“I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus.”
Revelation 1:9 NLT
It must seem a bit harsh, being punished for preaching the Gospel. Why would the recipients of such wonderful “Good News” want to not only reject the message but exile and imprison the messenger? I have this humorous picture of an alien being (think ET) looking on and scratching its head, finding such behaviour so strange and incomprehensible, that it might feel that such an apparently intelligent race of humans was perhaps not quite so intelligent as it first thought. The alien might have been correct with its superficial assessment, but it would have to dissect cultural mindsets to find out what was really going on. It would have to start at the beginning, with the fall of man. Someone would have to tell it about the ejection of satan and a third of the angels from Heaven. The story of the dark and negative influences that have shaped humanity over the years would have to be told. It would have to understand that mankind prefers to live in a dark, sinful place, (well most of them anyway). And after all that, I can imagine that our alien friend might start to realise why Good News would, to many, not be good news at all.
We enlightened pilgrims have grasped the Gospel message with all our beings. And we hang on to it because “we who are being saved know it is the very power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Through the Gospel we are energised. Empowered. Resourced. We therefore cannot stop sharing what we have found. And neither could John. In both cases we face into a world that has largely rejected God. A sceptical world. A world where sinful people, under the influence of the devil, try their utmost to undermine and rubbish God and His children, us pilgrims. The hostility to the Gospel in our age is just as prevalent as it was in John’s day with one exception. We, at least for a time, cannot be imprisoned for sharing the Gospel. But the current direction society is taking may change that. I heard today of a primary school teacher who suggested that her young pupil asked her Sunday School teacher the following question – “If God exists, when is He going to apologise for all the bad things He has done?” So sad that a new generation is being corrupted by the very people who should be introducing them to God. Instead, their young minds are being polluted with wrong ideas and concepts. And doubly sad that the primary school teacher will one day stand before God, called to account for his or her words. Thankfully we have good people able to lovingly right the wrongs being committed to those so young. We need to look out for opportunities to push back the lies of the enemy.
John was exiled to Patmos, and there he was suffering. And he was aware that there were others of his generation who were also suffering. Such distress is still with us today, and we think of our brothers and sisters imprisoned and exiled, abused and suffering, all for the sake of the Gospel. In places like North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine, India, Pakistan, and so on. John was aware that he was called to endure the suffering he was experiencing, and I’m sure he did so with patience. He was aware of the reward coming his way, in his not-too-distant future.
We pilgrims may not be suffering for “preaching the Word of God” but we face ostracism and exclusion in other ways. And we endure it with “patient endurance“, as John did. Because we love God and His ways. Because we cannot hold within us the wonderful Good News entrusted to us by our crucified Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Dear Lord. We thank You that You have entrusted so much to us. We pray that as we continue our journey through the corridors of life, Your Spirit goes with us, and You keep us safe from the evil one. Grant us more opportunities, we pray, to share Your message of hope, Your Gospel, with our fallen world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.