Summary: Continuing my series on the Be-Attitudes, focusing on how Jesus promises to stand by us when we face hardship for being Christians. I also look at current day persecution and how we may face it if and when it comes.
The Be-Attitudes #9 – “Blessings under fire”
By James Galbraith
First Baptist Church, Port Alberni
March 18, 2007
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.
Story – bible school reenactment of persecuted church
So far, we have looked at the be-attitudes as the essential teachings of Jesus. These attributes sum up how he wants us to live; as such these words are both our calling and our greatest goals.
I shared this summary of the be-attitudes back in January, when we first started to look at them closely.
To walk away from pride and confess our need for Christ.
To face sorrow with Christ at our side
To serve others as Christ serves us,
To crave righteousness more than our…,
To lend a hand when others are in need,
To remain focused on the true Saviour in a world of counterfeit messiahs
To bring harmony to broken relationships
You may have notices that I only mentioned seven, whereas Jesus shares eight different blessings. That is because the first seven are things we do;
we look for ways of being merciful to others,
we actively seek to know God through prayer and reading his word,
we seek to bring peace to our relationships,
The last be-attitude is different. It is not something we do, but rather something that can happen to us when we take the first seven seriously.
It is both a warning and a promise.
It is a warning that the world will not stand up and applaud as we serve Christ.
It is a promise that Christ will reward our efforts when we serve him.
I want to take a closer look at both the warning and the promise this morning.
The warning - Persecution
The actions that people may take against us, for simply living as Christians, is often called persecution.
Christ knew how revolutionary his teaching were, and that those who tried to honor him and them would not be well-received by the world he came to save.
Those who teach that Christ will take away our troubles and fill our lives with wealth if we simply have enough faith are wrong. Christ warns us that honoring him will most likely mean more , not less, hardship on earth.
Just ask those who followed him the closest. According to history, and legend, all the apostles except one died for their faith.
• Peter was crucified, head downward, during the persecution of Nero.
• Andrew died on a cross at Patrae, in Achaia, a Grecian Colony.
• James, the younger brother of the Savior, was thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple, and then beaten to death with a club.
• Bartholomew was flayed alive in Albanapolis, Armenia.
• James, the elder son of Zebedee, was beheaded at Jerusalem.
• Thomas, the doubter, was run through the body with a lance at Coromandel, in the east Indies.
• Philip was hanged against a pillar at Heropolis (Abyssinia).
• Thaddeus was shot to death with arrows.
• Simon died on a cross in Persia (now Iran).
Only the Apostle John died of old age, in Ephesus at about one hundred years of age.
They knew that their devotion to Christ would cost them dearly. They would look at our modern “health and wealth” gospel as the vilest of lies.
We don’t face a lot of blatant persecution in Canada; we still enjoy the freedom of practicing our faith, as long as we don’t break the law while we do so. Those freedoms are coming under some fire, but we really don’t know persecution the way many of our brother and sisters in Christ do.
I want to share with you what real persecution is like. It is probably no surprise to you that all Christians do not enjoy the same freedom we do. It may, however, surprise you to hear how much believers in other parts of the world pay to be followers of Christ.
I did some investigating this week, and here is just one of dozens of accounts I found. These events took place just weeks ago.
Church raided, literature confiscated in Uzbekistan
posted March 5, 2007
The Voice of the Martyrs has received photographs of police officers interrogating believers in and around a church in Qarshi (“Karshy”), Uzbekistan.
According to VOM sources police burst into the service on February 25, 2007, confiscated literature and demanded to know who was funding the church.
Police also brought video cameras to video tape the worship service. When police started to film, Pastor Sergei Shandyvayev didn’t panic, but simply continued the worship service.