Focus verse: Matt. 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
On the surface, our passage seems contrary to logic and hard to understand. We are blessed when we are persecuted for our faith? But understanding is important, because persecution of Christians is on the rise in the U.S. Persecution involves opposition, trials and hatred. It can be manifested verbally, physically, culturally and spiritually! But when we are persecuted, we can be encouraged by Jesus’ words in John 15:20; “…. ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you”. The prophets of old, the 12 disciples and the early church were all persecuted…even to the death!
So, how can we possibly be blessed when we are persecuted for righteousness sake … for doing good? The answer to that question comes when we remember that the journey of discipleship is about developing the character of Christ! It’s about being transformed into the image of Jesus and about the inward man/woman being renewed day by day (2 Cor 4:16-18). When we are in the thick of persecution, we have the opportunity to draw closer to Jesus! In these times, as we allow God’s Spirit to have His way with us, we experience a closer relationship with Jesus than before! We are truly comforted by the Spirit of God (2 Cor 1:3-7).
Persecution serves to make our faith deeper, more sincere and genuine (1 Pet 1:6-9). Imagine if you were told that you could no longer publicly profess your faith in Jesus Christ, nor assemble together with other Christians. This could happen to us, as it has to many others in the world. How God would work in you to focus and sharpen your faith! How suddenly you would become more kingdom focused and less earthly focused!
The nature and severity of the believer’s persecution in this life can be very great. But current sufferings “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18). An eternity in heaven with Jesus awaits us. “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:12).
- Have you ever experienced persecution as a Christian? How did you react?
Next Week’s Scripture: Matthew 5:11-12