefaces His remarks here in verse 9. “I know your works. I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews.” That’s stunning, that’s striking. Jesus wants us to know that He knows what we’re going through.
I hope that resonates this morning. Jesus knows what you’re going through. In fact, this is a Greek word oida, that denotes complete and full knowledge in contrast to progressive acquisition of knowledge.
There’s another word ginosko, which means the acquisition of knowledge. But oida is used because Jesus has instant complete knowledge of what they’re going through. He has a real time awareness of their life circumstances.
That’s a wonderful thought, to think that whatever you face on any given day, during any given hour Jesus has a real time awareness of your situation and your suffering.
This is not a simple academic thing to Christ. This is a glorious thing. This is the words of the priestly son of God who bears us upon His heart before the throne of the Father. Jesus is not in this letter simply rehearsing cold facts in a detached manner, much like you and I watch on Fox or CNN, some military analyst from the Cato Institute talking about a war they’ve never fought in. Very easy for a military analyst to give his thoughts on how a war is going or where it should go, but most of these guys have studied war in a suit, never fought it in fatigues.
That’s not Jesus. He’s personal. He’s priestly. Listen to what Simon Kistemaker says in his commentary on Revelation. Jesus addresses the individual believer by using the singular possessive pronoun Your. That is, He is fully aware of the tribulation and poverty each Christian in Smyrna has to endure for the name of Christ. When He says, “I know your tribulation,” He’s using the singular pronoun, He’s very aware of their circumstances.
And here’s the point you and I don’t want to miss. He’s aware not just as a matter of omissions, we’ve established that He’s God. “I am the first and the last.” That’s a [inaudible 00:13:59] of how God has described back in the Old Testament. Jesus is God and as God He knows all things at all times. But Jesus is saying here, “I know not just as a matter of omissions, but as a matter of experience.”
Remember, this is the Son of God. This is God come in the flesh who was once dead, but is now alive. Jesus took to Himself a body. He lived our life. He died our death. That’s the glorious implication of the incarnation. He experiences all that we experience, but sin.
It’s wonderful, isn’t it? Believe Jesus when He says here, “I know all about you.” It’s not academic, it’s not detached and it’s simply not a matter of omissions. It’s a matter of experience and His humanity.
By means of incarnation, Christ experienced the rigors of a hard day’s work, the weakness of a body craving sleep, the choke-hold of temptation, the pendulum swings of emotions, from the festivities of a wedding to the moans and groans of a funeral. Jesus faced the compliments of friends. Jesus faced the curses of enemies. Jesus experienced life in all of its dimensions and death in all of its terror.
Now He sits on a throne of grace inviting you to come and tell Him all about your troubles and He’ll tell you He’ll guide you till the day is done. Because there’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus know not one and you never will find one. He’s better than any therapist, psychoanalyst.
The best thing you and I can do with our burdens and our heartaches and our challenges is to go on our knees before the throne of grace and find one who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. That knowledge of His knowledge of us is a powerful encouragement, isn’t it?
The Christian, listen, the Christian can never say, “Nobody cares about me and nobody understands me.” Those words should never pass from the lips of the Christian. Even if you’re misunderstood by your father, you’re not comprehended by your husband or you’re not properly appreciated by your friends, you still can’t say nobody understands. There’s one who knows not just by omissions, but by experience because He’s walked in our shoes a while. He’s walked in our shoes a while. We say that for one to understand what somebody’s going through, you have to walk in their shoes. Jesus walked in our shoes. Jesus lived our life and died our death.
Listen to this. Peter Lewis says this in his excellent book, The Glory of Christ, “He who is still human in heaven remembers what it’s like to be human on earth.” That is a staggering statement. It pulled me up short. I think there’s a part four coming in this sermon by the way.
Congregation (17:33):
Philip De Courcy (17:34):
Did that statement pulled me up short because you need and I need to remember, Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection. He took a glorified body to heaven. He took with Him all the memories of the experiences He had gone through, the sleeplessness, the hunger, the temptations, the heartache, the burden of Mary and Martha as they see their brother lying stone-cold dead. He who is still human in heaven hasn’t forgot what it’s like to be a human on earth.
