We tend not to suffer very well.
The problem for Christians is that Jesus promised his followers that they would suffer, and suffer in spades. He told his disciples they would have tribulation in the world (John 16:33), that they shouldn’t be surprised at ordeals (1 Peter 4:12), and that we should even “consider it joy” when trials come (James 1:2).
In Revelation 2:8-11, Jesus reminds the congregation of this unpleasant fact, but demonstrates to them that suffering, for the one who is in Christ, does not hold power over them. He does. And not only does he have power over and for them, he is their relief. In fact, he tells them not to worry about their suffering, because, well, they will be getting some more.
The Lord is Familiar with Our Trials. It is easy for us to forget God when we are under pressure, and suffering certainly brings the pressure. So Jesus was sure to tell the congregation that he knew all about their difficulties, even mentioning specifics about their neighbors and about their provisions. It doesn’t make trials disappear, but it is encouraging to the believer that Jesus is intimately acquainted with them, and with us.
The Lord Facilitates Our Testing. It is natural that right after we forget God in testing, we start wondering where all this testing comes from. Jesus reminds us that it is he who is in charge, not the world, not the devil, not blind “fate.” Instead, God sovereignly, lovingly, permits and even arranges our testing so that we will become more like him. The devil may prowl around like a lion, but he is a pretender to the true Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Lamb standing as if slain, Jesus Christ. And, rather than threatening to chew us up, suffering promises to grow us up, into the image of Christ.
The Lord Fuels Our Triumph. Because we know these things, we are empowered by Christ to conquer our preference for comfort and leisure. Conquer our fear of difficult circumstances. Conquer our selfish desires. Christ gives us courage to endure faithfully, even to the point of losing our lives, for which we will be crowned (adorned with) eternal life.
The most harmful thing to people is not earthly death, disease or destruction, but the just wrath of God against unrepentant sin. Jesus doesn’t promise his people relief from suffering, but rescue from wrath.
From a sermon on Revelation 2:8-11:
Theme: Jesus doesn’t promise relief from suffering, but rescue from wrath
- The Lord is Familiar with our Trials
- The Lord Facilitates our Testing
- The Devil is Lurking
- The Duration is Limited
- The Design is the Lord’s
- The Lord Fuels our Triumph
- To be Courageous
- To be Crowned
- To be Conquering