“I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 1.9, NKJV)
Normally we recoil from things like tribulation, persecution, deprivation, suffering and heartache. If possible, we would prefer to avoid them at all costs. But everyone is dealt their share of these things. The combination and emphasis is different for each person, but no one gets through life without his or her measure of hardship.
John felt a kinship with his friends who were suffering as he was. The Roman Emperor Domitian gave the order for John to be boiled in oil. (And you think you’ve got problems?) Either the order wasn’t carried out or else John miraculously survived it, because when John didn’t die by deep-frying, Domitian exiled him to the island of Patmos. John didn’t seem upset by this turn of events. On the contrary he wrote to his brethren as though hardship was to be expected. Undoubtedly, he remembered the words of Jesus:
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16.33, NKJV)
A couple of months back Saeed and his wife Naghmeh spoke at our service. Saeed had just been released from prison in Iran where he had been arrested for his testimony for Jesus. Those of us who were praying for him didn’t know if he would make it out alive, but God miraculously released him. Saeed shared with us that God brings us close to Him in times of difficulty and persecution. He said that this is the positive side of persecution. And then he kissed his wife. “Jesus kisses us in these times,” he said.
I was humbled and challenged by Saeed’s perspective. If we are destined for tribulation, persecution, deprivation, suffering or heartache, then we must find a way to be cheerful in the midst of it. Jesus gave us the key: “In Me you may have peace.” The patience and peace of Jesus do not come by avoiding difficulty or complaining about it, but by embracing it in Christ. This is where we get to pick up our cross and follow Him. Because He overcame the world, we will too! His perfect peace will guard our hearts as we take His hand and walk with Him through these valleys.
While John was exiled and alone on Patmos Island, he experienced things that no one else has experienced either before or since. His tribulation was the rite of passage to the Revelation of Jesus. May it be the same for each of us!
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