Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Matthew 5:10-12
In Part One of this article, we looked at the situation for the true Christian living in a culture where the prevalent worldview mocks and ridicules the God of the Bible and His precepts for living. And those who stand with Jesus Christ, bravely upholding His precepts against a turning tide, become targets for persecution.
We looked at the reasons why believers are persecuted. We also reviewed the results of this persecution. In many nations worldwide, the cost of discipleship is death. In nations like Nigeria and Egypt, Christians are actively being martyred today.
In our nation, persecution takes a different form. The Christian will be verbally abused or made fun of. The Bible is mocked on television and in blogs on the internet. And many Christians find themselves passed over for promotions or “dis-invited” to social functions—or to speak at political events. Christian students face opposition from teachers who reject their submitted assignments if they have Christian content. Some graduate students have been dismissed from programs and forced to take legal action to be reinstated.
There is no avoiding the persecution that our Lord told us would come. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution...” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Since persecution is a reality we must face, what is to be our response?
Our Response to Persecution
Respond like a king.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (v. 10)
You are part of a kingdom and you need to live like it, walk like it, talk like it. The first thing you must do is reign like a king. Remember, yours is the kingdom.
Return good for evil.
In Matthew 5, the same chapter where Jesus warned us that we would face persecution for His sake, He added:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…. (5:43-45)
You are one of the King’s kids. Act like your Father in heaven. If you’re a child of the King, you’re on a level above. Don't “get even.” If you get even, you lower yourself! Never come down to their level. Return good for evil. Reign in life.
Rejoice in the Lord.
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (v. 12)
“Rejoice” literally means to leap and jump—to dance. You're so happy, you can't keep your feet on the ground. Why? Because you've been persecuted.
Someone said if most people were arrested for being a Christian, there wouldn't be enough evidence to convict them. When you realize people can finally see the difference and discovered you’re a Christian, you’ll rejoice and be exceeding glad because they have identified you with the Lord. That ought to be a time of great joy.
Early in the book of Acts, the apostles experienced this joy. The high priest, Sadducees and officers of the temple were angry that signs and wonders were being done in the name of Jesus. After some discussion, Acts 5:40-41 reports what happened next:
…and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
They were rejoicing that they’d been counted worthy to suffer for His name. Have you ever said, "Oh, thank you Lord, I'm worthy to suffer shame for Your name”? Our Lord has commanded us to rejoice and be exceeding glad.
Respond in Love
What a witness that is. It's so much easier to respond in love if you've done the first three things. Reign in life, return good for evil, rejoice in the Lord, then respond in love. You see, friend, the world needs love. The world doesn't need what it deserves.
Do you know what love is? Love is not giving people what they deserve. Love is giving people what they need. Jesus said, "Love you enemies, bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you" (Matthew 5:44). What a witness.
You ask, “But I don't know if these people who are persecuting me are going to get saved. I don't know whether they'll be better or not if I return good for evil.”
I know one thing: you'll be better. You see, we are not in this world to please other people. We're here to please Jesus.
A story is told about a concert violinist. At the end of a concert, as he finished the people stood to their feet in applause. But the violinist put his face in his hands and wept. Those onstage said, “Don't weep. Look at the people—they loved it!” But he kept weeping. They said, “Look! They’re all standing!” He said, “They're not all standing. You see that man down there?” pointing to a gentleman seated in the audience. “He's not standing.” They said, “He's only one man!” “I know,” said the violinist. “But he is my teacher, and if he's not pleased, I'm not pleased.”
Friend, I want to tell you something. It doesn't matter if you please the whole world and don't please Jesus. But if you please Jesus, it doesn't matter whom you displease.
The apostle Paul knew more than his share of persecution. At the end of his life, he wrote from his experience after years of ministry to the Church throughout the known world. Let’s look at it again:
“All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12
That is a given. And almost his last words were:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8
Beloved, after the trials of this life and its persecution have ended, this is what awaits us. And we will receive it from our Lord’s own hand. Rejoice and be exceeding glad.
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