February 17, 2020 – Monday
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.
This morning, over breakfast, my bride of almost 49 years told me she missed the verse of the day having a common thread. I simply replied I had not found a new word or thought or phrase yet to use as a common thread. Then I did – persecution. You will find persecuted, persecute, and persecuted in the three verses above. These are words we are familiar with in the United States as applying greatly to others throughout the world, but not so much to us. At least not as it applies to our brothers and sister in Christ the rest of the world whether they be Catholic or Protestant.
How did I happen to choose persecution? Well, it just so happens I am reading a book about persecution with the title The Insanity of Obedience subtitled Walking With Jesus in Tough Places by Nik Ripken with Barry Stricker. And on page 21 (paperback edition) I read the following, “According to Paul Marshall of Freedom House, 80 percent of the world’s believers who are practicing their faith live in persecution” (italics in the original).
Like the author I was shocked by the number 80 percent. That means four out of five Christians live in persecution with the following caveat they are believers who are practicing their faith. The author makes the statement that if 80 percent of Christians who are practicing their faith are living in persecution, then persecution is the normal for Christians. How about that for a wake-up call. After all consider what Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12-13 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. Suggest looking at verse 12 here in all of its various translations where anyone wanting or desiring (meaning attempting to do so) or actually living a godly life will be persecuted.
So what kind of life are we living if we are not being persecuted? More on this tomorrow as we explore the three verses above and what Jesus meant when He spoke of persecution in those verses. For now we might consider if we are practicing our faith and if we are, why are we not facing persecution.
Oh, for the curious in the NIV there are 58 references to persecution in one form or another, 10 in the Old Testament and 48 in the New Testament, while in the NKJV there are 69 references, 24 in the Old Testament and 45 in the New Testament. So we will be using both to also cover the instances in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.
Riley D. Driver – Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton