Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to live as a daughter of the King.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Why do we settle for so little? Why do we set our sights on things that are so earthly, so temporal, when God wants to give us grand, eternal, spiritual riches?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Forgiveness, for Monday, August 21, 2017.

If someone offered you an incredible gift, your ears would perk up. You wouldn’t ignore the news. Well, someone is offering you an incredible gift. Will you find out what it is? Nancy is continuing in a series called "Letters to the Churches in Revelation, Part 3: Faithfulness and the Crown of Life."

Nancy: I had an email from one of our listeners the other day saying, “There is no way you can understand what I’m going through. You’ve never been there yourself.” And you know what? She was right. But as we come to this church in Smyrna—the suffering church, the persecuted church—we find that the One who is speaking to them does know.

We started into this letter in the last session, and we’re picking up in Revelation chapter 2, verse 8: “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.’”

Then He says in verse 9: “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich).’” Jesus knows. He has been there, and we’re going to see that as we unpack this part of the letter to the suffering church.

He says, first of all, “I know your tribulation.”

That word tribulation is the Greek word thlipsis. I kind of like saying that—thlipsis—but I don’t like experiencing it. Tribulation. It’s a word that means “intense pressure," "to crush," "to press," "to squeeze.” It’s a word you might use if you were pressing grapes until the juice comes out. It’s crushing them, squeezing them. One commentator defines it as “the burden that crushes.”

If something is weighing on you . . . Talk about people who look like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. They’re under thlipsis, tribulations, feeling pressed down and crushed. Jesus says, “I know your thlipsis; I know your tribulation. I know what is pressing in on you. I know what is crushing you.”

Now, every life has pressure. Sometimes it seems heavy, sometimes not so heavy. Sometimes it seems to go on a long time, sometimes it’s just a momentary blip on the screen, but we all have pressures in our lives. You can’t avoid tribulation. You can’t avoid being squeezed. You can’t avoid being pressed.

People respond differently to pressure. Some cave in; they collapse under the pressure. Others let it press them to Christ. You can’t decide whether or not you will have pressure, but you can decide how you will respond to the pressure and what kind of outcome it will have in your life.

Regardless of the pressure, regardless of how heavy it may be, how heavy the load, God is not oblivious. He knows. He knows your tribulation, and He cares. We see this theme throughout the Scripture: He knows and He cares.

Psalm 142, verse 3: “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me”—when I was being crushed, when things were pressing in on me from every side—“Then You knew my path” (NKJV).

Jesus said, “I know your tribulation.” He knows my path.

Let me give you two biblical examples—one from the Old Testament and one from the New.

The first is from the book of Exodus, beginning in chapter 1, verse 8:

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, "Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land. Therefore they [the Egyptians] set taskmasters over them [the Israelites] to afflict them with heavy burdens” (vv. 8–11).

So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field (v. 13).

What a description. These are people who are pressed down; they are crushed. There’s a heavy weight upon them that’s being imposed by the Egyptian lords. The passage goes on to say that Pharaoh orders the Hebrew midwives to kill all the sons who are born to Hebrew women. So the burden becomes greater; the tribulation becomes greater. Just when you think you can’t take any more, there’s more yet—more burden, more pressure.

Chapter 2, verse 23: “During those many days . . .” In fact, do you remember how long the Israelites were slaves in Egypt? Four hundred years—years, centuries. “During those many days . . . the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help.” They groaned under the burden. They groaned under the weight of the pressure.

They groaned, and they cried out for help: “We can’t handle this.” Have you ever been there? Well, not for 400 years, but maybe it seems like 400 years. For a long time you’ve found yourself groaning under the weight, groaning under the burden, and then crying out for help.

That cry for help, by the way, is a great thing—because there’s Someone who hears our cry for help, and that’s what we read here in Exodus chapter 2. “Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning . . . God saw the people of Israel—and God knew” (vv. 23–25).

God heard. God saw. And God knew.

They couldn’t see God. They couldn’t hear His voice. But God saw them. God heard their voices, and God knew what they were going through. They didn’t know what God was planning. They didn’t know what He had in mind, but God knew what He had in mind for them.

Are you in a desperate situation? Are you groaning under the weight of it? I want you to be assured that God hears your cry; He sees your plight, and He knows what you’re going through.

Here’s another illustration in Mark chapter 6. Let me read beginning in verse 45:

[Jesus] made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw . . . (vv. 45–48).

Where were they? They were on the sea. Where was Jesus? He was on the land, but He saw. He saw what was going on even though He wasn’t there in the boat with them. It was night. This was supernatural vision.

He saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea (vv. 48).

