Revelation 2:10 ESV
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
It’s probably a good idea to make a quick statement before delving too far into this one.
The devil is about to throw some of you into prison. The. Devil. As much as we like to declare how powerless the devil is, apparently, he has the power to test us. Prison was not a godly test. Tribulation was not a godly test. These tests were orchestrated by our enemy- not our Savior. The villain of the story is quite evident.
I only make this elementary point because in so many conversations people often mistakenly say, “God is testing my faith so much right now.” Is He? God will test you and the devil tests you (and tempts you), but these tests look very different. God sets people free, He doesn’t imprison them (Lk 4:18, 2Cor 3:17, Ga 5:1). It seems God will test us most by obedience- will you do this for me or will you give this up for me? God calls us to go places that test our faith. Calls us to pray prayers that test our faith. Leads us to peaks through valleys and those lowlands test our faith. These tests can be difficult because the anxiety can feel as tense as any other test, but it’s different. God’s tests are not differentiated by level of difficulty. It’s all hard sometimes. However, why is it hard? This is the difference.
God doesn’t test our faith by despair and deprivation and death (Jn 10:10, Jam 1:13). But the devil does. And that is a huge distinction that must be made if we are going to understand the fullness of John’s Revelation.
Now, let’s move on.
The freedom of these saints was not being tested. We miss the point when we look to the temporal. The devil doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, healthy or sick. You can die rich or poor, healthy or miserable and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But without faith it is impossible to please God (He 11:6). The devil wants you to lose your faith. That is all. His strategy is to inflict pain at a place of vulnerability until the temporal overcomes what is eternal. Jesus isn’t giving them the hope any of us would want. He didn’t promise release or rescue. He simply says be faithful unto death.
This is something we are not prepared for.
SUPERDAD OR SUPERBAD
I consider myself a good parent. I love my kids, I provide the most I can and I’m present. We instruct, we discipline and we definitely listen…a lot. But the other day when I was taking down Christmas lights, I realized something- I am failing to produce in them the same work ethic that was inculcated into me. Three of them were inside giggling and playing while the oldest runs under the ladder and says, “see ya later dad, I’m going to play football.” I’m holding an extension cord in one hand, while putting those miserable plastic gutter clips into my pocket and still hanging onto the lights themselves. I looked like an acrobat. Yet, I wasn’t willing to break up the party in order to tell them to assist. They never miss a church service, they make good grades, they play sports but they don’t have many chores. Or any, some weeks. This isn’t their fault- it is mine. Therefore, I am creating an environment that will position them to quit when things get difficult.
They will have no bandwidth for suffering. We don’t want their marriage to get difficult. We don’t want their job to stress them out. We don’t want their bills to be too much. However, sometimes, you have to work through a cold. Sometimes, you have to budget tightly this month in order to make it next month. Sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes.
JUST GET IT DONE
We are teaching a generation to avoid conflict rather than resolve it. We are teaching a generation to leave the heavy lifting to others- delegate, is the new buzzword. What happens when the world comes for their faith? If they can’t run with tired legs, or do homework while exhausted or sit down with their best friend and work it out… what have we done? Some would argue the parallel. What does suffering in the natural have to do with one’s faith (He 5:8)? Think about how many people lose faith as soon as they are challenged or when they are criticized.
We say we’re strong. We say we will follow Jesus to the death. But we don’t.
Sadly, a cursory view of Christianity today watches us crumble under political pressures. Under social pressure. Under family pressure. We are full of faith until we are forced to be faithful. We believe until we are debated. During this liberal onslaught on Christian values, we have re-written what it means to follow Jesus. We emphasize grace and ignore faith. We include sin and file it under saving the world. If we simply include sinners in our gatherings and never require change, what have we done? Nothing. We had to change- and so will they. It is us and them. We are not the same. There is darkness and light. The lost and the found. Following Jesus still means following Jesus.
It’s not the easy-living nonsense of the current pseudo preaching. Following Jesus is a sacrifice.
…Through much suffering, we must enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
Don’t forget that.