That’s so encouraging because that means with perfect recall, He can match His grace to our needs on the basis of His own experiences. That’s powerful. What are you looking at me like that for this morning? That’s powerful.
Congregation (18:36):
Philip De Courcy (18:37):
Hebrews 4:16, “Come boldly, come burdened, come immediately and you’ll find one who will talk to you as you talk to Him and He will identify with what you’re going through fully and He will match His grace to your needs.”
I love that. Let’s just read those verses so we don’t miss the import of that, Hebrews 4, and we’re being encouraged to come indeed to Jesus for what a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. “Seeing then that we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus is Son of God, let us hold fast our confession for we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Suitable grace, sufficient grace.
Is there anyone can help us? In fact, that’s the beginning line of an old hymn. I used to love singing among Irish Baptists in Ulster. Here’s how the line of that old hymn goes. “Is there anyone to help us? One who understands our hearts when the thorns of life have pierced them till they bleed? One who sympathizes with us who in wondrous love impart just the very, very blessing that we need? Is there one?” The chorus goes on to say “Yes, there’s one, only one. The blessed, blessed Jesus. He’s the one. When afflictions press the soul and when waves of trouble roll and you need a friend to help you, He’s the one. I know your tribulation, your poverty and the slander that you’re going to face and the imprisonment that’s impending.”
When sports writer Mitch Albom heard about the fact that his favorite college professor, whom he hadn’t seen in 20 years, was dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, he began visiting him weekly and he wrote down his experience and reflections in a best-selling book. You maybe seen it in Barnes and Noble’s or in Borders, Tuesdays with Morrie. Albom describes their visits, focusing on his old professor’s wit and insights.
One time Mitch asked Morrie why he bothered following the news since he wouldn’t be around to see how things turned out. Morrie replied, quote, “It’s hard to explain, Mitch. Now that I’m suffering, I feel closer to people who suffer than I ever did before. The other night on TV I saw people in Bosnia running across the street getting fired on, I started to cry. I felt their anguish as if it were my own. I don’t know any of these people, but how can I put it like this? I’m almost drawn to them.”
My friend, Jesus understands our suffering, but it’s more than empathy. What you’ve got going on here with Morrie is empathy. Now that he suffers, he better understands other people’s suffering, but that said, he just says empathy. Jesus has sympathy. He has not only suffered like us, He suffers with us and He offers His strength to us. That’s its threats.
Let’s look secondly at its test. Let’s look secondly at its test. Let’s go back to Revelation 2:10. “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison that you may be tested.” Mark that. We’re looking at their suffering outlined by the savior. We’ve seen its threats. Now we’re looking at its tests. According to Jesus, this season of suffering forms and constitutes a test to the church at Smyrna. All these threats are just one big test.
Now this Word carries the idea of proving or improving. It speaks of testing something for the purpose of ascertaining its quality.
Now on the one hand, we see that Satan planned this test to prove them faithless. He’s the source of their trouble. Out of a synagogue of Satan, those who are Jews, but are not Jews are giving the church [inaudible 00:23:55]. And we read here from Jesus that the devil is behind this and he’s going to throw some of them into prison.
Now if you’d have videoed that scene of Christians being jailed out of their home at dawn and into the paddy wagon and [inaudible 00:24:11] to the jail, you wouldn’t have seen Satan. You’d have just seen the human instruments. But beyond the visible is an invisible cosmic conflict, that’s going on all the time. And Jesus acknowledges that Satan intended to unsettle and shake their faith in God, much like He did with Peter. Remember back in Luke 22:31 how the Lord Jesus had to say to Peter “What? Satan has desired to have you.”
In fact, it actually should be read this way. “Satan has asked for you and He wants to sift you like wheat.” Satan wants to sift the saints. You know what sifting is in the old days when they’d take those forks or those winnowing tools and they’d work on the weed and they’d throw it up into the air so that the wind would blow the chaff away and the kernels would remain, the wheat would stay.
