Summary: God alsways calls forth the heroic in His people. Suffering stimulates spiritual growth. Some Biblical advice for handling persecution.
Blessed Are the Persecuted Matt. 5:10-12
INTRO.: Should we feel blessed when we are persecuted? Is it a time for rejoicing when others oppose us because we are Christians? Jesus says, "yes."
It may not seem like a blessing to be persecuted, but persecution was the atmosphere in which the early Christians lived. They expected to suffer for Christ and did because their beliefs ran completely counter to the culture. Suffering is often the means by which God sends growth and strength.
We live in a world heavily influenced by the Gospel and in America we seldom see active persecution. It is not so everywhere. Christians must be prepared to suffer for Christ if called upon to do so.
Jesus lists several different types of suffering; insult persecution, slander. Yet, we must remember if these things are to bring a blessing, it must be that we suffer them for Jesus’ sake.
Let’s think about persecution as it relates to the Christian life.
I. God always calls for the heroic in His people. He is satisfied only with our best.
A. Consider some of the Biblical heroes:
1. God asked Abraham to give his son. Gen. 22
2. He sent Isaiah to preach to a hostile audience. Isa. 6:9ff
3. Called Daniel to witness at the risk of his life. Dan. 6
B. Even Jesus was no exception. Heb. 2:10
1. He became a perfect Savior by making atonement.
2. He was a perfect friend Who gave His life for His friends.
3. He was a perfect example, triumphing over sin.
4. All this to demonstrate God’s love and show His will for men.
C. Persecution brings out the best in men by testing them:
1. Early disciples counted it a privilege. Acts 5:41
2. The fact of suffering is not so important as what causes it. I Pet. 4:12-16
3. Those who suffer for righteousness are in good company. Matt. 5:12
II. Persecution stimulates spiritual growth and zeal:
A. The trials of Elijah illustrate this. I Kings 19
1. He was persecuted because he defeated the prophets of Baal
2. He passed through deep despair and loneliness to the point of death.
3. His spirit was broken before he finally found God.
B. In tribulation, the Christian may find:
2. Dependence upon God
3. A realization of God’s love and the strength He can give.
C. In the New Testament, the Hebrew Christians provide an example:
1. They had cheerfully endured persecution. Heb. 10:32-34
2. Their discipline was a means of blessing: 12:11
3. Now, they are in danger of falling because of the everyday temptations common to all of us. 12:12, 13
III. In the light of the Gospel, how should Christians act in the face of persecution?
A. Pray for our enemies: Matt. 5:44
1. Christians have this duty all the time.
2. Persecution may make it harder, but not impossible.
3. Jesus is our perfect example. He prayed on the cross for His enemies.
B. Speak the Word boldly: Acts 4:29
1. When we are persecuted, we have the attention of the persecutors. There is reason to believe they know the power of the message.
2. Others may be encouraged by our suffering. Phil. 1:12-14
3. The message is having effect if we are arousing opposition form the world.
C. Commit yourself to God. I Pet. 4:19
1. Continue to do good. Trust God to care for you.
2. He is our Creator and able to care for us.
3. Peter makes a point of God’s faithfulness. He is "faithful Creator."
CONC.: So many of the "problems" that keep us from being faithful in God’s service are so petty we should be ashamed. We should fear lest God send some real testing.
The main lesson we need to learn is when God allows our faith to be tested, He does it so we may grow and be blessed.