7 Letters of Revelation: What Christ's Church Should Look Like

seven_letters_title_widescreen_16X9This is the summary page for seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. The posts contain quotes and prayers useful for sermon preparation or devotional purposes. In these scriptures, Jesus Christ reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

John Stott, in his book What Christ Thinks of the Church, writes:

In each of the seven letters Jesus Christ lays emphasis on a different mark which should characterize a true and living church. The Ephesian Christians are urged to return to their first, fresh love for him, while the Christians of Smyrna are warned that if they do not compromise they will surely suffer. The church in Pergamum is to champion truth in the face of error, and the church in Thyatira righteousness in the midst of evil. In Sardis the need is for inward reality behind the church’s outward show. Before the Philadelphian church the risen Lord has set an open door of opportunity for the spread of the gospel, and he bids them step boldly through it. The seventh letter is addressed to the church in Laodicea; it combines a fierce denunciation of complacency with a tender appeal for wholeheartedness.

Letter 1, Ephesus: God is our First Love
Revelation 2:1-7

Letter 2, Smyrna: Suffering and Sacrificial
Revelation 2:8-11

Letter 3, Pergamum: True to the Name, Jesus Christ is Lord
Revelation 2:12-17

Letter 4, Thyatira: Look Like the One You Love = Holy
Revelation 2:18-29

Letter 5, Sardis: Alive and Awake
Revelation 3:1-6

Letter 6, Philadelphia: Open to Opportunity
Revelation 3:7-13

Letter 7, Laodicea: On Fire for God
Revelation 3:14-22

7 Letters of Revelation: On Fire for God

on fire for godRevelation 3:14-22 NIV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity. – Frederic D. Huntington

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
― Elie Wiesel

The following quotes are from What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3 by John Stott

  • One longs to see today robust and courageous men and women bringing to Jesus Christ their thoughtful and total commitment.
  • This then is Christ’s view of us – of nominal Christians who are neither really nor wholeheartedly, committed to him. Morally and spiritually such people are naked, blind beggars. They are beggars because they have nothing with which to purchase their forgiveness or an entry into the Kingdom of God. They are naked because they have no clothes to fit them to stand before God. They are blind because they have no idea either of their spiritual poverty or of their spiritual danger.
  • Like the Laodiceans we have to renounce the old life of easygoing complacency. Smug self-satisfaction is not appropriate in one who bears the name of Christ. Shallow piety never saved anyone. There will be no hypocrites in heaven. So we have to break with these things. We much spit them out of our mouths lest he spit us out of his.

2 Timothy 1:5-7 NIV
I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. ― Brennan Manning 

I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. I claim the Methodist and the Baptist as mine and I claim everybody that loves Jesus Christ as mine; but I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. Men and women of all generations and everywhere that love the savior until ‘adoration’ has become the new word and they do not have to be entertained or amused.  ~ A. W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity

Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire,
Make my life a witness of Thy saving pow’r.
Millions grope in darkness, waiting for Thy Word,
Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire.
– Gene Barlett

**********
This is the seventh 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.

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

7 Letters of Revelation: Open to Opportunity

Key in LockRevelation 3:7-13 NIV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars–I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Three quotes by John Stott from his commentary What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

  • The church urgently needs Christians of apostolic zeal who will count all things loss for Christ, and hazard life, comfort, career and reputation for him. The open doors are many, but there are few to go through them.
  • Here then is the balance of the Christian life. It is a life of give and take. “Freely you have received,” said Jesus, “freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) First we gratefully take what he offers; then we gladly give what he asks. He sets before us the open doors of salvation and of service. He bids us go in through the one to receive salvation and out through the other to give service. It is not possible to go through the second until we have been through the first. As Jesus puts it: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)
  • Not only is every individual Christian called to be a witness, but every local Christian community is called to mobilize its membership for mission. This will involve a careful training program, the regular visitation of the whole neighborhood, the development of home evangelism, and the arrangement of special events at which the gospel is shared. These are some of the doors which Christ as opened. We must make sure we go through them. The key is Christ’s but the choice is ours.

