Down to the Last Detail

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’  (Revelation 2:11, ESV)

I am often amazed at the level of detail that God puts into even the smallest of His creations. To engineer them so they can function is marvelous enough, but God gives many of them beauty and detail that they don’t need for survival or functionality. He just adds those things because He is a God Who pays attention to detail. It is a level of care that makes you consider: “If God pays so much attention to detail in these things? How much more is He involved in the details of my life?” (See Luke 12:27-28)

Our verse today was addressed to the church at Smyrna. It was one of only two churches in the book of Revelation that was not criticized by the Lord, the other being the church at Philadelphia. Both suffered severe persecution. What is striking about the message to Smyrna is how detailed it is. This was no mysterious revelation. This was the Lord letting these suffering Christians know that not only was He aware of their suffering and their faithfulness to Him, He was right there with them. In verse 10 the Lord says: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  (Revelation 2:10, ESV) With these words, He lets the church at Smyrna know that He is aware of everything they were and would be enduring, but He assures them there will be and end to it: “ten days you will have tribulation.” He also offers them hope: To those who endure, there is the Crown of Life, rescue from eternal death. (See Matthew 10:28) When He opened  His message to these believers, the Lord introduced Himself as “the first and the last, who died and came to life.” That was no accident. Many of these believers were literally giving their lives for the cause of Christ. They needed assurance that their devotion to Christ was not in vain. Those specific words reminded them that they serve a risen Savior and that because He lives, they would live too. To further drive that point home, Jesus ended His message with the words: “the one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death,” the second death meaning eternity in Hell. It was a reiteration of Jesus’ promise of eternal life to those who put their trust in Him. The Lord told these believers exactly what they needed to hear because He cared for them down to the last detail.

Acts on Prayer – Does Your Real Life Back up Your Prayer Life?

Acts 16:25-26

(25)  And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

(26)  And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.

Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for practicing their faith. In the verses before, Luke records how Paul, in the name of Christ, cast a demon out of a young slave girl. This girl had “brought her masters much gain by soothsaying” (16:16). When Paul cast her demon out “her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone,” and they had Paul and Silas arrested.

During the brief “trial” that followed, Paul’s accusers said that the apostle was teaching unlawful customs that were potentially harmful to the Roman Empire. Funny, they never mentioned how Paul had run them out of business and that’s why they were upset.

Unfortunately for Paul and Silas, their accusers had home field advantage, and the multitude, rather than digging into the real facts of the case, believed the hype instead. Riding on that wave of popular opinion, the magistrates had Paul and Silas beaten and imprisoned.

In response, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns of praise to God. They prayed and they praised! It’s important to note that their songs weren’t songs that pined away over their predicament. They were songs that glorified God and the other prisoners heard it (16:25).

As hard as it may be to do, we need to be in the habit of counting it all joy when we fall into manifold trials (James 1:12). Why? Because the world is watching. They need to see what a difference Christ makes. We also need to be of that mindset so that we can maintain an attitude of prayer (instead of despair) when trials come into our lives.

1 Peter 4:19 “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”

Paul and Silas could pray and sing because they knew their lives were in God’s hands. Their job was to continue serving Him wherever He put them. If that was in prison, then so be it. So often we allow our circumstances to dictate our actions and attitudes. We especially let it affect our prayers. “Oh, I can’t pray now, I’m too depressed, or too discouraged, or too….” It’s exactly those times we should praying!

Now the miracle that followed was the earthquake God brought to free Paul and Silas, but equally miraculous was the fact that none of the prisoners left (16:28). Had that happened the jailer would have had to pay with his life and it would not have been a pleasant death. It’s why he opted for suicide over the much more slow and painful state-imposed death penalty (16:27).

But really the greatest miracle was the response of the jailer after the earthquake and the almost-prison-break: “…Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

We can tell the world about Christ all day long – and we should – but what the world really needs to see is lives lived all out for God so that they see the words really mean something. Why do you think God sends us and not angels to spread the Gospel? Because people need to see that this is really life changing!

You know who else needs to see our words of faith lived out in our lives? God. Do you think just anyone could have prayed and sang praises to God and gotten those kinds of results? No. It was men who were completely sold on God who got those results, men whose lives backed up what they professed.

So, we need to ask ourselves: does my real life back up my prayer life?