“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
It began with Abel, the second born of Adam and Eve. The first born Cain met him in the field and killed him. This is the first account of the righteous experiencing suffering at the hand of the unrighteous. The Old and New Testaments speak of the many persecuted for righteousness’ sake; Joseph, Jeremiah, Daniel, his three friends, each of the eleven disciples, Paul, and of course at the top of the list Jesus Christ.
Where is the blessing? The testimony of Abel reveals it.
Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,
by which he obtained witness that he was righteous,
God testifying of his gifts:
and by it he being dead yet speaketh.”
Abel’s faith in God revealed his righteousness when tested. He received God’s testimony. His example and the others mentioned speak to us today. They encourage us to keep moving forward to keep –
“Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;
who for the joy that was set before him
endured the cross, despising the shame,
and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus experienced persecution from the time of his birth until his death. His suffering continues for a time vicariously through his body the church.
inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings;
that, when his glory shall be revealed,
ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
1 Peter 4:13
Peter wasn’t alone in sharing in Christ’s affictions. Paul wrote his and our pain in ministry continue to fill up the sufferings of Christ in the work of the gospel. These bring us into fellowship with Christ’s sorrows.
“That I may know him,
and the power of his resurrection,
and the fellowship of his sufferings,
being made conformable unto his death:”
Christ makes it clear his followers will suffer persecution in this world. For the kingdoms of this world oppose the kingdom of heaven.
- “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you…
- Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord,
- If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;
- if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
- But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake,
- because they know not him that sent me.” John 15:18,20-21
It’s not without purpose –
“Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed:
Always bearing about in the body
the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life also of Jesus
might be made manifest in our body.”
2 Corinthians 4:9-10
It has reward.
- We are blessed with a testimony like Abel of faith that bears the righteousness of God.
- We are blessed to show the life of Christ in a dark world through enduring persecution.
- We are blessed with God’s grace, glory, and all good things.
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield:
the LORD will give grace and glory;
no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.”
We should not be surprised if we are called upon to suffer persecution. In fact, Paul tells us this in his letter to Timothy.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus
shall suffer persecution.”
2 Timothy 3:12
What should our response be?
- Look to Jesus.
- Rejoice we have been counted worthy to suffer. (More of this in the next post)
- Look to the reward.
- Know with Paul and with the three Hebrew children in the fire, God will deliver.
“but out of them all the Lord delivered me.” 2 Timothy 3:11b
“If it be so, our God whom we serve
is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace,
and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.”
- Resolve to stand with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
“But if not, be it known unto thee, O king,
that we will not serve thy gods,
nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
- Finally, do as Jesus instructed his disciples and
- keep on speaking the word without fear.
- We are children of a heavenly kingdom whose builder is our King.
“What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light:
and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
And fear not them which kill the body,
but are not able to kill the soul:
but rather fear him
which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
I admit, I have suffered little persecution in this world. During this writing, I’ve felt very unworthy to handle the subject. May we remember always to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.
The blessing of the persecuted holds two blessings. How blessed do you want to be?
More on that next time. Until then choose blessing.