Rejoice and Be Glad

Matthew 5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 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.”

This morning I want to speak to you from Matthew chapter 5 verses 11 and 12:

Matthew 5:11 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.

We can pick up our bibles and we can see the beginning of His earthly ministry, His words, His actions, His grace, His truth and we can follow all that to what was to come, that is His cruel death. And knowing this, reading of His life, seeing what He endured and mixing that with the many passages that instruct us regarding the Christian life and how we are not just to see and admire Him but we are to be like Him, if we understand that we are to be like Him, be conformed into more of who He is, follow Him in His likeness, then knowing what His Ministry entailed and the grief dished out to Him, then we should not be surprised nor disheartened that He would give us these words in Matthew 5:11-12. I mean if we are going to be like Him to represent Him and if we do that faithfully, then shouldn’t we also expect some degree of what He received while He was here? That is persecution.

And if we are to expect and will receive some types of persecution because we are followers of Christ, then we should also expect that God would give us some instruction on how to think about this persecution when it comes our way. If God will allow us to receive persecution on His account then wouldn’t He instruct us on how we will can endure, how to respond to it, how to live under it? And that is what Jesus does here…how to think, and what to do…

Matthew 5:11 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.

I am so thankful that God gives us such instruction, that we don’t have to sit around and wonder and guess and debate things such as this about how to think about persecution and how to respond to it.

Last week we looked at these same two verses from a very broad perspective. We talked about three statements regarding persecution. Do you remember them? Here were our reminders regarding persecution of any kind for the Christ:

We are not like everyone else.

Our lives are to be lived for Christ’s sake.

And, our lives today should be greatly influenced by thoughts of our heavenly home.

As we start, I want to mention a lingering question that I have had regarding persecution that we might receive for the sake of Christ or because we are Christians. Here is the question I have: “Does persecution begin with our willingness to receive persecution?” Or to say in the negative, “Can we avoid persecution due to our unwillingness to receive it?”

Here is what I am getting at: As Christians we can walk in the open with our faith and walk in the open in our life with Christ. We can be that light that shines in the darkness, a light on a hill shining in a dark world. We can stand in courts of public opinion and speak truth from God’s word as Paul did. We can speak truth as John the Baptist did to Herod concerning his sinful relationship with his brother’s wife. Do you remember what that got him? We can be like Stephen and speak truth openly while being aware of the stoning to come for a sermon delivered about Christ. Or we can do none of this, we can remain silent, we can overlook, say nothing, or go with the flow of popular talk and opinion. And if we don’t stand for Christ, with Christ, won’t we effectively avoid persecution?

I wonder if we don’t at times live this Christian life on a tight rope. We walk the rope with just the right balance. We speak of Christ in places where we will be affirmed for doing so, and in places where Christ is not revered or His ways are being rejected, we calibrate our balancing act accordingly by tucking away the truths we know deep within our minds only to pull them back out only when it is to our advantage to do so. I’ll look good in this setting speaking of Jesus so here you go. But over here I may be rejected or despised so I’ll hold my tongue.

I think we are good at keeping up this balance for our benefit. We all engage in it on some level but that is not what we are called to do. We need to repent of it. We need to say and do what is pleasing to God in every setting in which He puts us, even if we know it might be hard.

I’m not saying we go out and pick fights with everyone! I’m saying that we speak words of grace in a loving way to those who don’t understand and who need a Savior. Someone did that for you and for me.

Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus is simply saying if you belong to Him then live like you do, use words that indicate you do no matter whom you are with or where you may be. And if we do this, we can expect some persecution. I think, we are saying, “I am willing to receive persecution for the sake of my Savior.”

Regarding a total unwillingness, if that is where we are, then we ought to seriously consider whether or not we even belong to Him. I mean really, if we don’t desire to live for Him and to make Him known at all, then why would we even profess to be His?

2 Cor. 5:15 …and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

So I think on this matter of persecution, it is wise to ask are we willing to receive it or will our lives be spent trying to avoid it at all cost? So I ask are you willing to be persecuted by your friends, neighbors, strangers for speaking truth in love, for living the Christian life openly wherever you go, or for loving others enough to be truthful with them about God? I’m not saying we have to run into every fight but simply we don’t have to run away. Look at Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:23-24:

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.

