Revelation 2:8-11
Chris Tweitmann

Thanks to the persecution and punitive treatment of the Roman Empire,

the apostle John lives in exile on the island of Patmos

– some forty miles off the coast of what is today, modern-day Turkey.

Cut from his family and friends – his brothers and sisters in the faith

– to whom he cared for and served as their pastor,

John receives a much-needed visit from the risen, living, glorified,

and reigning Christ.

Jesus appears to John and pulls back the curtain of linear time

– unveiling the eternal implications of the Gospel

– of the everlasting work of the Cross, the Resurrection, and Pentecost.

What Jesus shows to John is a picture not of a funeral

– of the end of the world – but of a new birth

– the dawn of a redeemed and restored creation

– a new heaven and new earth – breaking even now into our present.

But before this spectacular, sweeping, hopeful vision really gets going,

Jesus through John delivers seven, individual letters

to seven active, local churches in the first century located in Asia Minor.

All of these letters along with the epic masterpiece

that Jesus sketches afterwards are not just for the churches in John’s day but for the Church in every generation.

Last week, through the first letter that Jesus wrote

to the church in Ephesus, we learned

the core of being a Christian community

– what should be the most prominent,

visible birthmark of the Body of Christ – is love

– specifically, loving others like Jesus loves us.

Today, as turn our attention to the second letter Jesus authors

to the community of faith in a place called Smyrna, we will discover

loving others like Jesus loves us can come at a cost;

it does not happen without sacrifice.

Together we will see the second mark of the Body of Christ

– the inevitable, unavoidable consequence of following Christ.

– is to suffer for the sake of love – just like Jesus did for us. (TEXT)

In order to fully appreciate this brief but powerful message by Jesus,

let us consider the geographical location

– the surrounding neighborhood of this particular group of Christians.


Smyrna was a city in the ancient world with an interesting history

– specifically a history of coming back from the dead.

Smyrna originally was built around 1000 B.C.

400 years later, in 600 B.C. Smyrna was destroyed by a rival kingdom.

Centuries later in 290 B.C. the city of Smyrna

was rebuilt during the reign of Alexander the Great

becoming one of the main cities of Asia Minor.

Because of this, a famous ancient Greek orator later equated Smyrna

with the phoenix, the mythological bird that even though it died,

had the ability to rise up from the ashes.

Ironically, Smyrna is the Greek word for myrrh – a chief export of the city

– the fragrant incense or perfume used for anointing, purification,

and particularly in burial.

The city of Smyrna definitely bore the aroma of

the sweet smell of success – of money and power.


35 miles north of the city of Ephesus

on the west shore of the Aegean Sea,

Smyrna was commercially successful both because of its vast harbor

and for being at the end of a major trade route through Asia Minor.

Not just economically prosperous but also culturally sophisticated,

Smyrna prided itself on being “first” among the other ancient cities.

They even stamped it on their local coin

– “First of Asia in beauty and size.”

And Smyrna managed to live up to its own self-declared reputation.

In 26 A.D., after an empire-wide competition over the chance

to build a temple to the famed emperor, Tiberius, the Roman senate eventually granted this esteemed privilege to Smyrna alone.

Out of 11 other cities, Smyrna won the coveted honor of becoming

the “temple warden” of the imperial cult – the center for emperor worship.

For the citizens of Smyrna, the Roman confession, “Caesar is Lord”

was more than just a slogan; it was a declaration of patriotism and loyalty.

As far as the Christian community in Smyrna goes,

there is no record of its planting anywhere in the Bible.

We don’t know when this church was started

but tradition holds the apostle Paul, during his 3rd missionary journey, visited this city on his way to Ephesus.

Much of what we do know about the church in Smyrna

comes from how Jesus describes their situation in this letter.

From what Jesus briefly outlines, this much is clear

– the Christian community in Smyrna is a suffering church.

Their hardships are three-fold.

First, Jesus speaks of the “afflictions” of church at Smyrna.

I know your afflictions…” -Revelation 2:9

The original Greek work used here is TH-LIPSIS.

