Persecution as a Supreme Blessedness (Matthew 5:10-12) by Bro. Gabriel Castelo

Blessed Lord’s Day to everyone here in CHC. It’s great to see you all this morning to worship the worthy, thrice holy, glorious God, who secures for us redemption by the blood of His Son. And it is a blessing to once again come together as a church and to just worship and give Him praise.

And so, as we begin this morning’s sermon, I would like to read to you a very beautiful prayer from a church father. It says this, “Lord God Almighty, Father of your blessed and beloved child Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in your presence: I bless you that you have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among them may I be accepted before you today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as you, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved child, through whom be glory to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.”

This was the prayer of one of our faithful church fathers in AD 155. His name was Polycarp of Smyrna. And he was brought to the Roman proconsul and intimidated, forced, and threatened to say Kaiser Kurios, Caesar is LORD. But he refused and said, Hesus Ho Kurios (Ιησους ὁ Κυριος), Jesus is LORD. And Polycarp was persecuted and martyred, burned at the stake and then stabbed to death.

The world, with its false gods, show us exactly this picture. The world, with its false gods, have always persecuted Christians. Even before Polycarp’s time, and it’s no different today. The form of persecutions might vary, but they are persecutions nonetheless. What is amazing about the persecution of Polycarp of Smyrna, was that he was so surrendered to the persecution, and it showed that in his prayer he said, “I bless you that you have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ.” What a bold and beautiful and biblical prayer.

Polycarp of Smyrna was very familiar with persecution. In the book of Revelation in chapter 2, the church of Smyrna, was a heavily persecuted church. But they loved God and they were faithful. All of the persecution has led to the day of Polycarp’s martyrdom, where he confessed his faithfulness to Jesus and did not bow to Caesar— Hesus Ho Kurios (Ιησους ὁ Κυριος), Jesus is LORD.

So please open your Bibles to Matthew 5:10-12. And let us acquaint ourselves with our persecutions. So that we, like Polycarp of Smyrna, might remain faithful. Matthew 5:10-12. Hear now the words of the living and true God.

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.

As far as the reading of God’s word, let’s pray. Father we thank you for this time, that we might be able to learn from Your word. And we ask Lord God that you would open our hearts and that as we come into a text of pain, that we may still rejoice and be glad to see the beauty of Jesus Christ, and to see truth and weight of what you say in this word today. We pray Lord God that we might, one day, become counted worthy to suffer for Your name. In this we pray, in the name of the one who suffered for our sake, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

This morning we are in our final beatitude, and we will be closing actually the opening of the sermon of our Lord in the book of Matthew. And beatitude, really in the past week we learned it means supreme blessedness. And in these past 8 weeks we have hoped to see God’s design of supreme blessedness as proclaimed to us by the LORD Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. And if anyone asks you what supreme blessedness is like, the answer is here, the beatitudes, in these verses.

And what we’ve observed in the past that if you read these beatitudes, they are all really counter-cultural; It’s opposite of what the world would consider “supreme blessedness.”

The world says, you’re supremely blessed if you are satisfied about yourself from within—love yourself, flaws and all; Jesus says no, you’re supremely blessed when you know that you’re truly sad about what’s within you, to be poor in spirit because within you is sin.

The world says, you’re supremely blessed if you seek what makes you happy, do whatever makes you happy; Jesus says no, you’re supremely blessed when you mourn. Mourn for your sin and you corruption.

The world says, you’re supremely blessed if you are bold and brave about who you are, tell the world how great and important you are. And Jesus says no, you’re supremely blessed when you are brought in to meekness by your realization of how much you need a Savior from your sins.

The world says you’re supremely blessed if you can do whatever you want, satisfy all your cravings in life, whether food or activities or riches. If you can satisfy yourself with all that the world has to offer, then you’re good to go. But Jesus says no, you’re supremely blessed when you hunger and thirst for righteousness. Something the world can’t offer you.

The world says you’re supremely blessed if the world is at your mercy. Then you can choose to show mercy to those who will benefit you, and not to show mercy to those who don’t. And Jesus says no, you’re supremely blessed when you are merciful because someone Infinitely Greater has shown mercy to you.