Paul wasn’t running away from truth, hiding who he was when he was being persecuted. Or look at Jesus in John 15:21-24:

John 15:21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.

Jesus was not silent concerning truth. Jesus’ words and Jesus’ actions put sinners on display as being sinners. People around Him became aware of who they really were and their need of a Savior, someone outside of themselves. Yes, this was good news because God was providing a Savior but this “good news” was not received as good news by those who loved their sin. Therefore, His faithful preaching of what could set them free became as a rod of persecution for Christ.

How about a more modern day example, someone who stood for Christ with a willingness to receive persecution? Consider Richard Wurmbrand, a man I have mentioned before here. As you will see, Richard, with a little prodding from his loving wife, stood for Christ and willingly received persecution for the sake of His Savior!

Richard was an evangelical preacher in Romania when the communists came in and took the country and attempted then to control all the churches there. God put this man, and many like him, in this place at this time for His glory. But, wow, what a place to be during that particular dark time in history!

Anyway, in the process of taking over churches there was a large meeting held, it was a congress of all Christian bodies held in the parliament building. There were over four thousand ministers there from all denominations. This group, by the way, chose Joseph Stalin as their honorary president of this congress. The aim of this meeting was to convince all the clergy to acknowledge that Communism and Christianity were one and the same. It was a redefining of what Christianity really was.

There were benefits of declaring or agreeing to this declaration that communism and Christianity were one in the same, mostly the benefit was peace with the new government and no persecution from the government. That was the benefit, an easy life. So one by one, the pastors would stand and give words of praise toward communism and assure the new government that the church would be loyal to its cause.

As all this was taking place as Richard and his wife sat listening, here is what Richard tells us: “My wife and I were present at this congress. My wife sat near me and told me; ‘Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ! They are spitting in His face.’ I said to my wife, ‘If I do so, you lose your husband.’ She said, ‘I don’t wish to have a coward as a husband.’”

Richard stood, and he spoke of Christ and the true church in the middle of this group of charlatans. And by standing and speaking for Christ at this time his life was forever changed. Eventually he spent three years in solitary confinement only seeing communist guards, spent five additional years in a mass cell to be tortured, and his wife lived as a slave laborer for three years as well. I wouldn’t say that Richard was out looking for a fight but he couldn’t be silent as His Lord was being, as his wife said, “spat upon,” by these people.

Jesus tells us in John 16:33:

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Ok, you may be saying now, this is tough, this is hard, can you give me something to be happy about today! Well, yes I can. With truth we need balance and Jesus gives us great balance. That is, yes, things may be hard but God has that covered and we cannot just endure but endure well with hope and even happiness and joy!

And we see all that here. At the beginning of verse 11 it says, “Blessed are you….” This means happy are you or happy in Christ are you… and then speak of persecution for the sake of Christ. This is God given happiness. We have talked a great deal about that already so I’m not going to revisit that too much here. But we can be, should be, always happy in Christ. God’s ways are upside down as compared to the world. Yes, he did say happiness can be found through persecution. But the culture says don’t put up with persecution, demand that it stop, fight those who oppose you. Demand fair and equal treatment. God has another plan. Then also in these verses we read of joy or rejoicing and of hope of reward in our future heavenly home.

So persecution, yes, but how about happiness, joy and future reward in heaven? With these the scale tips greatly to the positive! The Bible tells us hard things but never without hope, never without joy that can be ours in the Lord! Jesus says, in this rejoice!

Matthew 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Rejoice here means to be really glad. Rejoice and be glad, this is an expression of even visible joy.

The book of Philippians tells us, teaches us, this command to be joyful. And each time we see it we are reminded that joy is not based on circumstances but is based on what is true for us in Christ. This joy is based on what is ours and cannot be taken away even through persecution. Christians’ joy is on a rock solid foundation of our position in Christ and our future with Him. If joy were based on circumstances then persecution would never be an occasion for joy. But it is and I want to give you some reasons why. Jesus says here it is because heaven is our home and there we will receive rewards.

