One of creation’s great wonders is water. The earth and its inhabitants are made of it. Unlike most matter, water rebels against convention as it moves from liquid to solid. While most substances become denser when they freeze, water expands. And in a world teeming with aquatic life, that difference is crucial. Ice floats. If it sank, aquatic life would be forced to the surface as lakes, ponds, and rivers froze, depriving plants and creatures of warmth and oxygen. But in God’s remarkable design, ice floats, insulating and preserving aquatic life.
This past week, however, many discovered that what is a blessing to fish, is not so great for plumbing. Added to the sounds of children sledding and car wheels spinning, was the groaning of pipes and the rushing of water. The pipes under our house burst. Or rather should I say, one pipe burst. The rupture to a single span of copper pipe was only half an inch long. Yet the force and volume of the leak was prodigious. The sound was like the sound of many rushing waters. The pressure required to get water from lake to tap is immense. And in a frozen instant, that pressure can bring unbelievable destruction.
And, so it is with the circumstances of our lives. We live under the pressure of uncertainty. We try to prepare, to plan, to insulate and anticipate. Yet we can never get it quite right. We all think want to know the future. That is, until we do. The older you get, the more you realize that prescience is not a panacea. Foresight, when we get it, frustrates because we rarely have the power to alter or avert what is foreseen. Foreknowledge without omnipotence easily leads to paralysis. A pastor once commented that “anxiety comes from an awareness of our finitude.” Hence, we say “ignorance is bliss.” Or as Wendell Berry expressed it through Port William resident, Mat Feltner, “The mercy of the world is that you don’t know what’s going to happen.” But ignorance is only mercy if you know and trust the one who is neither ignorant nor impotent regarding the future.
Jesus’ message to the Church in Smyrna in the Revelation is remarkable. It contains neither commendation, nor condemnation. Jesus never says, ‘nevertheless, this I have against you.’ This brief message has but one message, “hold fast!” No matter what comes, “hold fast!” The pressures building against Christians in Smyrna were dire and intense. And worse, they were betrayed by those who ought to have been brothers. Jesus words are concise and succinct. “Be faithful unto death.” How would you like to receive this message? No matter what happens do not break with your faith. Do not turn away. Do not compromise. Rest in the Faithful One, the first and the last, who died and came to life.
Persecution comes in all different shapes, sizes, and intensities. We do not get to pick our cross. We are only instructed to pick it up and carry it. Paul wrote to Timothy, “all who live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Perhaps that is not what you signed up for when you gave your life to Christ. But there it is. We may seek compromise to avoid it. Or seek mere relief rather than peace. But consider the words of Ralph Erskine. ”Some may bless themselves they were never assaulted by the devil and yet they are but sleeping, as it were, in the devil’s cradle and he is rocking them.”
What is your response to persecution? To the intense pressure that comes with taking up a cross and following Christ? Where will you seek rest? In the promises of the Faithful one or the devil’s cradle? Join us this week as we continue our survey Revelation as we examine the message to the Church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11 and its encouragement to persevere in the face of extreme pressure.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.