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: Radiant Christianity
The third truth that will help a Christian to rejoice in persecution is the truth that persecution allows the Christian an opportunity to show forth the supernatural radiance of the Christian life. If everything is going well with you and you rejoice, what makes you different from all of the nonbelievers who are in the world? Nothing at all! They too rejoice when circumstances are favorable. If you are able to rejoice when things are not favorable, however, then Jesus Christ may be clearly seen in you and the supernatural power of the Christian faith is made manifest. Persecution is the dark background for the supernatural radiance of this life.
Again, this truth is best illustrated by a story. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Matthews and their daughter Lilah were the last missionary family of the China Inland Mission to leave China after the Communist takeover at the end of the Second World War, and the story of their last two years in China is one of great persecution. For the better part of the long two years of their captivity in China they lived in one small room. Their only furniture was a stool. They could not contact their Christian friends for fear of subjecting them to reprisals for befriending an alien. Their funds were cut off by the government except for the smallest trickle. The only heat they had came from a small stove that they lit only once each day to boil rice for dinner. And even the fuel that they used was made by Mr. Matthews from the refuse that the animals deposited around the streets. For a time, the couple submitted to the treatment stoically, asking all the while that God would soon deliver them from China. At last a turning point came in their outlook. They realized that Jesus Christ had come from heaven, not merely submitting to the will of his Father, but delighting in it. And they saw that their own experience was comparable. It was an opportunity for the radiance of joyful obedience to be manifested in them and in which their conduct could be a supernaturally effective witness. After this, they came to rejoice and even to sing hymns. They came to accept the privilege of suffering for the sake of Christ with as much joy as they later had when they learned of their pending deliverance.
It was a similar knowledge of the opportunities afforded by persecution that taught Hugh Latimer to cry out to Nicholas Ridley as they were both led to the stake in Oxford, England, in 1555, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as I trust shall never be put out.” He was right, for the behavior of Christians in persecution was then and often still is a great testimony to God’s grace. It abides for time and for eternity.
Explain the third truth that helps a Christian rejoice in persecution.
Reread Latimer’s comment to Ridley. What does that reveal about their Christian life? How can you show the radiance of the Christian life in your own setting?
For Further Study: To give you a greater knowledge of Christians who have been persecuted for Christ to the point of death, read John Foxe’s Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (available from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals at 20% off).
Key Point: If you are able to rejoice when things are not favorable, however, then Jesus Christ may be clearly seen in you and the supernatural power of the Christian faith is made manifest. Persecution is the dark background for the supernatural radiance of this life.