Blessed are the Persecuted

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November 10, 2011 by Chris French

If you follow the other beatitudes you will be persecuted.

There are some qualifications for being blessed thru suffering (1) Your suffering must be undeserved. There are all kinds of people who are suffering but they deserve it. Murders and thieves may suffer guilt or jail time, but that is what they deserve. Obviously Jesus is not blessing everyone who suffers (2) Your suffering must be brought on because of your righteousness. Because of your attachment to right and to Jesus you are persecuted. If you match up to these two then your suffering will be blessed.

Don’t be surprised that you will suffer (1st Peter 4.12-16). We model our lives after Jesus so why should it be a surprise that people will want to hurt us? Isaiah 53.1-3 tells us that He’s the suffering servant. We will suffer (2nd Tim. 3.12). Jesus warned us we would be persecuted  (John 15.20-21, Matt. 10.34-39). His grace in our lives wasn’t meant to save us from trouble, but to deliver us from defeat by Satan.

Why would God allow people He loved to suffer like this? The real question is, “Why would He not allow it?” Jesus suffered greatly to buy our salvation. Shouldn’t we suffer greatly to receive that salvation? Roman soldiers burst thru your door and say, “We’ve been alerted that there are Christians in this house. Is this true?” If you said you weren’t a Christian they walk away and leave you alone. If you said you were one of two things could happen to you:  They could kill you right there. They could take you back to Rome for some “fun”. You might be tied to a stake and light on fire in Nero’s garden or you might be covered with animal skins and wild dogs rip you apart or you might end up in the Coliseum fighting gladiators or animals.  As the Roman soldier asks the question Jesus’ statement in Matt. 10.28 would have ran thru their heads. Why would someone want to hurt you just because you’re right with God? True righteousness can be quite offensive. Right doctrine will offend some people no matter how much love it is said with – John 6.60. Is baptism really necessary for me to be saved or can I just pray the sinner’s prayer? Is how I worship a big deal or is God just happy that I do worship? There is only one way to get to God. We know that. If we say that we’re not going to make any friends. Right morality is going to offend some people. We know that some people have great needs, but we still get a new Xbox or car because we want it. While we play other people die because they don’t have enough food! If we teach that we’re going to offend people. Instead of letting “stuff” go we point out the sins in our friend’s lives. The attitudes they have, the desires they foster, their actions are all pointed out as sinful.

Suffering is okay, Jesus says we should even be happy that we’re suffering. Maybe you’re thinking, “Jesus didn’t mean I should be happy about my suffering, but that I should just deal with it”. Let’s take a look at some other times the word Jesus uses for “glad” are used.  Luke 1.47 talks about Mary’s pleasure in God, Luke 10.21 tells about Jesus’ joy about the Holy Spirit’s powerful work in the 72, John 5.35 talks about people’s joy over John the Baptist. John 8.56 tells about Abraham’s joy at seeing Jesus’ day, Acts 2.26 talks about people’s  joy of God being held up and finally Acts 16.34 speaks of the joy of the Philippian Jailer at his salvation.

Apparently the right response to being hurt because you’re righteous is joy. How can I be happy about being hurt? Peter and John are happy that God thought they were worthy enough to suffer for Jesus’ Name (Acts 5.41).If I live like Jesus did I will be persecuted. This beating Peter and John were given was proof that they were living righteously. Remember Jesus’ stipulations: the pain must be undeserved and it must be given because of my righteousness. I can be happy about my persecutions because they are proof that I’m living like Jesus did, as long as I’m being persecuted for something I don’t deserve and the punishment is because I’m righteous. James 1.2-3 says that I should be happy about my persecutions because they help me to “bear up courageously” (steadfastness). The Contemporary English Version says, “2My friends, be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble. 3You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested. 4But you must learn to endure everything, so that you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything”. How did you learn to do anything? Practice! That’s what James is talking about. This life is the greatest place to figure out how to avoid temptations. We’ve certainly got plenty of opportunities! I fail, but I see my sin and start finding a way to overcome it next time I encounter it. It’s like a maze. I remember where the dead ends are in the maze and I don’t take them. They’re not going anywhere! That’s when I sin. I need to understand that my sin is a dead end. It’s not going to get me where I want to be. But just like a maze I can stop and think my way out of each sin.

How are we comforted? Obviously the reward of Heaven is comforting. We can look at the long range prize instead of the pain we’re going thru now. Runners do this. In fact anyone with discipline does this. If you want to lose weight you have to go thru some pain and ignore it because of your end goal. There’s also an aspect of comfort that we can have right now. Check out Peter’s statement about how “the spirit of glory and of God rests” on the Christians. How does the Holy Spirit help us? Romans 8.26 tells us that He helps us in our prayers. Sometimes we hurt so bad we don’t know what to pray for or how to express our feelings. That’s when the Holy Spirit comes along side of our prayer and tells the Father of our great pain. What an awesome blessing! To have someone who can articulate my pain and then to have Him tell the One who can help is an outstanding blessing.

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