We will all have difficulties in our lives whether we are believers or unbelievers. Everyone experiences illness, economic distresses, relationship difficulties, work problems, housing issues, transportation woes, and the list can go on and on. We, as believers, who are not immune to these life difficulties, have our own unique set of trials that we experience because we are the redeemed of the Lord Jesus Christ, and love and live for Him. God’s word warns us through many passages about the trials that we must deal with as we traverse this fallen world on our way to our home with our glorious and holy God Almighty, our Father. I would like to present some of these trials that we can experience that are recorded for us, the members of His church, in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. I want to start with the church at Ephesus and end with the Laodicean church. This will be a multi-part series of posts.
1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-unless you repent. 6 But this you have that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:1-8
To overcome this trial we must serve our Lord Jesus Christ out of sincere love and devotion to Him. We can serve the Lord out of duty or out of deep love and devotion to Him and to others. Our commitment to His truth can also arise from a desire to do what is right and good, which is commendable, or because of our zeal for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and vehement dedication to guarding His glory and truth. Jesus perfectly exemplified a life of loving devotion to God the Father, His glory and His truth, because He is God the Son. As the children of God, we also can live for His glory and truth because of our love for Him. Jesus Christ has made us new creatures through faith in Him and we can obey and honor our Father and Jesus Christ through loving devotion to them because they first loved us.
4 “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. 6 I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. 8 For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You and they have believed that You sent Me. John 17:4-8
This trial that we face as believers is to do God’s will because we love Him, and for no other reason. Doing the first works that we did as new believers means we rejoice in God’s love for us, marvel at His goodness, grace and mercy given to us in Christ Jesus, and joyfully follow Him, obeying Him with glad hearts. Jesus commands that we repent from doing His work because of duty and either/or a sense of obligated self-righteousness or importance. He commands that we serve Him with loyal loving devotion. Those who do not repent, proving they are not His, forfeit being His witness and eating from the tree of life in midst of the Paradise of God. Overcomers love Jesus Christ and serve Him because of His love for them.
12 “And to the angel of the church of Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13 “I know your works, and where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, ad did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it. Revelation 2:12-17
Believers can expect to endure trials that arise from false teaching and ungodly living embraced within the visible church. False teachers will seek to lead those called by the Lord astray and away from pure devotion to Him. Wicked workers within the visible church are ever laboring to lead God’s children into godless doctrine and living. They use various means, but the main methods involve contradicting God’s Word, and denying the person and work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His gospel of salvation. The trial we endure is witnessing the reproach that is brought upon our glorious Savior because of their reprehensible lies and godless behavior. Those who love the Lord Jesus Christ will turn from all error and embrace God’s Word as their beacon of truth regarding faith and practice. Those who never reject the wickedness of false teachers prove they are not the redeemed of Jesus Christ.
18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:18-22
Those who belong to Jesus Christ through faith in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit will serve Him with love and gladness, even if at times they become caught up in a myriad of distractions. Those who are saved through faith in Jesus Christ by the supernatural work of God in their hearts may be fooled by false teachers for a time, but the Lord will deliver them out of their snares. Those who belong to Jesus Christ are overcomers because of their faith in Jesus Christ and their powerful hold upon the Word of God, the Bible, as the only source of truth for their faith and growth in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. May God bless us as we withstand these trials by holding fast the faithful Word as we have been taught and relying upon the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth and so prove to be overcomers as we face the trials that are unique to the children of God.