This Christmas I got my wife an Instant Pot.  It’s a modern twist on the old pressure cooker.  It essentially works the same way—-the top seals on there pretty tight.  Inside there are two things that happen:  heat that starts to buildup and steam that is released.  You can put in a whole frozen chicken and in three minutes it’ll pop out to be dinner for you!  It’s awesome!  Maybe not, don’t try that at home.  It’s a little nerve wracking with this ‘bomb’ you have in your kitchen.  We turn it on and my wife, Kelly, backs up, and all of the kids have their biking helmets on when she’s cooking with it.  It’s a little bit crazy.

I think sometimes life feels a little bit like an Instant Pot, doesn’t it?  It presses in on us, and the heat gets turned up, and the steam gets released.  Sometimes in those seasons we have questions for each other, we have questions for God.  We ask God things like:  God, do you see?  God, do you care?  God, are you going to do anything?  God, in this situation that I’m walking through right now, what do you want me to do?  Sometimes the pressure situations can seem small……it’s a child that won’t behave, or the job situation that’s not working out exactly the way you wanted it to.   But sometimes it feels like you’re just in the thick of it and the temperature keeps going up and up and up and up.   The news from the doctor isn’t good.  The relationship is falling apart.  It just feels like the pressure is just building.  What do we do in situations like that?  I sometimes think that as the Church, we’re not good at talking about lament and grief.  Some seasons of life just aren’t fun.  Can we admit that, even though we’re in church?  Sometimes it feels like the pressure is just getting turned up.

If you have one of these Instant Pots, there’s a little dial on top.  One of the settings is ‘sealed,’ or let the pressure build.  The other setting is ‘vent’ or release.  When you’re cooking something and you turn it to vent, it sounds like there’s a bomb being diffused in your kitchen!  It really does!  It’s a high pitched tone and steam is shooting out of it.  That’s when Kelly has all our kids under the kitchen table.  {Will you lean in for just a moment?}  There are situations in life where Jesus does not remove the heat.  Sometimes the mountain doesn’t move.  Sometimes the sea is not quieted.  But he does remove the pressure and there’s things in life, and there’s things in the life of faith, where we can switch that dial from sealed to vent and it releases us to go, okay, it’s still hot and the pain didn’t go away, but I can keep going, and I can keep moving, and I can keep trusting, and I can keep holding on, God, because I know that you’re at work.  If you’re a follower of Jesus this morning, this message is for you, if you’re walking through the fire and you just feel like God, where are you?  And if you’re not a follower of Christ, we’re so glad that you’re here, and I want to invite you to lean in, because the Scriptures have some beautiful invitations for us, as human beings, when life gets really hard.  They center around the person and work of Jesus.  Our invitation, if you’re new to this church or new to the life of faith, is that you would see these ‘release valves’ as an invitation to come to Christ.

Revelation 2:8-11.  If you have a Bible, will you turn there with me?  We’re in this series on letters to the seven churches.  Last week we talked about the church at Ephesus.  If you weren’t here, I’d encourage you to go online and listen or watch that one.  The church at Ephesus is the church that Jesus says has lost their first love. The thing that was central to who they were in Christ got relegated to one of amongst the many things that they were doing and they were doing well.  But they lost their first love.  The second letter is to the church at Smyrna.  It’s the church that’s right in the center of the Instant Pot.  Here’s what Jesus says to them:  And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:  ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.’

Smyrna was one of the major ports in Asia Minor at the time.  It’s in what today is modern-day Turkey.  It was one of the safest ports along this coastline, so they had a lot of trade that went in and out of the city of Smyrna.  Today it’s Izmir.  It’s been a city for roughly 8,000 years.  Try to take that in.  That’s a long time.  It did have this little break.  In 600 BC, the Lydians came and wiped out the city of Smyrna.  For 400 years it ceased to exist.  Around 200 BC, it was repopulated by the Roman Empire and started to be birthed again.  So when Jesus begins his letter to the church at Smyrna, the who died and came to life, it’s not just an incidental type of greeting, as if to say, hey, remember I was resurrected.  That’s true, but Jesus is saying more than that.  He’s saying hey, church at Smyrna, you’re the city that died and came to life again and I’m the Savior who died and came to life again and we have some common ground here.  I know what that’s like, city of Smyrna, so lean in a little bit, if you will.

