Sometimes when we look around at our circumstances or the World and we can become bogged down. We can feel there is no hope or things will never change. We may feel things are only going to get worse. Just watching the news can be depressing. The truth is that with Jesus things do not have to be this way. It is all in our attitude about life as we focus on Jesus. The African-American Civil Rights Movement Leaders decided that attitude was important, as well. The African-American people faced quite an uphill battle in the 50’s and 60’s. To help unite them and give them courage to fight the battle for their rights, they took up a song called “We Shall Overcome”. It was derived from an old hymn or gospel song called “I’ll Overcome Someday” written based on Galatians 6:9, “9 So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” Even the Apostle Paul new that things could get difficult, but that we must not give up for the time will come when we shall see the good from all our work.
After reading 5 of the 7 letters to the churches in the book of Revelation, we might think that every church or Christian is doomed to failure. We might think that all will be overtaken in some sort of sin and become in-effective for the Lord. Yet, if we look at these letters closer, we can also see that Jesus gave these warnings to show that all is not lost; things can be turned around. We just have to have the right focus and attitude. We need to learn to not be overtaken by the things mentioned in these letters. Jesus also inspired John to write two letters to churches that were not overtaken by sin to encourage us. Read Revelation 2: 8-11 and 3: 7- 10.
8 “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. 9 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. 10 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. 11 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.
7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
It was like Jesus in Revelation chapter 2 wrote letters to two churches that were in trouble and then wrote one to a church that was not to encourage. He did the same thing in chapter 3. God is a loving God. He only wants the best for us. Sometimes we need to hear some bad news to encourage us to do better and sometimes we need to hear some good news to encourage us to keep us going. Smyrna had been overtaken by afflictions and poverty. Sometimes we are doing ok with our walk with the Lord so the devil tries to take us down another way. He hits us with hard times. God doesn’t want us to be overtaken by the hard times. He wants us to remember to hang on to Him as we ride those waves. The devil tried to hit Philadelphia from another angle. They might not have been a powerful or big church, but they knew God’s Word and stuck to it. They didn’t give in to temptation to soften the word to make it easier to swallow or become tolerant of sin to get more people in to their church or keep the local cults off their backs. As a result the devil came against them for their Biblical stand. Both churches faced persecution for their faith. For their faithfulness, Jesus told Smyrna that they had overcome the spiritual death and will live eternally in richness and freedom from persecution. Then Jesus told Philadelphia that even though they had little strength on Earth, that they would be able to show their true strength as a pillar in God’s temple forever.
This trend is spreading again today throughout the World. The question is, “Will be able to withstand the World’s pressures and ride the difficult waves with Christ?” Or will we be overtaken? Will we stand strong like the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia? We need to take up that Civil Rights Anthem or the old gospel hymn it came from and modify it a little for Christians today. We should sing, “I Have Overcome”. The truth is with Christ we have overcome spiritual death and have entered in to eternal life with Him. With Christ in our hearts we have overcome sin. We do not have to live in a state of being overtaken by anyone or anything. Keep the right attitude. Keep the right focus and remember you have overcome. So be encouraged! You have been freed from the spiritual death and persecution. You will live eternally with God’s riches and freedom from Earthly poverty and persecution.