It is interesting though that it is often through persecution where we find assurance of this very truth. For example, remember when Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the seeds? Jesus tells of one who lays seed. Remember some seed falls on the path and the birds come and eat the seed; other seed falls on rocky ground; other seed fell among thorns and got chocked out; and some seed fell on good soil and grain was produced.

Each of these He explains later is a picture of the gospel being preached and how it is received or not received. We will not get into all of its meaning today but I do want to show you Jesus’ explanation of the seed that fell on the rocky soil.

In Matthew 13:20 and 21, he explains this portion of the parable and here is what he says:

Matthew 13:20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.

What is Jesus saying? He is saying there will be those that get that the message of the gospel is good news. I mean, who doesn’t want paradise for eternity. So with joy they say, I want that. But there is a genuineness problem. When persecution comes, as Jesus says it will, and they must stand for Christ, for what they believe, they refuse. They don’t think it is worth it and they turn and run, and they hide what they said they professed. Because of the price of persecution they turn away. You have probably seen that and it is sad to see. The non-Christian, no matter how sincere they may appear, will not live in a willingness to be persecuted for the sake of Christ.

Now here is the opposite and the cause for joy for the true believer: For the true Christian, persecution and our willingness to persevere under it proves our faith and our relationship with God! Instead of simply a negative it becomes a positive; it reinforces in our own hearts that we belong to Him!

1 Peter 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

It is not persecution in itself that is cause for joy, but it is the truth behind it. That is we belong to God through Christ!

And lastly, with persecution comes great reward!

God promises rewards in heaven. I can’t even begin to describe them. We do know that we will receive a crown and we will lay it at our Savior’s feet as the one who is all deserving. Some believe that other rewards will be in the form of ways that we will be more able to glorify Christ in heaven. That some will have a greater capacity for that than others. It is hard, frankly, for me to think of rewards in heaven. I honestly don’t get that very well.

I mean, isn’t getting there enough? Isn’t the free gift of Christ in us and a place in heaven enough? But we are told that we should be about laying up treasures in heaven. I think they won’t be so much about us getting but us being able to give to others, a greater capacity to give for God’s glory.

My capacity to love other in this earth is so weak. I wonder if a reward in heaven may be like a greater capacity to love Christ and to love others? Whatever all that entails it will be marvelous and glorifying to God.

Enduring persecution for the sake of our Savior will be rewarded and that will be way beyond anything we could ever receive here. We will find that the price was very small, that is, to endure persecution here for the weight of glory that is to come.

2 Corinthians 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Praise God for His good gifts to us that will span all of eternity. He is a gracious God! As we stand for Christ in truth, we can expect some persecution, and in persecution our faith will be strengthened even as we face it with joy and gladness! It is amazing! This is what God does in us!

Matthew 5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 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.”

Three Sustaining Truths for You

Matthew 5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 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.”

This morning we get down to the last two verses in the beatitudes, verses 11 and 12. For all that has been said there is so much more that could be said. I love that about the Bible, it is rich and gives wisdom and understanding to those who desire it and yet we cannot ever say, yes, I have learned all that there is to learn from any particular passage. It keeps teaching us, God keeps teaching us by His Spirit as we read and study it.

And so as we near the end of this section from Matthew 5:1-12 we cannot say we have exhausted what is in it but I hope we can say that God has taught me a great deal about who I am in Christ and how I can live for Him by His grace in His power and in His strength, trusting and believing Him.

One thing that I hope we have all seen in this is that the Christian person is different than the non-Christian. God’s ways are so contrary to the natural person’s ways that he or she should be recognized as different. A Christian who lives according to the beatitudes will stand in contrast to and at odds with most of the world. I think any of us can stand back and say, well, I’m not sure I am that different than the lost people around me. That is a confession that many of us can honestly make. But if we are to be objective and look honestly at the beatitudes I think we can all agree that that person, the one who is living like that, well yes, they will be different. My hope is we will be that person and that God will so work in our lives, that we will be ones described as fitting Matthew 5:1-12.

We were not created and saved to swim in the main stream. Christ did not come and die for you or for me so that we can walk in the broad way with the majority of people around us. God did not send His only son and pour out His wrath on His only Son so that we can fit in with the crowd.

Christians can often times be described not just by how they act or go about their daily lives but can be described by how they react to people around them. Our reactions to others say a great deal about what we believe and in whom we are trusting. Verses 11 and 12 help us with that. They describe not only a promise of blessing but also how we chose to respond to other people.

