Spending Time with Jesus - Matthew 5:1-2
Matthew 5:1-2 says “When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, his disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying.” These two verses begin what is referred to as the sermon on the mount. It is one of the most incredible messages ever known. Can you imagine what it must have been like to hear Jesus speak? Jesus, God’s Son speaking and getting to hear Him? It must have been one of those moments for those who were there. It was life changing.
There was so much in this one sermon, the mind was overloaded. It takes pastors multiple weeks to explain what Jesus said in one setting! I wonder what the disciples were thinking as Jesus spoke those words. Did they really understand what it was He was saying? Can you imagine what the men and women who came to Jesus were thinking? They had never heard anyone speak like this. Jesus was speaking truth. He was speaking life. He was speaking with authority. He was different.
But can you also imagine the people who missed what Jesus said that day. For whatever reason, they didn’t make it to hear this sermon. Perhaps they were too busy dealing with urgent matters and couldn’t make it to hear Him. Perhaps they were simply too busy. It may have been dealing with the daily demands of life or the mundane things. But nonetheless, they missed out. The people who came – their lives were changed. The people who didn’t hear Jesus – their lives had no change. Imagine what those people missed when the missed Jesus speaking.
The same is true for us. If we want God to change our lives, we must make an effort to spend time with Jesus. If we are going to be blessed, it begins in our time alone with God. Jesus speaks to us today. He speaks to us through His Word. He speaks to us in our time of prayer. If we don’t spend that time with Him, we live in the everyday mundane. But God doesn’t want us to live there, He wants us to live with purpose and a mission. He wants so much more than we could possibly imagine. It is only as we spend the time with Him, He communicates to us what He is doing in us and around us. He shares with us His thoughts and His desires. He share His promises and His hopes. He gives us words to challenge us, convict us, encourage us and even minister to us. But we can only receive those words if we are willing to spend the time with Him.
Spending time with God will change my attitude, thoughts, speech and actions. My attitude will be positive and not negative. My thoughts will be focused on Him, and not me. My speech will be edifying and not degrading. My actions will serve others and not just serve me. If I want to see God do a tremendous work in my life, I must choose to spend time every day with Him. I must remember the main thing is to keep the main thing – the main thing. The main thing is to love God, enjoy Him, and glorify Him. But I can’t do it until I spend time with Jesus Christ.
Lord, I’m choosing to spend time with you. I ask You to change my attitudes, my thoughts, my speech and my action. Help me to live a life that is blessed because I spent time with You.
Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit - Matthew 5:3
Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The very first word out of Jesus’ mouth is blessed. What does it mean to be blessed? Is blessed the receiving of material or financial gain? That is a form of blessing called material blessings. But Jesus is going much deeper here. The blessed person is one who has a self-contained joy that is not dependent on outside circumstances. It is a state of mind where there is genuine happiness – a place where you are truly blessed.
Jesus begins the blessings by saying blessed are the poor in spirit. This is not about being in physical poverty. It is coming to the point where you are spiritually bankrupt. It is a realization of spiritual poverty apart from God. You know you are inadequate and empty of yourself. When you realize there is nothing left of you, then it says, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When we become empty of ourselves, then He fills us with Him. The Message puts it this way, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and His rule.” When we get to the end of our rope and let go, then we realize we were never holding the rope, He has us. We then allow God to fill us with Himself. In God’s economy, helplessness leads to power, emptiness leads to filling, confession leads to freedom, dependence leads to independence, and poverty leads to wealth.
Jesus modeled this principle. In Philippians 2:5-8 it says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being in the likeness of men, being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus emptied Himself and humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross. At any point Jesus could have said, “I don’t have to do this, I don’t want to do this.” But He became obedient to the Father and left His glorious position in heaven to become a man who would be ridiculed, mocked, beaten, bruised, and killed on a cruel Roman cross. What a picture of one emptied Himself.
