Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Be thou faithful unto death

Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.

Rev 2:8 And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things saith the first and the last, who was dead, and lived again:

Rev 2:9 I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty (but thou art rich), and the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and they art not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

Rev 2:10 Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer: behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.

Rev 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Every time Christian suffer, we should in them Christ suffering. Their blood his own and their tears his very own and into this fellowship we are invited to share. Nothing in the resent past gave us this opportunity like the crisis of Jos. We began this lent with very disturbing news of an attack on defenseless Christian community in Jos, Nigeria. This place had previously been a buffer of peace in the turbulent northern Nigeria with a generally large Christian population has had increasing attack from Muslim extremists making living here impossible, as one Christian leader stated then, “ we live in the abode of Satan himself…!” in light of the atrocities here like this recent one.

With these fellow believers, I share this letter of the Spirit of Christ to the church of Smyrna. This ancient city shares a lot with Jos today. To Smyrna, the lord spoke to encourage them showing, He was aware of their plight, that though this church was poor economically and had been through immense afflictions, more dark days were still ahead of them. First from those who were among them who had given them selves away to worship of Satan though they were still worshiping in the synagogues with them. It was unfortunate that people would allow the worship of foreign gods to infiltrate the synagogues. Smyrna was known as a center for emperor worship with great temples built on its acropolis the outstanding one was the one built in honor of Tiberius and one even greater in honor of the goddess of Rome. Those in this league applied pressure on Christians in this church from within and the tight fisted Roman rulers from without.

To them the lord spoke these words of assurance indicating that he is not only aware of their physical state [one of poverty economically] but also the pressure they face daily from all sides to yield and vector away from God, Rev:2:9, but he points to yet bleaker days ahead, more suffering for them in that some will be thrown into jail by Satan for ten days. But we must notice that there is a limit to the length of time this testing will last, and aren’t we glad that it will not exceed the days set! This should allow them to overcome and be given the crown of life, yes those who overcome will not be hurt at all by the second death this is the greater and outer boundary which is the Lord himself. Death as we know it is the first boundary, but the greater and final is yet to come and is here referred to as the second death.

Here are lessons for us from this passage:

1. Satan has power to inflict evil and this is hinged in our working with him to cause evil within the body or those who have given themselves to Satan. And this is the pressure that will came upon those who want to walk faithful to the Lord they will be tempted by evil and they will be afflicted even caused great harm. The ability to choose is in our createdness. We have dominion to follow the Lord or Satan and this will not be taken away from us humans.

So when perpetrators of evil deal a heavy blow on Christians as we saw in Jos , it is certainly NOT the will of God, we can state that these men who have carried out this heinous offence have used their freedom choice wrongly and crossed fellow human being’s life. And we should call this a tragedy! These are tragedies that go against the will of God they should be seen as such and coming from the using a freedom act that crosses the will of God.

How then do we view death and tragedy of this magnitude? What will allow us to face such difficulty and transform us to be faithful witnesses of His grace?

Tohito Kagawa attempts to reflect on death in his book Meditation: he says

“I do not deny the eventuality of death, death lies sternly upon my course, nevertheless I believe that Love [the love of God] has far greater power than death. ‘ death is swallowed up in love …’

Love is stronger than death, love’s glory tramples even death under feet, I am thinking that death is transformed through love. Death is an aspect of change, while love is the substance that persists through all changes.

2. What happens to us is not FINAL however grievous it appears now. The harm caused though painful has no final word on us the pain we face today are boundaried. God watches and will help us through this if we trust him through our ordeal. In fact the challenge of death is contained in the statement that Christ has the final say over the second death. I am amazed by the stories emerging from the earlier attacks on Christians in Borno still northern Nigeria. On the 26th July 2009, a well coordinated attacks on Christians triggered by Boka Haram [a Muslim extremist group in Northern Nigeria set fires on churches and homes of local Christians and there were reported many Christians dead following these heinous attacks in Borno state. Perhaps the most striking part of the chaos was the brutal murder of two pastors who refused to convert to Islam to gain their freedom and save their lives. One of them George Orjih preached to the leader of the militants about Christ before his martyrdom. A fellow kidnap victim who was latter released reported:

While we were lying there, tied up, George turned to me and said, ‘if you survive tell my brethren that I died well, and I am living with Christ, and if we die we will know that we died for the Lord’”. George is reported to have been singing and praying throughout the ordeal, encouraging the believers not to give up, even unto death.

There is a greater boundary that these things cannot break and that is the second boundary God’s grace is still great

Prayer for our friend should border along the prayers by these saints in (Rev 6:10) and they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

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John Watson said...
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