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To begin 2020 we are starting off on Sundays with “The Way to Happiness”. 

Everyone wants to be happy, and the New Testament is the greatest authority on happiness.

Jesus gives is the key that will unlock the door to happiness.

This key is found in the eight Beatitudes.

We have already covered,

Humility, The Way to Happiness.

Sorrow, The Way to Happiness.

Meekness, The Way to Happiness.

Hunger and Thirst, The Way to Happiness.

Mercy, The Way to Happiness.

Purity, The Way to Happiness.

Peacemaking, The Way to Happiness.

Today is part 8 Persecution, The Way to Happiness.

Text

Matthew 5:10-12 (ESV)

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 

12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Scripture Reading

Matthew 5:1-12

Prayer

Father, in a world filled with violence, disturbing problems and saddening sights, may our hearts be strengthened even in the face of personal persecution.

Save us Lord from pitying ourselves on those rare occasions when we must bear the cross of Christ.

We offer our thanks today Lord with humble hearts. Use us as a means to further your Kingdom.

In Jesus name we pray.

Amen.

Introduction

We are made to love and be loved.

We like to be liked.

Friendship is the atmosphere in which we breath most freely.

To be ridiculed as a child is a heart breaking experience, but the pain is not lessened as we become adults.

Persecution in the form of harassment and unfair accusations could destroy our private castles of security.

Of all the injuries that can be afflicted on a human being, persecution possibly comes the closest to making life hell on earth.

Therefore the Lord’s final beatitude seems almost paradoxical. 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

This is probably the most difficult of the beatitudes to believe.

The reason for this difficulty is that persecution seems to be the anti of happiness.

Furthermore, it seems like a strange statement to come from the lips of such a compassionate saviour.

How can we understand our Lord when He congratulated those who were persecuted and encouraged them to rejoice in their persecution?

Obviously there is a paradox to be explained.

  1. A paradox to be explained.

“Blessed (Happy) are those who are persecuted.”

It seems incredible that our Lord would say something so contradictory, and it could possibly be the most confusing declaration He ever made.

  1. It is a paradox that a person could be happy when suffering.

How can anyone be happy when being persecuted or lied about?

We enjoy the sense of security that comes from occasional words of approval, but persecution destroys everything that brings enjoyment and security.

Persecution  encourages self examination, which always makes a person happier.

We must be careful to avoid coming to the conclusion that we are suffering for righteousness’ sake each time we are persecuted.

More often we suffer for something we have done wrong rather than right.

When a newly enlisted soldier discovers that he is out of step with everyone else , his first action should be to listen to see if he is in error.

One value of persecution is that it promotes self examination so we can understand why others do not like us.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves whether we measure up to the preceding beatitudes.

Persecution affords the opportunity to demonstrate our loyalty to Christ.

Many of us deny Him by our silence when we have a chance to stand up and be counted.

We are afraid that open loyalty to Jesus may bring persecution.

To stand faithfully by our Saviour’s side does bring persecution, but it also brings happiness.

B. It is a paradox that a person can be persecuted for doing good.

The Living Bible says in Matthew 5:10 “happy are those who are persecuted because they are good.”

And the Good News Translation says, “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires”

Sometimes a person is persecuted for doing good because doing good disturbs others.

No one embodied the beatitudes more perfectly than Jesus himself.

Yet He was the most hated advocate of the Christian faith.

Even thoughHe advised His disciples against needlessly antagonising their enemies, their Christlike goodness upset others.

The church and individual Christians who dare to stand by the principals of Christ must be prepared for persecution.

Whenever the church ceases to be the moral conscience of its community, it also ceases to be the yeast in the bread, the salt of the earth, and the light set on the hill.

Sometimes doing good interferes with those who want to do bad.

For example, the pure in heart insist on truth.

This interferes with those who want to follow their passions and prejudices.

People who are merciful advocate forgiveness while others demand vengeance.

Peacemakers quietly seek to step hostility while warmongers insist that the only solution to a world problem is open warfare.

