Simply the Bible Blog

Daily Devotion and Podcast

Pressed with a Kiss (Rev. 2.8a)

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write…” (Revelation 2.8a, NKJV)

Smyrna means myrrh. It is an aromatic gum that grows in Arabia. It was highly prized in earliest times and used in incense and perfume. It was, of course, one of the three gifts given to the infant Jesus by the magi from the east. An interesting property of myrrh is that its beautiful fragrance is only released by crushing. Jesus wrote to this church that was being crushed in the press of persecution.

The Romans called Smyrna “the beauty of Asia.” In 196 BC they erected a temple to the goddess of Rome. Once a year a person had to burn a pinch of incense on the altar and acknowledge that Caesar was Lord. In return he received a certificate. This act of worship was a severe test for Christians because those who refused were subject to persecution and in many cases death. Many Christians confessed Caesar as Lord and said, “What difference does it make? I don’t believe it. Let’s just do it and we won’t suffer any problems.” But there were hundreds of Christians who wouldn’t do it and died for their faith in Jesus Christ.

Considering the church of Smyrna begs the question: “What am I willing to really suffer for my faith in Jesus?” As believers in the United States, things are relatively easy for us. Other than Cassie Bernall, who was shot at Columbine High School for her confession of faith in Jesus Christ, I don’t know of anyone who has been killed in this country simply for being a Christian. But that is not the case in other countries. More people have died for their Christianity in the past 100 years than in all periods of church history combined. Under Joseph Stalin 30 million people were killed, and most believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Countries like China, North Korea, Sudan and Iran overtly persecute Christians.

Jesus told us:

“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” (Matthew 5.10-12, NLT)

While being spoken against or slandered for doing the right thing is certainly a form of persecution, I really haven’t personally known anyone whose life has been threatened for righteousness sake–that is until I met Saeed, a young Iranian pastor who was forced to flee his country. This past fall he returned to Iran where he was arrested. The charges against him were converting to Christianity and baptizing others. Both “offenses” carry the death penalty. Christians across this nation and in Iran prayed earnestly for his release. Through a miraculous set of circumstances God answered that prayer, and Saeed returned home to Boise, Idaho.

A couple of months ago Saeed spoke at our church. I will never forget what he said: “God brings us close to Him in times of difficulty and persecution.” His lovely wife Naghmeh was translating for him at the time. He then turned and kissed her on the cheek. “That is what Jesus does to us when we suffer for Him.”

I don’t think I’ll ever view persecution quite the same way.

Character formed through the fiery trials of persecution is made no other way. A beautiful fragrance is released when we are crushed for Jesus. But it will only happen if we find the good in it and rejoice. It is a sweet and joyful thing when Jesus kisses His Bride!

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One response to “Pressed with a Kiss (Rev. 2.8a)”

  1. Amen Brother!

    Myrrh is the product of “crushing”; pearls are the product of “wounding”. Also most noteworthy on this subject is the good Samaritan in the gospels – he “poured in oil and wine” to bind up the wounded one left for dead on the road. It doesn’t say that he applied olives and grapes, but rather the two products of the crushing of olives and grapes.

    Those who have suffered much are able to comfort much. Our sufferings are God’s servants to work Christ into us – into our very being; to the point that our loving, ministering and comforting are not merely what we do, but what we are. I have far to go in this, but I have been on the receiving end of such shepherding from mature saints who have suffered much.

    This is changing my view of suffering. It produces something of high value to God. This was in King David’s heart when he uttered: “I will not offer sacrifices to Jehovah which cost me nothing.” The very nature of a sacrifice implies a loss – the thing that was once mine is now on the altar in ashes. God is most pleased with such things. This divine thought is expressed poetically in a hymn by Watchman Nee (one who suffered the last 20 years of his life in a Communist prison for his stand for Christ). Please pardon the length, but the reader will be rewarded with the rich expression of God’s thought.

