It is interesting that the first seven beatitudes only use the word “blessed or happy” once. The eighth beatitude mentions it twice (v.10,11). It is as though Jesus is saying, “You are doubly blessed if you are persecuted.” Jesus used two words to describe this direct attack in verse 11: insult and persecute. Insult is to make fun of”. When you are living your life for Christ the world will mock your faith, mock the institutions of the Church, belittle those things that we believe in order to shame us into submission. You see this mockery every time you see some wild-eyed madman on television set forward as an example of Christianity. Jesus was insulted, He was taunted. The people who saw Him said “Isn’t this just the son of the carpenter?”, “Isn’t He just a poor man?” (Mark 6.3). When the early Romans heard about the Lord’s Supper that the Christians participated in, they mocked this custom by proclaiming that Christians were no more than cannibals who “ate of a man’s flesh and drank of his blood“. Satan wants us to cringe under these attacks, to hide our heads, to disassociate ourselves from Christianity and the Church.
- Recognize I’m in good company.
“This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted.” (vs. 12b)
“If the world hates you, just remember that it has hated me first. If you belonged to the world, then the world would love you as its own. But I chose you from this world, and you do not belong to it; that is why the world hates you.” John 15:18-25
When we are persecuted, we are in good company. We join a long line of godly men and women. Jesus and the writer of Hebrews remind us of these. In the great hall of faith chapter the writer tells us of those who have walked by faith down through the centuries who “experienced hardship. If we are persecuted today we belong to a noble succession of believers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it eloquently, “Suffering, then is the badge of true discipleship. The disciple is not above his master. . . Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer. In fact, it is a joy and a token of His grace” (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 81)
- Realize God is allowing the persecution.
” So then, those who suffer because it is God’s will for them, should by their good actions trust themselves completely to their Creator, who always keeps his promise.” 1 Peter 4:19
Now, we must realize that the persecution of Christians is not accidental. Persecution is because God is allowing it. In Acts 14 we read how Paul had been stoned and left for dead in Lystra. After preaching to people in other cities, he returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch. In verse 22 we read that he declared to the believers there, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Persecution is a must!
1 Thessalonians 3:3 Paul says he was sending Timothy to strengthen and encourage the Thessalonians “that no one would be unsettled by these trials” and then Paul added, “You know quite well that we were destined for them.” This is divine ordination.
“For you have been given the privilege of serving Christ, not only by believing in him, but also by suffering for him.” Acts 5:41
God gives us grace to endure persecution. That is what “For you have been given.” Praise be to God for giving us such grace! Then everything is all right, isn’t that true? “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him but also to suffer for him since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” In other words, when God saves us, he gives us grace not only to trust in Jesus Christ but also to endure persecution. We should praise the Lord for his provision. He is not asking us to suffer persecution in our own strength. He is giving us grace to endure.
- Refuse to retaliate
“If someone does evil to you, don’t pay him back with evil . . . Never take revenge let God’s wrath do it.” Rom. 12:17 + 19
Jesus, in v. 11, lists three different kinds of verbal harassment. He says there are insults — when people try to dishonor you or discredit you or say derogatory things about you. There is persecution — mistreatment. Then He says, they will tell lies — deceit and deception. The world loves to find fault with Christians. If a pastor stole some money or ran off with some other man’s wife would it be in the news in the morning? If the bartender down the street did it, would it be in the news? The world loves to find fault with believers. If they can’t find any fault — if you walk blamelessly, with integrity ‑- they’ll just make something up. They will insult you. They will mistreat you. And they’ll make up lies about you. They are going to attack Christians.
In the Bible Jesus was accused of being a drunk. They said He’s a glutton and a wine bibber. That means He was a party animal! But Jesus never reviled back. He refused to retaliate.
It’s so hard for us to understand because we speak of our rights and of fairness to me. But for a believer we are to “deny ourselves” We have been crucified with Christ. One of my Seminary Professors used to say, we are corpses in Christ and a corpse doesn’t have rights. Christ wants us to see the rights of others more than our own. If Jesus were more interested in rights, rather than service wouldn’t He have said, “Bust em in the chops and tell to pack their own bags the first & second mile. I got my rights so back off!”
John Selwyn, a great missionary to the South Pacific, had at one time been recognized for his boxing skill. Touched by the Holy Spirit’s convicting power, however, he later became a missionary. A Methodist magazine reports that one day this saintly leader reluctantly gave a stern but loving rebuke to a man who regularly attended the local church. The disorderly one resented the advice and angrily struck Selwyn a blow in the face with his fist. In return the missionary merely folded his arms and humbly looked into the man’s eyes. With his boxing skill and powerful muscles, he could easily have knocked out his antagonist. Instead, he turned the other cheek and waited calmly to be hit a second time. The assailant became ashamed and fled to the jungle.
Years afterward, the man accepted the Lord as his Savior and gave his testimony before the church. It was customary at that time for a believer to choose a Christian name for himself after he was saved. When asked if he wished to follow this practice, he replied without hesitation, “Yes, call me John Selwyn! He’s the one who taught me what Jesus Christ is really like!”