Satan wants to so disturb the church at Smyrna as he did with Peter that he wants their confidence in God to be blown away in the wind through this trial and through this trouble. He wanted them to think that God had forsaken them and then maybe they would forsake God.
That’s the test that’s going on here. It’s a test planned by Satan to prove them faithless, but it’s a test permitted by God to prove them faithful. What Satan proposed we need to acknowledge God permitted. Satan’s going to throw you into jail. Who do you think permitted that? The first and the last through whom all things must go. There’s nothing that comes to us that doesn’t first pass through God and, therefore, what even our enemies propose, sometimes God permits.
You see that, don’t you, in Job 1:6 where Satan has to go and present themself to God and ask for permission to touch one hair on the head of Job. Jesus said in Luke 22:31, “Satan has asked for you.” And it seems that in Peter’s kiss and it seems in the case of Smyrna that God had acquiesced to Satan’s demand because God purposes something in the evil that man perpetrate and in the designs of Satan’s hatred towards the church.
Satan tests us to bring us down, but God tests us to build us up. Satan tests us to bring the worst out in us. God tests us to bring the best out in us. And God was putting the church at Smyrna through the refiner’s fire to remove the dross of self-confidence, prayerlessness and attachment to the world.
That’s why God sometimes allows us to experience tribulation, poverty, slander and, in the case of the church of Smyrna, imprisonment with impending martyrdom. If you go over to 1 Peter 1, you see this thought, fleshed died and the life again of the saints of God who are in Asia. It may be something that’s appropriate to seven churches addressed in Revelation 2 to 3.
But as we said sometime ago, there are more churches in Asia than seven and Peter here addresses the pilgrims who are dispersed and he says in verse 6, “In this, you greatly rejoice. Though now, for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials that the genuineness of your faith be more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tested by fire may be found to praise and honor and the glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love, though now you do not see Him yet believing, you rejoice with joy and expressible and full of glory receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Here the trial is likened to the refiner’s fire where gold and silver is heated up until the impurities and the dross bubbles to the top of the crucible and then the refiner scoops it away. From what we’re told, often in those days, the refiner knew that his job was done when he could see his own reflection in the molten metal.
And Peter is saying, “You know what? For a little while you’re in the crucible and you’re going through all kinds of trials and tests. But know that God has His hand on the thermostat and He’s removing the dross and the impurities. He’s making you stronger, He’s making you more dependent upon Him, He’s making you more like the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the point being made here.
That’s why, in fact, the Church of Smyrna is a pure church because they are a persecuted church. Remember what we said? There’s no censorship, no note of condemnation of this church because this church was responding well and submitting freely to the tests that God had permitted and Satan had proposed.
Remember, the faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted. The faith that cannot be tested is the faith that cannot be trusted and they’re being put through this in Smyrna and it will prove them to be overcomers, those who are truly saved, those who will persevere to the end, depending upon God’s grace in salvation and sanctification and service.
The takeaway, simply this. You and I need patience in the midst of our trials. Anybody in the stranglehold of a trial or a test and you need to look beyond the immediate pain, what you’re going through on the inside and on the outside. You need to look beyond that. You need to make some elbow room in the midst of that for the thought that God has an ultimate purpose in your immediate pain. And through your test and through your trial, He’s rounding out your character, He’s strengthening your faith and He will, through it, multiply your witness.
James says that “doesn’t He let patience have its perfect work that you may be mature?” We read in Luke 22 that the Lord Jesus said that after Peter would be sifted, he would indeed be strengthened in his faith and then he would go on to strengthen others in their faith.
We read in 1 Thessalonians 1:6 through 10 that the believers at Thessalonica received the Word with much affliction and joy in the Holy Spirit and then they went on to be a tremendous witness for Christ because Paul says in the same passage, “And now your faith is being spoken of throughout Macedonia.” Don’t fail God’s test.
I like the story of the young man who burst into the office of his professor at a state college and protested that he had been given a F on his paper. In no uncertain terms he told the teacher that he was not happy with the grade. To his surprise the professor replied, “I’m not happy with it, either, but it was the lowest grade available to me.” He certainly seems to have miserably failed the test.
