Matthew 5:10 (NKJV) 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed” means “to speak well of.” John MacArthur describes “blessed” as being “fortunate” or “happy.” It is a kind of happiness that comes only from God. In this world, it is not easy to be faithful to the Lord. The society we live in today is not a friend of God’s people. Christians who are faithful to the Lord are different. Their attitudes are different. Because of the difference between Christian living and living according to what the world values conflicts will arise.
When a person treats us badly because we are devoted followers of Christ the temptation exists to act in a non-Christian way. Some people don’t want to hear the Good News of the Gospel. They don’t want to admit they are sinners and/or feel like they don’t need Jesus. When the plan of salvation is presented to them, they don’t want to hear the Good News of the Gospel.
There is something else we need to remember. It has to do with always being a good example of what a Christian should be. When I was in the Army’s basic training at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, there were many times my faith in the Lord was severely tested. Many things the other soldiers did conflicted with my Christian values. However, as hard as it was at times to be a faithful Christian my desire to glorify the Lord was stronger. But I must confess there were many times when I didn’t feel like a Christian. One of those times was when my platoon was sent on a forced march. The platoon had to double-time for a
distance I no longer remember. The distance was far enough that on the way, soldiers fell out because they were physically exhausted. My legs became so weak that I could hardly remain on my feet. My side hurt. I felt out of breath and was afraid I might not make it across the finish line; toward the end of the forced march, the platoon sergeant, a Smokey Bear, got in my face and yelled something about how I was not man enough to make it to the finish line. I was so mad that I could have easily acted like the devil himself. Instead, I got in the sergeant’s face and yelled, “I’ll drop dead before I quit.” But my mind told me I could not make it, but fortunately, I crossed the finish line.
It’s important to remember that there is always the possibility that a person, whom you are not aware of, could be watching you. That person is trying to figure out what kind of person you are. That happened to me. After the end of basic training a soldier, who I had never met walked up to me. He said he had been watching me. He asked me if I was a Christian. I told him I was. You may think what he said made me feel good. The opposite was true. I felt like I had been “shaken out of my boots.” I wondered, what kind of influence would I have had on that soldier if I had not been a devoted follower of Christ.
Paul says in II Timothy 3:10–12, But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra – what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
In this biblical passage, the subject changes from false teachers to followers of Christ. The Apostle Paul reminded them he had been a faithful servant of God. Like His Master, Jesus, Paul had spoken openly about His Savior.
Paul reminds Timothy the lives of Christians need to be open for all people to see. He reminds Timothy that true doctrine or true faith must be taught. Paul also reminded Timothy that he must practice what he preached. Timothy’s goal and the goal of every Christian should be to glorify Jesus Christ.
Polycarp was a man who paid the ultimate price. Polycarp (c.a.69 A.D. – c.a.155 A.D.) was a disciple of John, and John was a disciple of Jesus. Polycarp was the Bishop of the church in Smyrna, a city that is now located in Turkey. Smyrna was devoted to Roman worship. When Polycarp was commanded to worship the gods of the Romans he said, “86 years I have served Him (the Lord), and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” He refused to deny His Lord. His hands were bound behind him. The crowd collected wood and bundles of sticks. Polycarp stood on the wood, then a fire was lit. Polycarp died a martyr.
In today’s world Christians are still being persecuted. Many have been executed. A friend of mine in Nepal has been imprisoned many times because he continues to preach the Gospel. In other countries, I have friends who live in the fear that they will be persecuted. Persecution can be other things. Because you are living the Christian life some people will not want to be around you. Because you are living the Christian life have you ever felt insulted? Do you know how many people have tried to get you to do things that you were not willing to do because you knew it would bring dishonor to the Lord?
The Interpreter’s Bible says “Persecution should never be allowed to become a martyr complex or a morbid self-pity, (but) persecution for His sake is a great gladness. Bitter persecution may await the man who is foresworn to Jesus.”
Not all persecutions are blessed. We must not invite suffering due to some kind of foolishness or disobedience. The requirement is you must have the correct motive. It is for righteousness’ sake.
Remember, in the text for today “blessed” means “to speak well of.” “Righteousness” means “whatever is right or just in itself, whatever conforms to the revealed will of God.”
By C. Paul Wooderson