July 7 I Thursday
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Some of us may imagine life as a Christian to be smooth sailing, but the reality of being a Christian is that we will face persecution. Just before Jesus was crucified, He told His disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33). Jesus did not say, “you might have trouble,” He said, “you will have trouble.” Did we notice the distinction? Peace is found internally in union with Jesus, but externally in the world, there will be trouble.
Jesus alluded to this truth when He sent His disciples out on ministry. He sent them two by two and commissioned them with a mission: “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (Matthew 10:7-8). The disciples were probably enthusiastic about the work that lay ahead but Jesus added, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves” (Matthew 10:16). But not only so, He specified what they would have to endure: “You will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues” (Matthew 10:17).
There is persecution because people are being faithful to Christ. Which is why historically, some of the most genuine work of the Spirit of God took place when there was opposition. This may not always be the case but it is true as the saying goes, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” When people suffer for their faith in Christ, it has been the means of the Church growing and not diminishing, because that is when we are dealing with reality. If we want to avoid persecution, we will also avoid spiritual renewal.
Hence, when Paul was ready to die, he wrote in his last letter to Timothy that, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Persecution is not escapable but a part of living for Christ. When we are willing to be persecuted, we are willing for the Spirit of God to do His work in our lives. This is why Jesus tells us, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11). If we are going to live in a wholesome relationship with God, we will find ourselves out of step with the world and potentially facing persecution.
Prayer: Almighty God, thank You for Your Spirit that is at work when I face persecution in my life. Help me to remain steadfast upon You.