Michael Youssef - Tempted to Quit
Every day, it seems to me, I am hearing some news of somebody being fired because of their faithfulness to Christ and his Word, every day. Now, I would be standing here literally for hours and just telling you one example after another. By the same token, church after church after church are falling in line with the pagan secular culture. In my personal belief, I always make sure that you understand, when I speak personally, not from the Word of God, unless God intervenes, unless God's people wake up in time, unless the church repents, unless we seek God more than we seek our comfort and our safety, things are going to get worse, not better. And that is why Jesus's letter to the church in Smyrna has a special significance for us today, this time, this day where we are.
Now, whether you live in Smyrna, Georgia, or you live in Brooklyn, New York, or you live in Oakland, California, or you live in London, England, or Sydney, Australia, or anywhere in the world, wherever you are, this message is for every faithful believer everywhere. This message is desperately needed today for every faithful student in school, for every government worker, for every teacher, for every executive, for every person, and certainly for every faithful Bible teacher and preacher. Let me draw your attention to the screen, where you'll hear Jonathan Youssef read Jesus's letter to the church in Smyrna, from Smyrna, from the city of Smyrna itself, now called the city of Izmir.
To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty, yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of 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 at all by the second death.
We saw in the last message in the letter of our glorified Lord Jesus to the believers in Ephesus, it was a church that was biblically sound, but they've lost their first love for Jesus. They were doing things and even believing the truth, but all of what they were doing is not coming out of their love for Jesus, and Jesus was warning them that he'd remove their lampstand. Now, here, the believers in Smyrna, they kept their love for Jesus, which caused them persecution. Now, beloved, listen to me: it is most often the case, when your love for Jesus is real... let me repeat this: when your love for Jesus is real, it will cause you suffering. It will cause you suffering.
I want to remind you that in the Greek language, the word "faith" and "faithfulness" are almost the same word. They're the same root. "Why"? you say. Because faith that is total trust, total faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and faithfulness emanates from each other. When your faith is totally in Christ, you'll become faithful. In trusting Christ, we prove ourselves to be trustworthy. Your willingness to accept the cost for anyone is the clearest indication of your love for that person, let alone Christ. How can you prove your love to anyone, let alone Jesus, if it costs you nothing? And now we glibly, you see the people holding the sign, John 3:16, John 3:16, and it's the very heart of the gospel. "For God so loved that he gave". Love always gives. Love always gives.
By the way, this body of believers in Smyrna, one of two, one of two churches, out of all the seven, one of the two churches, where you never hear Jesus condemning them for anything. You never hear Jesus correcting them, even. You never see a rebuke. The believers in Smyrna were hated by the world because they were faithful in their love for Jesus. That's why they were hated; and because they were hated, they were persecuted; and because they were persecuted, they loved Jesus more. I want you to look on the map again with me. Here's Patmos, where John was exiled, and he's making the rounds. It's not quite a circle, but semicircle. The first message was to the church in Ephesus, the second one in Smyrna.
Now, as you look at that map, the city of Smyrna is now modern Izmir in Turkey, about 35 miles north of Ephesus, as you can see on the map. Smyrna was a great trading city. Smyrna still, even those many years later, still a beautiful city. In fact, it was called the ornament of Asia. It was called the crown of Asia. It was called the flower of Asia, and it was founded in the year 1000 BC as a Greek colony. But about 600 BC, it was totally demolished. It was totally destroyed by the Lydians, and it remained desolate for 400 years until the Romans rebuilt it in the year 195 BC. Just remember that date. And because Rome rebuilt it, the citizens of Smyrna were so beholden to Rome, felt so indebted to Rome, felt so thankful to Rome.
So, the first temple they built was to the goddess Roma. You know Rome was named after the goddess Roma? And that is why it was the first city in Asia Minor to build the temple to the goddess Roma. In fact, it was a joke at that time: people would say, "These Smyrna folks, they are more Romans than the Romans". But that's not all. They built temples for every god they heard about, whether it be Zeus or Sibyl or Apollo or Nemesis or Aphrodite. Just build a temple for them. Please all the gods, to mention just a few.