He did a miracle. Miraculously, He saw what they were up against; He saw they were straining against the wind. He saw that they were in serious trouble, and He didn’t ignore their plight. He waited until He knew it was the right time. You say, “What’s the right time? Now is the right time.” No, now is not always the right time. Jesus knows which watch of the night is the right time, and at the right watch of the night, at the right hour, “He came to them, walking on the sea.”

The water is no object to Jesus, and your circumstances are no object to Jesus. The wind is no object to Jesus. He can get through the wind and the waves to your boat. He sees, He knows. And He will come to you as He came to His disciples—and as He came to this church in Smyrna that we’ve been reading about, this first-century church.

You say, “Well, I know that He knows and He sees, but I can’t see Him. I don’t know where He is.” That reminds me of that passage in Job chapter 23, where Job says,

I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him (vv. 8–9).

He’s saying, “God, I can’t see You.” But Job 23, verse 10—I love this verse: “He knows the way that I take.”

Listen, when it comes down to it, which is more important: That you know where God is going and what He’s doing, or that He knows where you’re going and what you’re doing? I’d much rather have God know. “He knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

I shall come out. There will be deliverance. There is a purpose. There is an end. There is a goal, and that is to conform me to the image of Christ. I shall come out as gold.

Jesus knows. He says, “I know your tribulation.” And then He says, “I know your poverty.”

In the Greek language, there are two words that can be translated poverty. The most common word is a word for somebody who barely makes it. He just barely manages to eke out an existence, and once he does, he’s got nothing left over. That’s not the word that’s used here when Jesus says, “I know your poverty.”

The word that’s used here for poverty is not the word for somebody who has nothing left over. It’s a word for somebody who has nothing at all. He’s reduced to utter, absolute destitution. He’s a beggar. Jesus says, “I know your poverty.”

Now, Smyrna was a very prosperous city. It was a wealthy city, but here were Christians who were dirt-poor. They were poverty-stricken. Why is that? There are a number of reasons, but I think the primary one has to do with their profession of faith in Christ. When they claimed to be believers in Christ, they were forced out of their trade guilds. They lost their jobs. They were reduced to poverty. They found themselves in economic straits. They may have had their homes plundered, their possessions taken from them.

Perhaps this is what is being referred to in Hebrews chaper 10, verse 34, which says: “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”

Jesus says, “I know that you are poverty stricken,” but then He inserts a little phrase that changes the perspective. He says, “I know your poverty (but you are rich).”

Now, what Jesus says to this church is a contrast to what Jesus says to the church in Laodicea, the seventh church, which we will come to later. He says to them: “You say, ‘I am rich’ . . . not realizing that you are poor’” (Rev. 3:17).

The Laodicean church was materially rich but spiritually poor. Jesus says to the church in Smyrna, “You are materially poor, but you are spiritually rich.”

That word rich here means “You’re wealthy, abounding, abundantly supplied.” I can imagine these poverty-stricken Christians in Smyrna who had no income, who were poverty stricken, who were destitute, saying, “Rich? You’re telling us we’re rich? Our creditors are calling. They’re turning off the lights. They’re turning off the heat, and You’re saying to us, ‘You are rich’?”

Jesus wasn’t talking about material wealth. He was talking about spiritual riches, and the Christians in Smyrna were rich. Why? Because they had faith in Christ.

God’s perspective on money, riches, possessions, and things is so different than our thinking. We need to adjust our thinking about what is poor and what is rich. We tend to evaluate people’s economic status by externals—the clothes they wear, the car they drive, the house they live in. The book of James, in fact, addresses our tendency to judge people based on these things and actually to show preferential treatment to those who are more materially prosperous.

James says, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” (2:5)

Those individuals and churches that appear to be wealthy are not necessarily so. They may be poor in the things that really matter. And those individuals and churches that appear to be poor, as we measure things, are not necessarily poor. They may be abundantly rich in the things that truly matter.

Proverbs 10 says: “The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it” (v. 22). It’s God’s perspective on wealth and poverty. We need to shift our thinking to be aligned with His.

I’ve seen materially wealthy people who have dysfunctional lives and bitter, broken family relationships. They’re really poor. And by contrast, I’ve seen people who have materially very little, who really struggle to make ends meet, but they have joy, they have peace, and they have love for God and for each other.

It reminds me of that passage in Proverbs 15 that says: “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is”—just a plate of vegetables, just a simple meal; some of you think that sounds pretty good—“than a fattened ox”—a great big feast—“and hatred with it” (vv. 16–17).

You can have the world’s wealth and be starved in your soul. Or you can be hungry, as the world measures it, but be rich and abundantly supplied in your soul.

The wealth of the world is temporal. It can be taken away.

  • True wealth is eternal wealth.
  • Spiritual riches never tarnish, never break.
  • Spiritual riches don’t decay.
  • Spiritual riches can’t be lost.
  • Spiritual riches can’t be stolen.

Therefore, God’s Word challenges us not to set our sights or our affections or our efforts on achieving material prosperity.

