Summary: A consideration of how we can experience joy even in the midst of persecution, when we are persecuted for the RIGHT REASON.
Title: Experiencing Joy In Persecution, Part I:
Persecuted For The Right Reason
Series: The Joy of the Christian Life (Sermon # 3)
Text: Phil 1:12-13
Date Preached: Aug 3, 2008
COPYRIGHT © Joe La Rue, 2008 (All Rights Reserved)
A. An “oxymoron” is a figure of speech which combines two normally contradictory ideas. Expressions like, deafening silence, jumbo shrimp, and civil war are all oxymorons. Let me give you another: Joyful persecution. Those are two words that we do not normally link together. We tend to think of persecution as being something awful, and joy as something wonderful. We do not normally associate the two. And yet, persecution can be a source of joy when we suffer for the right reason, and when we maintain the right focus, and when we hold the right conviction.
1. We saw last week that he experienced joy because of the Christian community that he was part of. Later in this study we’ll discover that he found joy because of the promise of eternal life, and because of Jesus. Those things make sense. We see immediately how they might bring someone joy.
2. In the text today, though, Paul writes about the joy to be experienced in persecution. And we see that it is not really correct to say that “in spite of the persecution he faced, he was joyful,” the way I did just a moment ago. Rather, Paul seems to say, “Because of the persecution I face, I am joyful.” While the word, “joy” does not appear in the text we are about to read, it nevertheless colors it. The theme of joy is found in the verses immediately preceding these verses, and also in the verses immediately following them. Look at the text with me. Philippians 1:12-13.
“12Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” (Phil 1:12-13, NIV).
B. Trans: As a foundational principle, let’s think for a minute about why Paul says he was being persecuted, because that is the key to understanding the joy he experienced even as he was undergoing persecution.
I. There Is Only One “Right” Reason To Endure Persecution.
A. There are plenty of reasons a person could be persecuted.
1. Some of them are noble. I think of the brave civil rights workers of the 1960s, men like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and women like Rosa Parks, who put their lives on the line for freedom and equality. And they were persecuted. They were beaten with fists and clubs, they had vicious police dogs let loose on them, some were shot, many were arrested, some were killed. But their cause was noble: they knew that their cause was right.
2. Sometimes, though, people are persecuted for causes that are not noble at all. The people in the religious compound down in Texas that were recently in the news for marrying girls who were barely teenagers claimed that they were being persecuted. If they were, their cause was not noble. They were breaking the law. And they were not doing it for any “freedom of religion” reason. There is nothing in their religion that requires them to marry a 13 year old instead of an 18 year old. Rather, they were doing it simply because they wanted to. And I think that all of us would say, “It is not a noble cause to coerce a child to marry you.” That’s not noble at all.
B. So there are plenty of reasons a person could be persecuted, but only one reason that can be a source of true joy, and that’s if we’re persecuted for the right reason—if we are persecuted for Jesus. Now, I do not want to be persecuted. But if I have to be persecuted, I want it to be for a reason that is right, don’t you? Don’t you want it to be for a reason that will bring you joy? Not that you enjoy the persecution, but you can still derive joy from it, because you know that you are suffering for the right reason. If you have to be persecuted, or put down, or insulted, don’t you want it to be like that? Don’t you want to feel good, knowing that you are taking a stand for what God wants you to stand for?
1. I spoke earlier about Dr. King. He is one of my heroes. I have studied his life, and there are two things I can tell you for sure about Dr. King. First, he truly believed that God had called him to help all people join hands together in equality and harmony. He truly believed that he was serving Jesus in the struggle he engaged in for civil rights. And second, he experience profound joy, even when he was persecuted, because he knew that his cause was right. He was being persecuted for the right reason.