Read Revelation 2:8-11
8 “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:
9 “I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan. 10 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.
11 “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. (NLT)
Appearances can be deceiving. An immaculate house with lavish fittings can conceal a broken family. A shabbily dressed menial worker may have multiple tertiary degrees. A business with brilliant social media and digital presence may be heading for bankruptcy.
It can be the same with churches. The church in question in our text looks to be down and out. In a prosperous part of the world, they were poor. They were under attack for their faith. Those who belonged to that church looked for all the world like losers. And yet they are told they are rich because of their faith in Jesus.
On the cross, Jesus looked like the ultimate loser, but in fact was winning the ultimate victory. He was conquering sin and death, assuring his followers that though they will certainly physically die, they will not be separate from God via some sort of second death.
In our churches today, we must be careful not to judge by appearances. That hip-and-happening new church bursting at the seams might be riven with conflict and may draw a crowd by diluting the message of Jesus. That rather pathetic group of individuals meeting at a forlorn church in the middle of nowhere might be spiritual powerhouses.
It is so hard to discern winners and losers. Except that all who embrace Jesus ultimately win.