This word meaning “crushing pressure” is a strong

and rather technical term used in reference to

grapes or sheaves of whea being pressed together,

squeezed, and eventually crushed beneath a weight.

This word, sometimes translated into English as “tribulation,”

conveys that the difficulties the Christians in Smyrna

were facing were not minor inconveniences

– the typical frustrations of living in a broken world.

No, like grinding wheat or crushing grapes,

the church in Smyrna was under immense pressure

– encountering not just resistance in their choice to follow Jesus

– but being hard-pressed – facing great suffering

in daily living for Christ and His Kingdom.

One practical manifestation of the squeeze being put on

the Christians in Smyrna was their socio-economic status.

I know your afflictions and your poverty…” -Revelation 2:9

Jesus acknowledges not only their afflictions but their poverty.

Smyrna may have been a rich, prosperous city

but clearly the Christians of Smyrna were not sharing in its wealth.

As previously shared,

Smyrna was a city that prided itself on its patriotism;

its unwavering allegiance to whatever made the empire great

– including cultishly worshipping the emperor of Rome.

And those citizens in Smyrna who weren’t willing

to bow accordingly – to declare not Jesus but Caesar is Lord

– paid the price for their disloyalty.

They were blacklisted in the marketplace.

No one loyal to Rome would buy from them.

No one loyal to Rom would sell to them.

No one loyal to Rome would help them.

But whether the church in Smyrna was

being explicitly economically discriminated against

and forced into poverty because of their faith in Christ

or whether the bulk of the Christians in that city were just poor

– in the lower, socio-economic class of society

– and passively not being cared for or assisted by their neighbors,

the net result is the same.

The Christians in Smyrna were struggling to put food on their tables

and a roof over their heads – to secure the basic necessities of life.

Facing tremendous pressure while also struggling to make ends meet, Jesus also identifies the church in Smyrna as being the victim of slander.

I know your afflictions and your poverty…

I know about the slander…” -Revelation 2:9

Slander is the act of harming another’s reputation

by telling one or more other people something that is untrue

and damaging about that person or community.

It seems the slander being directed at the church in Smyrna

was being spearhead by the Jews living in the city.

I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews…”

-Revelation 2:9 

A little background will shed more light on this situation.

Back then, all Jews were exempt by Roman law

from having to participate in any pagan rituals and sacrifices

– including the worship of the emperor

– so long as they still paid their taxes to the empire.

Now early on, the Roman Empire did not perceive Christianity

as a separate faith – but instead saw all followers of Jesus

as being another strand of Judaism.

Consequently, Christians fell under

the same religious exemption from participation in pagan practices

that the Jews in Rome had – and thus were afforded the same protections.

But unlike the Jews, Christians were evangelizing others

as well as not participating in the Roman rituals and sacrifices.

Rather than quietly minding their own business,

Christians, in sharing the Gospel, were actively attempting to

lead others not to follow Caesar as Lord but to follow Jesus instead.


this upset the powers that be throughout the Roman Empire.

It also threatened the religious exemption for Jews.

Rather than continuing to have guilt by association,

the Jews in Smyrna aggressively sought to separate themselves

from their Christian neighbors.

They not only denied affiliation with followers of Jesus

but actively sought to persecute those who were

part of the church in Smyrna

as a further measure to disassociate themselves

from the disloyalty associated with Christianity.

Jesus speaks harshly against those

who are slandering the Christians in Smyrna.

I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews

and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” – Revelation 2:9

However, when Jesus talks of “a synagogue of Satan,”

he isn’t so much being pejorative of Judaism and all Jews.

(Notice, Jesus claims to act this way is not to be Jewish at all!)

I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews

and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” – Revelation 2:9

Jesus is clarifying the real force behind the oppression

the church in Smyrna is facing is demonic.

As Jesus goes on to specifically reference the devil,

I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison…”

-Revelation 2:10 

he is revealing the source of the opposition against the church

is a spiritual attack – diabolical, satanic forces opposed to God.

