JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His letter to the church at Smyrna.
In Revelation 2:9, His main message to this church is to commend them for their faithful witness. He says, “I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich.” “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.” “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
The witness of this church reveals that followers of Christ will, at times, face persecution for our faith.
Polycarp was the bishop at Smyrna, and when he was 86 years of age, he was pressured to acknowledge Caesar as Lord. But Polycarp would not bow to the pressure. He said, “Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” As a result of his stand for Jesus, Polycarp became a martyr for the faith.
A daily connection with Christ inspires faith and courage for times of testing.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His great commission.
It happens in Matthew 28, just before He ascended to heaven. He told the disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
Jesus was commissioning His followers into a mission of disciple-making that would leave an impact on the world for many generations to follow. These men were not the religious scholars of their day, but they did spend time with Jesus, and that made all the difference in their bold proclamation of the Gospel. Acts 4:13 says that when the religious leaders saw the courage of two of Jesus’ disciples, (Peter and John), and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
We do not have to be scholars to be effective witnesses of the Gospel, but we do need a relationship with Jesus. We need His help and we need His love, because being a disciple-maker is a God-sized mission.
A daily connection with Christ gives us the courage to speak for Him.
JOHN SHIRK – from Matthew 14:27.
In the midst of stormy waters, the disciples had seen Jesus walking on water. Jesus immediately said to them, “Take courage! It is I. don’t be afraid.” Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.
Jesus said, “Come.”
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me.” Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
As long as Peter was walking toward Jesus, he was able to do something extraordinary. He was walking on water. He did not begin to sink until he took notice of the storm, and became gripped with fear. This has application for our lives. Fear keeps us from accomplishing the extraordinary things that God is calling us to do. Fear of the future, fear of public speaking, and fear of failure can paralyze us from drawing closer to Jesus. Faith in Jesus keeps us moving forward and rising above adversity. In the midst of our failures, we can call on Jesus for the strength to save us. His arm is long enough and His grip is strong enough to rescue us.
Faith focused on Jesus is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.