The panoramic view was breathtaking! Perched high on top of Table Rock along the Blue Ridge Mountain Range, I could see for miles. Filled with awe for the Creator of such beauty, I stood with my face raised to the sun and my arms outstretched in praise…and in thankfulness. Thankful, not just for the power and majesty of the scene before me, but also for the fact that I had made it to the top…ALIVE!
The day my friend and I chose to make the two hour hike up the mountain ended up being one of the most humid and hottest days of that August. The journey was painful to say the least! Every tiny spring we came across was like an oasis. We would dip our bandannas into the cool water, tie them around our head or neck, and then push on.
The thought that my demise would take place on this mountain trail was at the forefront of my
I was never so happy to arrive at the end of a journey than when we emerged triumphantly at the mountain’s peak. All of our struggles and stumbles along the trail were rewarded by the view at the top and the cool, refreshing breeze that caressed our hot, flushed faces.
I have been reminded of my hike to Table Rock many times as I have journeyed up the mountain called The Beatitudes. Each Tude2B has taken us one step further up the mount toward the summit of sanctified living. We have been discovering what it means to be truly happy; to be truly fulfilled.
Many times along this hike, I have been rebuked. I have had to get down on my face before God and ask for His forgiveness. I have also been encouraged. I have been set straight. I have been reminded who I am, and more importantly, who I belong to.
The journey has been challenging, but transforming. And now, this one last push to the top is a difficult one.
Although all of the Tudes2B go against our natural inclinations, this last one, I believe, is the one we would most like to ignore. It is our least favourite. It is not one we find cross-stitched onto pillows or inked on T-shirts. Most of us, if we are honest, wish Jesus would have stopped at Tude # 7!
But, He didn’t.
“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matt 5:10 (NLT)
No one enjoys being made fun of. No one wants to be disliked by their peers. No one wants to be imprisoned for their faith. Yet, Jesus was preparing His disciples, then and now, for this simple truth – Living as His disciple will cost you. (Matt 16:24)
Sometimes we face persecution because of our own sinful decisions, responses and character flaws. Sometimes we face persecution because we have acted unwisely and without discernment. Sometimes we face persecution because we go about presenting the Gospel in a way that is offensive and void of love. And, sometimes we face persecution because we are holding on zealously to false teaching. Basically, we reap what we sow.
But, notice what Jesus said. What type of persecution brings blessing or reward?
The persecution that comes “For doing right”
Reality of Persecution
When we live out the Tudes2B in our lives, we will most likely face persecution. Godliness generates resentment and enmity from the world (II Tim 3:12). In truth, the more we exemplify the Tudes2B, the more harassment and ridicule we will face.
Jesus asks us to live as members of His Kingdom while we are still living in the kingdom of this world (John 15:18), and that spells trouble!
Jesus repeats the word “persecution” three times in this passage. He wants to make sure His disciples, then and now, get the point. Persecution has been, and will always be, a part of the cost of being a disciple of Christ.
Jesus’ words could be translated, “Blessed are they who have been willing, and continue to be willing, to allow themselves to be persecuted.”
To persecute means to harass, to pursue with evil intent. At the root of persecution is Satan. He hates God and anyone who mirrors God’s image.
Therefore, Biblical history is filled with stories of the persecution of believers: Joseph, Daniel and his three friends, Esther, Moses, Paul, and Jesus Himself! Foxe’s Book of Martyrs recounts examples of disciples who were flogged, imprisoned, beaten and burned at the stake for doing right.
Yet, this does not mean that as believers, we will constantly endure persecution. Nor does it mean that if I am not facing persecution at the moment, I am not a true disciple of Christ. Just as Jesus did, we will face times of peace and popularity along with times of persecution.
No one wants to face persecution. However, Jesus, in preparing His disciples, simply spoke the truth: Righteousness is confrontational.
Jesus went on further to explain the persecution His followers could expect to face:
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” Matt 5:11 (NAS)
Notice what Jesus does between verse 10 and 11. He makes it personal! He changes “those” (someone other than me) to “you.”
When you choose to pursue purity in your dress and relationships, you will be called old-fashioned.
When you choose to walk in meekness, you will be called weak.
When you choose to pursue righteousness, you will be labelled a fanatic.
When you live for Christ in your school, refusing to drink or party, you will lose friends.
When you take a stand for what is right by defending an unborn child or by defending God’s definition of marriage, you will be considered closed-minded.
When you call sin, sin, all kinds of evil will be falsely said about you.
When you choose to “keep the Sabbath,” you could lose your job.
Yet, this is mild compared to the persecution which is being endured by our brothers and sisters in other countries. (visit Voice of the Martyrs)
“There have been more martyrs produced in the 20th century than in all the other centuries combined since the time of Christ.” Kent Hall, executive director of The Institute on Religion and Democracy.
Praise the Lord, persecution is temporary! Victory is imminent! That is because Jesus stood strong in the face of persecution and paid the ultimate price for us. He conquered death’s hold on us! We too can stand in the face of physical abuse, insults, imprisonments and lies, knowing that “He goes before me!” (Deut 31:6)
Response to Persecution
I will admit, I have read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and have listen to Voice of the Marytrs on the radio and have questioned my own grit to stand when faced with death. We here in North America have not yet had to risk our lives for our faith but I believe a day is fast approaching when we will! When I read this beatitude fear fills me!
Do you feel the same?
Did the martyrs not feel the same?
Feeling fear is not the problem. It is when fear causes our faith to falter – that is the problem.
Facing persecution forces me to realize that I can do nothing without Christ! (Mark 13:11)
We are not to go out and seek persecution. But on the other hand, it can be tempting to close ourselves off from the world, avoiding situations where we may have to take a stand that is not politically correct.
Jesus is clear – hiding and blending in are not response options to persecution for His disciples (Matt 5:13-16).
So, what then, is my response to be?
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt 5:12 (NAS)
Did I read that right?
“REJOICE and be glad…”
Jesus uses the imperative tense when he says “rejoice.” That means He is not merely putting forth a suggestion. It is a command!
How can I rejoice when I am being mocked or beaten or arrested?
I can rejoice because I know my reward is in heaven (II Cor 4:16, Romans 8:18). I know that I belong to a rank of people who in spite of their fears and weaknesses, lived their lives under the Lordship of Jesus, challenging and changing their times for His glory (Acts 5:41).
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot, martyr
Are you growing weary, my friend?
Are you hiding or blending in?
Don’t give up, my fellow hikers! Keep going! Press on!
May, as His disciples, our battle cry ever be, “Stand Up! Stand Up for Jesus!”