March 11, 2020 – Wednesday
Matthew 5:10-12 NIV
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.
As we move into the New Testament today we will see an incredible change on how persecution is treated and discussed compared to the Old Testament. The three verses above each mention believers who are persecuted and never once are those persecuting believers mentioned.
We might wonder why this is especially after 500 years of silence between the last book of the Old Testament and the appearance of John the Baptist. Well, we just left Jeremiah who had no honor in his own time and he was looked down upon, isolated, hated for the prophecies God had given him. Except for his relationship with God, not a good life at all.
But here is Jesus, God – the Son of God – telling us, His followers, His believers, if our righteousness in following Him leads persecution it is okay for we would be blessed and ours is the kingdom of heaven. Live a life of righteousness and it’s okay if persecution comes for He has promised us a place in the kingdom of heaven. That’s the real clue, our focus should be on our future eternal home, not on the temporary life we have here where we may face persecution for living righteously.
Okay, that’s clear enough, but just in case we didn’t get the point He drives it home in the next verse saying Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. People may say all sorts of false things about you, insult you, even persecute you all because of Him – Jesus. If that happens then you are, we are, blessed! Why? Because it is a result of following Him, believing Him, doing our best to live as He would have us to live. We forgive others who have sinned against us because He has told us to do so. We do what we do because of what He did for us. He died for our sins, granted us grace (unmerited and undeserved favor) so we do what we can to honor Him, His Father, and the Holy Spirit. And He tells us if we happen to be insulted, persecuted, or slandered for doing so we are blessed with the prior verse saying we have a place in the kingdom of heaven.
Still not clear enough? Well, the next verse is as if Jesus is saying slow down, take a deep breath and consider what I am going to tell you next. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Don’t worry about any of the negative stuff, instead Rejoice and be glad! But why are we to rejoice and be glad? [B]cause great is your reward in heaven! There is not just a reward in heaven but a great reward! Just as there were great rewards for the prophets who were persecuted.
Jesus wants us to know that to live for Him, to follow Him, to live righteously as a result is a blessing in and of itself, but if we were to face persecution for doing so then we will have great rewards just as the prophets who were persecuted did. This is His playbook for us and He wants us to know the endgame – great is your reward in heaven. It is easy to be distracted, but this is His way of saying ‘Stay focused, know what your reward will be. Don’t give it up. Stay the course.’ The verse for today and the ones preceding it in this chapter are the Coach’s great words of encouragement. He is telling us it will be worth the cost.
So what are we to do? Listen to the coach/Jesus or go ahead and worry about what the world has to say about our faith and how we choose to live our lives for Him. Choose Jesus.
Riley D. Driver – Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton