Sermon: Rejoice in Persecutions
Scripture: Matthew 5:12
In this week’s lessons, we learn what is necessary in order to rejoice in persecution.
The most striking part of Christ’s eighth and last beatitude is the command that the Christian is to rejoice in persecutions: “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Not only is it striking, it is puzzling also. For the question immediately arises in the mind of any thoughtful reader, “How are we to rejoice in persecutions, when we are unjustly insulted, scorned, or condemned?” It is a valid question, and the answer is well worth pondering. How does a Christian rejoice in persecutions? I am convinced that the only valid answer to that question is by knowledge.
Let me explain what I mean. In order to understand this it is necessary to recognize that some battles in the Christian life can be won in no other way than by knowledge—not by reason, not by feelings, not by the old college try, but by knowledge. I will give you an example. A young man goes to college and meets a girl with whom he falls in love and whom he would like to marry. But she is not a Christian. He wants to marry her, but he should not. And the Holy Spirit within him is telling him so. As a result, a terrific battle is in progress. How is he to win it?
Well, it is certain that he will never win it by trusting his feelings, for his feelings are what have created the problem in the first place. Nor will he win it by reason because the human mind is subtle, and he will always find ten reasons why he should marry her for every one why he should not. Neither can he win the battle by trusting his conscience. The human conscience can be bent to do almost anything we want it to do; in this case it can even be bent to immorality. There is only one way in which the young man will win the victory in this situation, and that is by clinging to the knowledge of God’s will that he has received from Scripture. He must say, “Lord, I do not want to give this particular girl up. I can think of a dozen reasons why I do not need to give her up. I can even make my conscience tell me that I should not give her up. But I know that I must. And because of that I will do it.” The young man must make an intellectual decision, and this means that apart from any other factor he must determine simply to walk in the way that he knows God would have him to go.
I believe that it is exactly the same case when a Christian is in the midst of persecution. What is more, I believe that almost every verse in the Bible that refers to persecution implies this. If you are enduring persecution, perhaps from your friends or your family, you dare not trust your feelings. I know there are times when Christians feel on top of the world even when they are suffering. But this is unusual. It is just as probable, perhaps more so, that the Christian will feel sad and dejected, as Elijah did under the juniper tree. If you trust your feelings, you will rejoice at best only at times and then only partially.
What is said to be the most striking element of Jesus’ eighth beatitude? What answer is given for how to practice it, and why is it critical?
When going through persecution, what is the first thing mentioned that we are not to rely upon? Why is this one an untrustworthy source for dealing with persecution?
Application: Do you know anyone who is experiencing some form of persecution, perhaps even as missionaries in another country? In addition to praying for them daily, depending on where they live are you able somehow to safely encourage them in some way?