Just as Jesus modeled this principle, we too must be empty. Unlike Christ, our emptiness must be of sin, selfishness, and pride. We must come to the point where we realize we can’t make it in life spiritually or otherwise. Life does not work apart from God. And when we begin to understand that truth and ask God to fill us with His Spirit, it is then we receive all that we need. Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Everywhere in the Gospels when Jesus taught on our needs and desires, He tells us we have the Spirit. My focus must be on Him and Him alone! When I am living in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit – when I am filled with His Spirit – I am truly blessed!
Lord without You, I am bankrupt. I choose today to die to self and empty myself of sin, selfishness, greed and pride. I choose to be filled with Your Spirit. Fill me today I pray.
Blessed Are Those Who Mourn - Matthew 5:4
Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Mourning is not something we look forward to. It is most commonly associated with death of a loved one. Mourning is a part of the grief process. But Jesus had more in mind here than the death of a loved one. It seems strange to speak of the blessedness of the brokenhearted, the joy of sorrow, the gladness of grief, the treasure of tears. If you are blessed, why would you mourn? If you mourned, how could you be blessed? But this is God’s plan. Though this mourning, we learn how to know and understand God better. What Jesus had in mind here was the mourning over sin in our lives.
Even though Jesus never sinned, we see this type of mourning and agony when He weeps over Jerusalem. Matthew 23:37-38 says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you, desolate!” Jesus had seen the sin of Israel. He wanted to help them. But their rebellion and sin was such they were going to suffer. He could see a day coming when Jerusalem would be attacked and become desolate. The second time we see Jesus agonize over sin is in the garden of Gethsemane before He goes to the cross. In Matthew 26:38, it says, “Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death…” Jesus agonized over becoming sin for you and me. He grieved the fact He would be separated from the Father.
When we come to the point of genuine sorrow over sin, we enter into a deeper understanding of the “man of sorrows” who was “acquainted with grief” according to Isaiah 53:3. We begin to see sin as God sees sin. We particularly see the ugliness that sin brings in our life. We see the pain it brings on our Heavenly Father. We cry out as David did in Psalm 51:4, “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight…” Just as physical pain precedes physical birth so mourning over sin precedes spiritual birth. Just as conviction of sin must precede repentance, so you must grieve over your sin before receiving forgiveness.
The promise in this beatitude is for comfort. How does one receive comfort when mourning over sin? God’s grace. God’s grace brings us comfort through redemption, restoration, and the forgiveness of sin. 1 John 1:9 says that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God’s grace is not dependent on what I do, but His love for me. I am comforted that I have a loving Father who gives grace to me. This comfort is filled with such grace it includes the idea of being invited to a banquet or celebration. Jesus gave us this picture in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The Psalmist promised, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.” (Psalm 126:5) and “…weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Jesus says were blessed by being poor in spirit because we are comforted by the grace of God knowing we have forgiveness of sin now and forever.
Thank you, Lord for Your conviction that makes me mourn over sin. Thank you for Your grace, Your forgiveness, Your gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Blessed Are the Meek - Matthew 5:5
Matthew 5:5 says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The word for meek is sometimes translated gentle. But the original word in the Greek does not have the same meaning today as many understand meekness and gentleness. Many think of being meek as being weak or mile. Meekness is quite compatible with great strength. The word we translate meek literally means strength under control. It really means to live under the power of the Holy Spirit. And whatever power a person may have, it is accompanied by humility and a genuine dependence on God.
Bold humility is a term one may say is a paradox – but it gives a beautiful picture of meekness. They have all the strength, but their humility causes them to look beyond themselves. Meekness focuses on the needs of others rather than my own needs, ideas or achievements. A meek person focuses on people and cultivating relationships more than possessions and accolades. They focus more on love than revenge. To be meek is to be gentle even when I have the ability to act with severity. To be meek is to be submissive, empty-handed before God in total dependence and surrender. It means to be broken of sin, selfishness and pride. It means patience in a world of hurry and now. It means to see everything as a gift from God and His grace. True meekness may be a quality of the strong, those who could assert themselves but choose not to do so. Self-assertion is never a Christian virtue.