- Respond positively
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Rom 12:21
Is that your normal reaction when you’re put down? But you never get ahead by trying to get even. If you’re always trying to get even you never get ahead.
When Niki was growing up she says her younger brother Chad teased & pestered her all the time. Once she burned him with her curling iron; she learned a secret that once she started reacting to him, he was in control. That’s true with any situation. Once you start reacting, who’s in control? The person who is taking the initiative. So how do you respond positively? You take the initiative to do good.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matt. 5:44
Is that easy? No. Unusual? Yes. Is that what God says to do? Yes. He says, “Don’t react; respond positively.” When people put you down, you build them up. When people hassle you, you just be nice to them. You do not retaliate. The moment you start retaliating, they are in control. One of the greatest principles of life that you need to learn is, You have control of your reaction. You cannot control the things that happen to you, you cannot control the things that people say about you. You cannot control the events, the persecutions, the hassles you’ll get. But you can control how you choose to react. You can control how you choose to respond.
Respond positively. Love them. Pray for them. Pray for their good. Pray for God’s will in their lives.
- Rely on Jesus’ Presence
You will not endure persecution alone. There is divine guarantee given in the Holy Scripture that the presence of God will be with you from beginning to end. In Isaiah 43:2-3 we read, “When you pass through the water or flames, I will be with you.” God will be with you when you go through waters and fire.
Do you remember the story of the three Hebrew children who were thrown into the fire by the Babylonians? Afterwards, King Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace and realized there was a problem. What did he say? “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire? . . . I see four men. . . and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” You see, that is the presence of God. God is with us, brothers and sisters, in our afflictions, in our troubles, in our trials, in our waters, and in our fire. In Matthew 28:20 Jesus promised:
I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
- Remain Happy
“Be glad and happy . . .!” (vs 12a)
Quite a statement, isn’t it? It should be obvious that Jesus was not implying that persecution itself makes us happy. Persecution is difficult. It is hard. Persecution hurts. Jesus obviously was not saying that we should rejoice because of the persecution. Rather, its WHAT THE PERSECUTION REPRESENTS.
“Be Glad” You see, there are different levels of gladness. If you receive a phone call from someone announcing that you have won a hundred dollars, you might look over at your spouse and with a smile say, “Honey, I’ve got some good news. We’ve just won a hundred dollars. I’m glad, aren’t you?” But if the phone rang again, and the person said that there had been a mistake – that instead of winning a hundred dollars, you had won a hundred million tax free dollars – what would you do? Well!!! This would call for an entirely new level of gladness, don’t you think? Instead of looking over at your partner with a smile, you might well leap to your feet – even leap around the room a few times. Your spouse may have to tackle you in order to find out why you are so excited. You see, there are different levels of gladness. The word “glad” comes from a Greek word which means leap for joy. It is the joy of the one who landed on the moon, or the joy of a mountain climber who finally reached the top of Mount Everest. Such a person truly leaps for joy! Why? He’s accomplished something significant! When you are persecuted for being a Christian you have accomplished something. You have arrived.
“and Be Happy” What a person does when he hears good news. You get a raise, your physical turned out okay, you closed on your new home, you passed the final exam, etc… When a person faces persecution, he should accept it like good news because he is on the right track!
How, then, should we react to persecution? Jesus told us to “Be glad & happy.” Why did he say that? Because, according to Jesus, when we are persecuted for righteousness, we are blessed. The Jews believed that if people were suffering and persecuted, it was because they were wicked and God was cursing and punishing them. But now Jesus was reversing that idea and teaching that if a person was really being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, that demonstrated God’s acceptance of that person and blessing on him. It was proof that a person was righteous.
So Jesus said, “Be glad.”
- REASON S TO BE HAPPY WHEN PERSECUTED
- I have a reward coming
“Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven.” (vs. 12)
“Since we are God’s children . . . if we share Christ’s suffering, we will also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17
- It means God’s Spirit Can be Seen in My Life
“If you are insulted because of Christ, you are blessed, . . . for God’s Spirit rests on you.” 1 Peter 4:14
- It means God Trusts Me
” As the apostles left the Council, they were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of Jesus.” Acts 5:41
The Bible says that they were considered worthy to suffer disgrace. They can be a good witness even in suffering. Its one thing to represent Christ when everything is going well, but what about when it’s bad?
- It means I am growing spiritually
“Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
In other words, persecution purifies our faith. Persecution separates the authentic from the inauthentic and the genuine from the false and the imitation.
What else does persecution do for a believer? In Romans 5:3 we read, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character. . .” and so on. Tribulation is productive of Christian character, not destructive of it. In divine order, persecution brings us to maturity.
If you’ve read anything about the church in Russia you’ll know that the Christians there pray for the Christians in America. They say that the persecution has made them stronger believers. Christianity is like a nail, the harder you drive it the deeper it goes into the wood. There’s tremendous growth in Korea. The largest churches are in Korea. The Korean church was built on the blood of martyrs. In China Christianity is growing because of persecution. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.
- It is only temporary
” And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble.” 2 Corinthians 4:1