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Blessed Are the Persecuted

September 5th, 2008

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:10

 

The final beatitude promises blessings in the reality of persecution. For those who are merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers, they will find that the fallen world does not always react kindly to them. In fact, Paul wrote, “Anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). The Amplified Bible translates this verse this way: “Indeed all who delight in piety and are determined to live a devoted and godly life in Christ Jesus will meet with persecution [will be made to suffer because of their religious stand].”  

 

Christians are facing intense persecution in many places on the globe. The Voice of the Martyrs (http://www.persecution.com/) seeks to make these brutal attacks against the beloved of Christ known to the world. One story from their website recounts an event this past June in Pakistan where 30 Christians were gathered to pray and celebrate the birth of a daughter when they were surprised by 12 armed Taliban members who abducted the men and beat and abused them for several hours.

 

In 1998 in Indonesia there was a surge of persecution against Christians by rampaging Islamic crowds and many atrocities were committed against believers. In some situations pastors and their entire families were herded into their church buildings and the buildings were then burnt, claiming the lives of those inside.

 

Christ said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first … no servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:18-20). If the Light of the World, the King of Glory, the Prince of Peace was persecuted and martyred in this world, we should not be surprised if we His followers face persecution as well. It may not be as intense as those above, but we will all experience it to some degree. In facing persecution we live out the way of the cross, admiting that we are crucified to the world through the cross of Christ and following His example. This is the only way followers of Christ are to live, by dying daily, by denying ourselves and taking up our cross, signing our own death warrant, and following Him. Christ said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:22-24).

 

The promise is no different than the first promise of the first beatitude – ours is the kingdom of heaven. Christ was saying that the knowledge of our heavenly home is sufficient for us and though there are many blessings on this earth from following Christ, ultimately we look forward to heaven where we will be with our God forever. The inspired writer of Hebrews gave us similar words. Speaking of Abraham’s faith he wrote that Abraham left what was familiar to him, namely his home and family in Ur, and followed the path of faith and the leadership of God to a new land. Yet they never really found that land on this earth; they remained “aliens and strangers” living a nomadic life the rest of their earthly days.

 

People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:14-16

 

“God is not ashamed” means that the beauty of the place God has prepared for us in heaven will more than compensate for the sufferings we may experience here. God will not be embarrassed, shake his head and say, I am sorry for all your trouble as my follower on earth, but this is the best I can do. I know it isn’t much. No, those words will not come from God, neither will we feel slighted. More than possessions, heaven is about closeness with God and we will rejoice for eternity in being with Him.

 

Really the kingdom of heaven is sufficient for us today as well. To be a part of God’s forever family should give us the assurance in life to stand strong for Him. He has called us to joy and peace, and a life of one adventure of faith after another. We have His promises to stand upon and those are sufficient if we will embrace them with faith.

 

One of the mistakes parents often make in their thinking and words is that Christianity is drudgery and we have to apologize to our kids for forcing them to go to church. Christianity is the most exciting adventure in the universe and we do not need to apologize to our children for introducing them to faith in Christ. We cannot force it upon them, they must choose, but let’s not apologize for giving them the option and encouraging them at every opportunity to trust in Christ and to follow Him.

 

Lord Jesus, tonight we pray for the persecuted Church around the world, for pastors and lay people who are following You in this fallen world. Lord, we pray for their protection and for the conversion of their persecutors. We also know that we will face persecution of some type, so we pray for our strength to endure it graciously, to bear up under it and to use it as an opportunity to share our faith, and we also pray for the conversion of those who are our persecutors. Give us peace tonight that we may rest and prepare ourselves for the adventure You have in store for us in the morning. Amen

 

Evening Devotionals