The apostle Paul once expressed it this way in his letter to the Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Ephesians 6:12

The particularity of the weapon being wielded against the church

in Smyrna further points to its bearer.

For slander is a verbal tool of destruction and malevolence

– exclusively crafted for the harm of others.

Slander is in no manner attuned to the character of God

as we worship a God who is benevolent, charitable, and fully invested

in the reclamation, renewal, and perfection of all humanity.

Slander is a form of opposition to the purposes of God

– being devoid of charity, seeking to harm, tear down, and destroy others

– slander is an expression of evil.

What Jesus is trying to make clear to the church at Smyrna and to us

is the real target of all the ongoing pressure, material poverty,

and violent persecution that followers of Christ face

– the real target is Jesus Himself.

But as the awesome picture of the whole book of Revelation makes clear, the forces of sin, evil, and death are fighting a losing battle.

Having already been overcome by Jesus’ work through

the Cross, Resurrection, and Pentecost,

these forces cannot touch Christ – so they instead are hell-bent

on trying to mar or destroy all that is good and true

– including those who seek to follow Jesus.

At this point, the nagging question arises of WHY.

Why is there suffering in this world? Why suffering?

Initially, the biblical answer to this question is that

suffering comes from the reality that we live in a broken world

– a world that has been broken because of our rebellion and rejection against our Creator.

When we each become our own authority on what is right and true,

then we each inevitably and more often than not independently,

do what is good for me.

And despite what we tell ourselves,

when everyone does what is right and good for them,

others suffer – creation itself suffers.

Others suffer, we suffer, creation suffers because we rarely, if ever,

all agree on what is good, right, and true.

What’s good, right, and true for little old me

or even a gathering of us is likely to be bad, wrong, and false

for someone else – another group of people.

Flawed, imperfect people living a broken world hurt each other

– not to mention hurt themselves

– not to mention the world of which they are a part.

But this not the kind of suffering the church in Smyrna is experiencing

– the suffering that is borne of humanity’s own making

– of each of us going our own way rather the way of the Lord.

I know we’re still early on in this sermon series

but I wonder if you noticed something in this letter to the church in Smyrna.

Last week, I mentioned how the letters Jesus writes to

each of the seven churches has a similar flow.

First, Jesus affirms something about each church.

Then, Jesus identifies a point of correction for each church.

And finally, Jesus prescribes a remedy for each church

– that is expressed with both a warning and a promise.

Did we notice that the letter to the church in Smyrna breaks this pattern?

The Christians in Smyrna do not get a lecture from Jesus.

No point of correction is identified for them.

Jesus merely addresses the tension they are facing

– immense pressure, poverty, and persecution bore of slander.

Jesus has not one word of critique for them.

Consider the significance of this.

The church in Smyrna is not suffering because of

something they’ve done wrong.

No, what Jesus is implying here is the Christians in Smyrna

are suffering because they are doing everything right.

I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!”

-Revelation 2:9

This is perhaps most teased out when Jesus surprisingly assures them that in the midst of their poverty – they are, in fact, rich. Huh?

All of us suffer – believer and non-believer alike

because we live as broken people in a broken world

– a world being transformed but that is yet still broken.

But for those who profess faith in Christ,

there is an additional, different kind of suffering

– the tribulation that comes from actually following Jesus.

The closer we are to Christ, the more we live like Jesus,

as we talk and walk – engage others and interact with the world like Christ – the more our lives on this earth will look like Jesus’ life.

And what happened when God came in the person of Jesus Christ?

Persecution. Slander. Abuse. False arrest. Being put to death.

Beloved, suffering is inevitable when we truly follow Jesus.

Long before the emergence of the church in Smyrna,

from Jerusalem to Galatia to Philippi to Thessalonica,

the first followers of Jesus repeatedly encountered hardship

all because of their devotion not just to the person but to the way of Christ.

Jesus explicitly told us that if we followed Him –

Remember what I told you:

A servant is not greater than his master.’

