Rejoicing in Persecution
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12
“Come to Jesus and all your troubles will be over.” If someone told you that when you first became a Christian, you soon discovered that just the opposite is true. Jesus warned His disciples they would be persecuted (John 15:20). They would be beaten, arrested, betrayed, hated, and executed (Mark 13:9-13).
The Greek word for persecute, diōkō, means “in any way whatever to harass, trouble, molest one; to be mistreated, suffer persecution on account of something.” * Not one of Jesus’ disciples escaped persecution, including the apostle Paul who experienced all of the things Jesus mentioned and more (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Today in countries around the world, millions are prohibited from having church buildings. They’re forced to move from place to place to worship. Worshipers have been attacked even in private homes; they’ve been arrested and questioned about group members and pastors. They’ve been beaten, tortured, imprisoned, exiled, and killed. Many have just “disappeared.”
Some flee their countries; others stay to speak boldly about their faith at the risk of their freedom and their lives. Richard Wurmbrand documented these facts in Tortured for Christ and in the newsletter Voice of the Martyrs. Though he and his wife were beaten, tortured, imprisoned, and exiled, they have distributed thousands of Bibles, songbooks, other Christian literature, and aid to victims and their families in “hostile or restricted” countries through their organization.**
Christians are persecuted because of righteousness—because they follow Christ and His enemies are their enemies. Even if we live in countries that allow freedom of worship, we have to stand up more and more for our faith as God’s Word is distorted, as life made in the image of God is devalued, and as lies, evil, and injustice are increasingly accepted as the norm.
Some of the blessings promised in the Beatitudes, such as comfort and mercy, are for here and now. Others are either only partially for the present or totally future.
Will we follow Jesus Christ even though it means persecution? Are we willing to wait for the incredible blessings He has for us in heaven?
Read Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23. According to verse 21, what did Jesus prophesy would happen to some when persecution comes?
Read Romans 8:35-39 and Philippians 1:20-24. What did Paul write about living and dying as he faced martyrdom?
Read Revelation 12. Don’t get hung up on the horns and heads (authority and power). John describes in symbolic language the story of God’s people, including Israel and the church, and their persecution. What names are given to the enemy? Can you find yourself in verse 17?
How does Revelation 12:5 echo Psalm 2 and identify the Messiah? Who will receive blessing according to the psalm? What will happen to the others? Have you experienced God’s place of refuge in the midst of persecution?
Nancy J. Baker
* Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for diōkō (Strong’s 1377)”. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 4 Jul 2013. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm? strongs=G1377 >
** Source for all data in paragraphs 3 and 4: http://torturedforchrist.com/timeline-html/