2 Timothy 4:1-2 NRSV
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.

Maybe “witnessing” is about the choice we have to plant seeds of unkindness, hurry, hate, and greed in one another’s lives, or to plant seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Whether it’s in our closest relationships or our brief encounters with strangers, we always have that choice—to bring life or to bring death, to bring an agenda or to bring love, to bring a product or to bring Jesus.
– Rachel Held Evans, Why I Don’t Witness to People on Airplanes (A Post in 3 Acts)

The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians, and business leaders. They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes- a time for men and women to be heroic in their faith and in spiritual character and power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low.
Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives

Prayer: Blow Open
Holy Jesus, blow open the doors of our hearts
We’ve locked them tight
in pride, in guilt
Swing them wide with wonder and grace
that we may walk through them
into your welcome
into your saving love

Holy Jesus, blow open the doors of your house
We’ve locked them tight
in fear, in apathy
Swing them wide with courage and hope
that we may walk through them
into your harvest
into your kingdom come

**********
This is the sixth 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.

Prayer: Blow Open © 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

7 Letters of Revelation: Alive and Awake

alive awake awareRevelation 3:1-6 NIV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

There was every indication of life and vigor. But outward appearances are notoriously deceptive; and this socially distinguished congregation was a spiritual graveyard. It seemed to be alive, but it was actually dead…. The reputation that Sardis had acquired was a reputation with human beings – but not with God. – John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

Proverbs 6:6-11 NRSV
Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise. Without having any chief or officer or ruler, it prepares its food in summer, and gathers its sustenance in harvest. How long will you lie there, O lazybones? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want, like an armed warrior.

Ephesians 10:14 NRSV
Sleeper, awake!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.

Jesus did not numb himself or withhold himself from human pain, as we see even in his  refusal of the numbing wine on the cross (Matthew 27:34). Some forms of suffering are necessary so that we can more fully know the human dilemma, so that we can even name our shadow self and confront it. Maybe evil itself has to be felt to understand its monstrosity, and to empathize with its victims. Brothers and sisters, the irony is not that God should feel so fiercely; it’s that his creatures feel so feebly. If there is nothing in your life to cry about, if there is nothing in your life to yell about, you must be out of  touch. We must all feel and know the immense pain of this global humanity. Then we are no longer isolated, but a true member of the universal Body of Christ.
– Richard Rohr

They watch for Christ who are sensitive, eager, apprehensive in mind, who are awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in honoring him, who look for him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if they found that he was coming at once…. This then is to watch: to be detached from what is present, and to live in what is unseen; to live in the thought of Christ as he came once, and as he will come again; to desire his second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of his first. -John Henry Newman

Psalm 57:7-8 (NIV)
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

We’re like kids whining in the back seat, “Are we there yet?” Well, we are there yet. We are here now. But we’re so busy being busy, and whining about it, that we don’t notice. Our busyness is not fruitfulness; it’s fear. We’re afraid of the stillness, afraid of the dark, afraid of what might come up in the silence. We’re afraid of not being in control and of being dependent, afraid of not knowing. We keep busy to stay unconscious. Advent invites us into the dark, into the silence, into wakefulness.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Pregnant Pause

Let me describe what it means to be truly present. Being present involves letting go of our constant preoccupations, immersing ourselves in the here and now, and giving ourselves wholeheartedly to whatever is at hand. … It’s about becoming more aware, alert, awake to the fullness of the immediate moment. If we are with another person, it means engaging with him or her with all of our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength. Such wholehearted attention requires patience, time, and disciplined effort. And it is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to those around us, especially our suffering neighbor. -Trevor Hudson, A Mile in My Shoes

Prayer: Break Through
Break through Jesus
Break through the tombs we make for ourselves
Break through the layers of sin and habit
callused eyes
hardened mind
gravelly heart

Awaken us from apathy and busyness and self-deception
We’re just going through the motions
We’re asleep at the wheel of life
Forgive us and awaken us from automatic pilot faith

We know nothing can keep you in the grave
You are risen, just as you said
We trust you to raise us up with you
and to make us alive with your joy. Amen

**********
This is the fifth 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 a worship resource entitled Awakening.

Prayer: Break Through © 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

7 Letters of Revelation: Holiness, Look Like the One You Love

pureandholyRevelation 2:18-29 NIV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations– ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery — just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The first four letters of Christ in Revelation remind us:

  • God is to be our first love. At it’s heart and at it’s start, faith is about relationship. Being precedes doing.
  • We are willing to suffer and sacrifice for who and what we love. This is the depth of God’s love for us. Let us strive to love God this deeply in return.
  • We remain true to who and what we love. As Christ followers, we remain true to His Name. The most ancient confession of faith is the simplest: Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus is our Lord and Savior, our Leader and Forgiver. No person or thing can take the place of Christ.
  • This relationship, this level of love, trust and devotion transforms how we think and how we live. Over time, we look more and more like the One we love, more and more like Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be holy. – Lisa Degrenia <><

Ephesians 5:25-27 NRSV
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.

