Making Persecution Your Memorial
We've talked a lot about persecution this month, addressing what it is and how it affects us in both the temporal and spiritual realm. Today, we take a look at how we can use persecution to drive us to move forward.
Christ sets the standard
Of all the beatitudes, Persecution is the most defined by Christ. It is not to say that the other beatitudes are less than persecution. After all, the reward for persecution is the same as the first beatitude, poor in spirit. No, it's probably because Christ wanted his followers to embrace the concept of persecution as something worth enduring. Did Christ use the heroes of Judges, or the good kings of Judah or even Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to point to as a reference? No. He used the most reviled servants of Christ: the prophets.
To study the prophets outside of the context of Christianity, their stories all seem to be tragic. Most of what they said went unheeded and they all found themselves imprisoned, punished, ridiculed and even murdered simply for saying what God had commanded them to say. They had the boldness to serve God when others cowardly served themselves and the world.
It doesn't seem fair that this happened. Why did Elijah have to live as an enemy of the state? Why did Jeremiah have to watch his beloved country destroyed and his people led into slavery? Why did Daniel have to endure the lion's den? Why did Zechariah have to be stoned for speaking the truth? It's not fair, but we aren't living in a fair world. The enemy doesn't play fair. It cheats and plays dirty against the followers of Christ. When we decide to do things God's way, we are going to get cheated and hurt because, while we are working according to God's plan, it's against an enemy that doesn't play by the rules.
We have to decide that we are going to do what God asks no matter what the cost. We have to decide that it's worth serving in that ministry even though our friends and family don't agree with our faith. It's choosing to speak your faith even though everyone says God is dead or outdated. It's choosing to stand up against the tyranny, hate and wantonness of the world and saying what's right, true and acceptable unto God.
Think it's too difficult? The disciples were there on the side of that mountain when Christ gave the beatitudes. They all would go on to face persecution and inspire others to do the same, all the while standing for God, reaching for others and not compromising anything taught to them by their Master. We can look to the prophets, but we have an advantage that the disciples didn't have. We can look to them. We can look at Peter and see a man who was beaten and thrown in jail before he brought the message of salvation to the gentiles. We can look at Paul and see a man who was stoned and ultimately being martyred trying to establish God in the capital of sin. We can look to John and see a man who was boiled in oil and survived if only to give us his beautiful revelation of Jesus Christ. We can look at Stephen and Andrew, men whose deaths ignited the followers of Christ into witnesses rather than driving them to the hills.
We can look beyond the Bible. We can look to the countless missionaries who brought Christ to regions who had never heard of God. Those men and women packed their belongings in coffins instead of suit cases. They had read the book. They knew they faced certain death, but they still went. Why? Because at some point we have to decide that what we believe is worth the sacrifices that the One who gave us our salvation was willing to endure. Are we willing to truly live like Christ. To take on persecution from every source? To be denied and ridiculed by even our closest companions? To face death and still march forward knowing that our sacrifice is going to do something. It's going to expand the Kingdom of God. It's going to bring Christ further into a person's life. It's going to inspire someone to serve God who would have ended up by the wayside. Most importantly, It's going to be an acceptable service unto the One who died for us. Is it worth it? You bet!
Gather as many people's names and stories that you can find who were/are persecuted for Christ.
Read their stories and what they went through.
What did their death/persecution accomplish for God's Kingdom?
Let this list and research inspire you every time you wonder if this is worth it.
This devotion will conclude our series on the Beatitudes. For over a year, we have brought you unique content and approaches for each beatitude. None of what we have provided is found within The Way, which provides a ton of more content and further examines these beatitudes. It's awesome to have produced basically two books now worth of content examining this short but important section of scripture. Imagine, if we can find so much truth within less a handful of verses, how much more can we find in the rest of the Bible? Thank you for joining us on this journey. We will continue our look through the Seasons of Ecclesiastes from now until the end of the year and have something new and exciting you starting with the new year! Thanks again to all our loyal readers. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.