The world says you’re supremely blessed when you follow your heart and chase your desires, no matter what it is. And Jesus says no, you’re supremely blessed when your heart is purified because in that you will see God.

The world says you’re supremely blessed if you can live in peace and not have to care about others. And Jesus says no, you’re supremely blessed if you can make peace by proclaiming the God of peace who takes away our hostility with Him through Jesus Christ.

And all of these seven beatitudes show us an inescapable fact, that the world’s standards are opposed to God’s and God’s standards are against the world’s. But King Jesus is establishing His kingdom here in the world, and so whoever follows the King, must live by the King’s standards, and the consequence is to live against the world’s standards.

And as you continue to live against how the world wants you to live, the result is clear and unavoidable. The last beatitude will happen. You will live a righteous life for Christ’s sake, and the consequence of that is persecution. Because you are poor in spirit, because you mourn for your sin, this will humble you into meekness, and you will hunger and thirst for what is righteous and good, and that will transform your life. And you will begin to be merciful because you have been shown mercy, your heart will be pure as you live a life in obedience to God, and you will make peace in your heart, your family, your society, and the world. And because you live this way, in righteousness for Jesus, the world will hate it and you will be persecuted. You will be insulted, you will be slandered, you will be mistreated. The evil kingdom of this world refuses to be overtaken by Christ’s Kingdom. And it will fight back, and the way they fight back is persecution.

So, our text this morning, as we close the beautiful Beatitudes, it completes the picture of the Christian life. And It shows us this, The Christian life is a paradox of blessed persecution that acquaints us with Christ.

The Christian life is a paradox of blessed persecution that acquaints us with Christ. And indeed, the Christian life is a paradox because we can consider persecution as a blessing, for us it is a blessing, a supreme blessing, a beatitude. We can rejoice and be glad at the reviling, insults, and slander of the world because it is proof, it is confirmation, that the world is responding to us because we are living the way that they hate, we are living like citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

This teaches us to have a sober view of Christianity. If you have grown up into a modern Christianity that is being peddled and spread today as the answer to all your problems – “Accept Jesus into your heart and He will make all things better. He will solve all your issues, your problems, your difficulties, your money, financial problems, work problems, all other problems in the world.” But this is not the case. Jesus’ explanation of Christianity is different. He says true blessing can be found when you live this beatitude life and are persecuted for My Name’s Sake! That is true blessing. If anyone tried to told you, trying to recruit you into Christianity or into the Church, “the Christian lie was the easy life”, then they were absolutely wrong, and that is a false Christianity.

So, in our text three things are clear, abundantly clear, very very very clear. And these three things will serve as points for us as we go through the passage. Three points: Persecution, Partnership, and Prize; Persecution, Partnership, and Prize.

Christians live a life of Persecution. Because we share in Partnership with the righteousness of Christ. And we are promised a Prize in heaven. Persecution, Partnership, Prize.

Firstly, Persecution.

One of the things that you’ll notice in reading this final Beatitude, it says “Blessed” two times. And so, it might look like two separate Beatitudes. But I don’t think it is. I think it’s one beatitude expressed twice. Verse 10 is the general picture, and verses 11 and 12 expound verse 10. Verse 10 declares the beatitude, and verses 11 and 12 is a restatement of the declaration.

So, when verse 10 says blessed are “those who are persecuted,” general; verse 11 says “Blessed are you”, the Christian is the one who is blessed. And when it talks about persecution in verse 10, it tells us what it looks like in verse 11 – insults, persecutions, and false witness or slander for the sake of Christ. So this is really just one beatitude declared two times.

So, in this beatitude The LORD Jesus is telling us that those who are persecuted are supremely blessed. And if we are to face persecution we should know what persecution is. As Christians, as a Church we must know, we need to identify persecution.

And to really know persecution, we’ll start first with what persecution is not. What persecution is not.

It’s not persecution when you bring it upon yourself. The word “persecution” in the original language means “to pursue.” So, you cannot bring persecution upon yourself because you cannot pursue to be pursued. If a woman wants a man to pursue her, she doesn’t pursue him so that he would pursue her. That’s the complete opposite. So, you cannot pursue persecution. This is a firm warning against a Messianic complex, or having this masochistic heart to seek out persecution for yourself.

