“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
Persecution is a dirty word these days in American Christian circles. In fact, any word associated with discomfort or pain is frowned upon. We are all supposed to be happily pursuing the American dream and finding fulfillment in Christ as He grants our every wish and never puts us through anything that would remotely resemble suffering. Right?
I think not.
Jesus said that if we follow Him, truly follow Him, and do what He said, we will be persecuted. Not maybe. Not possibly. We will. Maybe the fact that we aren’t facing persecution is that we look more like the world than we do Christ. Satan doesn’t spend effort attacking something or someone who is not a threat. The world won’t either. If we are too busy trying to fit in with the world rather than showing the world how it can be saved, we won’t be persecuted. But we won’t really know what the kingdom of Heaven is like or how sweet knowing Jesus can be.
The Message says, “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”
The key word here is commitment. Are we really committed enough to follow Jesus even if it actually costs us something? Like our popularity, success, reputations, health, and, God forbid, our lives. Too many of those who profess to believe will follow when following is easy and when it is comfortable, but not when it gets tough or when it becomes unpopular. The only ones who can see it through are those who have been redeemed, forgiven and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Only those who have the power of the resurrection inside can face death, because they know that that power that raised Jesus from the grave will also raise us up to eternal life.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to us when we are persecuted and persevere. What is the kingdom of God? God Himself. God’s rule and authority and power and majesty and glory. In the book of Revelation, John writes that they overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony and by the fact that they did not love their lives even unto death. Only love could motivate anyone to do these things. Only God’s love in us.
God, captivate my heart so that I will be willing to follow You and commit myself to You, regardless of where You send me, regardless of who responds, and regardless of what it costs me. I want to give my life away so that Your kingdom can advance upon the earth and You can reign. Make me your fuel, so Your glory can burn all the more brightly.
As always, I believe. Or I should say in this case I want to believe. Help my unbelief.