When people treat us badly, we are given an opportunity to respond and that response will say something about who we are and what we believe about God.

He called us to be different, to stand out, and to be like His Son who stood faithfully while being persecuted for standing in righteousness and in agreement with His Father. As we think about these things, our new nature, our new calling, and who we are now in Christ, I want us to do so within the context of three general truths. These three truths will help us, I think, to better take in verses 11 and 12. These truths are found in verses 11 and 12 but they are also found in all the beatitudes and really in all of the New Testament. They are important and they are applicable to verses 11 and 12 as I hope we will see. So for this week, I want to give you these general truths and then next time we will get into more detail in verses 11 and 12; so three broad principles today and then more detail next week, Lord willing.

The first principle is this: As Christians we are not like everyone else.

This is a very general truth and should be an obvious truth, but I think it is worth mentioning. We may try to be like everyone else in a variety of ways, dress the same, go to the same movies, tell the same jokes, work in the same places, drive the same kind of cars, or speak the same language. Some of those things are ok, I’m not saying in all cases in all these things we have to be different, but at our core, in our heart, we are not the same.

The beatitudes are not in the Bible as a way of describing everyone in the world, they are there to describe Christians. And as Christians who are to desire to live God’s way in a world not bent toward God, we will be different. We need to and we must be good with being different for the sake of Christ. Remember it was Jesus who said in Matthew 10:34-39:

Matthew 10:34 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The point that Jesus is making is His coming would result in a sword of division. Meaning, some will receive Christ and become His, others will not and will remain in their sins, in their natural state apart from Christ. These sides will stand in great contrast to each other and in some cases the contrast will be the division between Christ-followers and non-Christians that will take place among family members.

So in that sense there will not be peace there will be division. It will be like a shepherd perhaps with two flocks, they are divided into two flocks. Now, when Jesus says He did not come to bring peace, we may ask, but aren't we to be peacemakers? We talked a few weeks ago about being peacemakers, aren’t we called to that? Well, yes we are. But is that in contrast to Jesus saying He did not come to bring peace but division?

Well not exactly. There will be division, yes. And that is part of the point of Matthew 5:10 and 11. There will be division and with this division there will come persecution because of this division of which Jesus speaks there will be division. But even in the division, even in the persecution, we can still, we should still, be peacemakers. In other words, yes, we are distinct and different than the non-Christians, and our distinctions will lead in some cases to our being the recipients of persecution. But let those who persecute move away from us, but let us move toward them doing all that we should to strive for peace. This would be loving our enemies, right? They are our mission field. They are the ones we are to go after with the gospel, speaking the truth, yes, but speaking it in love, going out of our way to reach out to those who may hate us, who may persecute us but all the while knowing that there is a division. We are different. If we were not different there would be no persecution.

What is the difference? How are we different? We are being conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). We look more and more like Christ. And as he was persecuted, so will we be persecuted.

2 Timothy 3:12 reminds us of a weighty truth:

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

We are fundamentally different. Aren’t we?

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

We have new and a different goal, we were like everyone else in the world. We read of the change that has taken place in places like 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We were changed and are being changed. Now instead of living lifestyles listed in 1 Corinthians we are now living to glorify God, desiring to honor Him, that is where we are to be now, in a new direction in life! It is living like Jesus describes in Luke 9:23:

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

All of these passages speak of what? Of Change! We are the ones who have changed and this change will bring on persecution by those who have not experienced the same change. So the point regarding reasons behind persecution is: As Christians we are not like everyone else.

The second point I would like to make is that our lives, the Christian lives, are to be lived for Christ’s sake.

Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account (for Christ’s sake).

Why are Christians persecuted? Because they are living for Jesus Christ. Our persecution will take place, simply put, because of our relationship to and our desire to live for Jesus Christ. It is our close association with Him that will lead to persecution.