The best picture I can give is that of a powerful person, perhaps a world leader or CEO of a Fortune 500 Company taking the time to listen and talk and help a person who they do not have to. The Bible refers to Moses as meek and he was anything but weak. This man was humble before God taking off his sandals because he was on holy ground – not sure he was up for the task of leading Israel out of Egypt. Yet he stands up to the biggest ruler of his day and tells him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go…’” (Exodus 5:1). His is an incredible life to study.
Jesus was meek. He took time and ministered to sinners and tax collectors. He ministered to the sick and the lepers. He took time with children and the Samaritans. By the way His power led him twice to overturn the money changers tables in the temple and often called the Pharisees “Hypocrites”. Jesus had incredible power, but that power was always controlled by the Spirit.
The result of being meek? Jesus says they will inherit the earth. Psalm 37:11 says, “But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” Earth here refers to all the blessings of God. In a world where one must be self-assertive to get anything, God said those who are truly meek will receive His blessings. God has promised to us blessings as a joint heir with Jesus. 1 Peter 3:8-9 tells us to be humble in spirit … that you might inherit a blessing. The reality is that the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it (Psalm 24:1).
Father, I choose to walk in meekness today. I realize I am Your child, empowered by Your Holy Spirit. Guide me today as I walk under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness - Matthew 5:6
Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” The word picture here is clear. If we want to be blessed, we must develop a deep hunger and thirst for righteousness. This hunger and thirst is sometimes missed in a land where we have plenty and at the slightest hint of hunger, we can open a refrigerator or pantry and get what we want. It is not about luxuries. It is about necessity. Those who hunger and thirst are in dire need. The Psalmist spoke of it in Psalm 42:1-2 when he said, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God …”.
This hunger and thirst becomes a passion. The problem many people have today is no passion. We are simply content and have apathy. God wants us as believers to have a passion. But for what? What does a blessed person becomes so passionate about and seeks? It is righteousness of God. It is not a righteousness of our own. It is a desire to want God in all aspects of our lives. It is a desire to please God above all else. We as believers can get so distracted and lose that passion. But Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Our foremost thought is to seek God, seek His kingdom and His righteousness. My heart’s desire day in and day out should be to please the Lord God. The chief end and duty of man is to love God, enjoy God and glorify God in everything. Romans 14:7-8 says, “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Everything in our life is to be about living for the Lord God Almighty.
Isaiah 26:9 says, “At night my soul longs for You, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently…”. The Psalmist cried out, “My soul is crushed with long after Your ordinances at all times.” (Psalm 119:20). Hear the longing, the desire, the passion of these people. Isaiah realized his need to walk in righteousness in Isaiah 6 when he saw the holiness of God and his sinfulness. He desired to be purified and to walk in holiness.
The promise God gives is beautiful, Jesus says, for they shall be satisfied. The verb tense here is important, it is in the passive voice meaning you can’t fill yourself. Only God can fill you. As you hunger and thirst for God and His righteousness, God will fill you with all of Him. An interesting aspect to physical eating and drinking … there comes a point where I am full as I am eating and then eventually I get hungry and thirsty again. With the spiritual, when I develop a passion for the spiritual things, I can never get enough! But it is Jesus who is the Bread of Life and who satisfies my thirst. When I seek after Him, He gives me all of Him and my soul is satisfied.
Lord Jesus, help me to hunger and thirst after Your righteousness. Give me a passion for You. Help me to seek You as the deer pants for the water. Fill me with Your righteousness I pray.
Blessed Are the Merciful Part 1 - Matthew 5:7
Matthew 5:7 says “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” Mercy – so easy to receive, but so difficult to give. Mercy has all kinds of feelings associated with it. When we need mercy, it’s because we feel ashamed, embarrassed, sorrow or guilt. We messed up and discover that there is nothing we can do to fix it. It may be something I did or something I did not do. It may have been intentional or unintentional. But I failed, perhaps miserably, but failed nonetheless. I might can do something to help but I truly need the other person’s forgiveness – their mercy. There is a tension between me and the person and I am at their mercy for the relationship to be mended. I messed up and all I can hope for is their mercy.
