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 second part of a Christian knowledge that will help him to rejoice in persecution is the knowledge that God often uses persecution to perfect the believer. In the great wisdom of God persecution is often the means by which the Christian is helped along the road to practical holiness and thereby made a little more like Jesus.
Peter knew this. He had known it personally, and he had seen it in the lives of his converts. Hence, when he wrote his first letter to those in Asia who were experiencing persecution, he wrote this about it: “In this ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold trials, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ, whom, having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:6-8). Peter was saying that, for the Christian, persecution (and also suffering in general) is the crucible in which God the refiner removes the dross from the lives of his children and purifies true faith.
Let me give you another illustration. Dr. Billy Graham tells of a friend of his who went through the Depression in the 1930s, losing a job, a fortune, a wife, and a home. But he was a believer in Jesus Christ, and he tenaciously held to his faith even though he was naturally depressed and cast down by circumstances. One day, in the midst of his depression, he stopped to watch some men doing stonework on a huge church in the city. One was busy chiseling a triangular piece of stone. “What are you going to do with that?” he asked. The workman stopped and pointed to a little opening near the top of the spire. “See that little opening up there near the spire,” he said. “Well, I’m shaping this down here so that it will fit in up there.” The friend said that tears filled his eyes as he walked away from the workman. For it seemed that God had spoken to him personally through the workman to say that God was shaping him for heaven through the ordeal through which he was passing.
Peter said, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 5:10-11). And David tells us in one of the Psalms that before he was afflicted he went astray but that after the affliction he kept God’s word (Ps. 119:67). Most certainly, persecution was a significant factor in the spiritual growth of each of these men. And it is also a factor in God’s dealings with his children today. Because of this truth, you and I may face persecution with all joy, knowing that after we have gone through the furnace we shall be more like Jesus, our Savior.
What is the second item a Christian needs to know in order to rejoice?
What examples can you list from Scripture that describe God’s people rejoicing in persecution? Describe the details of their situations, and note what you learn from them.
Application: Are you in some way being persecuted for Christ? If so, what is your attitude toward it? Are you rejoicing that God is calling you to live for him in this way?