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” – John 15:20

if we crossed boundary lines and tore down walls of separation,

if we lowered ourselves to serve others – particularly those in need,

if we indiscriminately broke bread with the wrong kinds of people,

if we committed ourselves to make peace rather than indulging in violence, if we loved others as He loves, if we forgave others as He forgives,

Jesus explicitly told us that if we followed Him

– we would be treated as he was.

Not when we pay lip service to Jesus

– simply attaching the name of Christ to everything we say or do,

but as we actually embody the character of Christ

and do what Jesus would do in how we interact with others

and engage this world, the likelihood of our suffering increases

rather than decreases.

Hence, Jesus as he addresses the church in Smyrna,

perhaps initially shockingly to us, tells them

it is going to get worse before it gets better.

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…” – Revelation 2:10

Jesus prepares them to expect all the pressure they’re experiencing,

all the slander they are facing turns into an eventual campaign of persecution – one that will lead some to be imprisoned and others

to even lose their very lives.

At the same time, Jesus, in how he delivers this news to

the Christians in Smyrna offers them, offers all who suffer

for the sake of following Him, words of both encouragement and promise.

Let us then listen carefully.

Jesus says to the church in Smyrna, “I know…”

I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! 

I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews

and are not…” -Revelation 2:9 

I know of your afflictions, your poverty,

and the slander being spoken against you.

Jesus emphasizes his solidarity with all who suffer in His name.

Jesus reminds us that He as a man of sorrows

– the crucified lamb of God who, in taking away the sins of the world,

in conquering evil, and defeating death,

knows all that we are going through.

But let’s be honest.

If this is all Jesus had to say, it would not be enough.

Don’t get me wrong – solidarity in suffering

– that someone can relate and knows what we’re going through

when we hurt is meaningful.

It is something, but it is not everything.

It is comforting, but it does not resolve anything.

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…” – Revelation 2:10

Jesus’ further encouragement of “Don’t be afraid” and “Be faithful”

– to have faith rather than to give in to fear –

would amount to little more than a divine pep-talk,

your garden-variety of positive thinking.

But Jesus doesn’t tell us not to fear,

doesn’t spur us to keep the faith, without saying something else first.

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, 

who died and came to life again.” – Revelation 2:8

Jesus begins this letter by reassuring the Christians in Smyrna

that one who is speaking is “the First and the Last,

who died and came to life again.”

It’s easy to breeze right past this introduction due to overfamiliarity.

I mean didn’t Jesus already mention this back in chapter 1

– in the preamble to these letters?

But Jesus is being very intentional in his self-description here.

Something we’ll notice in each of these seven letters is that

Jesus identifies himself through an image appropriate to the particular city.

So what exactly is going on here?

Do we remember how the city of Smyrna prided herself as “First of Asia.”

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, 

who died and came to life again.” – Revelation 2:8

It’s not a coincidence then that Jesus comes right out of the gate

to the church in Smyrna declaring, “I am the First and the Last.”

We also might recall how Smyrna fancied themselves

as being phoenix-like – the city that arose from the dead.

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, 

who died and came to life again.” – Revelation 2:8

It’s not by accident that Christ goes on to unequivocally state,

“I am the one who died and came to life again.”

To a church under pressure and the growing threat of city aligned against it – a city boasting both of its superiority and invincibility,

Jesus offers more than just solidarity

but the answer to their suffering – nothing less than the Gospel.

Jesus does just know how it feels

– how broken, how bad, how hard life can be.

Christ endured, Jesus absorbed all the pain and hurt of creation

– all that ever has been, all that is, all that ever will be

– and took it upon himself – in order to overcome it.

The city of Smyrna may have been

brought back from the dead for a time by the power of men,

but Jesus came out of the tomb by the power of God

– conquering the grave for all time – never to die again.

Jesus, as the One who lives forever,

is the One who brings life out of death.

Smyrna may be first among the cities of Asia

but Christ alone is the First and the Last

– standing above all and ruling over all creation

– from the womb to the grave and the possibility beyond.

Therefore, our lives are not bracketed by the rise and fall of Smyrna,

the rise and fall of Rome, the rise and fall of the United States,

or the rise and fall of any leader or movement.

