"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness" (Matt. 5:10).
There is a price to pay for being a Kingdom citizen.
Unlike many today who try to make the gospel palatable for reluctant sinners, Jesus made it clear that following Him had its price. Rather than acceptance, fame, prestige, and prosperity, you can expect rejection and persecution. That's not a popular approach to evangelism, but it's honest. Also it insures that no one will try to enter the kingdom on the wrong basis.
Jesus wanted His hearers to count the cost of discipleship. He knew that many of them would be disowned by their families and excommunicated from the Jewish synagogues. Many would suffer persecution or martyrdom at the hands of the Roman government. They needed to count the cost!
Persecution did come to those early Christians. The Emperor Nero smeared many of them with pitch, crucified them, and then burned them to light his garden parties. He condemned Christians for refusing to worship him as a god, and blamed them for the burning of Rome in [sc]A.D. 64. Christians were accused of cannibalism because Jesus said, "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him" (John 6:56). They were said to be revolutionaries because they believed that God would one day destroy the earth.
The world's animosity toward Christians hasn't changed. You might not face the severe persecutions the first-century believers faced, but you will be persecuted (Phil. 1:29). Even new Christians often face difficulties. If they refuse to join their former friends in sinful activities, they might be rejected. If they work for a dishonest boss who expects them to participate in or condone his evil practices, they might be fired or have to quit their jobs. That might bring extreme financial hardship to their families.
God won't always shield you from persecution, but He will honor your integrity and give you strength to endure any trial that comes your way. Praise Him for His all-sufficient grace!
Suggestions for Prayer
- Pray for those you know who are suffering hardship for Christ's sake.
- Ask God for the wisdom and strength to face persecution with integrity and unwavering faith.
For Further Study
Read James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 5:10.
- What purpose does suffering serve?
- How should you respond to suffering?
From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.