Summary: Do we really feel blessed when we are persecuted?
A Texan billionaire w/ a beautiful daughter loved having parties at his pool which was home to a 20 ft. great-white shark. Every night he’d issue a challenge to the men: “½ my fortune or my daughter’s hand in marriage to the man who swims across the pool!” He never had a challenger. Then one night, after the dare was issued, a tall, muscular guy hit the water. W/ arms churning he raced across the pool and just as the shark was about to get him, he reached the other side of the pool safely. The guests cheered. “Bravo!” cried the Texan, “That’s the greatest act of courage I’ve ever seen. Half my fortune is yours!” “No thanks,” replied the guy. “Then, I’d be proud to call you son, you can marry my daughter.” “I don’t want her either,” he replied. “What do you want?” He replied, “I just want the guy who pushed me in the pool.”
Some might call this a kind of persecution, but unless the guy was singled out for his race, religion, nationality, or creed, it was just a prank. Persecution is when someone comes under physical and verbal attack for what they believe and for how they live their life.
Adam is a young Christian in India. In his Hindu village, people were opposed to the gospel. One day Adam’s brother and wife became the first believers in the village. Although Adam wasn’t willing to follow, he observed their changed lives. They began to share the gospel w/ other villagers, but no one would listen. Then the beatings began. Every time the Hindus beat Adam’s brother, someone in the crowd believed in Christ. Eventually, Adam believed in Christ, too, and began to suffer the same persecution as his brother. One day the villagers surrounded Adam, his brother, and the small group of new Christians. In rage they had prepared a huge pot of boiling water and were preparing to cook the Christians alive. Then one of the Hindus calmed the mob and said, "If we do this even more will become Christians," so they agreed to just beat the believers. As a result, others came to Christ and now there is a church of more than 35 families in the village.
Can you imagine? You’ve just been beaten for your faith and you see the mob preparing to throw you into a pot of boiling water to extinguish your witness. Persecution comes in many forms - but it’s very real.
Tonight we finish this portion our series on the (8) attitudes Jesus said we’re to have as His disciples by looking at the one beatitude no one wants – persecution.
In September 1999, Larry Ashbrook walked into the Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX and opened fire during a Wednesday night service & killed (7). I remember this well and one of the girls that was killed would have graduated seminary in my class. Her name was Joy. Persecution is very real.
In April 1999, two teenage gunmen walked into at Columbine High in Littleton, CO, and shot the students they knew were Christians. 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 into 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.
It’s a certainty, someone here today in this room will face life threatening persecution. Are you ready? Are you ready for God’s promise? READ Matthew 5: 10-12. It’s a simple promise – those who undergo persecution will inherit the kingdom. The persecuted are those believers who live out the first (7) attitudes. You could say that to the degree you fulfill the first (7) beatitudes you will experience the eighth. Paul wrote, ”All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Tm. 3:12
In verse 11, it says blessed are you WHEN men shall revile you. That says that at some point in time all Christians can expect some kind of persecution because their righteousness exposes or frustrates the sinful. This doesn’t mean we seek it, but we shouldn’t be surprised when it comes.
James was beheaded. It is said that on his way to be martyred, his accuser was so impressed by his courage and conviction that he repented of his sin, committed himself to Christ, and was then beheaded along with James.