Now, there’s no sin in being materially wealthy. God blessed many of His servants in the Scripture with material wealth. And if God gives that to you, the Scripture says, “[God] gives us richly all things to enjoy; therefore, be generous” (1 Tim. 6:17–18 NKJV, paraphrased).

But don’t set your sight on wealth. Don’t set your affections on material goods. Proverbs says, “They make themselves wings; they fly away” (Prov. 23:5 NKJV). They don’t last.

In fact, let me go a step further. God’s Word teaches that we need to be willing to be made materially poor, if necessary, in order that we or others might be made spiritually rich. Sometimes it’s through divesting ourselves of some of this stuff we’ve accumulated that we find our souls are really able to prosper.

It's like after Thanksgiving or another holiday meal that you eat so much that you're stuffed, and you start to feel sick. A more temperate, moderate lifestyle is generally more conducive to having a healthy soul—to being spiritual rich.

We read in 2 Corinthians chapter 8 that,

You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor. [He divested Himself of His wealth. He put it aside. He gave it up. He became poor. Why?] So that you by his poverty might become rich (v. 9).

God may want for us to become materially poor in order that others can be made spiritually rich. Isn’t that what John did on the Isle of Patmos, as the one who is being given this revelation to send to the churches? He’s been stripped of everything. He’s materially poor, and yet how rich are we today to hold in our hands this book of Revelation. Today our hearts are being encouraged by the Word of God because John, the beloved apostle, was willing to be made materially poor so that others might be made spiritually rich.

Let me share with you one passage in Luke chapter 12 that’s been ministering to me over the last several days as I’ve contemplated this whole thing of God’s perspective on material wealth. In fact, let me ask you to turn there.

In Luke 12, beginning in verse 16, Jesus tells a parable about a rich fool. He says,

The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, "What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?" And he said, "I will do this . . . [I will build an addition on my house; I will rent a larger storage shed. Well, that’s not in the Bible!]

He said, "I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years [retire; well, that’s not there either; that’s the American version]; relax, eat, drink, be merry." But God said to him, "Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”

[Then Jesus says] So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God (vv. 16–21).

To those whose focus was on material things, Jesus warns against neglecting the much more important matter of the heart, spiritual issues.

Then in verse 22, He turns to His disciples. I think perhaps they were thinking, or maybe even saying, after hearing this parable, “But Jesus, we’ve got to live. I’ve got to feed my family. I have to have clothes for the kids. What am I going to do about those practical matters?”

In this passage that follows, as I’ve been meditating on it even this morning before coming to this session, the Lord has used it to minister such encouragement to my heart. I think not only about my own personal values and needs but about some of the financial needs that Revive Our Hearts is facing. God used this passage to give encouragement to my heart, and I hope it will to yours as well.

He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” (vv. 22–24).

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!” (v. 27).

Faith: That’s the issue here. Sometimes our poverty, relatively speaking, can be used to push us to a place of greater dependence upon God—the realization that He is the One who clothes us; He is the One who feeds us; He is the One who provides for us and meets our needs.

Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. [What did Jesus say? “I know your tribulation; I know your poverty.”]

Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (vv. 29–32).

God wants to give us so much more. Why do we settle for so little? Why do we set our sights on things that are so earthly, so temporal, when God wants to give us grand, eternal, spiritual riches?

I still remember that one of my dad's favorite hymns was one we don’t sing often anymore. I love the words. The first stanza says:

Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.

Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.1

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will be right back. She’s been helping you recognize your identity and riches if you know Jesus. And if you don’t, she’s been inviting you to accept God’s amazing gift of adoption into His family.

To explore more of what it means to live out a rich, full life in Christ, I hope you’ll get a booklet our team has put together called Ears to Hear: Learning from the Churches in Revelation. You’ll use this tool to take concepts from the letters to the churches in Revelation and make those concepts personal. You’ll close your Bible after studying with Ears to Hear, but you won’t close your heart. You’ll keep living out the things you’ve been learning.

You can get a copy of Ears to Hear by donating any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. So we’d like to say thanks by sending this helpful resource to you. Just donate by phone at 1–800–569–5959, or donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Suffering has a limit. God won’t allow more than is needed for your good and His glory. If you feel like you’re at that limit, get some encouragement tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Now Nancy’s back with a final thought.

Nancy: Listen, ladies, if you have everything that the world considers valuable, but you don’t have Christ, I’m telling you: You are poor. And if you have nothing that this world considers important and valuable, but you have Christ, you have everything that you need. Like those believers in Smyrna, you are rich.

Thank You, Lord, that we are rich in Christ. God and heaven are still our own. How rich is our condition. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you live your life as a daughter of the King. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1"Jesus I My Cross Have Taken." Henry F. Lyte. 1824, re­vised 1833.

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