It’s also not persecution when you’re doing something in sin. If you end up in jail because you burned a church or a temple full of statues and idols, you cannot say you’re in jail because you’re being persecuted for your obedience to the Second Commandment. No, you were in jail because you destroyed someone else’s property.

It’s also not persecution when something is done in a nature of rebellion or if your goal is rebellion against authority. If in church you believe a conviction to be true and it’s not completely the same as what the church is teaching, you might very well be correct. But if you incite a divisive rebellion and cause discord and evil divisions among people then don’t fool yourself because this is not persecution.

It’s also not persecution when it is not in accordance with righteousness. The beatitude is clear – you’re blessed when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The standards are high, because we are citizens of a perfectly righteous God. 1 Corinthian 13:3 says this, If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” You might be martyred and burned all day long and still end up in hell, if you are martyred and burned outside of righteousness.

So this is what persecution is not. So what can we truly count as persecution?

What is persecution? When we, of course, suffer for righteousness. That is what the passage says. There are Christians who may suffer for righteous goals, but they themselves are unrighteous in their hearts. God desires those who suffer for Him to suffer in purity of hearts, just like the beatitudes. Lest by running they find themselves disqualified.

It’s also persecution when we are suffering for the sake of God’s

Truth, His Word, His gospel. When the world doesn’t like the Truth of God that we are spreading, and they fight against us, this is true persecution. Jesus tells His disciples, “they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” If we bear witness and we suffer for it, if we bear witness about Christ and His word, and we indeed suffer for it, it’s counted as true persecution.

It’s persecution when we suffer doing God’s will. Peter says in his letter, “let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” Which means you can be suffering but it wasn’t because of doing God’s will but because of following your own sinful will. So, God desires that those who suffer for Him, suffer because of good, and to continually to do good in their suffering.

And lastly, of course it is persecution when we suffer in association with Christ. Verse 11 of our passage says, when you are falsely accused because of Me or on my account, says Jesus. If you suffer simply because you are a Christian, then that is true persecution indeed. Again Peter says in 1 Peter 4:14 onwards, If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”

This is what persecution is. And why is it important to know and differentiate true persecution from false persecution? Because our sinfulness can deceive us into thinking we might be suffering for Christ’s sake when we really are not. So, we have to judge what true blessed persecution is by what God thinks and not by our standards. God’s blessedness in suffering is not found in selfish and self-exalting personal gain, but in the sweet righteous suffering of a Christian that points to the world to Jesus Christ.

So, you might say, “Okay, now I know that there will be persecution, and I know what it is. But what is it for, Gabe? What is it for? Why do I need to go through persecution as a Christian?” Peter explains to us, again, again in 1 Peter 4, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” A Christian will never understand the glory of the Crown of Christ, if he doesn’t understand the passions of the Cross of Christ. And as Christians, we are made to share in the Crown, but only if we share in the Cross. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ!”, It is in the Cross of Jesus Christ that the world has been crucified to us, and us to the world.

If you were told that Christianity is a religion that costs you nothing, you have been lied to. Following Christ costs you everything. Christ doesn’t ask for you to give up some and keep others part of yourself. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

So, the supremely blessed life is a life bearing a cross. Jesus Christ was persecuted and was brought to His cross as well. So our persecution acquaint us and conform us to the image of our Savior. When we are persecuted, we are being perfected and shaped to be like our LORD. We are sharing in His suffering, so that when His glory is revealed, we will have a deeper understanding of who our Savior is.

So, the purpose for which God has ordained our persecution is that we might be like Jesus Christ, Who Himself was persecuted.

What are the forms of persecution? Verse 11 expounds it very well.

When we are reviled, living out our convictions, bring about insulting words from the people around us. Narinig niyo bay un, “Wag niyo na isama yan, alive alive yan eh.” Even he very term Christian was from “little Christs” and was meant as an insult. Even the term Puritan was an insult because of the “puritanical” lifestyle, the holiness, the kind of strict godliness that the Puritans promoted. The world will always revile us one way or another, but we wear these titles like Christian or Puritan not as insults, but as badges of joy, knowing that we are reviled for Christ’s sake.