Yet on the other side of that same coin, there is someone who needs mercy from me. They failed me in some fashion. But the feelings I have are different. I feel hurt, pain, offended, dismissed or rejected. The hurt is real. How could they have done this to me? What did I do to deserve this? And what they did was so blatant, how could they not know what they did to me? Now God wants me to forgive them? There is a tension between me and the person who did this to me and they don’t deserve mercy. They have messed up and they should pay.
Isn’t it interesting how these two scenarios are similar but yet so different. The hurt can be similar, but the perspective of motives, the range of emotions and our views of the scenario are so different.
It is so difficult to extend mercy. I want to hold them in the courtroom of my mind and pronounce ‘guilty’ over and over. But I can’t do that if I want to live blessed. God tells us over and over again in His Word we must forgive. Peter once asked Jesus how many times must he forgive – seven times? That was a stretch for a Jew. But Jesus said 70 times seven indicating we should forgive until the forgiveness has been completed. (Matthew 18:21-22)
Just as I have received mercy from God, I should extend mercy to the one who has hurt me. Jesus once shared a parable of a man who was forgiven much but then refused to forgive a brother of little. Because of the man’s unwillingness to forgive, he became enslaved. (Matthew 18:23-34). At the end of the parable Jesus said, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” So difficult to hear. But to make sure Jesus was not misunderstood, later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “For if you forgive other for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Forgiveness is a choice, and sometimes it must be made several times. But we are commanded to give mercy because at the end our Father through Jesus has forgiven us our sins.
Lord, I’m choosing to walk in mercy. I ask you to give me the strength, the ability to forgive as You have forgiven me and have shown mercy to me. Thank You for Your gift of mercy. In Jesus’ name I pray – Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life in mercy.
Blessed Are the Merciful Part 2 - Matthew 5:7
Matthew 5:7 says “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” There are two kinds of mercy that can be shown. One is to a person who has wronged you and mercy is given through forgiveness (previous edition of 180). But there is a second way mercy can be displayed and it is by showing a kindness or concern to others. Some people have never received true mercy. But as believers, we understand the kindness from a loving heavenly Father. God wants others to see His mercy through us. We can show mercy by extending acts of kindness or words or encouragement. No judgment. No expectations. Just simply extending the love of God. When we demonstrate acts of kindness to the unsuspecting person, it makes them wonder. Why would someone do this for me? What do they want? What is their motive. Why? What do we want? What is our motive? The love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
The Parable of The Good Samaritan is a perfect illustration of this kind of mercy. A Jew had been robbed and beaten up. Religious people came by, but did nothing. But then the most unsuspecting person came by and helped this Jew. He was a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans did not get along. But this Samaritan helped this Jew who had been beaten up. Jesus then asked who was the man’s neighbor really? The answer was the man who demonstrated mercy. Mercy is not deserved – because if it was deserved, it would no longer be mercy.
One of the greatest acts of mercy we can show is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him. When man sinned, God implemented a plan of redemption and restoration culminating in the greatest display of love – the death of Jesus Christ on a cruel Roman cross. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” This is incredible! It was by God’s mercy I received salvation. Not because I deserved salvation. Quite the contrary, I didn’t deserve it; but God gave me mercy anyway. That mercy which saved me is available to all. When a friend showed me an act of kindness that I did not expect or deserved, I wanted everyone around me to know what my friend did. But God is much more than that to me. He is my Savior who literally saved my life. As a result, I want everyone to know. Because God demonstrated His mercy to me, I should also show that same mercy to everyone I know.
