Wow, what a long ride through the Beatitudes but God has allowed me to grow closer to him through his Word and I hope you have too. This is the last part of the Beatitudes and it’s probably the hardest to swallow. The first 7 Beatitudes lead up to the last subject: Persecution. My prayer for you this week is that you will open your heart and your mind to what God has ultimately called us to do. As his followers, may we “count it all as pure joy.”
Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Our spiritual rebirth begins when we realize our spiritual poverty. This leads to the mourning over our past sin, humbling ourselves, and craving to be right in the sight of God. These things will give us the strength to give mercy, have a pure heart, and become a peacemaker. A true Christian will possess all of these characteristics and do anything to proclaim the name of Jesus. What will the world do? It will do anything to defame the name of Jesus. It will persecute those who stand up for the cause of Christ. Over time, Christians have been killed, beaten, tortured, made fun of, cursed at, because the world does not understand the message of Christ. But Jesus tells us in these two verses that “happy is the man who is persecuted to be right with God,” or “happy is the man who is made fun of and persecuted because of me.”
Why should we be happy about persecution?
a. Persecution is a testing of your faith. James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James pretty much says that if you are a Christian, you will definitely face hardships and trials in your life and these moments will prove whether your faith is real. Persecution will make or break your faith. Barclay puts it this way, “When a man is called on to suffer something for his Christianity that is always a crucial moment; it is the great occasion; it is the clash between the world and Christ; it is a moment in the drama of eternity.” The moment you are in a situation of persecution, how will your loyalty lie? Will you hunker down and allow the world to have its say? Or will you rise up and stand firm in your faith?
b. Persecution allows your faith to grow. The testing of your faith allows you to grow in your faith. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Enduring persecution produces genuine faith. Peter describes faith as gold being refined through fire. This will mold, shape and strengthen your faith. The Life Application Study Bible says we should respond to suffering with these responses: 1. Confidence that God knows, plans, and directs our lives for the good. God always provides his love and strength for us and leads us toward a better future. 2. Perseverance when facing grief, anger, sorrow, and pain. We express grief, but we don’t give in to bitterness and despair. 3. Courage because with Jesus as Brother and Savior, we need not be afraid. He who suffered for us will not abandon us. Jesus carries us through everything. Your response to persecution will allow your faith to grow more and more as you allow Christ to be the center of life.
c. Persecution allows the Good News to be spread. Acts. 11:19-20, “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.” The world uses persecution to try and shut the Christians up. But persecution lights the match and the Good News of Jesus Christ is spread like wildfire. After Stephen’s death, the believers began to scatter and this caused the seeds of his ministry to grow. Paul faced all kinds of persecution but his purpose was to spread the news of Jesus and eventually he had proclaimed it go high officials in the government, kings, and even the emperor Nero. Tertullian states, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” God uses persecution in our lives for his purpose. Don’t let the fear of persecution keep you from telling others the Good News.
d. Persecution for his name’s sake, gives us a home in Heaven. The martyrs, the beaten, the mocked, the cursed, the hated; for their perseverance through persecution, their reward is eternal life with Jesus Christ. All of the earthly trials, hardships, and tribulations are not the end! Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad, because Great is your reward in heaven.” (v. 12) This literally translates to “leap for joy.” The earthly life ends in death. The body will rot and decay in the ground. But the soul who lives for Christ, will have eternal life with Jesus where there is no more persecution.
e. Persecution allows us to share in a great succession with those who were persecuted before us. Barclay states, “To have to suffer persecution is, as Jesus himself said, that way to walk the same road as the prophets, and the saints, and the martyrs have walked. To suffer for the right is to gain a share in a great succession.” The Bible is full of stories of the prophets persecutions and deaths; Isaiah (2 Kings 21:16), Amos (Amos 7:10-13), Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-2). The 12 Disciples were all persecuted and most of them martyred. Stephen was stoned to death for proclaiming the Good News. Paul was beaten, thrown in jail, stoned, falsely accused, shipwrecked, and eventually martyred for Christ. But these persecutions and deaths were not in vain. Christ faced the ultimate persecution when he was crucified on a cross for the sins of the world. But Jesus’ death was not in vain. He rose from the dead so we can have eternal life with him. Charles Spurgeon says, “You are in the true prophetic succession, if you cheerfully bear reproach of this kind for Christ’s sake, you prove that you have the stamp and seal of those who are in the service of God.” Oh, how happy we should be to share in such a succession!
Why will the world persecute them? Because the values and character expressed in these Beatitudes are so opposite to the world’s manner of thinking. Our persecution may not be much compared to others, but if no one speaks evil of you, are these Beatitudes traits of your life? -David Guzik