“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive: I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of the those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death” (Rev. 2:8-11).
Last year I had the opportunity to go on a Revelation’s Seven Churches tour in Turkey and Greece. My experience at the ruins of one of these cities had an unexpected and profound effect on me. As a group, we would get together and read the letter in Revelation for that city and discuss the context for that place and the believers who lived there. It was my practice to read the passage to myself after exiting the bus and entering the site.
As I was entering the ruins of Smyrna I began to read the passage in Rev. 2:8-11. It is hard to describe but there is something about being at the actual location that brought these words to life for me. “I know about your suffering. . . Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. . . But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.” The impact of these words, in this place centuries later, brought me to tears. These people died centuries earlier but stayed true to their Savior and their beliefs and are now resting in Jesus.
This brought everything into perspective for me. What is truly important? What matters most? Is it the daily concerns and challenges that we face or is it something greater? Are we living to get the most out of this temporal life or are we living this life in preparation for the next?
As Seventh-day Adventist Christians, it is essential that we do everything possible to help our children, our grandchildren, our nephews, and nieces, even the children in our communities to know and choose to follow Jesus so their names, too, are written in the Book of Life. An Adventist education is a big part of that.
I regularly hear reasons why parents choose not to send their children to an Adventist school. These reasons are temporal in nature, ranging from costs to not being prestigious enough. Parents ask if their kids can get into Harvard or Yale after attending an Adventist school. There is nothing wrong with attending an Ivy League school, but will that lead a student to make choices that have eternal value? What echoed in my mind while visiting Smyrna was “. . .If you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.”
I challenge you to open your Bible to Rev. 2:8-11 and read the message from Jesus to Smyrna. After reading this passage, simply ask yourself what is important in the grand scheme of things.
Both of my parents have passed away. They, too, are resting in Jesus just as the believers in Smyrna are. In another generation or so they will likely be forgotten, but while they were alive they did the best they could and gifted me with an Adventist education in the hopes that I would also choose to follow Jesus and accept His offer of eternal life.
Jeff Bovee is education superintendent for the Kansas-Nebraska Conference.