9 I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus. 10 It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit.[a] Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. 11 It said, “Write in a book[b] everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”
Patmos, a barren, rocky island in the Aegean Sea, had been chosen by the Roman government as a place of banishment for criminals to punish them through isolation. Exile meant experiencing separation from family and country, from community, worship and family faith. John is in exile for preaching the word and for his testimony about Jesus. Would that be the reason for your exile? How is your preaching and testimony for Jesus? What are others seeing and hearing? Many times our exile does not come because of our testimony for Jesus but rather because of sin and selfishness issues. Exile is not a fun place to be and often the devil tries to use circumstances to discourage us, isolate us, and put us in a place where we feel unable to continue with whatever God is trying to do through us. The truth is that nothing happens in God’s economy that He is not in control of. John understood this and his perspective on his circumstances reveal a man who knew God because he had spent time alone with Him. In the midst of his exile here are a few of John’s perspectives that I believe we need to have.
- “Your Brother”
John understands that Christianity is about relationships and even in exile and isolation he starts by connecting himself to his readers through the bond of brotherhood. Brotherhood is not based on location or circumstances it is based upon a relationship with Jesus Christ. John’s focus relationally is outward, rather than focused on himself, he chooses to focus on others, “brothers”. Is your time alone with God refocusing you, shifting your eyes off of you and onto others? Is your focus your brothers?
- “your partner in suffering”
John’s description of himself is not one of self-pity, panic, anger, regrets, or hesitation, but rather an accurate view of suffering, something we know little of in the western church. Again he doesn’t see himself as alone but as a partner, connected to others. So often in suffering we think we are the only one. Elijah thought this and it caused him to want to give up, but the truth is he was not alone, there were 7000 others (1 Kings 19). You need to keep perspective, here we see God in the hardships of life, you have a God who understands suffering, who carries the physical scars of his suffering for you, you also have other brothers and sisters in the partnership of suffering with you. When we think of partnerships we tend to think of them as being profitable, yet we tend not to see suffering as profitable, but suffering for Jesus is profitable, and His suffering for us has profited us greatly.
- “in God’s Kingdom”
Having a real perspective means understanding what kingdom really matters, it is God’s kingdom not his own kingdom or roman’s kingdom. This perspective helped John to realize he was not alone, God was with him. As believers in Christ we cannot be exiled from God, there is no place we can be sent that separates us from God. But for those who do not know God, who do not have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, there is a Patmos, a place of separation, Hell. Whose kingdom do you belong to, is it God’s kingdom?
- “patient endurance”
The Christian life is a race that requires endurance and that only comes from a connected relationship with the father. Many start out the race in sprinting style, excited to forge ahead for Christ, they even do well with the hurdles they find in their way. Then comes the uphill climb, the discouragement of their situation and somewhere in that uphill battle they lose steam and stop running. John understood that endurances comes when we endure our situation and that takes patience. Patience is not nothingness or apathy or sitting around doing nothing, it is a waiting on the Lord. This is not passively waiting, that is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow – that is patience and John does this through worship. He doesn’t change his worship because his circumstances change and he is on the Isle of Patmos, his focus is on whose day it is not where he is. “It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping” Many of us just quit, we get angry over our circumstances, our “island of Patmos”. Yet John continued to know whose day it was, who was in control and who he was worshiping. Are you a fair weather worshipper or are you willing to worship in the storm? In the midst of his worship is when he hears God; some of us don’t hear God because we are more focused on our circumstances than the one in control of them. Is there a “patient endurance” in your life? Are you waiting on God?
- “to which Jesus calls us
It is our time alone with God that reminds us not only of our call but the one who has called us. As we remember who calls us it reminds us of who is the Lord and who is the servant, it goes back to whose kingdom it really is. John understands his call and his circumstances were intended to put him in a desolate place where he wouldn’t be able to continue to live out his call of preaching the Gospel. Yet even in our exile we can be productive for the Lord, John wrote revelation and the barriers of the sea surrounding his tiny island could not keep him from continuing his mission of preaching the word and sharing his testimony for Jesus. Even the barriers of time have been unable to hold back his message. What barriers are you letting hold you back? Aloneness, discouragement, isolation, anger, bitterness? What is your island of Patmos? Do you know your call? Are you living it out?