The promise in this beatitude is we will receive mercy. It is the of law of reaping and sowing. As we show mercy God gives mercy. This is God’s way: if you would have truth, you must be true; if you would have love, you must love. If you would have friendship, you must be a friend; if you would have mercy, you must be merciful. My willingness to show mercy is part of the prerequisite in receiving it.
Lord, I want to walk in kindness and mercy as you have given me mercy. Help me to see a way I can extend kindness to someone today – help me to be sensitive. I pray for a divine appointment to share Your act of mercy through salvation to someone who needs it. Thank You for Your mercy. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life as we share God’s mercy.
Blessed Are the Pure in Heart - Matthew 5:8
Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Purity is rich in meaning. It means to be clean, unmixed, or untainted. The picture here is to have a mind and heart that is not tainted by sin, selfishness, worldly things. It is 100 percent right – pure motives, pure heart, pure attitude, pure in everything.
The Bible speaks of different kinds of purity. First, there is divine purity – which is found in God’s character. Isaiah saw this kind of purity in his vision of God as the angels cried out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty…” (Isaiah 6). When Isaiah saw the purity of God, he declared, “Woe is me, for I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.” Secondly, there is purity found in God’s creation before the fall of man. Imagine new snow on a mountain before man has a chance to tread on it. It is absolutely gorgeous as the snow is pure and pictures cannot do it justice. Third there is a purity given to us at the time of our salvation when God takes away all our sin. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away.” Fourth, there is purity that comes from confession of sin and renewed commitment to God. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is righteous and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This confession is agreeing with God it is sin and repenting – choosing to walk with Him and not be tainted by the sin. Finally, there is a purity that will be experienced in heaven when “we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2).
To live a pure life begins by having a pure heart. When we speak of someone’s heart, we often are referring to their life, motives, emotions, personality or mental. Thus the heart becomes synonymous for the whole person. The purity of heart is an inward thing. Imagine for a moment a life 100 percent devoted to Jesus Christ without any bitterness, selfishness, pride, greed, lust, or selfish ambition. Imagine what it would be like to think as He thinks, see as He sees, hear as He hears, or feel as He feels. How do we get to that point. The purity of heart comes by allowing God to control my thoughts, affections, and will.
With the purity of heart comes the promise that ‘they shall see God.’ Whereas impurity obscures our vision of God, purity enhances that vision. The impure of heart see everything but God. We become what we see, and that which is missing in our lives stem from the things we miss being. The more God-like we become, the more of God we see in other people, in creation and in Scripture. Alfred Lord Tennyson was once asked, “What is your greatest wish?” He responded, “A clear vision of God.”
Lord I choose today to walk with a pure heart. As David prayed, “Search me O God and see if there be any wickedness in me.” Give me clean hands and a pure heart that I may see You, know You, and experience You. Thank You for Your cleansing work. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life – pure in heart!
Blessed Are the Peacemakers - Matthew 5:9
Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” To be a peacemaker means to understand what peace is. The picture that comes to many people’s minds occurs when there has been tension or a conflict. When the two or more parties meet, and come to an agreement to end the conflict or tension, people say there is peace. But the peace Jesus talks goes beyond this picture. Yes, peace involves the ending of a conflict, but that is simply the first step. True peace occurs when agreement has been reached how to proceed forward in a way that is productive for all parties. In addition, true peace means wanting to see all parties benefit and grow. Peace is the assurance that everyone is hoping for the best and can have confidence in the other party. Sometimes one must recognize the other party is right and must trust them.
The Bible speaks of peace. It is mentioned 88 times and appears in all 27 books of the New Testament. The Bible opens with peace in the Garden of Eden and concludes with peace in heaven. At the birth of Christ, the angels pronounce, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men…” (Luke 2:14). Before His death, Jesus told the disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you…” (John 14:27). At His resurrection, Jesus greeted the disciples with “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19). The times in which Jesus lived was filled with anything but peace. There was conflict particularly with the Romans. Not much is different today.
