When the philistines captured the ark of the covenant they thought they had won a mighty victory (1 Sam 4), but it was God who took them captive to tumours (1 Sam 5). When the Romans had taken control of Israel, and later dispersed the Christians from Jerusalem into the area of Asia Minor they thought they had won a mighty victory (Matthew 24:15-21; Mark 13:14-19), but was and is the risen Jesus who upheld his faithful remnant to endure and give them the victors crown.
The response of those under persecution in 1 Sam 6 and Revelation 2 is remarkably different. The Philistines push God away to escape his wrath, while the church in Smyrna is encouraged “to be faithful even to the point of death” (Rev 2:10). The result for the Philistines? They were thrown into a panic and defeated by the Israelites (1 Sam 7:10-11). The result for those in Smyrna? They will receive the victors crown (Rev 2:10).
There seems to be a resurgence in blogs and social media of the absurd nature of worshipping a God who allows suffering. Our culture is obsessed with living a suffering free life. True satisfaction, it seems, is to be found only in the absence of suffering. Yet in suffering, even in persecution, we can be assured of God’s faithfulness. It is in these time that like those in Smyrna we must hold fast to God and remain faithful in him, for then the victors crown, that lasts beyond our momentary troubles, will remain ours for eternity.