I had a friend growing up that always seemed to end up right at the center of trouble. He lived down the street from me, we were best friends. We went to school together, went to church together and played sports together, from kindergarten through 12th grade. Now I know this may just sound like an excuse, you know like it is all someone else’s fault, but really, I got in a lot of trouble just being close to this guy. I remember in 5th grade my teacher sent home my report card and it had a not so good grade in the column that had to do with behavior. I think it said “needs improvement.” And my teacher requested a conference with my mom. So my mom went and asked, “What is the problem?” And my teacher said, “Do you know a kid named…__?” And she said my friend’s name!

Of course my mom did know him, she knew him very well. My close association with my friend often times landed me in trouble. But, I was also a willing participant. I could have distanced myself from him but chose not to.

Our associations can get us into trouble. Or in the case of the Christian life, our association with Jesus Christ can get us, or I should say will get us, persecuted in some ways. Paul testified in Colossians 1:24 of his close association with Jesus and that close association being at the root of his suffering:

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

This suffering was first affirmed by Jesus to Ananias regarding Paul back in Acts 9:16:

Acts 9:16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.

The unusual or interesting thing about persecution and suffering through persecution is that it is for the sake of Jesus’ name.

We are not our own, we have been bought with a price so now what do we do? We are to glorify God with these bodies, with ourselves. This is to live for Him, to be so closely associated with Him that we will receive persecution that He would receive if He were still on this earth. I think that’s Paul’s point when he said, he is “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s affliction.” I think he is saying if Christ were still here there would continue to be more persecution of Him on this earth but He is gone, physically so, but we are here representing Him so what persecution remains, we get! Persecution comes to us because of our close association with Him, because the Christian life is to be lived for Christ’s sake.

The third point I’d like to make regarding persecution is this: Our life today should be greatly influenced by our thoughts of heaven and the life to come.

In Matthew 5:12, Jesus said regarding persecution, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven...” This can be a real challenge for us. That is, to rejoice over a future promise while enduring serious troubles today, that can be really hard.

We can be so now focused. And I think that is understandable, I mean, we are after all living in the now. It can be especially hard thinking ahead if we are hurting today. We will most likely just want today to improve without much thought of maybe what will happen years down the road. And yet, we are encouraged over and over again to develop and maintain a heavenly focus. I don’t think that comes natural but has to be cultivated.

Paul in Philippians 3 talks about those who are enemies of Christ, they “set their minds on earthly things.” Their minds are set on what is here and now. But he contrasts that with how we should think when he says:

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body…

The solution to being earthly minded is to be heavenly minded and to think about, meditate on, and be excited and thrilled over what is to come. We have so much to look forward to and the actively looking forward to it will ease our minds when under pressure. It will bring joy to our hearts when hurting and will help encourage our souls when facing persecution.

When Jesus wanted to encourage his closest friends who would soon endure a severe temporary pain because of their separation from Him, do you remember how He did that in John chapter 14? He did it by helping them to focus on the future, on a future event that would shatter any amount of temporary suffering, a future event that would dwarf current day problems for them or for us. Here is what He said, familiar words:

John 14:1 Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.

He is talking about a reunion in the heavenliness, a great reunion. And this is why Peter could say with such confidence in 1 Peter 5:10:

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

And this will be completely fulfilled as we leave this life and enter the next. Our reward in heaven will be great! Think about, or you may want to read later, Hebrews 11. Hebrews 11, heroes of the faith, what was their secret? How did they endure severe trial, suffering and persecution? How did they? By faith, they set their minds on what was to come.

Hebrews 11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

If our focus is simply here and now living, we will likely not hold up well in persecution. Justice, full relief, these are things not necessarily for today. But there will be a day when all is made right and heaven will be our home.

The non-Christian may desperately avoid thinking of the future after this life, but for us, for us…wow! That is a place on which to set our minds. Setting our minds on heaven, our reward of heaven, can not only help us endure persecution but will help us to even rejoice as we endure.

In our changing world, the greater influences of evil around us, I think we should expect greater persecution than we have yet experienced. But as we do, we don’t face it alone and it is not without purpose. Christ faced it, He is with us, He will guide us and He will keep us. He loves us. He has proven that and will always be near and ready to help.

We are in fact in good company for the prophets before us were persecuted, and our Lord was as well. We are not like everyone else. Our lives are to be lived for Christ’s sake, and our lives today should be greatly influenced by thoughts of our heavenly home.

Matthew 5:11 “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.