    1 Let us contemplate the grape vine,
    From its life now let us learn,
    How its growth is fraught with suff’ring,
    Midst environment so stern;
    How unlike the untamed flowers
    Growing in the wilderness
    In a maze of wild confusion,
    Making patterns numberless.
    2 But the blossoms of the grape vine
    Without glory are and small;
    Though they do have some expression,
    They are hardly seen withal.
    But a day since they have flowered
    Into fruit the blooms have grown;
    Never may they wave corollas
    With luxuriant beauty shown.
    3 To a post the vine is fastened;
    Thus it cannot freely grow;
    When its branches are extended,
    To the trellis tied they go.
    To the stony soil committed,
    Drawing thence its food supply;
    It can never choose its own way,
    Or from difficulty fly.
    4 Oh, how beautiful its verdure,
    Which in spring spreads o’er the field.
    From life’s energy and fulness
    Growth abundant doth it yield.
    Till it’s full of tender branches
    Twining freely everywhere,
    Stretching ‘gainst the sky’s deep azure
    Tasting sweetly of the air.
    5 But the master of the vineyard
    Not in lenience doth abide,
    But with knife and pruning scissors
    Then would strip it of its pride.
    Caring not the vine is tender,
    But with deep, precision stroke
    All the pretty, excess branches
    From the vine are neatly broke.
    6 In this time of loss and ruin,
    Dare the vine self-pity show?
    Nay, it gives itself more fully
    To the one who wounds it so,
    To the hand that strips its branches,
    Till of beauty destitute,
    That its life may not be wasted,
    But preserved for bearing fruit.
    7 Into hard wood slowly hardens
    Every stump of bleeding shoot,
    Each remaining branch becoming
    Clusters of abundant fruit.
    Then, beneath the scorching sunshine,
    Leaves are dried and from it drop;
    Thus the fruit more richly ripens
    Till the harvest of the crop.
    8 Bowed beneath its fruitful burden,
    Loaded branches are brought low-
    Labor of its growth thru suff’ring
    Many a purposed, cutting blow.
    Now its fruit is fully ripened,
    Comforted the vine would be;
    But the harvest soon is coming,
    And its days of comfort flee.
    9 Hands will pick and feet will trample
    All the riches of the vine,
    Till from out the reddened wine-press
    Flows a river full of wine.
    All the day its flow continues,
    Bloody-red, without alloy,
    Gushing freely, richly, sweetly,
    Filling all the earth with joy.
    10 In appearance now the grape vine
    Barren is and pitiful;
    Having given all, it enters
    Into night inscrutable.
    No one offers to repay it
    For the cheering wine that’s drunk,
    But ‘tis stripped and cut e’en further
    To a bare and branchless trunk.
    11 Yet its wine throughout the winter
    Warmth and sweetness ever bears
    Unto those in coldness shiv’ring,
    Pressed with sorrow, pain, and cares.
    Yet without, alone, the grape vine
    Midst the ice and snow doth stand,
    Steadfastly its lot enduring,
    Though ‘tis hard to understand.
    12 Winter o’er, the vine prepareth
    Fruit again itself to bear;
    Budding forth and growing branches,
    Beauteous green again to wear;
    Never murmuring or complaining
    For the winter’s sore abuse,
    Or for all its loss desiring
    Its fresh off’ring to reduce.
    13 Breathing air, untainted, heavenly,
    As it lifts its arms on high,
    Earth’s impure, defiled affections
    Ne’er the vine may occupy.
    Facing sacrifice, yet smiling,
    And while love doth prune once more,
    Strokes it bears as if it never
    Suffered loss and pain before.
    14 From the branches of the grape vine
    Sap and blood and wine doth flow.
    Does the vine, for all it suffered,
    Lost, and yielded, poorer grow?
    Drunkards of the earth and wanderers,
    From it drink and merry make.
    From their pleasure and enjoyment
    Do they richer thereby wake?
    15 Not by gain our life is measured,
    But by what we’ve lost ‘tis scored;
    ’Tis not how much wine is drunken,
    But how much has been outpoured.
    For the strength of love e’er standeth
    In the sacrifice we bear;
    He who has the greatest suff’ring
    Ever has the most to share.
    16 He who treats himself severely
    Is the best for God to gain;
    He who hurts himself most dearly
    Most can comfort those in pain.
    He who suffering never beareth
    Is but empty “sounding brass”;
    He who self-life never spareth
    Has the joys which all surpass.

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