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.”
Not only is persecution a given but the second paradox to persecution is that it is a:
I think if we were honest most of us can not only see but also agree that persecution is a given, but for many of us to say that persecution is a gift would be a serious stretch. We see a gift as something that is given to us to be a benefit and a blessing. From our perspective persecution is more of a problem and a pain than a present. We fail to see how persecution can be productive, but we are blessed when people mess with us for our faith because what we receive is the kingdom of heaven. It’s a gift that goes beyond gold because it’s a gift we get to keep forever, one that no one can take away from us. Just before Stephen was stoned to death in Acts 7:55 it says that he “looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand” Steven didn’t focus on the hurt of persecution he focused on the hope and his home in heaven. One of the reasons we fail to recognize persecution as a privilege and a blessing, and perceive it only as a problem, is because we expect an earthly reward instead of getting excited over an eternal one. Are you relying on an earthly reward or rejoicing over an eternal one? Sometimes in the midst of the misery of persecution all we can do is focus on the promise of what is to come. We can jump for joy not because of the hurt but because of the hope that is ahead. We may lose everything here on earth, but we will inherit everything in heaven. When we have a faulty perspective on persecution we tend to lose focus on the future and end up living for things that will fade and perish. When we go through persecution expecting and demanding that God blesses us in the present we end up prisoners. We hold our selves hostage instead of holding on to hope. Persecution is the precursor to blessing; it’s the trigger that causes God to pour out His blessings on life. His word reminds us that there is more to life than this world, that in the midst of persecution God promises us that it will all be worth it. Jim Eliot the missionary who was martyred for his faith said in a famous quote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Are you focused on immediate blessing or a future reward, on temporary treasure that will fade or future treasure that will never tarnish? Not only is persecution a given and a gift but the last paradox to persecution is that it brings:
The third paradox is perplexing and is found in verse 14: “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The phrase, “be glad” is not a suggestion but a command, meaning to jump up and down with joy. This is what Jesus said in Luke 6:23: “What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. 23 When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven” Jesus did not call us to revel in persecution but in what persecution produces. Do you approach persecution with exceeding excitement, are you leaping forth with exuberant gladness? Jesus didn’t call us to reveal in the pain of persecution but in what it represents. Persecution confirms our relationship, it’s like a certificate of Christian authenticity. 1 Peter 4:16 says: “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear his name.” We can rejoice in the realization that people will see Jesus in us. While most of us push persecution away because we see it as a pain the bible calls it a privilege. Jesus thinks enough of you to let you share in His sufferings. Acts 5:41 says, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” Instead of being resentful over their rough treatment they rejoiced. How are you responding to persecution are you praising or throwing a pity party? Suffering for Jesus is a badge or better yet a brand of our discipleship. Not only does persecution confirm our relationship but it also causes reliance. Suffering tends to strip us of self-strength and cause us to lean on the Lord in ways that we may have never done. As we do we get to see God’s power, its what Paul experienced in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Not only do we get to see His power but we get to know Him personally. Persecution produces reliance and it also cultivates righteousness. Some of my greatest times of growth have come in through grief. 1 Peter 5:10: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” We tend to grow more in the groaning times than in the glad ones. Jesus reminds us of the persecution that the prophets faced before us, because they serve as a model. Their rejection was the rule, not the exception and to suffer for what is right is to join the ranks of great godly men and women. The Beatitudes are not easy to live, but perhaps that’s the problem, we have made the Christian life way too painless. Why do we expecting the pursuit of Jesus to be problem free? Today we are pursuing happiness instead of holiness, pursuing pleasure instead of the Prince of Peace. Are you stepping out in your service to the Savior or playing it safe? Are you living a life that is causing others to challenge your faith? When and where have you risked speaking out for Jesus? Are you living your life out loud for the Lord, or are you a covert Christian, keeping Christ under covered so as not to cause personal difficulty or cramp your lifestyle. Are you deliberately defending the cause of Christ? Have you identified yourself as a Christ follower? Perhaps you’re not persecuted because people don’t see the Savior in your life. The truth is that every believer who boldly proclaims Christ will face persecution. You will be made fun of for your faith; you will face scathing sarcasm from a society that hates your faith. But as they ridicule you remember persecution is a given, it’s a gift, you may be bullied by some but you will be blessed by the Son, and it can bring you gladness in the midst of the sadness because the rewards are worth the risk. If you are going through persecution embrace the promise and not the pain.