We might also be physically persecuted, not just reviling or insults, we might be martyred. We barely experience this in our country today, and I believe it has made the Church all the more complacent. Steve Lawson rightly said, “The trouble with preachers today is that nobody wants to kill them anymore.” And I think that’s the same trouble with Christians today. We are complacent in our faith because nobody wants to kill us anymore. And although this form of persecution is quite rare in our country, I tell you it isn’t rare in other parts of the world. And we must be ready. It doesn’t mean it can never happen to us here.

Another form of persecution is slander or false accusations in the name of Christ. By standing for truth, for righteousness, for Christ, we are often labelled as homophobes, xenophobes, racists, misogynists. And of course, these are false accusations. Nothing can get you farther from the truth. And yet this persecution comes upon us very often, very often.

But again, these various forms of persecutions are for us to be acquainted with Jesus Christ. In persecution, Jesus is telling us, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

In persecution, there is supreme blessing because Christ is saying, “You are mine. You don’t belong to the world, but to me! So conform yourself to me – in persecution!” When you suffer persecution as a Christian, you are condemning the world with your life, because it evidences all the more that they hate Jesus Christ so they will persecute the “little Christs,” and this shows all the more that they need Him.

So brethren, do not escape persecution. Persecution is the Way of the Master. It’s not just a mere consequence of your Christianity.

Persecution is the ordained way that God has set up for every Christian. It is the path and trajectory of supreme blessedness. We don’t chase it because it is sure to come if we are living as we should in God’s kingdom. So do not escape it by compromising in righteousness and not living for Christ’s sake.

If you are not being persecuted, ask yourself, why? Do I live in such a way that the world embraces and approves of? The sure way to not be persecuted is to live in the way that the world approves of. Do everything that the world does, and you are sure, you are sure to escape persecution.

So, if you are a Christian do not escape it. Because in escaping it, you’re escaping supreme blessedness. There were two Reformers who really influenced England’s transformation from Roman Catholic to Protestant. Their names were Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. They so influenced the Church of England in the truths of God’s word that when Queen Mary came into power they were both placed in a tower prison. Eventually they would be burned at the stake. And Ridley said to Latimer, “Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it.” Latimer’s response to Ridley, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”

Their martyrdom is remembered until today. And shortly after they died, the Protestant Reformation exploded in England and the gospel spread. From a small candle in their burning stake, to a whole country on fire for Jesus Christ. This is the effect of righteous persecution for Jesus. It witnesses about Jesus because it shows that we are acquainted with Him.

Secondly, let’s consider this acquaintance with Christ, this Partnership. We are indeed being Persecuted, and we are being Persecuted for our Partnership. Our Partnership with Christ and His Righteousness.

Our passage is clear, we must be persecuted on account of Christ, for righteousness sake which only comes from Christ. So, this point is not only to emphasize that. It’s simply given in order that when persecution comes, we sit as a blessing from Christ. When we face persecution, when we endure persecution, we must also know the Christ we are persecuted for.

So, brethren, consider who your Partnership is with. It’s not a

partnership with just any other person. It is Jesus Christ, the King.

I was part of a fraternity in college, you could say I have a ‘partnership’ with my fraternity in college called Upsilon. And some of you guys might have heard of it. And in that fraternity, we were taught a handshake to do with every fraternity brother we see. And they taught us that what that handshake meant was that if you looked into your fraternity brother’s eyes, you were saying “I will die for you,”. It’s a little bit cheesy for an all men’s fraternity. And I tell you the truth, my fraternity was the most wretched fraternity. I have met the most depraved people there. And yet we would shake each other’s hands, as if to say “I will die for you.”

I have long abandoned such a “fraternal” relationship with that fraternity. But this is simply an illustration for all of us. That many people will shake and join hands with other wicked people and die for them. Many of us will shake hands with our sins and lusts and die for them. Many people are very willing to die for the enjoyment of their sin. But as Christians, will we not willingly be persecuted for the LORD Jesus Christ? Will we not willingly be prepared to die for the King of Kings and Lord of lords?

Consider what our Christ has done for us. Everything that he tells us about here, persecution, reviling, insults, false accusations. He endured first. And persecution acquaints us with the sufferings of Christ because Christ had to suffer for our sake. The King doesn’t ask His subjects to endure persecution without first enduring it Himself. Before His church endures the world, He endures first.

