But God Meant It For Good
"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11-12
When we think on the promises of God, do we think about the promise that we will experience persecution? That we will suffer? If you are anything like me, that's the last promise we want to think about. It's the one blessing we want to avoid. But all the prior blessings in the Beatitudes lead up to this one.
When God accomplishes an attitude change in us where we have left self-desires behind and focus only on the matters of God, we are strong enough to face the suffering of persecution. I would offer an observation here. If we are not suffering persecution of some kind - if we are 'flying under the radar' so unbelieving family, friends, neighbors, and work colleagues do not notice us - perhaps there is an element of self-interest or self-preservation still at work in us.
"Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
2 Timothy 3:12
Live a godly life. Isn't that what the BE-attitudes are all about? Live a life that glorifies God. Why does that bring persecution on our heads?
"And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at the time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also," Galatians 4:28-29
From the moment Adam sinned persecution arose from the spirit of the world against the Spirit of God. Once God made His covenant with Abraham that the world would be blessed through his son, the child of the flesh became the adversary of the child of promise though neither child had yet been conceived.
Ishmael was thirteen when Isaac was born. Traditionally, women weaned their babies when they were about three years old, so when Ishmael was sixteen Abraham threw a great party.
"The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had born to Abraham, mocking" Genesis 21:8-9
Isaac was insulted - mocked - before he'd had much chance to deserve it. The prophets, too, were examples to us of persecution for righteousness sake. Consider just a few:
Joseph: betrayed with intent to murder. Sold into slavery by his brothers because of jealousy. They meant it for evil, but Joseph later told them God meant it for good.
Moses: slandered by the people he came to help. They disagreed with him, questioned his motives, challenged his authority, and wanted to return to Egypt thereby giving up on God's promise. But God meant it for good.
David: fled for his life from the murderous attempts by the unrighteous King Saul. Though God had chosen him as king, David had to wait for God to vindicate him and set him on the throne. He was a flawed man, yet the promise of the Messiah came through him. But God meant it for good.
Daniel: torn from his family in childhood, was taken to serve in a cruel idolatrous government. Lived his life in godly integrity and survived several attempts to destroy him, the last one being in his 80's when he bore the sentence of execution in the lion's den. Divine intervention saved him. During his life he was the recipient of awesome prophecies regarding the future succession of world powers, the first and second comings of Jesus, and the final end times conflict. He was also a highly trusted advisor to King Cyrus when the order was given for the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple after the seventy years in exile. But God meant it for good.
Jesus: condemned to die by his own people - men who feared losing their power privilege and position. He was mocked, tortured and scourged before crucifixion and endured continued insults while he was dying on the cross. But God meant it for good.
Paul, Peter, the disciples and the early followers of The Way: persecution took the Gospel message beyond Jerusalem to the known world. Their persecution strengthened their souls, and brought comfort and salvation to others. But God meant it for good.
The force of persecution toward believers in Jesus Christ is becoming more obvious today throughout the world. Back in the first century A.D. Peter wrote,
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." 1 Peter 4:12-14
I would be remiss if I failed to bring to mind Peter's admonition in the next two verses:
"Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name." 1 Peter 4:15-16
The spirit of this world hates the Holy Spirit of God and has ever tried to destroy Him - from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane to the Garden of believer's souls. The seal of the Holy Spirit upon us makes us a target in the world's eyes.
Do you love God? Then you have the promise that Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, will bring good out of your circumstances of persecution.
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
Knowing these things, how then should we live?
"The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever. Amen." 1 Peter 4:7-11
by Marilyn Allison