Call to Prayer—12 April 2022
BLESSED ARE THE PERSECUTED
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10, NIV)
Matthew 5:10 reminds me of the Apostle Paul who experienced persecution and through his writings shared some of those experiences and his deliverance. He wrote, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it” (2 Timothy 3:12-14).
God never promises that we will have an easy life. In fact, if you live for God in this world, you will be persecuted. The life of a believer intimidates others. Believers are persecuted because of two primary reasons.
- They live a righteous life.
- They belong to a new master. Luke 6:22-23 says, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.”
As we examine this beatitude, let’s note some ways true believers are persecuted and what our reactions to persecution should be.
SOME KINDS OF PERSECUTION
- PHYSICAL PERSECUTION: The word means chasing, driving away, or pursuing. It includes harassment, abuse, and other unjust treatment including imprisonment and death.
Stephen was the first Christian to be murdered because of his commitment to Jesus Christ. James was killed by the sword. In fact, most of the apostles were killed. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was beheaded. Many were fed to the lions. Such persecution continues in our day. I have read many horror stories during the communist era.
- VERBAL INSULTS: To cast insults is to throw abusive words and to mock viciously. To be a citizen of the kingdom is to court verbal abuse and reviling. Jesus was spat upon, beaten, and taunted on His way to be crucified. Faithfulness to Christ may cause some to mock and insult you.
- FALSE ACCUSATIONS: Insults are said to our faces. False accusations are spoken behind our backs. Christians have been accused of many things. Burning Rome, murdering children, cannibalism, etc. Even Jesus was accused of many different things. “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34b).
It is interesting that Christians are blamed by the media for the many things happening in various communities even though there is no evidence.
The fact is, if you choose to live for Jesus Christ, you will be persecuted. The sad thing is that you will often be harassed by those who also claim to be Christians.
OUR REACTION TO PERSECUTION
JOY SHOULD ALWAYS BE OUR REACTION TO PERSECUTION: “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…” (Matthew 5:11-12). Our reaction to persecution for the cause of Christ is to be one of joy.
How strange to say, “rejoice and be glad…” How can we rejoice and be glad when we are being persecuted? Let’s finish the verse, “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 early believers rejoiced that they were “counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering” (2 Thessalonians 1:5b).
Paul wrote, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
In this verse, Jesus gives us two reasons why believers can rejoice in the midst of persecution.
- A GREAT REWARD IN HEAVEN
Our present life is just a vapor that appears for a moment and then it is gone. Heaven is forever. Jesus tells us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).
Heaven will surely be worth it all. “Just one life, it will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.”
- IN GREAT COMPANY
In Hebrews 11:32-40 we are told about how some believers suffered for their faith in Christ. I like the statement that Matthew Henry wrote, “That grace, which was sufficient to carry them through their sufferings, shall not be deficient for you.” Today we might be going through all of manner of persecutions, but the good news is that we are not the first ones and we can rejoice because we are strengthened in our faith.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
In conclusion, this beatitude, confirms the ways that true believers are persecuted and what our reaction towards persecution should be.