Now, you say, "Michael, we didn't get up and get dressed and come to church to get a history lesson". I'm going to explain to you why this is absolutely relevant for our day today where we are in this very moment in history. This is not a history lesson. These people, who bowed down to every miserable god that they heard about, these miserable people who worshiped so many gods, and every time they hear of a new god, they built a temple for him. These same people who had the temerity, they had the gall to call those who trusted in the one true living God, Creator God, to call them atheists. Think about that. Let that sink in, okay? Is it sinking in? It will really help you understand that the devil has not changed one bit.
Hear me out, please. Satan is not only the god of confusion, but he's the father of lies. Can I get an amen? He loves to create confusion in the minds of the masses, particularly the young people. Why does he want to create confusion? So that they cannot distinguish between falsehood and truth. But here's the good news. Jesus said to the faithful believers in Smyrna, and he says to the faithful believers in the 21st century two comforting words: "I know". Say that with me: I know. Those two words fill me with joy and comfort, comfort and peace. "I know your afflictions. I know you're being falsely accused. I know you're being misunderstood deliberately. I know the price that you are paying for your faithfulness". He knows what the devil is up to. In your life and in your family life and in your business life and in your church life and in your campus life, Jesus knows.
And to make things worse for the faithful believers, Christian believers in Smyrna, the religious Jews who had exemptions from worshiping Lord Caesar, they had official exemption, they turned on the Christians, and they were turning them in to the authorities. Satan's ultimate aim is this: to zip the mouths and silence the believers. The devil does not want you to testify to the power of Jesus that is working in you. So, question: How does he silence the believers? How does he silence you? By intimidating you into fear. That's what he does. He intimidates you into fear: fear of rejection, fear of alienation, fear of false accusation. And the list goes on and on and on, but it doesn't matter. It all goes back to fear, and that is why the glorified Jesus's message to the believers in Smyrna, he said, "I know, I know".
And then immediately he goes in to tell us who he is, as if they really need to know who he is, as if we need to be reminded who he is, and the answer is yes, we do. We need to be reminded every day; not just every day, but every moment of every day. We need to be reminded. And so he goes on to remind them, "I'm the First and the Last. I'm the Alpha and the Omega. I'm the one who was dead, but rose from the dead, and I'm now glorified in heaven". Ah, because there is nothing that frightens away fear like who Jesus is. There is nothing that banishes fear like the power of the resurrected Jesus. There is nothing that exchange fear with faith than experiencing the power of the resurrected Jesus. There is nothing that will give you confidence in the midst of trouble than fully trusting in the resurrected Jesus. Can I get an amen?
And Jesus is saying to every one of his faithful children, "I am the Alpha and the Omega". That's the first Greek alphabet and the last in the Greek alphabet, just in case you don't know this. He said, "I am the A and the Z and everything in between those letters. I am the Beginning and the End. I am the one who had risen from the dead, never to die again. I am the only one who defeated death and the grave. I am the only one who has power over death. I am the only one who has power to overcome death. So bring it on, bring it on". Even the religious Jews who believed in Yahweh, in order to save their own skin and to get on the good side of the pagans, they turned the Christians in, handed them over to authority. And that is why verse 9, look at it with me. I'm going to explain it to you because it's very important.
In verse 9, Revelation 2, Jesus called them "the synagogue of Satan". That does not mean they're worshiping Satan. I want to explain this, very important. He called it the synagogue of Satan. It's in the same way that Jesus called Peter, his chief apostle, "Satan". You got that? He called him, "Get behind me, Satan". Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. You're calling Peter, your great chief apostle, Satan? Yes, and that's in the same sense, in the same vein when he calls this the synagogue of Satan; why? Because they're doing Satan's bidding. They're doing Satan's bidding. When Peter tried to stop Jesus from going to the cross and fulfill the plan of God the Father, he said, "This is what Satan has been trying to get me to do".
