STONES-14 SMYRNA-3 THE STONES OF GOD’S WITNESS: SMYRNA– LESSONS IN LIVING AT THE END OF DAYS
The shadow of a sixty-year-old man was silhouetted against the canvas of the tent. The flickering candle cast a golden aura inside as he knelt beside a small wood and canvas cot. Rhythmic tropical rain lightly pelted the tent as he prayed beside his bed. The prayer was one he had written out many years before. If you were able to hear that night what God heard it would have sounded much like this:
O Lord since Thou hast died, To give Thyself for me, No sacrifice would seem to great, For me to make for Thee.
Outside the native porters, guides and cooks who had followed this man for nearly 20 years through the jungle heard the low sound of his voice communing with God as he always had done before bed. Then the candle flickered out and they also retired to sleep through the rainy night.
The next morning the cold and stiff body of David Livingstone was still kneeling beside the cot when his beloved native brothers found him. He was so thin from the countless bouts with malaria, his skin darkened by the years of Equatorial African sun was loosely draped over the bones of his earthly tent now vacant. His spirit had soared immortal, making its flight from the darkness of a disease ridden, weak and failing body to the realm of light and life in the presence of Jesus his King to whom he had consecrated his life.
WHO WAS DAVID Livingstone? (1813-1873)
• David Livingstone  was born in the Scottish city of Blantyre in 1813. • At age ten he began working fourteen-hour days in the cotton mill to help support his impoverished family. There he learned by snatching sentences from a book on his spinning jenny, followed by two hours of night school. These disciplines kept him from being totally uneducated.
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• He was converted at twelve, and had a profound spiritual awakening at twenty and resolved to be a medical missionary in China. From that point onward Livingstone studied Greek, theology, and medicine at Glasgow, returning to the mill during vacations to help pay expenses. • Qualified in medicine, he was sent by the London Missionary Society in 1840 to South Africa, since the Opium War had closed China. Livingstone’s heart had been fired by missionary Robert Moffat’s words about having seen “the smoke of a thousand villages” where no missionary had ever been. • Livingstone and his wife, Mary, Moffat’s daughter, stayed in three homes in three years, ever moving further up-country. He was evangelist, doctor, teacher, builder, gardener, shoemaker, and carpenter. But all the time his eyes were on the “unknown north” beyond the fearsome Kalahari Desert. • In 1852 Livingstone sent his wife and children home before he embarked on a four-year, six-thousand-mile journey that took him to Angola’s Atlantic coast, then east to the Indian Ocean at Mozambique. During long weary journeys, debilitating illnesses, danger from wild animals and hostile tribes, he never relaxed his self-imposed discipline, but made observations, studied languages, kept his famous Diaries, and prepared scientific reports that brought him fame. He retained his humility, writing in 1853: “I will place no value on anything I have … except in relation to the Kingdom of Christ.” • When Livingstone’s wife died in 1861, he threw himself fiercely into his work. He disappeared from sight for ten years; and when found by Henry Morton Stanley of the New York Herald in 1871, Livingstone refused to go home. Two days later he wrote in his diary: “March 19, my birthday. My Jesus, my King, my Life, my all, I again dedicate my whole self to Thee. Accept me, and grant, O gracious Father, that ere the year is gone I may finish my work. In Jesus’ name I ask it. Amen.” A year later his servants found him on his knees in his tent — dead. • David Livingstone, the renowned and noble missionary to Africa, wrote  in his journal, People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called sacrifice, which is simply paid back as a small part of the great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? . . . Away with such a word, such a view, and such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering or danger now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory, which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not talk when we remember the great sacrifice, which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us. • At his death in 1873, such was their love for him that his native assistants bore his body fifteen hundred miles to the coast. One of them was among the huge crowd at the funeral in Westminster Abbey. Some words on Livingstone’s tombstone there summarize his achievements: “For thirty years his life was spent
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in an unwearied effort to evangelize the native races, to explore the undiscovered secrets, to abolish the desolating slave trade of Central Africa.”
With that background listen again through the tent as you can dimly see in the dark jungles of Africa the shadow of a sixty-year-old man silhouetted against the canvas of the tent. The flickering candle cast a golden aura inside as he knelt beside a small wood and canvas cot. Rhythmic tropical rain lightly pelted the tent as he prayed beside his bed. The prayer was one he had written out many years before. If you were able to hear that night what God heard it would have sounded much like this:
O Lord since Thou hast died, To give Thyself for me, No sacrifice would seem to great, For me to make for Thee. Lord send me anywhere, Only go with me; Lay any burden on me, Only sustain me. Sever any tie, Save the tie that binds me to Thy heart. Lord Jesus my King, I consecrate my life Lord to Thee! I only have one life, and that will soon be past; I want my life to count for Christ, What’s done for Him will last. I follow Thee my Lord, And glory in Thy Cross; I gladly leave the world behind, And count all gain as loss. Lord send me anywhere, Only go with me; Lay any burden on me, Only sustain me. Sever any tie, Save the tie that binds me to Thy heart. Lord Jesus my King, I consecrate my life Lord to Thee!
