How is it already week 8 of our Beatitudes study?! Time has flown. Today I'm wrapping up this small series within Weekly Truth where we've been focusing on 8 verses in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. I've been sharing a short message on one beatitude each week as well as a pretty phone wallpaper to help us memorize the verses throughout the week. In case you've missed any of the previous posts in this series, you can catch up here.
The Beatitudes, Week 8
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men 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 men persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:10-12
What came to mind when you read these verses? Those under attack in Nigeria by the Boko Haram? Martyrs like Jim Elliot? Maybe you even thought of Paul's persecution of Christians before he was converted on the road to Damascus. I thought of those, too. When I think of persecution, I don't often think of myself or the church here in the States today.
"Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." 2 Timothy 3:12
In 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul makes a sweeping statement that all who follow Jesus will be persecuted sooner or later, which means that Jesus' words in Matthew 5:10 are very much relevant for us today. If you are earnest about putting God first in your life, you are bound to run into opposition.
In the first 4 beatitudes focused on holy emptiness: "blessed are the poor in spirit," "blessed are those who mourn," "blessed are the meek," "blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." And it makes sense; if you are empty, you hunger. The next 3 beatitudes focus on fullness: "blessed are the merciful," "blessed are the pure in heart," "blessed are the peacemakers." So the holy emptiness is filled with righteousness, and the result of this righteousness is persecution.
Notice that not all who are persecuted are counted as blessed by Jesus, only those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. True righteousness always involves a relationship with Jesus. That's where the mercy, purity in heart, and peacemaking originates - it's all done for Jesus' sake and glory. Why, then, would anyone persecute you if you're merciful, pure in heart, and seeking peace?
"No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other." Luke 16:13
Those who don't serve Jesus are serving another master, whether it's money, pride, greed, or self. The root of persecution is a love of something other than Jesus and a need to justify that love. As followers of Christ, living lives devoted to righteousness and godliness, we will be persecuted and spoken against.
But we have hope, even when we suffer persecution for righteousness sake, because Jesus promises us a great reward: the kingdom of heaven. He desires us to desire that reward much more than earthly joys and the things of this world, and he suffered the ultimate persecution to bring us, His church, into that kingdom.
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Jim Elliot
Each week I design a new iPhone background with a different verse and share it on the blog. Seeing Scripture several times throughout my day reminds me of truth, strengthens my faith, and helps me me memorize God's Word so I can accurately share it with others. Feel free to download, pin, and share these backgrounds as many times as you would like!