When persecution occurs for righteousness’ sake, remember that there is every reason for blessed joy now, for we have been counted worthy by God to suffer for Jesus’s sake, we stand in a long line of godly saints who have experienced what we do, persecution strengthens our faith, and our reward in Heaven will be great.
There was a time when 2 Timothy 3:12 worried me. In it, Paul tells Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It wasn’t the idea of persecution that worried me, but the idea that, at that point in my life, I couldn’t really think of any great moments of persecution I had experienced.
I need not have worried. Pastoring, preaching, evangelizing, defending the faith, and writing for the glory of God have brought more than their fair share of persecution. I have been verbally lashed at (even by those within the church), ridiculed publicly for my faith in Christ, and mocked for my pursuit of holiness (usually being labeled a Puritan, which is more a compliment than they realized). There have even been times where I have been threatened. Perhaps the reader can relate.
There’s good reason Jesus said to both count the cost of following Him and to recognize that if we don’t love Him above all else, we cannot follow Him (Lk. 14:25-33). Those who desire biblical fidelity and faithfulness to Christ will be persecuted. So, it may come as a surprise to know that Jesus has promised that those who are persecuted are blessed.
While it is true that each of the Beatitudes is counter-cultural and a reflection of God’s economy rather than man’s economy, no Beatitude is more counter-cultural than the eighth: Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed.
Most try to avoid persecution. Even those with considerably great power are oftentimes fearful of being persecuted for their Christian faith. Consider how, in John 12:42-43, even the authorities who believed in Jesus were afraid to let it be known lest they suffer on behalf of their righteous confessions of faith.
Yet, there is wonderful encouragement for those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: They not only will be blessed, but already are blessed.