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January 6, 2023

The Joy Of Persecution

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.
–Matthew 5:11-12

Jesus closed the Beatitudes with a final paradox: the joy of persecution. He said in verses 10-11, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”

Now, there are a lot of Christians who are “persecuted” because of their own stupidity or self-righteousness. There is no reward for that. No, Jesus was talking about Christians who are persecuted for the name of Christ. In 1 Peter 4:14-16, the apostle said, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed.”

Maybe you have been isolated socially because of your commitment to Christ. Maybe you have been overlooked for a promotion or even fired because you were trying to live in a godly way. Maybe you have experienced division with a loved one because of your faith. “Rejoice and be glad,” Jesus said, “for your reward in heaven is great” (Matthew 5:12). That does not mean you wake up every morning feeling giddy. But you can have a genuine joy, a calm assurance that God approves of you and is ultimately going to reward you.

When I was growing up, our family used to make an annual pilgrimage to Six Flags Over Texas. For weeks, we would look forward to spending that one day at the amusement park, and we always had the best time. But one year when it was time to leave the park in the evening, our parents said, “We have a surprise for you. The day is not over yet. We are going to drive back to our house, pack our bags, fly all night to New York City, and spend a week there.” My siblings and I could not believe it. A day at Six Flags was all the happiness we could ever imagine. It never occurred to us there could be something even better and longer lasting in store.

That is what Jesus was promising in the Beatitudes. When you live your life according to His commands, you will experience genuine joy here on earth. But your happiness here is just a prelude to a better and more lasting joy that awaits you in heaven.

***

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Straight Talk About Your Happiness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2022.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org

 

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