This city was a fascinating city.  It was like many of our coastal cities—the New York, the Californias—they were sort of the epicenter of culture and fashion.  One of the major excavation projects in the city of Smyrna is the agora.  It’s a three-story tall shopping mall that was about 300 feet long, a football-field long.  It’s just an absolutely fascinating piece of architecture back in that day.  The city was also named after…..Smyrna is the same root word as the spice myrrh.  Myrrh is very aromatic spice.  It has such a strong smell that they use it for embalming bodies, because it takes away the smell of the decomposition of the body.  So when Jesus says the who died and came to life , they’re surrounded by this smell in their city because that was one of the major trades that went in and out of their port.

One of the things I’ve loved is just seeing the way that Jesus speaks so directly to the place that the church is at.  He speaks their language, he writes to their culture, and he has a word for what they’re going through.  The people of Smyrna, right in back of the city, had this massive hill, and on top of it, you can see this fortress that has a temple inside of it.  Smyrna was the city that won the right to build the very first temple to the goddess Roma.  She was the goddess that personified the Roman Empire.  If you wanted to worship the empire—-it was a little bit more overt back then than it is today—-you worshiped the goddess Roma.  Every year, the people of Smyrna would make a trek.  They would walk up this mountain, traversing side to side to side.  They’d walk up.  They’d walk into the temple and take a pinch of incense and throw it into the fire and they’d bow down and say, “Caesar is lord.”  It was an annual party that they threw every year.  The Christians said, “We can’t say that because we don’t believe that Caesar’s lord.  We actually believe that Jesus is Lord.”  You see this inception of the conflict between the Church and the state, between the kingdom and the empire.  {Will you look up at me for just a moment?}  This is nothing new!  The Church has always been called to be a prophetic voice into the empire—-This is not the way of Jesus, this is not the way of kingdom.  When Church gets in bed with the empire, we see things go horribly wrong, because we’re called to be a voice saying, “There’s a better way.”  {That’s for free.}  At Smyrna, the church was and because of that they walked through a season of pressure, tribulation, and trials.

Here’s the way Jesus goes on:  I know your tribulation…  {It’s the Greek word thilipsis.  It literally could be translated ‘pressure.’  Internal pressure.  I know your Instant Pot reality.  I know what’s going on.} …and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.   {Hey, Jesus, how do you really feel?}  But these first two words ‘I know’. . . .I feel like God wants to speak a word over us, this morning.  To say, “I know.”   I know the secret sin you just long to get rid of and you don’t feel like you can.   I know, he says.  I know the addiction that you’re walking through and I know that even when you sit in this place, you feel like a hypocrite and there’s all sorts of voices in your head chirping at you.  He goes, I know.  I know it looks like things on the outside. . . .you can pretend things are perfect, but I know that there’s a fracture in that relationship and you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.  Jesus says, “I know.”  He says I know the longing that you have to feel like you’re close to me, to feel more intimate, more love.  He goes, I know that.  The hope that one day you’ll be married and have that family you’ve pictured in your mind. . . .he goes, I know that longing, I know that hope, I know, I know, I know.  Whatever it is. . . . .He knows.

He speaks this word. . . . I know your poverty, but. . .but. . .but, don’t forget that you’re rich.  There’s more than one way to be rich, you know that, right?  There’s more than one way to be wealthy.  There’s more than one way to have an abundance.  The word that Jesus wants to speak to the Instant-Pot Christians in Smyrna is do not miss, don’t you dare miss God’s provision in the midst of pain.  Don’t miss that He’s at work, that He’s in the midst, that He sees, that He is calling you, ministering to you, comforting you, loving you. . . .don’t miss it!  I don’t know about you, but it can be really easy—in this type of situation that Smyrna was in—-to start to just ask the question ‘why.’   God, why in the world did this happen?  God, why in the world did that happen?  I think it’s a real natural, good question.  But please, please, do not let the question ‘why’ cause you to miss the God who’s providing ‘in.’  Don’t miss the God who continues to provide ‘in.’  Don’t let poverty in some areas cause you to assume lack in every area.  In fact, here’s the way the Apostle Paul wrote it to the church in Corinth:  ….sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;  {Did you know there’s a way to have joy in the midst of sorrow?  You can have both.} ….as poor, yet making many rich;  {You don’t have much to your name, but you sure are ministering in some ways that are making people’s lives all the better.} …as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:10) 