I hope none of us are flunking the tests that God is putting our way. These are tests to help us, strengthen us, mature us.
I think some of you know that before I went into the ministry I worked in an aircraft company called Short Brothers in Belfast and it was adjacent to Harland and Wolff, the great ship-building factory where the Titanic was originally put together. Often while we would maybe eat out of our lunchbox, we would sometimes see the large vessels that were still being built, or some of the super tankers so long that the sailors rode on bicycles from one end of the supertanker to the other.
We’d see them leave the harbor and we’d see them come back because they weren’t being sent out to their owners or their purchasers just yet. They were going on what was called sea trials. They were going to test them on the open sea, put them through their paces so that when they were given to the owner who purchased it, they would be given a vessel worthy to be taken and used. That’s what God does with us when we go through the trials of life. These are our sea trials that will give us our sea legs, improve our worth before God and our witnessing world.
Last thought this morning and we’ll come back to finish this letter next week. It’s threats, it’s test, it’s time. It’s time.
Look what Jesus says in verse 10. “Do not fear any of those things, which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison that you may be tested and you will have tribulation 10 days.”
Please notice that there is a specified time as to their trial and all of its threats. According to Christ, there is an expiration date on their present persecution. There are time limits to what they are suffering and we’re told that the time limits are 10 days. They would be tested for 10 days, some to the point of surrendering their bodies to martyrdom.
Now there’s a debate among Bible students as to whether we should take these 10 days literally or metaphorically. I’m not going to waste a lot of time getting into that. Some see it as metaphorically. Some would argue that if you look at church history there are 10 distinct periods of Roman persecution towards the church and the church is into the second phase of those 10 phase. They’re in the second phase under the mission AD 90 to 95, just part of a chain of crushing events directed towards the church by evil emperors.
Others argue again that it’s metaphorical because the number 10 is the number of human completion. We’ve got five fingers on each hand, makes 10, five toes on each foot makes 10 and, therefore, the number 10 carries the idea of completion and they are going to face a complete test although it is a limited trial.
Walter Scott in his commentary on Revelation finds precedence throughout the Bible that the number 10 is used of a complete, but a limited period of testing.
That aside, some see it, literally, “This is where I’m at.” I’m not going to fight over it, but seems to me that there’s no compelling reason not to see the 10 days other than 10 days. We approach the Bible with what’s called the literal grammatical historical hermeneutic. That means when we come to a verse we try to understand its historical context. We try to pick apart its grammatical understanding and we take it, literally. It’s not coded language. God gave us a book and communicated in concrete language and in concrete ideas and so when we come to the Bible, we don’t need to read between the lines. We just need to make sure we’re reading the lines literally, grammatically and historically.
In fact, sometimes when you read a passage you’ll see that it’s clearly not meant to be literal, maybe poetic or prophetic. But as I was taught, and I would encourage you to embrace, “When the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense.” It seems to me there’s no reason why we shouldn’t take these 10 days as 10 actual days. Satan was going to train his guns on them ferociously, intensely, but briefly. There was a limit and, again, I thank God put the limit, the statute of limitations on what Satan intended to do.
In fact, one book I did read argues that this may well speak of the gladiatorial arena. If you go back into some of the inscriptions in Smyrna, you’ll know that it was a city known for its athletic games and its gladiatorial contests and you might find something like this on some of the walls of the civic buildings that there was a forthcoming festival, 10 days of games. And those games sometimes included the feeding of Christians to lions or the putting of believers to the sword. It may be that this church is going to get caught up in 10 days of gladiatorial contests and those that are in prison will be taken to the arena. That’s possible.
But the point not to be missed is we cannot wrap up this morning is that this church, although facing blistering persecution and terrible tribulation, find some relief in the thought that it was limited. It was only going to be for a period of time.
According to Psalm 30:5 we’re told that our weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning and they were going to go through a night, but it wouldn’t last forever. They only had to be faithful for so long. They only had to endure for so long. They would be tested to the limit, but there would be a limit to the testing and you and I want to grasp that.