Titus 2:11-14 NRSV
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Jesus Christ speaks of [the Christians in Thyatira] in words of warmest commendation. I know your deeds, he writes, your love and faith, your service and perseverance (v 19). Here are four sterling Christian qualities indeed. Thyatira not only rivaled Ephesus in busy Christian service, but exhibited the love which Ephesus lacked, preserved the faith which was imperiled at Pergamum, and shared with Smyrna the virtue of patient endurance in tribulation. … But Thyatira’s catalog of virtues is not exhausted yet. I know your deeds, Christ says, and adds: and that you are now doing more than you did at first. The church of Thyatira understood that the Christian life is a life of growth, of progress, of development… The church of Thyatira displayed love and faith, service and endurance, but holiness is not included among its qualities….Holiness of life and character is then another indispensable mark of the real Christian and true church.
– John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

Matthew 23:25-28 NRSV
Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

The world is attracted by lived theology and incarnated truth. Brennan Manning believed that the main reason the church does not grow is that Christians do not live, enact, behave, incarnate the Gospel—leaving people to say, “There’s nothing to it.” I completely agree. We do not need another “church growth” conference to assess our situation and propose strategies for increase as much as we need “let’s get serious Sundays” —weekly opportunities to confess that we have failed to turn word into flesh, and to make new commitments to do so. Our hearts will not feel so phony if we do this, and the world will not think we are selling them a bill of goods. Ironic, isn’t it that a pre-school activity— “show and tell” —could turn out to be what we need most. – Steve Harper reflecting on John 13:31-35 in The Holy Gospel: April 28, 2013 (Year C)

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. – Brennan Manning

Revive my heart renew my soul
In You O Lord I am made whole
No more in fear will I wander
‘Cause You’re my God, my Lord and Lover
Like a burning fire, be my one desire
I want to be holy just like You
I want to go where You lead me to
With reckless abandon to Your truth
I want to fall deeper in love with You
And deeper and deeper and deeper
And deeper in love with You
– from Just Like You by Matt Maher, (CCLI Song #4510938)

**********
This is the fourth 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.

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

7 Letters of Revelation: Remain True to My Name

Jesus Christ is Lord by Thomas Hawk

Jesus Christ is Lord by Thomas Hawk

Revelation 2:12-17 NIV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city–where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”

Jesus Christ is Lord – the first and oldest affirmation made by persons claiming to be Christ followers. His very name brings together the fullness of who He is and what He has done for the world.

  • Jesus: Jesus of Nazaraeth, who lived in a specific time and place, fully human, who understands our brokenness and frailty firsthand, the Word of God made flesh, God incarnate
  • Christ: the Anointed One, the long promised Messiah, who died on a cross and rose again for the salvation of the world
  • Lord: fully divine, eternal and all powerful, King of kings, due all honor and glory and reverence

Jesus is fully human and fully divine, Lord and Savior of the world, the Leader and Forgiver of all who claim his name. – Lisa Degrenia <><

The guarding of the truth of the gospel is a major concern of Jesus Christ. He is not only anxious that we should love him, and that we should suffer bravely for him, but also that we should believe in him and hold fast the truth about him…. If Jesus is the divine Lord, we must submit to him as our Lord. If he is the divine Savior, we must trust in him as our Savior. This personal appropriation of Jesus Christ is essential. – John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

1 Timothy 2:3-6a NRSV
This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all.

Philippians 2:5-11 NRSV
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Unless Jesus is Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. – S. M. Zwemer

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Ephesians 4:14-15 NRSV
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

Hebrews 4:12 NRSV
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Prayer for Christ’s Sharp Sword
Risen Christ, Word Make Flesh,
Wield your sharp sword of saving truth
Wield it for our good
Prick our conscience
Wound our deceiving pride
Cut away our camouflage
Pierce our defenses
Lay bear our homegrown truth
Our sin
Our brokenness
Our need of you
With your Living Word, sever all that is destructive within us
Slay all falsehood- in doctrine, in worship, in living
Open us to the Truth that is you,
So we may be healed in body, mind, and spirit,
So we may be whole and holy,
So we may faithfully, gracefully, share what we have received
So our war torn world might also know your truth, love and peace.
Amen.

Click here for a powerful and personal reflection on this theme as found in John 14:23-29 by Steve Harper.

**********
This is the third 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 the terrific Flickr photostream of today’s featured artist, Thomas Hawk

Prayer for Christ’s Sharp Sword © 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

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.

**********
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