I can remember when Reid, my youngest son, was first born.  This is an image. . . .I’ve shared this before, but it’s just stuck in my brain as this picture of the reality of the world we live in.  My dad had my mom—-and she was pretty sick at that time—-on his arm, and I can remember them walking into the hospital room where we were sitting.  We sort of positioned my mom on this couch—she was a little bit wobbly at the time—and delicately put our youngest son, Reid, into her arms.  This picture is seared in my mind. . . . my sick mom holding my healthy baby.   I can just remember the Spirit whispering to me, “Ryan, you’re going to have a choice every day of your life. . . .to decide what you see.”   I want to see both!  I want to see the lament and I want to see the joy.  I want to see the pain, but I don’t want to miss the provision.  I don’t want to miss the God who’s with me every step of the way.  So here’s my question:  Because it hurts, because the pressure’s being turned up, is there provision you’re missing in the midst of it?

Jesus says listen, I know those of the synagogue of Satan, they’ve slandered you (verse 9).  Here’s the context, it’s real important because some people have taken this verse and have driven to some anti-Semitic places, which isn’t at ALL what Jesus intends or has in mind.  In the Roman Empire at the time, it was required that people would worship Caesar as lord.  It was a non-negotiable for anyone. . . . .except for one group.  The Jewish people had an exemption from the Roman government because of their history and because they were monotheists.  They worked out a deal:  If we still pay our taxes and we still give, can we refuse, or exempt ourselves from worshipping Caesar?  They said okay, but we’ll let you and you alone have that right.  Early on, Christians were seen as a sect of Judaism, so they were covered under this exemption.  They did not have to worship Caesar as lord.  But as they started to gain momentum, as the movement started to grow, Rome started to see well, there’s less and less people hiking up that mountain to worship.  They said, “We’ve got to do some things to change that,” and the synagogue rulers, most scholars would say, outed the Christians.  They said, “These people?  They’re not true Jews, they’re not of us.  They worship Jesus as king.”  Can you imagine this?  People who you might have gone to church with, people who you might have gone to synagogue with, saying, “They’re not of us.  They’re of a completely different thing.”  So Jesus says listen, if you’ve been stabbed in the back by somebody, if you’ve had a friend betray, if you’ve had a loved one turn their back on you and say, “I don’t want anything to do with you” . . . . .he goes, people of Smyrna, not only do I know what you’re going through, but I see exactly what’s gone on and I’m with you in the midst of it.  The Scriptures say He’s close to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18).  What do you need to know that Jesus sees in your life right now?  I can assure you, He sees it.

Here’s the way he continues:  Do not fear {Because when they were outed, they were persecuted.  When they were no longer under the exemption of the Jewish people, they were crucified, they were thrown to the lions, they were covered in animal blood and told to run while wild dogs chased them.  It’s to these people Jesus says Do. Not. Fear.}  …what you are about to suffer.  {Let’s just have a moment of honesty.  How many of you wish that that said something different than what it actually says.  I’m just glad you’re following along, because I think we all do.  Yet if you’ve read through the Scriptures, cover to cover, what you’d find is that 83 times we are commanded to ‘fear not.’  It’s one of the most used phrases, the most common commands in all of the Scriptures.  I started to ask myself, this week, “Why in the world is that?”  Well, because we live in a world that sometimes feels like an Instant Pot, don’t we?  Because we have a lot of reasons to fear, don’t we?  Because fear has this place in our soul that sometimes won’t let go.

We have some interesting things that we fear in our day and time.  I read through a list of some of the less common fears that people have, but did you know that the National Institute of Healths says that, in America, phobias and fears are one of the greatest inhibitors of health that people have?  Here’s some of the more interesting ones:  Melophobia — The fear of music.  My guess is that you came in late if that’s yours, right?  Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia —  Ironically, it’s the fear of long words.  Arachibutyrophobia — Obviously, it’s the fear of getting peanut butter stuck on the roof of your mouth.  Unatractiphobia — The fear of ugly people.  Can you imagine. . . . .you’re sitting at the lunchroom at work. . . .man, I’m really struggling with my unatractiphobia today, and you’re not helping.   Pogonophobia — The fear of beards, so stay away from Aaron Bjorklund if you have that one.  FOMO — Fear of missing out.

