Theme: When Persecution Comes
This week’s lessons on the Beatitudes teach us that true happiness comes by living in a way that is contrary to the world and even to our natural way of thinking.
Scripture: Matthew 5
Yesterday we concluded by saying that because God has made peace with us, we must be peacemakers toward others. Among other things, we must be peacemakers in the home. Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote:
Every minister knows that adjustments must be made by two people who have stopped living in single liberty to take up life with each other. At the time of their wedding, a man and woman are like two planets which have been going around the sun at different speeds and in different orbits. Now they must travel in the same orbit at the same speed. For if they pursue the same path at different speeds, sooner or later there will be a planetary crash.
How can such collisions be avoided? Each person must pursue the things that make for peace. I know of a home where the wife asked the husband to repair an electric light over the kitchen sink, and he promised to do so. Next day she again asked him to fix the light and again he promised, but with some irritation. Two or three days later she asked again, and he shouted at her to stop nagging him. Finally, the matter became a source of great tension between them. . . .
The way to avoid such difficulties in the adjustment of husband and wife is to have prayer together every day, asking the Lord to keep both in the way of peace. It is also good for each to be willing to face weaknesses in self and to ask the other, “Is there something that I do that annoys you?” And when the answer is given in love, it is a small matter for love to remove the annoyance.1
We are to work for peace in all areas of our lives: in the community where we work, at church, school, store, or on the international scene. In yourself you may not want to be a peacemaker. You may want to retaliate for wrongs and lash out against personal hurts. But this is not Christ’s way. He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
The last beatitude is about persecution: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We need to point out that this is persecution because of righteousness and not for being obnoxious, difficult, foolish, or insulting to those who are not yet Christians. The blessing promised is for persecution for righteousness’ sake only.
But how can persecution add to a Christian’s happiness? Let me suggest these ways. First, persecution is evidence that the believer is Christ’s. Jesus said, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19). If we are persecuted for Christ’s sake, and not because we are obnoxious, we can be happy in this evidence that we are His.
Second, if we are persecuted because of righteousness, we can be certain that the Holy Spirit has been at work in us, turning us from sin and molding us into Christ’s own sinless image. I think here of the example of Job. Early in the story God commends Job as a righteous man. As the story progresses, Satan takes away all Job’s possessions, livelihood, and family. Then he strikes Job physically. In a few short days Job is reduced from being a man of influence and affluence to sitting upon a heap of ashes, covered with boils, loathsome both in his own sight and in the sight of others. Job was suffering because of righteousness. Yet in all this suffering Job did not curse God with his lips. He did not sin.
We may not understand what God is doing when we suffer. So far as I can tell, Job did not understand what God was doing either. But God was bringing glory to Himself. He was showing that a person who possesses the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ will serve and love God regardless of the circumstances. And that is a glorious thing! For it shows that Jesus Christ does make a difference. If we follow in the way Christ sets before us, we will experience the joy and the blessedness about which He speaks.
By what two ways can persecution add to a Christian’s happiness? Can you think of any others?
Can you give examples of being persecuted for righteousness’ sake? By contrast, can you give examples of suffering for being foolish and confusing it with suffering for righteousness?
Reflection: When was the last time you were persecuted in some way for the sake of righteousness? How did it strengthen your walk with the Lord and encourage you in your witness and service to others?
For Further Study: To learn more about how the Bible governs the life of the Christian, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “Walking by God’s Word.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
1Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Glory, vol. 10 of Exposition of Bible Doctrines, Taking the Epistle of Romans as a Point of Departure (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), p. 23.