The Blessings of Persecution

Joshua West

In Matthew 5, Jesus talks about the blessing of being persecuted for the sake of Christ and the kingdom of God. It’s interesting that it never says, “blessed are the blessed” or “blessed are the rich.” But to prop up the notion that financial gain is godly we hear many preachers say this. Jesus says, “blessed are those who are persecuted, blessed are the meek and blessed are the poor in spirit.” 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV) 

We should never look for validation or set the standard of our lives from culture, even if that so-called culture is Christian. As we have witnessed in America over the last sixty years or so, culture can change and culture will change. We should set the boundaries and standards in our lives from what God commands in the Scriptures not what is accepted by the masses. 

The rise of secular atheism and an open rejection of Christianity are at a level never seen before in this country. This has changed what it means to be a Christian at a social level. Open acceptance of sin which was once looked down upon has created an opportunity for the truth to shine in a way it hasn’t before. Persecution forces us to reveal whether our convictions as a disciple of Jesus are genuine or counterfeit. 

Christians are shown in the worst possible light in the liberal media, in pop culture, and in academia in our country. Verbal disdain and criticism of Christianity is common. Not the feel-good, broad-road, encouragement-driven, purpose-driven, all-inclusive, life-coach version of Christianity, but true Christianity. True Christianity is found on a hard and narrow path, filled with self-denial that leads only one way—to a blood-stained cross. 

If you never encounter persecution as a Christian, it's either because you are not living your faith, or sharing your faith, or you are sharing a diluted version of the gospel. The words Jesus spoke were so confrontational that the religious leaders of his time wanted him dead and eventually got their wish. 

John the Baptist preached the truth and confronted King Herod about the sexual sin he was living in. It cost John his head. Paul was beaten and stoned on many occasions and eventually was beheaded. Peter was crucified upside down. The Apostles, many disciples, early church fathers, and many Christians throughout history, have been persecuted and even killed. 

But Jesus promises in Matthew 5 that those who are persecuted for his name sake will have treasure in heaven. If we are truly convinced that Jesus is the King of all Kings, and that heaven is being prepared for us by him, then persecution will not undo us, it will embolden us. You can call it what you want, the seeker-sensitive church can call it what they want, but when we refuse to boldly proclaim the gospel, rebuke sin, preach sound doctrine, and stand for Christ no matter what the cost, we are cowards. 

When we water down, edit out, or disarm Scripture because we don’t want to be rejected, we are not only denying his words, we are denying Christ himself. 

“For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26 (KJV) 

If we are ashamed of any part of Christ, being a Christian, or his Word then he is ashamed of us. The reason we would do this is either we do not truly believe, or we fear the opinion of man more than the opinion of God. But if you believe the Bible, how could you? 

Being least may mean being marginalized within the church itself. Sometimes standing for righteousness in the face of an American church that is designed to suit the desires of men rather than to worship Almighty God can bring persecution and condemnation on you. 

The church has never been destroyed or corrupted by persecution. In fact, persecution always makes the church stronger. What weakens and corrupts the church is prosperity, political power, comfort and complacency. The Scripture is clear that God’s greatness is seen best in our weakness, it is made perfect in our weakness.
This is why the Scripture says that God uses the foolish things and the weak things of the world to confound the wisdom of the wise. Show me a man who doesn’t acknowledge his weakness outside of Christ and I’ll show you a man who is far from Christ. It is not possible to be close to the Savior and not realize that apart from him we can do nothing. 

When we go to church or listen to a minister preach, we should separate the speaker’s delivery, the way they look, and their preaching style from what they preach. We should always be looking to see the message of Jesus and the true gospel, weighing every word on the scale of the Scripture. That is why we must study the Bible and the teachings of Jesus for ourselves so that we will not be deceived. 

When we twist the teachings of Jesus to accommodate our message or our wants, we commit heresy of the highest order. Let us remember that we study Scripture to find and know God, not to find and know ourselves. There is no higher knowledge than the gospel, and no greater pursuit in life than losing your life to be found in Christ. 

As Christians, what is the greatest desire of our heart? Is it knowing God, bringing glory to his name, and drawing the world to him? Are we consumed with eternity, or that hollowness of temporal things and worldly possessions like the pagans? 

Those who truly humble themselves in this life for the sake of the kingdom will be lifted up in the life to come because they invested in something the value of which can never be diminished. That is Jesus. He is a treasure of incomparable riches whose glory will never cease to shine. 

The greatest joy of our existence will be to one day behold Christ face to face. There is no greater crown to bear, or honor to behold, than to stand justified in God’s presence because of Christ and enjoy His presence forever. Those who partake in his suffering will also share in his glory. 

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8 (NIV) 

In Christ,

Pastor Joshua 

Joshua West is a pastor, evangelist, and author. he is also director of the World Challenge Pastors Network.


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