"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me" (Matt. 5:10-11).
The persecution you receive for proclaiming Christ is really aimed at Christ Himself.
Savonarola has been called the Burning Beacon of the Reformation. His sermons denouncing the sin and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church of his day helped pave the way for the Protestant Reformation. Many who heard his powerful sermons went away half-dazed, bewildered, and speechless. Often sobs of repentance resounded throughout the entire congregation as the Spirit of God moved in their hearts. However, some who heard him couldn't tolerate the truth and eventually had him burned at the stake.
Jesus said, "'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). Sinful people will not tolerate a righteous standard. Prior to Christ's birth, the world had never seen a perfect man. The more people observed Christ, the more their own sinfulness stood out in stark contrast. That led some to persecute and finally kill Him, apparently thinking that by eliminating the standard they wouldn't have to keep it.
Psalm 35:19 prophesies that people would hate Christ without just cause. That is true of Christians as well. People don't necessarily hate us personally but resent the holy standard we represent. They hate Christ, but He isn't here to receive their hatred, so they lash out at His people. For Savonarola that meant death. For you it might mean social alienation or other forms of persecution.
Whatever comes your way, remember that your present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory you will one day experience (Rom. 8:18). Therefore, "to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing" (1 Pet. 4:13).
Suggestions for Prayer
When you suffer for Christ's sake, thank Him for that privilege, recalling how much He suffered for you.
For Further Study
Before his conversion, the apostle Paul (otherwise known as Saul) violently persecuted Christians, thinking he was doing God a favor. Read Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-31, and 1 Timothy 1:12-17, noting Paul's transformation from persecutor to preacher.
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.