The Blessings of Being Persecuted for the Cause of Christ :: by Sean Gooding

This article is based on a continuation of Matthew chapter 5:1-12 (the Beatitudes).

Are you ready to suffer for the Lord if need be?  We live in a time when being a Christian is almost being outlawed. It is illegal in many places, and even in North America where the idea of “free speech” has been birthed and nurtured for more than 200 years, to stand for what is right.

Jesus warned us that as the time of the end approached we would be perilous times for those that believed the truth. He said these words in Matthew 24:9-14:

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.

And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the entire world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Jesus was answering His disciple’s question about the last days and when the end would come.  He made it clear that we would be hated by all nations and this is true in our time today.  Christianity is seen as a plague to those that are blinded by the evil one the devil himself.

Those of us who have been enlightened by the light and life of Christ see the world as it is: a dark place, shading the truth from spiritually dead people. We feel compelled to say something for their wellbeing and find ourselves ridiculed for trying to help people that we love. Isaiah 5:20 tells us this and reminds us that we should expect this to happen:

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

We live in a time when the world system has turned right and wrong on its head. Good and evil are being redefined by Man and for those of us who trust in the definitions that the Lord has given—definitions that secured and founded most of what we call civil society in the last millennia, are seen as intolerant and unloving.

To insist, lovingly, that right and wrong cannot be changed and that the definitions of right and wrong established by God are the only definitions that matter and no amount of laws or edicts will ever change that—is intolerable, to lost and dying world.

Thus, as the divide between right and wrong become less and less as far as lost mankind is concerned, the rift between Christians and the lost world in which we live will inevitably grow. The natural fruit of this kind of divide is persecution; lost people en masse will only tolerate being reminded of their sins for so long and then they will hit out.

As one reads through the book of Acts you will see that as the Apostles confronted sins and lawlessness with the power of the gospel. People either repented or tried to kill them. We are living in that kind of extreme time in 2016 and on into the future.

So I ask: Are you ready? Am I ready to suffer for the Lord?  For most of us the answer is more worry for our children and wives. If we die, so be it but we would hate to see our loved one suffer and by standing for the Lord we put them in harm’s way.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness” (verse 10).

It is important that we suffer for the right reasons. If we are arrested for evil then our suffering is just. In Romans 13:1, we are instructed to be “subject to the authorities” as they are appointed by God.  However we are clearly taught in the book of Daniel that our submission to civil authority only goes as far as their submission to God’s authority.

When confronted with God’s law vs. Man’s law we are always called to obey God.  There was a time when obeying God’s law was respected in the lost world but as we move toward the return of the Lord, the respect for God’s law and for those who subject themselves to it is eroding.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is a good resource for us to learn about the sufferings that many of our brothers and sisters endured for their belief in Christ.  There is another book called Jesus Freaks put out by a band named DC Talk. It gives an account of the suffering a lot of martyrs. Suffering for the name of Jesus is nothing new and it is coming to North America.

The truth is for 2000 years—every day somewhere in the world— someone has been suffering for naming the name of Jesus. The attack on the people of the Lord has been full on for a long time. It is now beginning to reach the shores of the “First World” and it is uncomfortable.

For the most part we still worship freely in North America. Yet in contrast to us here in North America the BBC World News reported in November 2013 that about 100,000 Christians die each year under the category ofmartyr. Time magazine reported in January 2014 that the number of “martyrs” had doubled from 2012 -2013, the majority if these happening in Syria.

No one suffers for the Lord without reward. Those who have the privilege of suffering for the Lord are promised the kingdom of heaven. In verse 12 of Matthew goes on to bolster those that will suffer by reminding them that their reward will be great in heaven:

“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

It is a reminder that suffering is to be expected in the work of the Kingdom and it happened to the prophets whose writing was recorded in the Old Testament. The nation of Israel hated Jeremiah; they hated his words and actions. Zerubbabel was hated by the enemies of Israel and they plotted his death many times. Elijah was hated especially by Ahab and Jezebel. John the Baptist the last Old Testament prophet was beheaded by Herod. For the Old Testament prophets, persecution was a part of their  lives and often the reason for their death.

Of course the ultimate persecution came to our Lord and Savior who died for being a righteous man. The Pharisees hated this; they hated seeing true righteousness and godly living. They would rather kill off Jesus than repent and change their lives, and this is the very attitude of the world today. They would rather kill off the messengers of Jesus than humble themselves and repent.

Are you ready to suffer for the Lord?  I don’t know if I am, and each of us need to be ready in the power of the Holy Spirit to suffer for the truth. We must depend on God to give us the power to suffer and to endure whatever comes our way. It is will most often be talk, but if we stay much longer on this fallen planet the chance of true, hard core physical consequences for believing in Jesus is a reality. Here is another reminder from Jesus in Matthew 10:21-22:

“For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”

Your own enemies will be the ones you love the most and who claim to love you the most. This will be hard to swallow for many. So, are you ready to suffer for the Lord? I ask the Lord to grant me the strength to be ready when and if the time comes. I can’t do it in my own power and neither can you.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.