See, God’s in charge here. Everything that comes to them comes through God. Satan goes and says, “I desire to have them.” God says, “Have them.” But then He puts limits on what Satan can do and how long he can do it, exactly like Job, exactly like Peter, and you and I want to grasp that. Satan may be free to exercise his will, but evil is on a leash. Satan may be free to exercise his will, but he is not autonomous. God is sovereign still. As Martin Luther said, “The devil is still God’s devil and God can set the limits on Satan thus far and no further.” You’re going to be put in prison, but be faithful for 10 days.
The takeaway, as the team comes up and we prepare to finish this morning, the takeaway is that the Christian can endure and must endure in the light of the fact that God will not allow us to be tested or tempted beyond what we can endure.
Is that not the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13? That when you fall into temptation or you face a trial, first of all, you need to say to yourself, “What’s happening to me has happened to thousands of others. What I’m facing is common to all men.” But then you go on to recognize that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we bear and with the temptation He will make a way of escape. You got to get that done.
There is a limit both in scope and duration to any trial we face and, therefore, we can endure knowing that it will not endure. Write that down and think about that. You can endure because what you’re enduring will not endure. It might be done by next week.
In fact, I will say this. It might be 10 years, it may be 20 years, it may be an eternity, but in the next life, it’s done. Whether it’s a week or a lifetime, you can endure because it will not endure. It will either stop in this life or it will stop in the next life.
That’s what next week’s all about. He’s saying to them, “Hey, you guys need to press on because I want to give you eternal life and you’re not going to hell. And whatever you suffer now, suffer it because you’ll escape the endless sufferings of hell apart from me. Endure because what you are enduring will not endure and I have set limits and under those limits you can survive and you can thrive.”
That’s one of the things that keeps coming across in the New Testament letters, isn’t it? In 2 Corinthians 4, what do we read of the trials, of the sense of God? We read in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore, we do not lose heart even though our outward man is perishing. Yet the inward man is being renewed day by day for our light affliction, which is but for a moment.”
Paul isn’t saying that their afflictions lasted for one second, might have been one hour, might have been one day, one week, one month, one year, 10 years, but in the light of eternity, one moment. “Yet the inward man is being renewed day by day for our light affliction, which is but for a moment is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
One more verse, 1 Peter 1:6. We read it earlier, 1 Peter 1:6. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now, listen, for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” What you and I are going through in this life for the sake of Jesus Christ is just one moment compared to eternity. It’s just a little while until Jesus comes or God changes our circumstances. Can you not endure what you’re enduring because it won’t endure? He’s put a limit on it. He’s put a limit on it. 10 days. Could they be faithful for 10 days?
We need to be faithful for so long for either the trial will end or it will end in our death and our death will usher in eternal life. Would you this week, by God’s grace, by going to God’s Son in all His sovereignty and sympathy, would you not endure earth’s little day in the light of eternity? Would you not endure your losses and your crosses joyfully, knowing that in the light of eternity they are working in you an eternal weight of glory?
James Corbett was a heavyweight boxer and there was a poem written about him and some of the things he’d said. It’s a poem just entitled, One More Round and he says to every boxer, “When your arms are tired, fight one more round. When your feet are killing you, fight one more round. When every muscle and nerve in your body cries for your opponent to hit you on the chin and put you out of your misery, fight one more round. For he who fights one more round will never be beaten.”
Oh, kindred, this morning would you fight one more round in the midst of your trials? See He who is the first and the last, see the one who indeed is your great high priest and endure to the end, for he who endures to the end will be saved.
Let’s pray. Oh God, this morning we thank you for this blessing Word right out of the pages of church history. Oh God, we thank you for your real time understanding of all that we go through. We marvel at the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Oh God, we do not worship a God who has eyes, but does not see and a mouth that does not speak and ears that does not hear. We worship the living God who came to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
And Lord, you know all about us, not just by omissions, but by experience. And you’ve carried our humanity to the heights of the throne and you bid us to come in our sin to find forgiveness. You bid us to come in our struggles to find grace. Lord, help us to fight one more round because heaven is forever and hell is forever and we want to be found in the end on Jesus’ side. And everybody sayeth, amen. Let’s stand.