By Jesus Christ coming into this world, He was clothed in suffering and persecution. In fact, from the very beginning of His earthly life, in His birth He was already pursued by Herod to be killed, we saw that in Matthew

2. From the very beginning He was persecuted. And His entire life He was religiously persecuted by the Jewish leaders, He was socially persecuted by the Jewish people, and He was politically persecuted by the Romans. All of this while He while he is living a perfectly righteous life—Our LORD Jesus Christ was persecuted for living in perfection. And when He was on the way to His death, He was insulted and mocked by the soldiers who scourged Him. Just to give you an idea, Matthew 27 verse 27 says this, Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King Jesus, the King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.”

After enduring all of these brethren, He went willingly to His own Cross, to die for the sins of His people. And even on the Cross He was reviled by the criminals who were crucified with Him. King Jesus experienced the worst persecutions for our sake. And by this gospel, He calls us to repent of our sins, and believe in Him. In fact, He is calling you now —repent, repent of your sins, crucify yours sins with Christ on the cross and place all your faith in the Lord Jesus.

Christ has been persecuted and killed for the payment of our sins. And calls us to repent and believe upon Him. This is what our Christ has done for us in the gospel.

If we don’t understand what Christ has endured for us, we will never want to endure persecution for Him. So, when He calls us into repentance, it is a call for us to deny ourselves, deny our sins, deny our own selfish ambitions, deny our own preferences, deny our own way, deny our own comforts, deny our way of life in full. And to trust in Him in faith for forgiveness and redemption.

We can only experience the beatitudes, the supreme blessedness, through faith in Jesus Christ. And without His righteousness we will we never be persecuted. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can we ever serve Jesus Christ. And only by serving Him can we be persecuted for His name’s sake.

This is what Christ has done for us, this is our partnership. The God of the universe, creator and sustainer of all things, endured the persecution of humanity, so that we can be redeemed. Is He not worthy to be persecuted for? In your persecution, think of your LORD, who has suffered infinitely beyond measure than you ever will. In your persecutions and sufferings, look at Christ. His sufferings are not meant to belittle your sufferings, but to remind you that you serve a God who suffered before you, who understands your persecutions, and who has endured the worst of them to secure and hide your life with Christ and God. Draw comfort in that.

John Paton, a missionary to cannibals and savages to the people in the Island of Tanna, was being chased one night to his death. He survived to be able to write about that experience. And this is what he says the persecution made him realize, I quote John Paton. “I climbed into the tree, and was left there alone in a bush. The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharge of muskets, and the yells of the savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe in the arms of Jesus! Never, in all my sorrows did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly to my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among these chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Saviour’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship.”

John Paton experienced many sufferings, including losing his wife and son in the island, and being stabbed to the heart by these people who he cared for and evangelized to. And yet today, the result of his persecutions cannot be hidden. They saw in Paton, these savages, saw in John Paton, a man so willingly persecuted for Jesus, who was so bold about His partnership with Jesus… And the gospel broke through their hearts and they turned to Jesus—The whole island eventually turned to Christ.

Hold on to what Paton said when you are persecuted – “If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Saviour’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship.” If not for persecution, we will not experience the depths of the consoling fellowship of Christ.

And so lastly, to help us understand supreme blessedness, let us consider our Prize. We are supremely blessed in our Persecution, which we experience because of our Partnership, and for this persecution we are given a Prize.

In suffering persecution Jesus Christ gives us a beautiful command: Rejoice and be glad. Rejoice and be joyful. Rejoice and leap for joy… For your reward is great in heaven. Jesus didn’t say, “pout and look gloomy,” “magpaawa at magdabog,” “umiyak at maghanap ng kakampi,”No! REJOICE! Rejoice and be glad.

And I think the text here gives us three clear reasons why we can rejoice and be glad. Very very clear reasons. Persecution confirms for us in our lives these three things: Firstly, we are possessors of the kingdom.

