“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” Matthew 5:10-12.
One would think that this is a pretty preposterous statement that Jesus made when giving his sermon on the mount. At the beginning of his dissertation he is talking about those who are merciful, peace makers, as well as those who hunger after righteousness, and those who are pure in heart. These groups of people we are told, will be satisfied, find God, and inherit the earth. But then He goes on to talk about those who are persecuted and reviled for righteousness’ sake.
It is human nature to hold out for justice and for what is right. But when we are accused of wrong doing when we have acted rightly in the eyes of God, then the natural reaction would be to retaliate. But Jesus tells us that those who are treated this way when they are falsely accused for standing up for God, that their reward will be great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Consider for a moment how the prophet Jeremiah continued to prophesy to the people of Judah even when he was thrown into a pit. Consider how the people would not listen to his words but rather, decided to listen to the voices of those who spoke falsely in the name of the Lord. He was ridiculed, shunned, and ostracized, and yet he didn’t give up.
And yet one may ask why would someone be reviled or persecuted because of righteousness? The answer that goes to the root cause is found in Luke 16:14-15,
“The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
In Luke 16:13 Jesus has said that “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Then right after this comes the persecution, for verse 14 says, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at him.” There is the persecution and part of its explanation: “they were lovers of money.” In other words, Jesus’ attitude toward money is an attack on their love of money. And then Jesus goes on to say that they were those who would justify themselves before men, and that because they exalted themselves, this was an abomination to God.
Those who would live a life devoted to righteousness or godliness will be persecuted. For when you are compassionate when others are callous in heart, then others would strike out. When you are humble, then you expose pride. When you are spiritually minded then you expose a worldly-minded crowd.
And yet again, why would one rejoice when they are reviled or persecuted? For the reward is yet to come; it isn’t now to be seen. But the truth in it is that one’s faith is perfected through the act of suffering. Through the act of dying to one’s self through persecutions, then the refining process is paying off. Then our identify with Jesus becomes a reality.
And yet we don’t want to be counted among those who love to suffer, for those who would think like this look for attention or are simply martyrs for the sake of being a martyr.
Finally, we know that our Lord suffered much and was reviled and persecuted far more than we ever will, and yet if we follow after Him, we should know that we will also face opposition and persecution.
“And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” Hebrews 11:32-40.
~ Stephen Hanson
Stephen Hanson of In His Truth Ministries came to the Lord is a special way in 1975 and has been prophesying regularly since. In these end-time birthing pangs we are to be reminded that judgment must first begin with the household of God. Will we be prepared and ready?