Summary: Those who endure ill treatment from others for their faith will experience royal treatment from their Father in heaven.
Living in the Father’s Favor: Avoiding the Bite of Spite
Matthew 5:10-12 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. (MsgB)
Intro: According to Voice of the Martyrs, Christians are being persecuted for their faith around the world today. More than 70 million Christians have been martyred for their faith since 33 AD. This year an estimated 160,000 believers will die at the hands of their oppressors and over 200 million will be persecuted, arrested, tortured, beaten or jailed. In many nations it is illegal to own a Bible, share your faith, change your faith or allow children under 18 to attend a religious service.
-David Barrett of the World Evangelization Research Center writes, “In one part of the globe, over 10,000 Christians have been killed every year since 1950, due to clashes with anti-Christian mobs, infuriated relatives, state-organized death squads, and so on.”
Barrett’s statistics in fact reveal that deaths of Christians for their faith have shown a marked upsurge since the 1900’s when there used to be around 35,000 a year to the last few years when the figures are up around 260,000 a year!
-Paul’s words to Timothy ring true: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
-The truth is that there are only two realms in this world – the Kingdom of God/Light and the dominion of darkness. And all those who have chosen to walk with Jesus are going to be traveling in a different direction and marching to the beat of a different drum beat from those who live according to this world.
-The beatitudes have been called paradoxical statements of joy. Blessed are the persecuted certainly seems paradoxical. How can persecuted people be blessed? Can you imagine someone saying, “I thoroughly enjoy being mistreated and harassed. Let’s rejoice together for the pain and discomfort it brings”? No one in his or her right mind finds pleasure in pain.
-It is likely that Christians might experience persecution for claiming to be followers of Jesus. The world is becoming increasingly hostile to those who profess Christ. Persecution is no longer what happens to missionary overseas or to the Christian in the 3rd world – it can now happen at work, at school, at home, and even at church.
-In September 1999, Larry Ashbrook walked into the Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX and opened fire during a Wednesday night services killed (7).
-In April 1999, two teenage gunmen walked into at Columbine High in Littleton, CO, and shot the students they knew were Christians. On that fateful day, Cassie Bernall was in the library when the gunman burst into the room and asked her, "Do you believe in God?" Among her final words she said “Yes!” and stepped in God’s arms. Also on that day, Rachael Scott stepped into eternity for her faith. What’s interesting is that a year earlier, Rachel penned these words in her diary: "I’m not going to justify my faith to them, and I’m not going to hide the light that God has put into me. If I have to sacrifice everything, I will. I will take it. If my friends have to become my enemies for me to be w/ my best friend Jesus, then that’s fine w/ me.
-I know that these and other stories of martyrs seem far removed from us, but for millions of Christians in our world today, persecution is the norm, not the exception. How should we approach it? If we are not being persecuted, does that mean we are any more or less spiritual than those who are? Here’s the main thought of the message:
Prop: Those who endure ill treatment from others for their faith will experience royal treatment from their Father in heaven.
TS: Let’s take a look at a few basics of persecution and try to find out how the Lord wants us to understand and prepare for it.
I. Causes of Persecution
-Our text gives us at least 2 main causes of persecution: 1. How we live- righteous living; and who we love- Christ. We will discuss these, but as we look at the early church and try to see why many of them were persecuted, we can see 2 main causes.
A. Political- Christianity incompatible with a true patriotic citizen
-One of the greatest causes of the hatred against Christians in New Testament times and following was that even though they were the most loyal citizens, their supreme loyalty was to Christ, not the ruling government. No Christian would ever consent to worship Caesar, nor to offer any incense on the shrine of Diana. It seemed a small thing to some, but Christians would not entertain any compromise, even if it meant saving their own lives.