Lent - Day 8 – A Study of Matthew 5
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10
“And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” Mark 4:17
Persecutions are not foreign to the believer in Jesus Christ who lives his faith openly and without apology. And it comes in many forms, though verbal and situational are the most common. Two things are true of all persecutions, they are always intended to weaken our faith or cause us to loose hope and they are never, ever from God.
Persecutions cause us to suffer indignity, false accusation, ridicule, especially in a public way, belittlement, malice, unfounded criticism, dismissal, and can include not only emotional but physical threats and harm as well as abrasive negative reactions from those who oppose our way of life.
Timothy knew both.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.” 2 Timothy 1:7-11
Indeed the Word tells us that all who live their lives to be holy and blameless before God will endure persecutions.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12
Why is it then, after knowing that persecutions for righteousness sake are a pathway to blessing, and knowing they confirm that we are living the godly life God calls us to, do we so often live as though by some compromise of our zeal for God we will win the approval of men and therefore approving us they will want the Jesus that we pretend to imitate before them, a Jesus whose life and teaching never offends but embraces everyone, lovingly with acceptance, regardless of the degree of their ungodliness and depravity?
Is that the message of the Gospel, that Jesus never offended anyone? If it is, why then, were they continually seeking opportunity to kill Him or drive Him out of their cities and towns, even after He had performed miracles, wonders and signs in their presence?
If anything, as believers in and followers of Christ Jesus, our very fragrance ought to be that of Christ. If we offend it is because the gospel is an offense to those who are disobedient.
“Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.” 1 Peter 2:7-8
When we are persecuted for living our faith in an open way not hiding who we are or acting sheepish and uncertain around those who are snared in their sins, we are blessed. Indeed, the very Kingdom of Heaven is ours.
There is much we could say about what the Kingdom of Heaven means for us now as we live here on earth. Primarily, it means we have all of Heaven’s kingdom resources available to us now, for whatever the need, whatever the circumstance, without regard for the boundaries of time and place.
Persecutions are no match for the God who delivers us out of all of them.