2. A pattern to be avoided.

Nero’s persecution that slaughtered Christians by the thousands may not be the pattern in Australia, but the persecution continues to be real and tends to follow the pattern Christ mentioned in verse eleven of todays scripture.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

  1. The pattern of slander.

Jesus mentioned those who “insult you”.

This expression speaks of misrepresentations that degrade another persons reputation.

The early church was not immune to slander like this.

They were accused of cannibalism as they gathered to observe the Lord’s supper.

They were charged with immoral practices as they gathered for their love feast.

The people of the early church were even accused of being fanatical doomsayers as they spoke of the ultimate end of the world.

Some people today continue to use slander  as an effective tool for persecution.

But Christ reminds us that this pattern should be avoided.

B. The pattern of harassment

In verse eleven Jesus spoke about those who “persecute you”.

Persecution may be defined as repeatedly raiding another or as continually annoying another.

For instance, the only crime of first century believers was that they put Christ before Caesar.

They were harassed for this dedication and were killed by the thousands.

However subtly the pattern of harassment may be followed, Jesus clearly commanded us to avoid it.

We may not understand or appreciate another person, but persecution through harassment in any form is forbidden.

C. The pattern of falsehoods.

Continuing in verse eleven, Jesus spoke of those who “falsely say all kinds of evil” about believers.

Slander usually has some element of truth in it, however small.

But falsehood has no truth in it at all. 

Jesus became the object of many wicked accusations.

His enemies tried to destroy His good name and discount His miracles and ministry.

Inevitably, this type of persecution will come to any Christian whose lifestyle clearly shows that Jesus Christ makes a difference.

It is never easy to suffer this form of persecution, but every Christian must be ready to face it.

Obviously telling falsehoods or lies is a pattern to be avoided by those who want to experience the blessings of this beatitude.

3. The promise to be enjoyed.

In verses 10-12 Jesus mentioned that all who endure persecution will be rewarded.

It is a promise made only to those who suffer for righteousness’ sake and who are spoken against falsely for Christ’s sake.

This is a threefold promise

  1. It is a present promise

In verse ten Jesus said, “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Even in the midst of persecution you can enjoy this promise.

It is for the here and now.

When believers must suffer because of their faith, they have discovered the way to experience the closest possible companionship with their Lord.

The promise that “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” becomes a reality.

B. It is a future promise.

“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven”

The apostle Paul must have been aware of this promise when he wrote, 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (ESV)

9 But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,

what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

C. It is a perennial promise.

Jesus continued in Matthew 5:12 (ESV)

12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This is a promise of being identified with God’s chosen people, a promise that is realised both in the present and in the future.

To suffer persecution is to walk the same road as the prophets and martyrs.

To suffer for what is right is to be part of a great succession.

The finest compliment that can be paid to Christians is persecution because of righteousness, for then they have been identified with God’s choicest people.

Conclusion.

In Australia, in fact most of the western world, where it is easy for Christians to live comfortable and safe lives, we can often forget the persecution of Christians is rampant in many parts of the world.

Whether persecution comes in the open threats on someones life or in the insidious words spoken by a fellow Christian, you must be willing to suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake if you want to experience the happiness that Jesus promised

The promise “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” continues to bless those who endure through severe persecution.

Until next time

Stay in the Blessings

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I really want to encourage you to be diligent with your Bible study time, because God has so much more for us than we can get from just going to church once or twice a week and hearing someone else talk about the Word.

When you spend time with God, your life will change in amazing ways, because God is a Redeemer.

Theres nothing thats too hard for Him, and He can make you whole, spirit, soul and body!

You’re important to God, and you’re important to us at www.refinerylife.org

When it comes to prayer, we believe that God wants to meet your needs and reveal His promises to you.

So whatever you’re concerned about and need prayer for we want to be here for you! Or even if you just want to say Hi, you can contact us

2020 IS A YEAR OF CLARITY

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