This is the sermon for Sunday morning, May 31st, 2009.
DEVELOPING A BE-ATTITUDE ATTITUDE PART 9
The blessedness of persecution
Matthew 5:10-12 TNIV – 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
This morning we are continuing our sermon series entitled, “Developing a be-attitude attitude.” We are now going to cover a subject that in the U.S. is hardly ever dealt with, and that is suffering persecution for the cause of Christ and the blessedness it brings.
There is a promise that Jesus gives His followers, one that is not often quoted, but one that is very true, nonetheless.
John 16:33b TNIV – In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
When it comes to developing a be-attitude attitude this truth we must accept: Following after Christ brings persecution of all sorts! Why is this? Well, because when we are persecuted, it is a sign to the body of Christ, the persecutors, and the enemy himself that we are truly children of God.
John 15:20a TNIV – Remember what I told you: ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
This morning, let’s really dig into these passages here in Matthew 5 and see what the Holy Spirit would say to us.
When we are being persecuted we are truly blessed by God and God’s kingdom belongs too us.
Matthew 5:10 AMP – Blessed and happy and enviably fortunate and spiritually prosperous (in the state in which the born-again child of God enjoys and finds satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of his outward conditions) are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (for being and doing right), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!
Notice that I read the Amplified version of this verse this morning. I like the way the Amplified translates the word, “Blessed”.
Let’s use the Amplified definition as a guide for just a few moments to describe the blessed state believer’s find themselves in when they are persecuted.
• Believer’s suffering persecution find themselves in a happy, fortunate and spiritually prosperous condition.
Just how is this possible? The purpose of persecution is to tear down, steal, kill, and destroy. Though people are the primary ones who persecute, they are doing it under the control of their father – the Devil and his demons.
• The reason that believers find themselves in this blessed condition during persecution is because their satisfaction is found in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of outward conditions.
The world will state that we are in horrible shape. Religion will state that we are not truly blessed of God. Christ says, “Oh, what great satisfaction is found in persecution, for there you find God’s favor and salvation.”
Let’s look quickly at the Apostle Paul. Notice the persecution he faced:
2 Corinthians 11:24-28TNIV – 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own people, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Paul should have been down and depressed for going through what he went through. But notice his attitude was not based on the outward circumstances he faced, but Him finding his strength and satisfaction with God.
Colossians 1:24 TNIV – Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
When we suffer persecution, we should endeavor to have the same attitude as the Apostle Paul.
• Persecution drives us deeper into God’s kingdom.
You see, persecution keeps us on our knees, we are a part of God’s kingdom and instead of running away from God’s kingdom, we run even more into it.
Look at how the Message bible translates this verse.
Matthew 5:10 MSG – You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
The different levels of persecution that believers will face.
Matthew 5:11 TNIV – Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
• Insults. This is not the behind your back kind of talking, but in Greek, this is described as a face-to-face conflict. Where you are insulted, defamed, your character challenged openly and publicly in a face-to-face encounter. This could be a verbal violent assault, or even physical. This one as well as the others listed all cut to the heart.
• Persecution. We miss it in English, but this is a specific type of persecution. In Greek this means, “To pursue for the purpose of overtaking and doing harm, to cause to flee.” This I believe is not the angry type of persecution that insults might be, but the planned out attack and assault on a person. The people who do this type of persecution are the most wicked and vile of sorts, because it is not done with passion, but with thought and they truly have no conscience. An example would be Hitler and his persecution of the Jews. It was well thought out and planned with no conscience or sense of remorse on his part. Let’s look at one Biblical example that is given.
Acts 23:12 ISV – The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul.
• False, evil accusations. In Greek, evil means, “Lewd, damaging, hurtful, malicious, wicked.” Falsely means in Greek, “To utter an untruth and attempt to deceive by falsehood.” There are many examples of this in Scripture and history. One such historical example is the Christians in the first century were accused of cannibalism (because of the Lord’s supper), and Atheism (because the wouldn’t worship Caesar as a god). Nero, the emperor of Rome, actually had Rome burned and blamed the Christians so that they could round them up and try to exterminate then around AD 68 or so. This type of persecution is difficult because it is human nature to defend yourself against false, evil accusations. God is our refuge and defense during those times.
What should be the attitude of believers when they face persecution?
Matthew 5:12 TNIV – Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
To suffer for Christ should be a great privilege for us: why? Well, the prophets suffered, the Apostles suffered, many great men and women throughout history have suffered, people in other countries now suffer – we are surrounded by many honored people in heaven and our reward will be great.
To be extremely glad in Greek, literally means, “to jump for joy.” In fact, look at a similar passage in Luke.
Luke 6:22-23 TNIV – 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
Scriptural ways to develop this beatitude.
• First, understand that you and I will suffer for the cause of Christ.
2 Timothy 3:12 TNIV – In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
• Next, ask the help of the Holy Spirit not to get too upset when you are persecuted.
1 Peter 3:14 TNIV – But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.
• Focus on the eternal blessings, and not the temporary affliction.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 TNIV – 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
• Remember you have been raised with Christ, your life is hidden in God.
Colossians 3:1-3 TNIV – 1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Church, as our nation and culture becomes more and more anti-God, persecutions will arise. We should rejoice, because the true church that suffers persecution will see a revival of the works of God in its midst. We are in Christ….find inspiration and hope in that truth this morning.