Those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake possess the Kingdom of Christ. If in persecution we are acquainted with Christ, and if we are acquainted with Christ, then what is His is ours. King Jesus has possession of the kingdom, and we have possession of it as co-heirs with Him. Romans 8:16 and 17 says, The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Secondly, persecution confirms for us a future glory. If we suffer reviling, persecutions, and slander in this life, there is an eternal joy that awaits us. We might, for a certain time or a short time, suffer an external fire. But we can rejoice in that we will never suffer an eternal fire. Paul calls our lives “this light momentary affliction” and what this light and momentary affliction does is to prepare for us an eternal

weight of glory beyond all comparison.

And thirdly, persecution confirms for us our shared relationship with the prophets, who were also persecuted as we are. What does that mean? It means that you are in the company of the people of God—The prophets who were martyred for their faith in God. Let me read to you Hebrews 11. After Paul talks about the Hall of Faith, he says this, “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection.” And listen to this, Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy.”

Persecution confirms that we are in like company with these great men of faith of whom the world was not worthy. And it promises us that we will also, if we endure, rise again to a better life.

The prize of our persecution is that it confirms us these three things, and in confirming these three things, we gain confidence that we possess the Kingdom of God. In the LORD’s Prayer we pray “Father, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” This is it. To be in the kingdom is to live God’s will. And to live God’s will is to be persecuted for His sake.

So prepare for persecution so that you might rejoice in it! Remember what persecution confirms in you so that when it comes, and it will, you can face it head on, rejoice, and leap with joy because it’s supreme blessedness, it is a beatitude.

John Chrysostom, the golden mouthed preacher of the 5th century faced persecution from the wife of Emperor Arcadius. Her name was Eudoxia. I don’t know if I pronounced that correctly, “Eudoxia”. And it’s recorded that their conversation went like this. Eudoxia says to John Chrysostom, “I will banish you”. Chrysostom says, “You cannot banish me, for this world is my Father’s house”, “But I will kill you,” Eudoxia says. “No, you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God,”

“I will take away your treasures,”

“No, you cannot, for my treasure is in heaven and my heart is there.” “But I will drive you away from your friends and you will have no one left,”

“No, you cannot. For I have a Friend in heaven from whom you cannot

separate me. I defy you. For there is nothing you can do to harm me.”

If you know your God, just like John Chrysostom knew his God, then there is nothing that anyone can do to harm you. Know your God, know your Lord, know His Word, know His grace, know His comfort… and persecution will simply be the joyful road that you take to eternal glory.

As we close this final beatitude, I desire to leave you all with this… This morning, as we sit comfortably in this chapel, with air-conditioning, in our freshly cleaned clothes, waiting for the lunch to be delivered to us, then to eat later and be filled, the world wages a war against God. And to abandon your post is a sin against God.

If you sit here claiming to be a follower of Jesus and yet you know deep inside that you live like the world that wages war against your King, that is treason of the greatest degree. Do not live and love as the world, for once they’ve used you, they will turn on you and persecute you, just as they did in Christ. Rather, fight for the cause of Christ your LORD.

Even if you sit here comfortably now, prepare for the war that goes on. Prepare with the full armour of God. And then fight with a poor spirit, with mourning, with meekness, with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, with purity, and with peacemaking. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Then you read the next passage after the beatitudes, it says in that you will be salt and light, salt in the earth and light of the world. The world is coming for you. And they will pursue you, and they will insult you, they will slander you, and if they have the opportunity, they will kill you. And when they do, rejoice and be glad because you were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Christ name.
Let’s pray. Father we ask that we would understand the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. And that in these sufferings we might see the redemption that is in Him, the atonement of our sins. We ask that You would open our hearts and our minds to find boldness in Jesus Christ, to love Him, to serve Him, to endure great persecutions for Him. We ask You Lord God that we might be counted worthy of a day and hour to be numbered among those who have been persecuted for Your name’s sake. We prayed Lord God that You will give us strength and that we might rejoice and be glad. That as we partake of the cup of Christ, we might come to an eternal joy and glory with Christ. And we pray Lord God that this Church be strengthened to live in this way, that the gospel will be proclaimed, that they might be faithful like the Church of Smyrna, where our church father Polycarp had come. We pray Lord God that You would strengthen us in that. We would look at the cross of Christ and love it as we bear our own crosses for You. We love you Lord, in Jesus name, Amen.

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