We aren’t ready to live until we are prepared to die. And we live best when we know what counts when we die. Along that line I have enjoyed the systematic repetitive reading of God’s Word for many years. In fact for the past twenty-eight years I have read the Bible through at a rate of twice through the Old Testament and three times through the New Testament each year. In these repetitive readings I have always looked for something. One of the areas that has fascinated me over the years as I have read and reread God’s Word is the way the Lord records the end of the earthly lives of His beloved saints. I searched each page of God’s Word for the closing scene and the recorded words of God’s saints. What a study.
In the context of Smyrna we need to learn about Ending Well: How to suffer and die Triumphantly.
Tonight will you think deeply with me about how you want to finish life on planet earth. Since none of us know WHEN that will be, God has allowed us to choose HOW that will be. Have you started making preparations? To start our look at Living at the End of Days we need to return to Revelation 2. We are stopped at the ancient ruins, the
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Stones of God’s Remembrance at Smyrna. There we have found our way to the arches
that lead up and into the Forum.
THE ADMONITION v. 10a “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days…”
Look out trouble is coming!
It was not easy to be a Christian at Smyrna, and yet the letter to Smyrna is one of the two in which there is undiluted praise.
The Appeal v. 10b “Be Faithful Unto Death, and I will give you the crown of life…”
“Faithful” means be convinced. As in Revelation 1.5 we believe that Jesus is the faithful witness. Christ is faithful so faithful, we saints are convinced that we must rest on Him depending on what he says. Be convinced of Him, He will be your strength and courage.
And unless Christ returns soon all of us face the inevitability of death. Are you ready? Have you planned for the spiritual aspects of your death? So many only get the funeral arrangements and life insurance in order. There is so much more to plan and prepare for as a Christian. The Bible teaches us much about Dying Right! In the Scriptures we find seven good ways to die:
I. JACOB’S ‘S LIFE ENDS WITH HIM TRUSTING THE PROMISES OF GOD. Genesis 47.29-49.33 A. HE LOOKED FOR THE LAND OF PROMISE TO THE END! Genesis 47:29 And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt: (KJV) B. HE FOLLOWED HIS SHEPHERD ALL THE WAY! Genesis 48:15 Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, C. HE TRUSTED HIS REDEEMER TO CARE FOR HIS SIN! Genesis 48:16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm — may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth.” (NIV) II. JOSEPH‘S LIFE ENDS WITH HIM POINTING TO THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD. Genesis 50:24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (NIV)
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A. HE GAVE HIS PAST ABUSE TO THE LORD. Genesis 41.51 B. HE GAVE HIS FUTURE PLANS TO THE LORD. Genesis 41.52 III. DAVID‘S LIFE ENDS WITH HIM EXHORTING HIS FAMILY TO FOLLOW GOD. 1 Kings 2:1-4 When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, and that the LORD may keep his promise to me: `If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’ (NIV) A. HE EXHORTED THEM BECAUSE HE HAD ENTRUSTED HIS LIFE TO THE LORD 2ND Samuel 22 B. HE EXHORTED THEM BECAUSE HE HAD ENTRUSTED HIS TROPHIES TO GOD 2ND Samuel 23.16. Remember what David did with Goliath’s sword in 1st Samuel 17.54? He gave it to the Lord as we see in 1st Samuel 21.9. C. HE EXHORTED THEM BECAUSE HE HAD ENTRUSTED HIS TREASURES TO GOD. 2ND Chronicles 22, 28, and 29. IV. STEPHEN‘S LIFE ENDS WITH HIM PRAISING GOD. Acts 7:59-60 while they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (NIV) V. PAUL‘S LIFE ENDS WITH HIM FINISHING THE PLAN LAID OUT FOR HIM BY GOD. 2 Timothy 4:6-8 for I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NIV) VI. PETER‘S LIFE ENDS WITH HIM S REMINDING THE SAINTS ABOUT THE WORD OF GOD. 2 Peter 1:12-15 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. (NIV) VII. CHRIST‘S LIFE ENDS WITH HIM POINTING THE WAY FOR ANOTHER TO GOD. Luke 23:43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (NKJV)
Hymn # 372
TONIGHT WILL YOU RISE AND AFFIRM WITH ME, LIKE –
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1. Like JACOB I WILL SEEK TO LIVE TRUSTING THE PROMISES OF GOD. a. He Looked for the Land of Promise to the end! Genesis 47:29 b. He Followed his Shepherd all the way! Genesis 48:15 c. He trusted his Redeemer to care for his sin! Genesis 48:16 2. Like JOSEPH I WILL SEEK TO LIVE POINTING TO THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD. Genesis 50:24 3. Like DAVID I WILL SEEK TO LIVE EXHORTING MY FAMILY TO FOLLOW GOD. 1 Kings 2:1-4 4. Like STEPHEN I WILL SEEK TO LIVE PRAISING GOD. Acts 7:59-60 5. Like PAUL I WILL SEEK TO LIVE FINISHING THE PLAN LAID OUT FOR ME BY GOD. 2 Timothy 4:6-8 6. Like PETER I WILL SEEK TO LIVE REMINDING THE SAINTS ABOUT THE WORD OF GOD. 2 Peter 1:12-15 7. Like CHRIST I WILL SEEK TO LIVE POINTING THE WAY FOR ANOTHER TO GOD. Luke 23:43