The boundaries of our lives

– our identity – who we are and who we can be

– the boundaries of our lives

– our destiny – from whence we have come from

and to where we are going

– the boundaries of our lives are in Christ’s hands alone.

It is because of who Jesus is and what Christ has done,

that the words “Don’t be afraid” and “Be faithful”

become more than a platitude but an everlasting promise.

It is because of who Jesus is and what Christ has done,

that He can transform what is intended for our destruction

and to make it constructive – life-giving rather than life-taking.

Notice in verse 10, how Jesus frames what

the Christians in Smyrna are about to face as a “test.”

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…” – Revelation 2:10

The enemy’s purpose in applying pressure,

in turning up the heat of persecution, of threatening us with death,

is to get us to lose faith – to let go of Jesus and the faith He has in us

– the faith Christ has freely given to us.

Let us not forget, our faithfulness comes not from faith in ourselves

– our capacity and will to believe, our strength to follow Jesus.

Our faithfulness comes from faith in who Jesus is, what Christ has done, and in the power and direction Jesus gives us through the Word and Spirit to follow Him every step of the way home.

Remember the afflictions we are encountering are

due to the clashing of two kingdoms – the everlasting Kingdom of God

and the rule of sin, evil, and death which already have been defeated.

The forces opposed to God seek to convince us

through all the persecution and suffering we face

that what awaits is nothing more than loss, nothing but death.

But Jesus reorients our understanding of

what is happening as we suffer with and for Him.

What looks designed for our annihilation,

Jesus assures us is nothing more than a trial period

as he, at first glance, cryptically states

– the persecution will be suffered for “ten days.”

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…” – Revelation 2:10

Jesus is not being literal here.

He is employing a common Greek expression

that basically meant “a couple of days” – a brief time.

The point is Jesus is in control.

The pressure we face has its limits.

Again, what appears to be orchestrated for our destruction,

Jesus repurposes as a test – a means of our refinement and growth

– not for our loss but for our gain,

– not to weaken us but to make us stronger.

For it is a test not that we have to pass in our wisdom and strength;

it is a test through which we are empowered and enabled by

the grace of God to come through the other side.

Jesus promises that what awaits us on that other side is life and not death.

“…and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” – Revelation 2:10

He equates receiving this gift of life with being given the crown of victory – as in one of the ancient athletic competitions of the Roman world.

“…and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” – Revelation 2:10

But again, this particular image has added meaning

for the Christians of Smyrna.

For in the center of the beautiful and impressive city in which they lived, sitting like a crown, was Mount Pagus.

Alluding to that image, Jesus guarantees the grace to overcome

all the blood, sweat, and tears that fall from following Him.

Christ assures all who suffer in His name – their victory that is certain

and it will be greater than all the majesty of even the empire of Rome.

The full magnitude of this victory – of this life Jesus gives

– is further revealed as Christ ends this letter by promising those who hear, those who are victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.” -Revelation 2:11

At first, this statement might be confusing to us. Second death?

Every single one of us dies

because death is now part of life in a broken world.

But thanks to Jesus, for those who follow Jesus,

that death becomes a doorway into a new and everlasting life.

Apart from Christ, we not only die in terms of

the expiration of our lives in this world

but apart from Christ, we die again in the sense

that after that death, we no longer exist.

Apart from the presence of God, without the grace of God,

there is no life. There is only non-existence.

So in essence, what Jesus is promising here is that

while those who follow and live for Him may suffer death in the body

– just as He did – they will not suffer death in the soul.

They will instead live beyond death just as He did.

They will be resurrected with Jesus and nothing will ever separate

them from the love of Christ.

The greater preacher, E.V. Hill once put it this way,

Those who are born once, die twice.

Those who are born twice; die once.” – E.V. Hill

There has been a telling shift in the Church since the days of this letter.

Back in the day, martyrdom was as

the epitome, the model of truly living for Christ.

Martyrdom, in the sense of the willingness to die

– not for what you believe – but for THE faith – for what Christ believed – for the sake of how Jesus lived.

