“Hostile incidents have increased by 20% since just 2014, and some 360 million Christians, or 14% of the worldwide total, are said to have faced persecution, harassment or discrimination.” [Online resources] That is an extremely high number.
Jesus said in Matt. 5:10 – “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” What a marvellous promise! Jesus warned that His followers would face persecution as He said, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
The blessing in Matthew 5:10 is promised to those who are persecuted for “righteousness’ sake,” not to those who are persecuted because of their sins. It is not easy to undergo persecution because one is righteous, but it is essential to stand firm when going through extremely deep trials.
In the Old Testament we find Joseph who was mistreated because of being righteous and refusing to sin. His brothers oppressed him and sold him into slavery. His master’s wife wronged him by lying about him when he was innocent, and he ended up in jail. But Joseph remained righteous and faithful to God and eventually he became the second highest leader in all of Egypt. He saved millions of people from starvation and was reunited with his Israelite family.
Jesus spoke about being persecuted and insulted in the same passage where He preached about the need for us to be salt and light. When we are “the salt of the earth” and flavour others with Christ’s fragrance, we become righteous. When we are “the light of the world” and shine Christ’s light to a needy and dark world, we remain righteous, but we are also in danger of being persecuted. If people don’t persecute us, then Satan will tempt, trouble, and persecute us in various subtle ways. Therefore, it is imperative that we obey Christ’s teachings, so that we are equipped to stand strong when being persecuted. God is not impressed if we are persecuted because of something we have done wrong, but He supports us fully when we are persecuted for doing what is right. (1 Peter 2:20).
Sometimes Father God does not save us from persecution, BUT He WILL be with us when experiencing and enduring suffering if we prevail for His sake. 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us…” Friends, we need to focus on Jesus and Eternity. Our life on earth is fleeting. Eternity is FOREVER! “But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed…” [1 Peter 3:14]
Sweet Jesus, thank You that You will bless and reward us when we suffer for righteousness’ sake. Please give us the strength to never fail you or
deny You, but to be willing to go through persecution with Your Holy Spirit presence and sustaining power. Amen