“Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
On The Receiving End
Think of a time when you walked blindly into a situation, only to realize that something absolutely horrendous was just on the horizon. Maybe you entered into a room and could tell by the look on others’ faces that some really devastating news was headed your way. Or maybe you set foot into your workplace, only to be welcomed with the realization of some further drudgery now awaiting you.
We’ve all been in similar circumstances. We know all too well what it’s like to be the recipient of bad news. These are those kinds of moments when we wish we could turn the other way and sprint as far and as fast as our legs can possibly take us. But rarely is that ever the correct course of action for us to take. (Unless, of course, physical danger is the bad news that awaits you!) However, even despite the bad news in our midst, we were made for faithfulness and equipped by His love to endure.
Good News or Bad News?
It’s hard to come across verses in Scripture that sound like bad news to our ears. After all, isn’t the gospel supposed to be “the good news”? And if God is so good, why must we experience so many things that just…aren’t good? That’s how this verse in Revelation 2 feels. At least in the beginning.
The Lord reveals to the church in Smyrna that He’s aware of the difficulties they’ve already experienced. He knows they’ve endured hardship, and He makes them aware that more is still to come. He even pairs death and life in the same sentence. So, what are we supposed to make of this? And how are we to cope with further bad news from the God who is supposedly so good? We find ourselves asking if it’s even worth it to keep going.
The Best Moves
And these are good questions. The question of evil and its place within our human experience is one worth wrestling with. But even if we don’t have an answer for our most desperate pleas of “Why, Lord?”, we do still have this promise from Him: despite suffering, God offers Life Himself in place of eternal death. And many of those in Smyrna would soon experience death on behalf of their faith in the Giver of life. This seems to reveal a sort of disconnect to us in our earthly logic.
But if hatred is comparable to murder in the Scriptures, then we know that love emits life. And that’s the promise He gives to His church in the midst of their hardship—Himself. Though He tells them that heartache may still be on the horizon, the safety of life everlasting’s promise takes the place of their fear. No inclination to retreat from suffering could ever offer what Christ can in its place. And the church in Smyrna knew that the best move forward was to lean into Christ’s promise of life. And because we were made for faithfulness, we, too, have what it takes to endure, no matter what lies ahead.
God is love, and His loves means life. As you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, remember that He is with you (Psalm 23:4). Ask Him for the life He gives because the kind He gives is the kind that lasts. And it’s worth more than all the treasures of this world combined…because He gives us Himself. And He created us for Himself.