In a world filled with tension, conflict, wars and struggles, peace may seem impossible to achieve. A peacemaker is one who seeks to make peace, not one who simply and passively endures in a posture of peace. The tasks of peace are more difficult than those of war, for it is easier to defeat an enemy than to defeat his enmity, easier to stop a fight than to solve the disagreement. Within the beatitudes, the blessedness is dependent on an inward condition. However, this one beatitude is linked to a pro-active involvement.
There are three areas people need peace. The first area people need to have peace is with themselves. Sometimes we make bad decisions and the problem is we have to live with those decisions. Sometimes it is the way we see ourselves and how life has not turned out exactly like we planned. To make peace with ourselves begins by asking God to give us a pure heart. We can’t change our circumstances or decisions we made, but we can ask God to make us more like Him. The second area people need to have peace is with others. To have peace does not mean we must cave to their whims and demands. It does mean to seek to understand and help them in the journey of life. The final area people need to have peace is with God. The reality is we must recognize He is God and it is He who made us and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3). He is God and I must submit to His Lordship. The only way to find peace with God is to come to Him in full surrender.
As a result of being a peacemaker, Jesus said they would be called sons of God. We become sons of God at our salvation, but we are called sons of God as we pass on the peace we have come to discover. In the Jewish culture, sons resembled the characteristics of their father. When we seek to help others find peace with themselves, others and God – we take on the character of our Heavenly Father. God is a God of peace. The Greek form of shall be called has the connotation that throughout eternity, we will be called ‘sons of God.’ While we may have a lack of peace here on earth, there awaits for peacemakers an eternity of peace.
Father, help me to walk in peace with You, myself and others. Give me wisdom in being a peacemaker especially helping others find peace in You. In Jesus name, Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life in peace.
Blessed Are Those who Have Been Persecuted - Matthew 5:10-12
Matthew 5:10 says, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Being persecuted is not one I would consider to be blessed. I would think naturally, being persecuted is anything but blessed. But being blessed is not about our circumstances, it is about a state of mind where there is a self-contained joy that is not dependent on outside circumstances.
The apostles endured incredible persecution. Early church history tells us some of the gruesome details of physical torture the apostles and church leaders endured. And it did not end there. Throughout time, people have been tortured, imprisoned, and killed for their faith in God. The 20th century saw more people killed for their faith in God than the previous 19 centuries combined. Currently over 50 nations forbid any evangelism. Some forbid the name of Jesus to be spoken. To do so could mean imprisonment or death.
While this type of persecution does not currently exist in the United States, it does not mean Christ-followers are not enduring hardships for their faith. More than physical torture, persecution can include character assassination, insult, malice, ridicule, belittling, and bullying whether it is in a community, at work, at school, at home, or even on social media. It can mean undue financial hardship because of a moral stand taken. It does not mean because you are going through a difficult time you are being persecuted. This beatitude mentions specifically the reason for the trial is solely because of your righteousness. It is not because you have a difference of opinion with someone. It is because you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and others speak evil solely because you are living for Jesus Christ. That is because the darkness does not like the light.
Interestingly, this is the only beatitude that you have no control over. It happens to you. But if you are committed to Christ with a whole heart, it is highly likely you will endure some level of persecution. It may not be death, but you will be insulted or put down. It is also the only beatitude in which Jesus expands. He says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Jesus encourages us to look beyond the circumstances and tells us the reward is great for staying committed to Him in the time of persecution. He also reminds us that the great prophets we admire in the Old Testament were persecuted for their righteousness. Later in the book of Acts, Peter and the apostles were facing persecution and it says they rejoiced “that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41). When we do face persecution, it is amazing the people perceive us such a threat when it is God inside us they truly fear. It is an honor to be considered worthy of that recognition. It is also comforting to know you have great company with which to stand, those who have been persecuted for His name and great is the reward!
Lord, I pray I would have the zeal, the commitment, the courage to stand in times of persecution should they come. Not that I ask for it, but I pray I would have the strength. Thank you for always being with me no matter what I face. In Jesus name, Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life.