Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)
In today’s message, we come to the last of Jesus’ eight dynamic statements called “The Beatitudes.” These sayings are the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount and they are descriptions of kingdom citizens. Christ’s kingdom is one of happiness and thus “beatitude” means happiness, for those who possess these qualities have found joy in the salvation of Christ.
No one comes by these qualities naturally. They are begun in the Holy Spirit as He moves upon the heart through the gospel of Christ. In each beatitude, whether poverty of spirit, meekness, mercy, purity of heart—each one requires a special work of God’s Spirit. The last beatitude is perhaps the most difficult because we can never imagine how happiness comes from pain and suffering.
And yet, nothing was modeled more convincingly as a means to happiness than Jesus’ suffering. Hebrews says that Jesus endured the shame of the cross because of the joy that was set before Him. Isaiah wrote, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:11).
Christ’s joy was in the redemption of His people. It could not come without the suffering and death of the cross. It is impossible to imagine with an unregenerate heart how this could ever be. However, the apostles who lived it affirmed it. They counted it joy to suffer for Christ (James 1:2). There was pleasure in it (2 Corinthians 12:10). There was rejoicing and glory in it (Acts 5:41, 1 Peter 4:13-16).
This is the product of a heart made new like Christ and a mind renewed in the spirit of holiness. Those who have not been changed will not hold up in times of testing. If faith is not genuine, it will fail. Thus, enduring trials and persecutions is evidence of saving faith. Joy comes when we feel God’s strength surging through our veins.
The tendency of those who are not real in the faith is to shy away from declaring their faith in hostile situations. If you are able to stand strong, if you don’t waver, if you feel God’s power, rejoice! God has just claimed you as one of His own!
Pastor V. Mark Smith