Today we are going to take a brief look at a statement from Jesus that seems absolutely crazy; nevertheless, yet it is infallibly true.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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. (Matthew 5:10-12)
When we think about being blessed of God we generally don’t think about the blessing of persecution. In fact, it seems just a little bit crazy doesn’t it? But Truth, for whom it is impossible to speak untruth (Hebrews 6:18), said it is true: we are blessed when we are persecuted for righteousness.
We think about the blessing of financial prosperity. We think about the blessing of good health. We think about the blessing of obedient children. We think about the blessing of faithful friends. But when was the last time you considered yourself blessed to be in the middle of persecution? The Bible makes it clear that those persecuted for the Prince of Peace are indeed a blessed people who should rejoice and be exceedingly glad.
Now the persecution Jesus is speaking about is for righteousness, not for foolishness! Many times we endure persecution simply for being foolish—making poor choices or bad decisions. This is the result of being sinners, both by nature and habit. In the passage above, Jesus is talking about those who are living sold-out lives for His sake and because of it, bring on persecution from those who know not the Christ and hate the things of God. The world hates Jesus! If you are following Him and witnessing for Him, persecution in many different forms should not only be expected, but welcomed.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
I remember hearing Dr. R. C. Sproul discuss Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel during a seminary class: “If you are not being persecuted for following Jesus by the watching world,” Dr. Sproul told us, “you might want to take a look at just how closely you are following Jesus.” For those who are being persecuted for righteousness sake, understand that rejection is the natural response of those who have rejected Jesus; slander is the natural response of those who have slandered Jesus; reviling is the natural response of those who have reviled Jesus; false accusation is the natural response of those who have falsely accused Jesus. If we are standing up for the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of this world will be standing up against us.
There are those who will do just about anything to avoid any kind of persecution. They won’t even tell a neighbor about Jesus, for fear of rejection or being removed from the invitation list to social events. But make no mistake; there is a special blessing that can only be found on the other side of persecution for righteousness sake. The first blessing is to be identified with the suffering Servant and the kind of character that produces in us. The incomparable Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Afflictions are often the black foils in which God doth set the jewels of His children’s graces, to make them shine the better.” The second blessing—our great reward in heaven—will be found on the other side of the grave.
Crazy . . . but true!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!