7 Letters of Revelation: Suffering for Christ

Persecuted Prayer by Luke Flowers

Revelation 2:8-11 NRSV
The Risen Christ says, “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life: I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.”

If the first mark of a true and living church is love, the second is suffering. The one is naturally consequent on the other. A willingness to suffer proves the genuineness of love. We are willing to suffer for those we love. Evidently Christians in Smyrna had not lost their pristine love for Christ, as had the Christians in Ephesus, for they were prepared to suffer for him.
– John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

Religion is largely populated by people afraid of hell; spirituality begins to make sense to those who have been through hell—that is, who have drunk deeply of life’s difficulties. Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

Wesley Covenant Prayer
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Matthew 5:10-12 NRSV
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

John 15:18-20a NRSV
During the Last Supper, Jesus said, “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. – Dietrich Bonheoffer

Where are the marks of the cross in your life?
Are there any points of identification with your Lord?
Alas, too many Christians wear medals but carry no scars.
– Vance Havner

When we try to live in solidarity with the pain of the world—and do not spend our lives running from necessary suffering—we will surely encounter various forms of “crucifixion.” Many say pain is merely physical discomfort, but suffering comes from our resistance to, denial of, and our sense of injustice or wrongness about that pain. This is the core meaning of suffering on one level or another, and we all learn it the hard way. As others have said, pain is the rent we pay for being human, but suffering is to some degree optional. The cross was Jesus’ voluntary acceptance of undeserved suffering as an act of total solidarity with all the pain of the world. Deep reflection on this mystery can change your whole life. – Richard Rohr, Holding the Darkness

1 Peter 2:20-23 NRSV
If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

Prayer for Suffering
Risen Christ, Humble Jesus, so many of your children suffer as you suffered- beaten, imprisoned, enslaved, separated from friends and family, cut down at the prime of life. They sacrifice far beyond what we can imagine, all for the love of you. Bless and protect them, Mighty One. Encourage them and provide for them. Fill them with your strength and power. Remind them that they are not forgotten by us and not forgotten by you.

Through their witness and your Word, move us to follow you as fully and as deeply. Awaken us from false understandings and false security. Rouse us from apathy and compromise. Forgive us for choosing comfort over commitment. Free us from fear, imagined and real. Free us and renew a right spirit within us- a courageous spirit, a sacrificial spirit born from true love of you. Free us and use us for your glory. Amen.

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This is the second of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

Click here, for more terrific work by today’s featured artist, Luke Flowers.

Click here for another reflection on suffering entitled God will wipe away every tear by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.

Prayer for Suffering © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

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