A Message of Hope to the Persecuted
Author: Terry Dashner, Sr. Pastor of Faith Fellowship Church in Broken Arrow, OK 74012
A study of the first chapter of Revelation
I recently read with astonishment Mark Sherwood’s blog entitled, Pastors and the Big Squeeze. I have known Mark for over 20 years, serving with him as a municipal police officer. I have always known him to be reliable, crazy about health and fitness, and a loyal close friend. I want to share with you a portion of his recent blog.
Mark states, “According to the New York Times – Aug. 1, 2010, members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans.” Having had a dual career in law enforcement and church ministry, I was curious and humbled by the following statistics that Mark lists from the same article mentioned above.
• 13% of active pastors are divorced.
• Those in ministry are equally likely to have their marriage end in divorce as general church members.
• The clergy has the second highest divorce rate among all professions.
• 23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
• 25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
• 25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
• 33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
• 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
• 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
• 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
• 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
• 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
• 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
• 56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
• 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
• 70% don’t have any close friends.
• 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
• 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
• 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
• 90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
• 90% work more than 50 hours a week.
• 94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
• 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
• Doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.
I share these sad statistics with you not because I seek your sympathy as a pastor who has certainly had his struggles through the years, but I share them with you because I wish to make a point that relates to my words which follow.
The first chapter of Revelation
One of the key points of Revelation is the historical fact that the message is directed to first century believers who are experiencing severe persecution at the hands of the Roman Emperor Domitian. To them, the threat of martyrdom is real.
For us today living in America where we have a Constitutional right to free speech and freedom of religion, the threat of martyrdom is not likely; however, no constitution can protect us from spiritual persecution that assails us from within and without.
John has a key message for the first century Christians as well as the body of Christ today.
I pray that the following message will not only bless you and encourage you to keep the faith in the midst of hard times, but that it will convey John’s message of hope and security that God reveals to us when we are up against it. Granted you may not be facing martyrdom right now, but Revelation is a message of hope to you no matter what challenges, difficulties, insecurities or pressures you are now facing inwardly in mind and emotion and outwardly by affliction upon your physical being. God is for you and is even now revealing His hope for you in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
So let’s begin.
I want to share with you the hope that is given to a persecuted church in the opening salutation of Revelation chapter one. My objective is to raise the banner of hope in Jesus Christ to encourage you in difficult times.
I give you four aspects of hope listed in Revelation chapter one.
· The first aspect of hope in difficult times is a “true” revelation of Jesus Christ. When the chips are down, He isn’t down. He is never undisclosed, but always disclosed to His people. He is never surprised and helpless to our afflictions, but He is always surprising us with joy and peace that surpasses all understanding. Jesus Christ is synonymous with revelation, disclosure, and openness. Bottom line: God is not hiding from you. He does not play hide-n-seek.
· The second aspect of hope in difficult times is: A blessing to any believer who will read this book, listen to its warnings, and live by its truths. As with any blessing given to us by our Lord, it is progressive. God is not a genie in a bottle to be rubbed and wished upon. He is a giver of blessings that come to us, true to His word, progressively-- 30 fold, 60 fold, and completeness of 100 fold. Listen again to the progression of Revelation’s blessing—to those who read (30 fold), to those who hear (60 fold), and those who “take to heart” the things written in it.
· The third aspect of hope disclosed to us is: a great salvation (Revelation 1:5). He saves us to the uttermost! John writes, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father…” The Greek word translated “freed” has a dual meaning that gives nuance to the text. I will discuss this later. But for now, suffice it to say that we are washed clean by His sacrificial death and we are freed from all entanglements by His blood.
· And the final aspect I give to you is: This present life is not all there is to come. John gives as a visual impression of Jesus Christ who is not dead. He is not the meek and lowly lamb that he was when he walked and ministered among men. He is not a god who forgets to hold people responsible for their evil deeds on earth. No. No. No. He is the picture of hope. He is the Eternal Judge who will right all wrongs and reward all righteousness. He is God Almighty, Lord of Lords and King of Kings. His words will someday echo through heaven’s courts in Truth, Righteousness, and Judgment. Stand strong my fellow soldiers, God will have the last word!
This concludes the homily. The following information is an exposition of Revelation chapter one [i]
[i][i] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Everyman’s Bible Commentary Revelation, Moody Press: Chicago, pg. 13-19.
The Nuts and Bolts of Revelation chapter one
While it is true that this book reveals Christ, the genitive “of Jesus Christ” means that it is a revelation given by Christ. It is a revelation of “things which must shortly come to pass.” The words translated “shortly” mean that when the time of vengeance comes there will be no delay in its execution. The time of the fulfillment may seem distant but when it does come the events will transpire with rapidity.
A blessing is promised to the one reading and those hearing and keeping the words of the book. Note the change from singular to plural—one reads and several hear—indicating that the book was read publicly. This public reading was a test of canonicity, so that the fact that John indicates it should be read publicly means that he considered it canonical. The entire book is called a prophecy. The phrase “the time is at hand” is repeated in the epilogue. “At hand” means proximity or nearness, and these events are at hand since a thousand years are as a day with the Lord.
The book is dedicated to Christ who was its Author, and about whom it speaks. Three things are ascribed to Him: (1) He loves us. (2) He loosed us (some texts read: “washed” the difference in Greek being one letter) from our sins in His blood. Blood is the evidence of His death which is the basis for our cleansing. (3) He made us a kingdom (not kings) and priests to God. “Kingdom views believers corporately and anticipates our association with Christ in His reign, while “priests” sees them individually.
This concludes the study of Revelation chapter one.