And that's why he called him Satan. It doesn't mean that Peter was Satan any more than this synagogue worshiping Satan. Have you ever asked yourself the question, have you ever asked yourself the question, "Why is the natural man..." This is man and woman, we now talk mankind. "Why does the natural man hates the gospel of Jesus Christ so much"? And I'm talking about the natural man, whether it be religious people or non-religious people, because there are many religious people who are in the natural. They've never been regenerated. They've never been born again. They've never been born of the Spirit of God. Have you ever asked yourself, "Why do they hate the gospel so much"? Because the gospel of Jesus Christ exposes man's sin and guilt, and the natural man doesn't like that. The gospel of Jesus Christ reveals the judgment and the wrath of God that is coming upon those who refuse to accept God's only remedy for guilt, and they hate that. The gospel of Jesus Christ announces that man, no matter how brilliant he or she may be, they cannot save themselves.
And, oh, the natural man says, "I'm the captain of my ship and the master of my life," and they hate that. The gospel of Jesus Christ announces that it is only, only, only through the cross of Christ that anyone can be forgiven and receive eternal life, and the natural man refuses to accept that. That's the bottom line. And because of their rejection, what many a preacher today is doing is they took it upon themselves to water down the gospel so it can be acceptable to the natural man. Don't miss this, don't miss this, don't miss this, don't miss this, please. Here, the resurrected, glorified Jesus wants all of his faithful believers, all his faithful children who are facing trouble, he wants them to know that Jesus wants all of his frightened children to know that Jesus wants all his timid children to know that he and he alone has all the power; secondly, that he and he alone knows all things; and thirdly, that he and he alone has a purpose in everything.
First of all, that he has all the power. And Jesus wants to remind them of his power, and he's saying, "I was there before the creation, and I'm going to be there when it's all destroyed. No one comes before me, and no one comes after me. I created it all. I control it all. I died, and they thought it was all finished; but on the third day, I rose again. I have defeated, I have defeated the most powerful enemy of all, and you need to know that I've defeated death and the grave, and all you need to do is trust me. Trust me with all of your heart, trust me with all of your intellect, and I'm going to bring you through whatever suffering you may experience. I will bring you through whatever affliction you might go through. I will bring you through whatever temptation you might be battling. I will bring you through whatever false accusation leveled at you. I have all the power," Jesus says.
He has all the power. Who has all the power? Secondly, he knows all things. He knows all things. He doesn't only know what troubles you, he doesn't only know what afflicts you, but he's holding your hand in the midst of your afflictions. You might not be feeling his grip, but he's holding your hand in all of your troubles, and Jesus is saying that "Whatever confusion and affliction you might be going through, I have been there. I have been there, and I've been through worse. People might call you poor, but I call you rich. People might call you ignorant, but I call you knowledgeable. People might call you bigot, but I call you loving. Do not listen to their false accusation, because I know, I know the truth, I know the truth".
Not only that, he has all of the what? Not only that, he knows all... But thirdly, he has a purpose for everything. He has a purpose for everything, for every step. He has a purpose. When the devil tempts you, he tempts you so that he might try to destroy you, but your Sovereign Lord, your Sovereign Lord Jesus, the resurrected, magnified, glorified, soon coming to reign and rule Jesus, he turns your temptation into tests so that he might give you victory. Look at verse 10. "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution," Watch this, watch this, watch this. Are you watching? Watch, watch this, watch what's coming. Watch what's coming. Watch what's coming. "For ten days". For ten days. What does that mean? It means that it is only a limited time.
"It cannot go on forever and ever. I may allow the evil to prosper for a little while, but only so that the judgment will be greater. What Satan means for evil, I'm going to turn it for the good. Whatever Satan tries to destroy you, I will turn it around to bless you. Whenever Satan designs to work against you, I will make it work for you". Why? Why? I think Jesus would answer, I don't put words in Jesus's mouth, but I know because he said that in John chapter 10, verses 28 and 29: "Those whom the Father has given me, I will lose none". That's why. That is why. That's why he holds you in the palms of your hands, and nothing, nothing is gonna happen to you unless he says so. All of their persecution, all of their false accusations, all of their harassment, all of their discriminations, all of the lies will amount to nothing, will amount to nothing. Say this with me: "Will amount to nothing". And they are doomed to failure when you put your whole trust in who? The Alpha and the Omega.