“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. (Matthew 5:10-12)
Pastor John’s Notes:
Whenever we seek to live by the righteousness of God, we will be persecuted. Persecution ranges from words spoken behind our backs to open slander and abuse. The ultimate persecution is martyrdom, where Christians are killed for their beliefs. Such has been the case even from the first century where Stephen, the first martyr, was stoned by an angry mob in Jerusalem. Today, persecution of Christians is increasing. There were more Christian martyrs in the 20th Century than all the centuries before combined. Persecution is a sobering truth, and one we would like to avoid, but we must remember that we serve a Savior who was crucified.
This last blessing of the Beatitudes is a heavy truth, so Jesus not only pronounced the blessing but then offered further words of explanation. Persecution comes because of the proclamation of truth. The world hates the truth of God because whenever God’s truth is spoken, it brings conviction. For those who love God, conviction is received as a blessing and causes us to repent and grow in righteousness. For those who do not love God, conviction causes them to hate the truth even more, and therefore they seek to silence the messenger. Jesus wants us to understand that the same thing occurred to the prophets who went before us, so when we are persecuted, we are in good company.
Persecution causes many to fall away, but for others, it strengthens their faith and deepens their resolve. When the apostles were beaten by the Jewish ruling council, the Bible records that, “…they went out rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name” (Acts 5:41). Through the writings of Peter, God offers the following promise, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).
Lord, although I do not wish to suffer persecution, I am willing to endure whatever you decree. If you are glorified through my suffering, then I will endure it gladly. I only ask that you will be with me. I ask you to bring me safely through the time of suffering and establish me securely in my faith.