This was considered the most authentic witness of following Jesus

– that of following Christ unto death if needed

– believing that if God raised Jesus from the dead

– we who are with Christ will also be raised.

Our models for living the good life are a lot different these days.

Our tendency is to worship success rather than faithfulness.

And when our idols fall from grace or just get old

– as they reveal their vulnerability and mortality

– we simply exchange them for new ones rather than

confront the deeper, spiritual forces behind them.

We have so glorified the values of safety, comfort, and convenience

that to be deprived of any of them is what we now regard as a sacrifice.

In this way, we have belittled the meaning of the word “sacrifice”

– equating it to giving up something we value

rather than living for what Christ values.

Thus, do we even notice,

any talk of sacrifice becomes reframed as a defense of our rights.

This letter from Jesus dares us to ask,

What are we willing to suffer and die for?”

It’s hard to answer that question when we try to avoid suffering at all costs and endlessly complain when we can’t avoid pain and discomfort.

It’s easy to ignore that question when we buy into would-be versions

of the Gospel that claim following Jesus is a road marked

not by suffering or sacrifice but wealth and prosperity.

We promote slogans like – “No risk, no reward.”

The greater the struggle, the greater the outcome.”

And yet, we play it safe. We make following Jesus safe.

We invert the greatness of following Jesus from

what He seeks to do in and through us

– to what Jesus can and should do for me.

This letter from Jesus dares us to ask,

What are we willing to suffer and die for?”

Because the answer to that question reveals who or what we are living for.

If we’re honest, most of us are living to ensure our safety,

to protect our interests, and to stay alive as long as we can.

If we’re truthful, most of us would rather negotiate and compromise

in order to not lose what we have rather than sacrifice any of it

– all of it for the Kingdom of God.

But here’s the thing and there’s just no way around it.

Until we are ready to die for Christ, we can’t truly live for Christ.

Our willingness to die for Christ is not about developing a martyr complex

– bearing our self-imposed cross for all the world to see.

Our willingness to give our lives for Jesus is

not about courting opposition and always looking for a fight –

all for the sake of trying to protect and defend God.

Our willingness to die for Christ is reflected

through our commitment to live like Jesus

– to die to ourselves,

to die to conforming to a world that is not the way it’s supposed to be.

Our willingness to die for Christ is evidenced by our rejection of the possibility of self-salvation and witnessing to the reality of our shared brokenness as human beings.

Our willingness to die for Christ is seen in our pursuit of

living out of contentment and generosity rather than

indulging in consumerism and addiction to pleasure.

Our willingness to die for Christ is manifest in

practicing honesty in our business, charity towards our neighbor,

and extending forgiveness and promoting peace with our enemies.

When we are willing to live like that – to follow Jesus

– not just in what we say but in how we practically do, we will suffer.

We will feel the pressure of forces that do not want to change.

We will experience the poverty that comes

when we refuse to play by the rules of the game.

We will bear the slander and maybe even persecution of those

who accuse us of being weak and naive,

who label us as unpatriotic and troublemakers

and possibly even – someday – sentence us to death.

And when and if it comes to that, let us remember who we follow – Jesus who is the first and the last, Jesus who died and came to life again, Jesus, the One who promises us life – life beyond death, an everlasting victory that no one can ever take away from us – a redemption, a restoration, a resurrection that we can be sure of.

For in the spirit of the overarching theme of the book of Revelation as a whole, the mounting pressure we face

– all the discomfort and pain we endure for living for Jesus,

for embodying the character of Christ

is not the force of death suffocating us; it is the pangs of new birth

– the labor pains of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God

– of everlasting life that will inevitably burst forth for all who in Christ.

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” -John 16:20-22

And just as with any new birth, rather than give-up,

rather than become overwhelmed by the pressure, the struggle,

and the pain of delivery, we’ve got to keep breathing according to the Spirit, we’ve got to persist in pushing forward by the strength of God’s word, we need to continue to have Jesus as our focal point. Amen.