Fearless, pt. 3

The church at Smyrna is one of two churches in Revelation that are without condemnation from Jesus. This is remarkable considering Smyrna was a center of emperor/idol worship, having won the right (over 11 other cities) to build the first temple in honor of Tiberius. It had famous temples, beautiful architecture and efficient roadways. Smyrna was like every other city filled with images and opportunities to suffocate the spread of Christianity. Yet, this church was fearless and faithful to endure persecution for the gospel cause. The reason they could be fearless and stirred to faithfulness was because they lived for one who defeated death. Jesus is “the First and Last, who died and came to life again.”

You can be fearless in suffering.
The Smyrna Christians faced many challenges. They were persecuted for their faith in Jesus. This persecution likely included physical & emotional abuse, economic hardship and for some martyrdom. Jesus encouraged [commanded] them to be fearless. Notice, Jesus could empathize with the church but his words led to empowering victory over trials rather than grumble in misery.
Following Jesus does not mean a person will escape difficulty, suffering or physical harm. Many people face real pains, and some because of a real faith in God. Jesus “knows your afflictions” and faced many of the same things that grieve you. Ultimately, he invites you to experience victory over any helplessness and overwhelmed feelings you have. He has overcome death, and therefore can handle anything you ever encounter. He offers words of hope and empowerment. We can be reminded that whatever we face in persecution in life or for faith that though it is real so is the power of Jesus. Your confidence rests in his resurrection power rather than your own ability to endure and grind out hope.

You can be fearless in poverty.
The Smyrna Christians experienced poor living conditions probably due to their persecution. However, poverty did not define their entire outcome since they were rich toward Jesus. Their value and worth as a child of God far outweighed any benefit of material possessions.
Today’s world is captured by the ‘next’ latest and greatest fad, that of course carries a hefty price tag. We must realize our value does not stem from material possessions (clothing, cars, gaming stations, houses, jobs, etc.) but from relationships – with other people and ultimately with Jesus. Parents often desire their children to be experience rich while relationally poor.
[1] This happens thru desired involvement with sports, martial arts, instrument lessons, academic pursuits, church exposure, etc., all at the expense of real, dynamic and intimate relationships with people (parents, peers, adults, opposite gender – avg age for marriage has lengthened in past 20 years) and of course with Jesus. The Smyrna believers would give their life for Jesus because they sincerely knew and loved him.

You can be fearless in slander.
The Smyrna Christians were slandered by Jews opposed to Jesus and anything from Christianity. Jesus says they ultimately were being servants of Satan rather than true people of God (cf. Rom 2:28-29). The Bible consistently reminds believers that those on pursuit to please God should expect insult and difficulty (2 Tim 3:12). Jesus says their testing will be for a short duration (ten days) in comparison to eternity (Ps 37:1-2).
Likewise, we need to be cautioned in the way we use our words. We can use our words to speak of joy, hope and life in Christ or we can be used by Satan to tear down and destroy others (Eph 4:29).

· What does it mean to be fearless? Do you know anyone who is fearless? Describe such a person. How do you think a person becomes fearless?
· Do Christians face less or more tribulation/suffering than non-Christians? Explain.
· How does Jesus empathize with those who experience pain in life? (Read & Discuss Hebrews 4:14-16)
· How are wealthy vs. middle class vs. lower class people treated differently in society? Do you think this is right? What solutions do you offer?
· How does poverty define millions of people in our world? What can the “rich” do to help minimize, if not eradicate, poverty?
· What does it mean to be “experience rich while relationally poor”? Do you think this describes most teens, some teens or few teens? How about yourself?
· How are Christians viewed by the watching world? Do you think Christians are unfairly slandered? Do you think Christians unfairly slander the world, if so how?
· Have you considered the power of your words to either build up or tear down?

[1] See Andy Stanley Parental Guidance Required DVD

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