“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘…I know your tribulation and poverty (but you are rich).’”
Smyrna appears to be one of the most, if not the most, faithful of the seven churches.
We might think that God would reward them with some health, wealth, and prosperity. “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you” (Jeremiah 29:11). People who preach the so-called “prosperity gospel,” teach that God awards our faith with prosperity.
“I know your poverty (but you are rich),” says Jesus to the angel in Smyrna, “…you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death.”
Perhaps we don’t know what prosperity is?
In the New Jerusalem, the streets are made of gold—transparent gold.
You won’t see the gold, only the people walking on the gold.
We memorize Jeremiah 29:11 and ignore Jeremiah 29:10, in which God explains to Israel that they will go into captivity for seventy years where they are commanded to love their enemies, for God knows the plans He has for them: “to prosper.”
Smyrna was poor, but rich with faith in Love. God is Love.
And so they had each other, they had Jesus . . . and perhaps, all things with him.
Smyrna had faith. And Smyrna would be tested.
Our faith is tested as gold refined by fire.
So faith isn’t gained through a process of addition, so much as subtraction.
Likewise, prosperity is not gained through a process of addition, but subtraction.
“All things are yours,” writes Paul.
If we don’t know that we’re rich, perhaps something is blocking us from all our riches, like our desire for riches that aren’t riches.
And this will be subtracted . . . that all might be added.
Use money to love people, but never use people to love money.
And use money to love God, but never use God to love money. That is depraved.
Money is currency. Faith is not currency.
Faith is not payment for things hoped for.
Faith is “the substance of things hoped for.” (Hebrews 9:11)
Faith in you is the Spirit of Christ Jesus rising from the dead in you.
Faith is prosperity. And if you don’t know that, you are profoundly poor.
Discussion questions are available for this sermon here: Discussion Questions “Smyrna & The Prosperity Gospel”