Some of our fears are little bit more comical, but every fear is paralyzing, have you thought about that?  When Amazon started to track—through their Kindle App—the most highlighted verses in the Bible, there’s was one that started to track above all the rest.  It was not John 3:16.  It wasn’t some of the more popular verses.  It was Philippians 4:6-7 — Do not be anxious (or fearful) about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)  The most highlighted verse in the Scriptures.  Why?  Because we live in a world where . . . . . you can have fear!  Not all fear is silly.  Just a few weeks ago there was an alert that went on everybody’s cell phone on the island of Hawaii that said:  Ballistic Missile Threat // Inbound to Hawaii // Seek Immediate Shelter // This is Not a Drill.    Turned out to be a mistake, but it wasn’t a drill.

Will you look up at me for just a second?  Fear cannot change the future, but it can prevent you from walking into it. It can’t change your circumstances, but it can change you.  So eighty-three times the Scriptures say ‘do not fear,’  because the biggest problem with fear is that it clashes with the life of faith.  So here’s Jesus’s encouragement to the church in the Instant Pot in Smyrna.  Choose courage in the face of challenges.  Or you could write, if you like it better, choose faith in the face of fear.   You cannot choose your circumstances, oftentimes.  {Look up from your notes for just a second.}  You always, always, ALWAYS get to choose your response to your circumstances.  You can choose whether you react and respond in courage or you react and respond in fear.  THAT’S your choice!  Which is why Jesus frames it as a command:  Don’t fear.

Here’s what he’s NOT saying:  He’s not saying don’t feel and just shut yourself down.  He’s not saying don’t grieve and don’t lament.  It’s a very biblical thing to look at the world as it really is and go, “That’s probably not the way God designed it to be.”  There’s some things that are broken, there’s some things that are off.  He’s not saying you have to ignore those things.  And he’s not saying don’t question God.  Here’s what he IS saying, and I think Nelson Mandela said it best:  “I’ve learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”  You and I cannot ignore our fears and hope that they go away.  In fact, the best way to feed your fears is to hide them and to pretend they don’t exist.  Fear flourishes in the darkness.  When we don’t say anything about it, when we don’t get it out in the open.  You know, probably the best thing you can do with your fears is tell somebody about them.  Invite them in.  Ask them to pray for you.  Sometimes when you speak a fear out loud, you start to hear how crazy it is that that thing is debilitating you.  And then you get somebody who’s walking with you in the journey.

If you’re here today and you’re going, so there’s two vents, two release valves, that we’ve talked about so far.  Number one is understanding that there’s provision in the midst of pain.  The second is choosing courage in the face of challenges.  How in the world do we do that?  What does that actually look like?  I’m so glad you asked that because Jesus addresses that. There’s four things that I want to, briefly, point out.  So if we want to live fearlessly, there’s four things in this text we have to know.  They’re going to seem a little bit counterintuitive but let’s just trust that Jesus knows what he’s talking about, okay?

So here’s what he says.  First, do not fear what you are about to suffer.  His point?  Suffering is a part of living.  Don’t be surprised at it.  We live in a broken and fractured world, people who assume that life is going to be bubble gum and blueberries all the time, are actually crippled more by fear than people who have a realistic view of this world that we live in.  Let’s just step back and look globally at not only at the church in Smyrna, but churches all around the world and how they might hear this passage of Scripture.  There are churches right now—and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say like, our suffering is one thing—we had to drive to church in the snow—but there’s some people who go to church at the expense of their life.  There’s over 300 Christians, every single month, that lose their life because of their faith in Jesus.  There are roughly 214 churches that are destroyed, buildings destroyed, because they’re proclaiming the message of Jesus as Lord.  There’s 772 Christians that are tortured, beaten, not to the point of death, but to the point of pain, every single month, because they would say that Jesus is Lord.  Read this from their point of view. . . . him going okay, you guys, live fearlessly, hold on.  Part of living is suffering.  You just got to know it’s true.

