September 15, 2021
Rachel and I appreciate your weekly commitment to pray for our prodigals and for revival among us. Prayer is never easy because every petition is an assault on the realm of darkness. The devil hates to see God’s people pray!
The last beatitude reminds us that we are in hostile territory.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
This beatitude is often referred to as the double beatitude because of the two times “blessed” is used. Initially, He uses the third person saying, “Blessed are those.” Then, as He looks directly into the eyes of His disciples, He says, “Blessed are you,” knowing that they would personally face the fierce opposition of the enemy.
Facing persecution is never easy, but it will happen if you are standing with Jesus. As Paul enumerates his own trials, he says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
I haven’t experienced severe persecution, but I have felt the sting of harsh words because of my faith. I was a timid teen, but wanted to share the good news of Jesus despite the anxiety I felt when doing so.
One time, I mustered my courage to give out gospel literature. After I placed the pamphlet in a door and moved on to the next, a man came out and asked what I was leaving at his house. When I explained, he started to curse and yell at me, then took the papers and ripped them to shreds, and told me never to step foot on his property again. I can still remember how my heart pounded and my stomach felt sick at his angry tirade.
The words of Jesus remind us that whatever the persecution, if it is for righteousness’ sake or on account of Him, it is valued by God. I realize that my story could hardly be labeled as persecution when brothers and sisters spend years in prison or endure great physical pain or even death for the sake of Christ, but it was for Him, and He appreciated it.
The list is long in the line of the godly persecuted. The blind man in John 9 was cast out of the temple for his link with Jesus (John 9:34). Stephen was stoned to death because of a Spirit-filled message (Acts 7). Ananias was reminded by the Lord that Paul would suffer greatly for the sake of His name (Acts 9:15-16).
The hardship and martyrdom of the disciples is the fulfillment of the words of Jesus as they walked from the upper room to the Mount of Olives, “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:32-33).
From the time of the apostles to the present day, Christians have endured persecution because of their faith. Apologist Sean McDowell says, “The traditional view is that Peter was crucified in Rome, during the reign of Nero, between AD 64 and 67. The earliest evidence for his martyrdom comes from John twenty one, which was written no later than 30 years after Peter’s death. Other early, consistent, and unanimous testimony for Peter’s martyrdom can be found in writings by Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Dionysius of Corinth, and Tertullian.”
Tortured for Christ recounts the persecution endured by Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand. They were repeatedly arrested and beaten and nearly executed. Sabina lost her Jewish family in Nazi concentration camps. Richard’s first imprisonment lasted over eight years, with the first three of those being in solitary confinement.
According to Open Doors, North Korea is the most dangerous country for Christians; those living there face extreme persecution. Christian parents who tell their children about Jesus put them at risk and endanger their own lives. The mandatory school system has ways of extracting information from children in order to discover whose parents are believers. The consequence of being found out could mean years in prison or even death.
With the takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the believers there face severe persecution and death.
Whatever the severity of suffering or the time period endured, the promise of our Lord remains, “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven…your reward is great in heaven.” Nothing done out of love for Christ will go unnoticed or unrewarded. As the Apostle Peter encouraged believers of the Dispersion, he summed up Christ’s experience into two segments: “the sufferings of Christ” and “the subsequent glories” (1 Peter 1:10-11).
As we live for Christ today, may we keep the end goal before us!
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel