July 8 I Friday
“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” —Matthew 5:12
When we are persecuted, how should we respond? Jesus tells us, “Rejoice and be glad” (Matthew 5:12). This response seems a bit out of place when getting angry or mad sounds more appropriate, but Jesus gives us two reasons to “rejoice and be glad” when we are persecuted.
Firstly, Jesus says, “because great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12). Our life is not primarily about earth and the temporary, but about heaven and the eternal, which is a phrase that reoccurs in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth....But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20). He reminds us to live on earth with heaven in mind. Our faithfulness here on earth in the midst of the hardships and persecution will be rewarded in heaven. This is the first reason: we are living for a world that is not simply the material, physical world in the present tense.
Secondly, Jesus tells us, “...for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12). In other words, we are certainly not the first to be persecuted and we will definitely not be the last. We can “rejoice and be glad” because we are in good company with the prophets before us who were persecuted in the same way as we are. This is the second reason: we are not the only ones who encountered persecution.
In Peter’s letter to suffering, scattered Christians, he says, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7). Peter reasons trials and persecutions have to come because they produce genuine trust in God.
If we are to be honest we must ask ourselves, which is more important and precious: the material things of this world, with all the comforts, or a genuine faith that Peter speaks about? Have we been compromising, keeping ourselves away from God and not allowing Him as Lord to govern our lives? If that is truly where we are, may we confess, ask for forgiveness from Jesus and allow the Spirit of God to make us real and genuine in our walk as He lives in and through us. Then, we can “rejoice and be glad,” even in persecution, with our eyes set on our reward in heaven, as we are not the only ones persecuted for Jesus.
Prayer: Lord God, may I rejoice and be glad, even under persecution, knowing that the trial is proving the genuineness of my faith in You. Thank You, Lord.