This past Sunday, we looked at the last Beatitude from Matthew 5:10-12. Jesus states,
“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.” (ESV)
Blessed are the persecuted is quite literally the opposite of what persecution is. No one considers persecution as something to look forward to. Most people think of being blessed as some sort of monetary gain or materialistic prosperity, but not Jesus. Jesus considers persecution as a pathway to the blessed life.
That’s because Jesus understands that the life that awaits us in heaven is greater than the life we have here now. Because of Jesus, our lives are truly blessed. Nothing will compare to Him and living for Him is in contrast to what the world around us promotes.
When we live for the glory of God alone, how can we expect to be treated? Well, we can expect persecution. If they did it to Jesus, then we surely can expect it to happen to us. Remember the words of Jesus in John 15:20,
“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
Jesus teaches us how to respond to the persecution: rejoice and be glad! Why is rejoicing the response? Because if we are standing for the righteousness of Jesus and it’s causing people to lash out towards us, then we can confidently know that what they see is Jesus. Rejoice, because the world views you like they do Jesus!
While we rejoice, we also know that facing persecution, mocking, and ridicule does bring heartache. It hurts to see friends walk away from you because of your faith in Jesus. It stings knowing you didn’t get hired because of your faith in Jesus. So how do we respond in those situations? We go to the Lord in prayer.
Let me leave you with a prayer from The Valley of Vision, a collection of prayers from the Puritans.
Help my infirmities;Help my infirmities;
When I am pressed down with a load of sorrow,
perplexed and knowing not what to do,
slandered and persecuted,
made to feel the weight of the cross,
help me, I pray thee.
If thou seest in me any wrong thing encouraged,
any evil desire cherished,
any delight that is not thy delight,
any habit that grieves thee,
any nest of sin in my heart,
then grant me the kiss of thy forgiveness,
and teach my feet to walk the way of
Deliver me from carking care,
and make me a happy, holy person;
Help me to walk the separated life with
firm and brave step,
and to wrestle successfully against weakness;
Teach me to laud, adore, and magnify thee,
with the music of heaven,
And make me a perfume of praiseful gratitude to thee.
I do not crouch at thy feet as a slave before a tyrant,
but exult before thee as a son with a father.
Give me power to live as thy child in all my actions,
and to exercise sonship by conquering self.
Preserve me from the intoxication that comes of prosperity;
Sober me when I am glad with a joy that comes not from thee.
Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom,
not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.
I request only to see the face of him I love,
to be content with bread to eat,
with raiment to put on, if I can be brought to thy house in peace.
Brothers and sisters, count it all joy when you fall into various trials and do not be afraid, for the cost of following Jesus is worth it.
By His Grace,
Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.