Secondly, he says:  Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison.   So, number one:  Suffering is a part of living.  Number two:  We have to understand that there’s a very real enemy to our souls.  Here’s why that’s so important from a theological standpoint.  If we don’t understand that evil is real and that there is a very real enemy that would love to destroy us, we start to attribute everything to God.  Is it Jesus’s plan that his church in Smyrna would be attacked by the devil and thrown in prison?  He allows it to happen, certainly, but it’s not Him doing it!  There’s an enemy who’s at work.  You need to know that.

Third — That you may be tested…  Every single situation that we find ourselves in is either a chance for us to grow better or to grow bitter, for our faith to be developed or our faith to be destroyed.  You don’t choose your circumstances, you do choose how you respond to them.  And know, the testing of your faith will come.

The fourth thing he says is:  …and for ten days you will have tribulation.  Here’s what the church didn’t do.  They didn’t get out their calendar and go, well, it started on this day, so now we have a week and half.  It was sort of an idiom or metaphor in the first century for ‘it’s not going to last forever.’  Suffering has a season.  When we understand THOSE things, it actually starts to disarm fear in our lives.  So, the two relief valves — we choose to see provision in the midst of pain, and we choose to live courageously in the midst of challenges.

Finally, here’s how this letter ends:  Be faithful unto death,   {Now, you could read that ‘be faithful as your life is on the line.’  Actually, a better, more literal translation of this phrase is ‘be faithful UNTIL death.’  Whether it’s ten minutes, or ten decades, or fifty years, however long it is, be faithful as long as God gives you breath on this planet.  It’s not the imminency of death that’s coming, it’s the emphasis on ‘be faithful.’} …and I will give you the crown of life.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.   Here’s what Jesus is saying to these church, here’s the relief valve.  The relief valve is:  Do not decide whether or not you’re going to be faithful based on circumstances.  Don’t decide whether you’re going to be faithful based on what comes into your life by way of blessing, or by way of pain, or by way of suffering, or by way of joy.  Decide whether or not you are going to be faithful because you know the Faithful One.  That’s his encouragement.  We’ve got to have an anchor, friends, that’s deeper in our lives than just the day-to-day, wind-and-the-waves of things that may not go our way, or regrets that we have, or pain that we walk through, or the Instant-Pot life that we’re living.  We’ve got to have something deeper.  For followers of Jesus, that deeper thing was the Resurrection.  It was the hope of what was coming, what was on the horizon.  Notice, Jesus says in the very beginning:  I’m the One who died and came to life again.  He ends this section, he buttresses it with The one who conquers (lives by faith) will not be hurt by the second death.  At the resurrection, you will be raised to life. . . .beautiful, immortal, eternal.  That’s the hope.  Knowing our future hope empowers daily faith.  That’s the release valve, that’s the vent in the pressure cooker of life.  We know this, don’t we?

Last year, Kelly and I went on the very first vacation we’ve gone on—just us two—since our kids were born.  We were gone for a week.  The entire week we were like, “Praise Jesus!”  Like, why did we wait so long?  We got back and said, “Every year we can possibly do this we’re going to do this.”  It’s on our calendar and we’re looking forward to it.  I’ve been shocked at how much having something on the calendar to look forward to, empowers my every day.  My kids are just a mess and I’m like, we’re going to Mexico in a few weeks, it’ll be fine!  Things are falling apart around me. . . . .I don’t know, seven weeks I’ll be in Mexico, I’ll be on a beach, it’s okay!  I think this is what Jesus points to:  There will be a day with no more sorrow, no more crying, no more tears, where the old order of things will pass away and the new will come.  The Jesus who is the first fruits of the resurrection and is in the process of making all things new, will accomplish His finish, His task. . . .in your life and in mine.  His work is not just a balm to cover the pain, but a redemption of it.

Resurrection is a coming reality, friends.  You read back through the early church, it seemed like every sermon they preached. . .the emphasis at the end was Jesus is risen, Jesus is Lord, Jesus is coming again!  I just want that weight to sit on us today.  I don’t know what pain you need Him to repair and make new, but I do know that’s His promise.   Because the grave has been conquered, life has been purchased, and Jesus is making all things new!  I love the way Howard Hendricks, the great Bible teacher, put it:  “The amazing thing is not that we die.  The amazing thing is that we live!  We think we are in the land of the living on our way to the land of the dying.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We are in the land of the dying on our way to the land of the living.”  That’s good news!

