I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Be Faithful through Suffering

We have one more church in Revelation.
Here’s what it says.
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death!” (Revelation 2:8-11).

Suffering doesn’t come where you expect it.
The angel said, “the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not.”
It came from those whom they trusted, whom they thought were with them.
When Judas betrayed Jesus, Jesus told him, “What you do, do quickly.”
Betrayal hurts.
It's a betrayal of trust.
That’s why divorce is so devastating. Who else, but your spouse, knows how best to stab your heart?
This promised suffering is from those who seem to believe like you, those who you thought were believers.

Persecution is real.
In a class on communism in high school, I was required to read 1000 pages of communist-related material. The Hiding Place was not fiction. Nor were countless accounts of torture man inflicted on another man. The assignment showed me what suffering for one's faith means.
I recently heard about a church family from Ukraine who met in the woods to worship. Sometimes their leaders disappeared, never to be seen again.
When Communism fell, the leaders of communism hid.
The people rejoiced in their freedom.
Now those same Communist leaders are coming out of hiding and re-instigating their control. Their ruthless tyranny returns.

But they aren’t the only ones who oppose Christianity.
Moslems fight for sovereignty. When Moslems speak of “peace,” they mean complete elimination of anyone who doesn’t believe their way. (That’s not very peaceful.)  Read their Koran.
Moslems hate Christians, probably more than Jews. 
A Christian woman in Pakistan sought asylum in England. The Queen basically said, We can't. If we do, the Moslems here would revolt; our country would be lost.
Do we know how many passionate Moslems were allowed into America without papers during the Obama regime? 

Foxes’ Book of Martyrs told of Christians during the early Church, when Rome burnt Christians at the stake, or dipped their bodies in oil to light as lanterns for their parties.
Reading Hebrews 11 tells the suffering of more:
“Who by faith . . . were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:33-39).

Ever wonder what you would do during the Nazi regime if the secret police asked if you were hiding anyone?
Would you lie to protect your children hiding under your floor?
Or would you trust God to protect them, even if you told the truth?
Will we choose to disappoint or deny Christ in order to live?
We can’t know.
But the angel says, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.”
God does not tell us so we can worry about it.
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (fear), but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Instead of fear, we are to have an answer to those who ask.
“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).

How can we be ready to give an answer?
We have seen with the other six churches what they needed.
Because the first church left their first love, they were told to do the deeds they first did. (ARE YOU TIRED OF BEING A MOM)

The second church followed the letter of God’s law but not its spirit (Balaam’s doctrine) and held to the doctrine of Nicolaitans (where elders ruled over the people). Searching the Scriptures, listening to God’s Spirit, and obeying Him prevents us from becoming rule followers or being ruled by an elder rather than controlled by God’s Spirit. (DO YOU STAND AGAINST SATAN HIMSELF? ARE YOU SURROUNDED BY EVIL?)

The church in Thyatira was condemned because of the Jezebel spirit: allowing women to control and lead. We must stay in our God-given role, seeking to help our husbands. (IS JEZEBEL IN YOUR MIDST)

To the church of Laodicea, God condemned their complacency and lack of passion. The cure for complacency was to dine with Jesus. By being in His presence, all men change. (ARE YOU SPIT IN GOD’S MOUTH)

There isn’t time for glorying in past accomplishments. The church at Sardis was encouraged to keep doing the work. Be faithful today. (WAKE UP! STRENGTHEN WHAT REMAINS)

The Philadelphia church was praised because they held fast to the Word of God. (DO YOU KNOW THE WORD)

The central theme for all the churches was to know the Word and obey it.

That’s how we can be ready to give an answer to those who ask—And be ready for suffering.

Is it worth it?
The angel said “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.”
That second death is the judgment that comes to all who do not accept Christ.
The torment will not end. The anguish has no rest.
Suffering now or for eternity? Seems an obvious answer.
Those who have gone before us thought the suffering worth it.
So did Jesus Who wore the crown of thorns for me.

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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