For the Persecuted | Happy’ness
Monday— Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10
– Molly: “I only got three likes on my Bible verse meme. I feel like I’m being persecuted for the Lord.”
– Brad: “Me and this atheist really got into it. We were yelling and almost came to blows, but it feels good to suffer for God.”
– Esther: “At the gay pride parade, we screamed that they were going to hell but they threw trash at us. We were persecuted.”
Is that what this verse means by being persecuted for righteousness sake?
Jesus spoke these words to people who were about to suffer beatings, stoning, beheading, arrest and imprisonment for telling people that He was the only way to God. Everywhere the gospel has gone, persecution follows. Property is confiscated, businesses closed, children taken, and Christians are often murdered because they will not renounce Christ. Now, compare that with Molly’s lack of FB likes. Is it the same? Brad nearly punched an atheist, but it wasn’t about Jesus. Brad was being a jerk. And Esther was plain rude. Hostile screaming doesn’t motivate anyone to trust Christ. Christian persecution is real, even in America. But we are wrong to call every negative interaction “persecution” when the problem is with us. Unloving attitudes and obnoxious behavior are offensive, so we need to leave Jesus out of it. To represent Him, our suffering must be righteous.
Final Thought: What are some examples of REAL Christian persecution you’ve heard about? Would you be that courageous?
Prayer: Father, help me know what issues are important enough to suffer for. Guard me from inviting it by my own words or actions. May the only persecution I experience be righteous, for your sake and your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— Even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So do not fear their threats… 1 Peter 3:14
Mel had started his bakery business as an act of love. He put his whole heart into every custom creation and particularly loved designing cakes with scripture verses. Then the local KKK group ordered a cake topped with racial slurs, and the strip club wanted one with pornographic decorations. Mel wrestled with his conscience, prayed and fasted, and came to a decision. He could not be a part of either but would gladly recommend competitors who would love the business. The next week, he was informed that he faced two lawsuits for discrimination that would shut him down. Mel was suffering for doing right.
Across the country, another baker faced a similar problem. As a committed Christian, Greg could not create a custom cake to celebrate a lesbian union. He offered to sell the couple a standard cake, but he too was sued. Both men suffered for doing what is right and both were persecuted for those biblical convictions. We don’t hear much about “convictions” anymore. The world has substituted words like “judgmental,” “religious,” or “unloving” and many Christians accept those substitutions without realizing their origin. Godly convictions are deeply-held beliefs based on a solid grasp of scripture. A true disciple cannot violate those with a clear conscience. As the world spins further from God, we must prepare to live our convictions without fear.
Final Thought: Are your deeply-held convictions based on scripture or on what culture has taught you?
Prayer: Father, where have I gotten my convictions? Are they from you, or from a twisted version of you fed to me by a world who doesn’t know you? Help me learn your word so that if I suffer, I’ll know it was for doing right. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— Blessed are you when people insult, persecute, and falsely say…evil against you because of Me. Matt. 5:11
What’s the most important word in that verse? Read it again. This is not a blanket promise of blessing every time we are mistreated. Jesus made that clear by inserting the word falsely. Accusations and insults against us must have no truth to them. To receive God’s blessing, the rebukes must come because we are honoring God, not because we are hypocrites. Consider these comments: “You’re sleeping with your boyfriend? Some Christian you are.” Or, “I saw you cheat on your timesheet. You Christians are hypocrites.” Or, “Stop posting Bible verse memes when you’re partying the night before church.” Are those people being insulted because of Jesus or because of their own sin? Obviously, they are not being persecuted falsely.
For persecutions to qualify for blessing, we have to put them through God’s filters: Is the accusation true? Was my action or attitude sinful? Was I representing Jesus well or is this insult deserved? There are plenty of opportunities to be persecuted for Jesus’ sake, but we have to be honest about it. Jesus offended people who did not want the truth, but He was never hateful or wrong. Would these rebukes qualify for God’s blessing? “It offends me when you read your Bible at lunch. I’m telling the supervisor.” Or, “You shouldn’t have told her homosexuality is wrong, even if she asked. You’re a homophobe and need sensitivity class.” Or, “You’re getting an F if you won’t complete this assignment about Islam being the right path to God.”
Final Thought: Consider the times you’ve been insulted or misunderstood. Was it false or was it deserved?
Prayer: Lord, I want my new life goal to be that I only suffer for righteousness sake, not for my own bad attitudes, wrong choices, or stupidity. Give me the wisdom to know the difference. Thank you for the promise of reward. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great…for so they persecuted the prophets before you. Matthew 5:12
“You’re in good company.” The New Testament reminds us of that often. When we’re persecuted for obeying Jesus, we’re not the first. “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first,” He said (John 15:19). “The world has persecuted everyone God sent, so don’t be surprised when it persecutes you.” But in a free land like America, it’s hard to imagine being persecuted for trying to go to church or giving someone a Bible. So why were the prophets persecuted? Why did the world hate Jesus?
Because the world hates truth (John 3:19-20). From the beginning, Satan has demanded the right to define truth his way and he influences people to do the same, including redefining Jesus. It’s popular to say we “love Jesus,” but which Jesus is it? The progressive Jesus would never have been persecuted because His main message was tolerance. No one hates the Oprah Jesus or the Osteen Jesus: he’s the key to blessing and prosperity. Even the Muslim Jesus is okay since he was a moral teacher who loved children and wouldn’t hurt a fly. But the REAL Jesus, the historical, documented, born-of-a-virgin Son of God ticked a lot of people off. And when He refused to be redefined, they killed Him. When we refuse to redefine truth, they’ll hate us too. Jesus said to rejoice and be glad when that happens because reward is coming. The prophets refused, Jesus refused, and when we refuse to compromise what God has written down for us, we can rejoice when persecution follows.
Final Thought: If you are called to suffer for Jesus’ name, don’t lose heart. You’re in good company.
Prayer: Father, the thought of persecution scares me. I can’t imagine rejoicing, but I trust that you’ll give me the grace and strength I need if it comes. Help me be bold in refusing to compromise what you’ve clearly said. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— They left the…council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. Acts 5:41
“I sentence you to forty lashes with the whip and the confiscation of your home and property. Do you have anything to say for yourselves?” Three disciples glanced at each other, then smiled at the judge. “No sir,” said one. “We consider it a high honor to suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He suffered for us, so this is the least we can do to honor Him.” The bailiff leaped to his feet, red-faced. “Did you hear that, your honor? They’re still doing it, calling that crucified carpenter God’s Son!” The judge glared at the Christians. “This is all the law allows right now, but if I hear you’re preaching again, it’ll be worse.”
When Christianity becomes illegal in the U.S., how far are you willing to go to reach others with the gospel? How far are you going now? For centuries—and in many countries today—Christian persecution is expected. Americans have become careless and lazy, assuming our freedom to worship will always be there. But even a casual glance at CNN reveals how fast those freedoms are disappearing. And when the persecution increases, what will our attitudes be? Will we engage in social media wars? Will we return evil for evil? Will we disappear into our homes and remain silent? If the threat of a virus can close churches, stifle free speech, and divide a nation, imagine what a threat from Congress and the White House will do.
Final Thought: It’s time that Christians everywhere prepare to suffer for the Name and rejoice at being counted worthy.
Prayer: Jesus, may I use the freedom I have now to fearlessly share your gospel with everyone I can. Help me not take for granted the freedom to go to church, carry a Bible, and share my faith. May I be counted worthy to represent you. Amen.