Jesus promises this ‘crown of life’ to the church at Smyrna, to the ones who overcome.  Remember, all of these are just grounded in the culture that he’s writing to.  If you were to look at this fortress on the hill outside of the city of Smyrna and you were to see it built the way that it was back in the day Jesus is writing to these churches, it would look like a crown, wouldn’t it?  Up on the hill?  If you were to hold a coin that was popular in Smyrna, at that time, with the goddess Roma depicted on it, she’s wearing this crown.  Jesus says listen, you can have life by bowing to Caesar, you can have life by looking to your money, but there’s a crown of life that’s true life that will not fade.  Don’t you love that he built into his encouragement to the church, a visual reminder that they would see every day of the hope that they are invited to have?  I love it!

Here’s my encouragement to you. . . .three relief valves of the life of faith.  One, know that there’s provision in the life of pain.  I don’t know exactly what it looks like, I just know it’s there.  Don’t miss it.  Secondly, you get a choice.  Every circumstance that comes into your life. . . .you don’t get to choose your circumstances, you get to choose every response you have.  Choose faith.  Finally, would allow future hope to empower your daily faith? Maybe this week. . . .can I encourage you, this week, maybe you do one of these things to help you sort of ground this message in the soil of your real life.  What if this week you wrote on a post-it note ‘Jesus Knows,’ and you put it on the steering wheel of your car, or on your dashboard, or in your bathroom, or on the back of your phone.  Maybe, if you’re tech savvy, you build a picture to use as your phone background that says ‘Jesus Knows,’ so when you pick it up you’re reminded that whatever situation you’re in, He knows.  I think if you did that, it would change the way that you look at the world.  Maybe you make a list of the things that you’re afraid of.  Some might be longer than others, but remember, fear FLOURISHES in the dark and when we write it down, there’s something disarming about it.  Can I encourage you to not stop there.  Maybe you follow that up by memorizing Isaiah 41:10 that says:  Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Maybe this week, you find a place, because it’s going to be warm and the snow’s going to still be there and it’s going to be gorgeous, and you just sit, for as long as you can get away, and you take in the world around you, but you remember, you meditate on, you soak it in, you ask Jesus to penetrate into your soul the reality of heaven and resurrection.  Our faith today is empowered by our hope about tomorrow.

The year was AD 156, February 22nd, and there was a knock on the pastor’s door.  Pastor of the city church in Smyrna.  His name was Polycarp.  He was greeted by some Roman officers.  As the church had begun to grow, they felt the need to snuff out this Jesus movement, so they went right to the top.  They went to Polycarp’s door and said, “We need you to recant your faith in Jesus and bow to Caesar and admit that Caesar’s lord.”  Polycarp said, “I can’t do that.  Eighty-six years I’ve served Christ and he’s done me no wrong.  How could I blaspheme my King who saved me?”  They said, “We’re going to take you in and burn you as a symbol of ‘you don’t mess with Rome.'”  He agreed but asked them to come in for lunch first.  They ate lunch together and Polycarp asked if he could pray for these Roman soldiers who were going to march him to his death.  He prayed for them for two hours!  Until they said, “Dude, we’ve got to cut you off.”  They told him if he didn’t recant his faith in Jesus they were going to burn him live.  He answered, “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment.  So, what are you waiting for?  I will not change my mind, so do what you will.”  They took him to the stake and put his arms around it, and they were going to nail him in place, but they couldn’t find the nails.  Polycarp said, “Leave me here as I am; He who gives me strength to endure the fire will also enable me to stay here, without your pitiful safeguard of nails.”  {I wrote in the book I was reading, “Stud!”}  He stood as the flames came up and eventually took his life.  Exactly what Jesus says to this church at Smyrna, he lived it.  Jesus knew, and he lived fearlessly and faithfully.  Here’s what I think Polycarp believed and what Jesus would have us believe too:  Jesus doesn’t always prevent death.  We wish he would, but he doesn’t.  But he does always purchase life.  That’s the promise held out for us.  It’s not that everything is going to turn out exactly the way that we want it to, it’s that Jesus, King of the cosmos, is currently, right now, making all things new.  The resurrection is your reality and mine.  There’s these vents, these release valves for the life of faith, and I pray as a church that we would live them well.  As Dallas Willard says: “Because Jesus reigns, this world is a perfectly safe place for you to be.”