Sermon: Rejoice in Persecutions
Scripture: Matthew 5:12
In this week’s lessons, we learn what is necessary in order to rejoice in persecution.
Theme: Rewards in Heaven
There are two more truths that a Christian should also know in order that he may rejoice in persecutions. The first is the promise of rewards. “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:12). How does it work? It works when the Christian realizes that the persecutions, however severe, are only temporary and that beyond them lie the indestructible and inexpressibly glorious rewards of heaven. I know that there are many Christians who consider that even the thought of rewards is ignoble. That is because they are thinking only of material or self-exalting things. Actually, the rewards are far more likely to be spiritual—fellowship with Christ and proximity to him—and they cannot be the least bit self-exalting for even they flow from God’s grace. Do not make your Christianity something so ethereal that you think your conduct should be above the thought of rewards. That is wrong. That is not how the believers of all ages have progressed. Abraham looked for a city with foundations whose builder and maker is God. Moses chose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season because “he had respect unto the recompense of the reward” (Heb. 11:26). And even Jesus “for the joy that was set before him” endured the cross . . . and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2). He said, “Rejoice . . . for great is your reward in heaven.”
Finally, the fifth truth is the knowledge that the Lord Jesus himself is particularly near him in the moment of severe persecution. Do you remember the story of the three Hebrew young men who were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace? Their names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, whom the king named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Three men! But when the king looked into the furnace he said, “Did not we cast three men, bound, into the midst of the fire? Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (Dan. 3:24-25). In the same way, Jesus Christ is particularly near those who are persecuted for his name’s sake. The Christian can have great joy in this knowledge.
Now I have just one more thing to add in conclusion. When a Christian can anchor himself in a knowledge of the five great truths that I have just been explaining, persecution can result in rejoicing. And the rejoicing will—and this is the point—lead to greater knowledge.
Job knew suffering and great persecution. But he triumphed through knowledge, and the persecution itself led on to more knowledge. At the beginning, Job knew that he was nothing in himself and that he had no rights at all before God. When God allowed the most severe blows of life to fall upon him, Job thrived in the knowledge that there was yet the corresponding grace of God and the inextinguishable love of God for himself. As the trials continued, he came to know that God was testing him and purifying his faith, and he rejoiced in that knowledge. Finally, he learned that God was revealing himself to him in these experiences in a new way, and he came to expect an even fuller revelation. For Job, knowledge was the key to spiritual victory and his knowledge actually grew because of it. So should it be for every persecuted Christian.
What is the fourth truth that Christians needs to know in dealing with persecution?
Why is this not an ignoble idea?
What is the fifth truth, and can you describe something of that experience in the Christian life?
Reflection: Can you recount any time in your life, or in the life of someone you know, when suffering for Christ led to greater knowledge?