Sermon: Persecuted for Christ
Scripture: Matthew 5:10-12
In this week’s lessons, we learn that persecution is to be expected when we live a distinctively Christian life after the pattern of our Lord.
Theme: Happiness Through Persecution
Now the beatitude not only describes the nature of the Christian’s persecution, persecution for the sake of righteousness. It also promises happiness to the one who is thus persecuted. How can persecution add to a Christian’s happiness? Let me suggest two ways in which it is possible.
First, persecution is evidence that the believer is united to Jesus. Jesus said, “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). If we are persecuted for Christ’s sake, we can be happy in this proof that we are his and are united to him forever. Second, if we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, we can be certain that the Holy Spirit has been at work in our hearts, turning us from our sin and our sinful ways to Christ’s way, and is making progress in molding us into his sinless image. We can delight in that. If you have known examples in your life of the persecution about which we have been talking—by taking an honest path at work, by refusing to compromise on quality or service, by remaining pure when friends and acquaintances are profligate—you can rejoice at this evidence of God’s gracious and supernatural working.
This brings us to the end of our exposition of this eighth and last beatitude. But it seems to me that I must say a word to those who are not and who never will be great martyrs for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. That includes most of us. What about us? Well, we may be certain that God sees the little martyrs as much as the great ones, and that he is as pleased—perhaps more pleased—with the small sacrifices and small insults patiently borne as he is with the bearing of far more spectacular persecutions.
Think of the persecutions of Job—not the loss of his family and possessions by a series of calamities caused by Satan, this was not persecution—but the persecutions he suffered from his friends who accused him of sinning greatly because of his sudden and tragic losses. What historian would ever have mentioned Job? None! No ancient historian would have thought twice about him. You can be certain that if Job had risen to wealth in New York City and had later died in poverty in Harlem, his name would not even have made the obituary columns of the New York newspapers. Yet, the struggles of Job in his persecutions were viewed by God and angels; and his victory has even been recorded forever in God’s Word. It may take more grace and it may be a greater victory for a man to spend forty years of his life at the same desk in the same office, watching other men being promoted over him because he will not do some of the things that are demanded of officers in his company than it would take for a John Hus to be burned at the stake for his testimony. And it may be more of a victory for a housewife to stay at home, raising her family in the things of the Lord while her nit-picking neighbors laugh at her for being humdrum and unglamorous than it would be for a Joan of Arc to die at Rouen.
Let us all take comfort in this. Let us turn to Christ for the victory. And if we have not known persecution, even in little ways, then let us search our hearts before him. Let us ask for that righteousness of character that will either repel men or draw them to our blessed Lord and Savior.
Describe the two ways that persecution can add to a Christian’s happiness.
Can you think of any other benefits that come to the Christian through persecution?
Prayer: Pray for opportunities to testify publicly to the truth of Scripture.
For Further Study: The greatest happiness will come when Christians receive their eternal reward. Download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “God’s Kingdom Consummated.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)