March 1, 2019
If you’re facing unjust discrimination or even persecution because of your Christian faith, what can you do? Jesus tells you:
"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:11-12).
Did I read that right? “Rejoice and be glad”? Jesus also told His disciples,
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 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 keep yours also” (John 15:19-20).
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say “if” you will be persecuted—but “when.” You will be persecuted for His sake. Paul wrote to Timothy, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
If you’re living a life that follows Jesus’ teachings, whether they be from the Sermon on the Mount or elsewhere in the Gospels, do you know what the world is going to do? It’s going to honor you—right? No! It’s going to break your neck if it can. Why? Because the world's philosophies are exactly opposite of those of Jesus.
The world doesn't say “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” It says “Blessed are the arrogant.” It doesn’t say “Blessed are the meek,” but “Blessed are the self-assertive.” Not “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,” but “Blessed are those who lust after power, money, and fame.” If you want to “live godly in Christ Jesus,” you're going to find yourself a twice-born person in a once-born world, going against the tide all the way.
Jesus said there are two roads, a broad road and a narrow road. You're coming right against the traffic, going against the stream. This world is going to come down on you like a hammer. It costs to serve Jesus. There’s no easy way, no lazy way to serve the Lord. Persecution will find its way to you, one way or another.
Are you being persecuted right now? At school? On the job site? In a university setting? At home among family members who don’t understand and may even mock you because of your faith in Christ?
I've known what it is to be persecuted. I know what it is to be lied about. I get it. I know what it feels like to be mocked—I experienced it as a young man working on a construction site. And even now. When a hateful letter arrives in the mail, generally I just lay my hand on it, lift the other hand to Heaven, commit it to Jesus, and put it in the round file.
I know what it is to be castigated for the cause of Christ. I'm not bragging about it and I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I'm happy—exceedingly happy—because of what Jesus said: “Blessed are you when men shall persecute you…” and then, “Rejoice and be exceeding glad.”
When was the last time you took some flak for Jesus? If you are persecuted for His sake, don't grit your teeth and say, “I gotta be happy about this,” but be exceedingly glad you’re being counted worthy to suffer shame because of Him and for His sake.
The Apostle Paul suffered greatly for the Lord in every way you can think of. He suffered physically, he was lied about, he often had to be whisked away from his adversaries to protect his life (sometimes under cover of night), and Paul was thrown into prison more than once.
But Paul didn’t dwell on that. In fact, he mentioned it rather reluctantly. Once, when he needed to bring a word of correction to the church in Corinth, in his second letter to them, Paul found it necessary to lay out some of the persecution he had suffered:
“...In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, 31).
In addition to all of that, he carried the responsibility for caring for and discipling all the churches he had founded on his three missionary journeys (2 Corinthians 11:28). Imagine having to disciple many churches in varied locations in the First Century!
Then he recounts for the Corinthians the time when the governor of Damascus tried to arrest him, and he had to be hustled out, over the city’s wall, being lowered from a window in a basket! (2 Corinthians 11:32-33)
Then he reminds them of his “thorn the flesh”—a physical ailment he suffered from chronically. Finally, he wraps it up with,
"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Paul “took pleasure in them” not because he enjoyed suffering, but because he knew what it meant. The end result of our suffering—of his, yours, and mine—is this:
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
He called what he suffered “momentary” and “light.” How in the world could he call all this we’ve read about “light”? When he weighed it all out compared to Heaven’s glories and compared to what the Lord Jesus suffered.
And even though Paul’s suffering extended through many years of his life, he could call it “momentary” when laid against the vast eternity of glory awaiting him in Heaven.
When you are persecuted for Jesus’ sake, what can you do? You can react to it if you want. You can resent it. You could retaliate. Or you can rejoice. I choose to rejoice.
Oh, there are joys enough and tokens of His grace here on earth, but "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
If you are being persecuted today because of your faith in Jesus Christ, I ask you to remember this and focus upon it. This is not “pie in the sky.” These are the words of the Lord Jesus:
“Great is your reward in heaven.”
You are among a company of believers who will hear an eternal “Well done, My good and faithful servant” ring out through the corridors of Heaven.