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Summary: Introduction: We are made to love and to be loved. We like to be liked. Friendship is the atmosphere in which we breathe most freely. To be ridiculed as a child is a heart breaking experience, but the pain is not lessened as one becomes an adult.

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Persecution-The Way to Happiness

Text: "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, per­secute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:10-12 NIV).

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:10-12

Introduction:

We are made to love and to be loved. We like to be liked. Friendship is the atmosphere in which we breathe most freely. To be ridiculed as a child is a heart breaking experience, but the pain is not lessened as one becomes an adult. Persecution in the form of harassment and unfair accusations may destroy our pri­vate castles of security. Of all the injuries that can be afflicted on a human being, persecution possibly comes the closest to making life hell on earth.

Therefore, the Lord’s final beatitude seems almost paradoxical. "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is "the kingdom of heaven." To be honest, this is the most difficult of the Beat­itudes to believe. The reason for this difficulty is that persecution seems to be the antithesis of happiness. Furthermore, it seems like a strange statement to come from the lips of such a compassionate Savior. How can we under­stand our Lord when he congratulates those who are persecuted and encour­ages them to rejoice in their persecution? Obviously there is a paradox to be explained.

I. A paradox to be explained.

"Blessed [happy] are those who are persecuted." It seems incredible that our Lord would say something so contradictory and is probably the most confusing declaration ever made by Christ.

A. It is a paradox that a person can be "happy " when suffering. How can anyone be happy when being persecuted or lied about? We enjoy the sense of security that comes from occasional words of approval, but persecution destroys everything that brings enjoyment and security.

Persecution encourages self-examination, which always makes a per­son happier. We must be careful to avoid coming to the conclusion that we are suffering for righteousness’ sake each time we are persecuted. More often we suffer for something we have done wrong rather than right. When a newly enlisted soldier discovers that he is out of step with the rest of his troop, his first action should be to listen to see if he is in error. One value of persecution is that it promotes self-examination so we can understand why others do not like us. Perhaps we should ask our­selves whether we measure up to the preceding beatitudes.

Persecution affords an opportunity to demonstrate our loyalty to Christ. Many of us deny him by our silence when we have a chance to stand up and be counted. We are afraid that open loyalty to Jesus may bring persecution. To stand faithfully by our Savior’s side does bring per­secution, but it also brings happiness.

B. It is a paradox that a person can be persecuted for doing good. The Living Bible says, "Happy are those who are persecuted because they are good" (Matt. 5:10), and the Good News translation reads, "Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires" (TEV).


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