Sometimes you hear the words that Jesus speaks and you think, “Really?” He said in what has been called the greatest sermon ever preached, ‘You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.” (MAatthew 5:11) I don’t know about you, but I read that, and I meditate on that and I think, “Seriously, Jesus? I am blessed because I am being insulted? I am to consider it a cause to rejoice, are you kidding?”
That is not the way we think, but Jesus told us that if they persecuted Him, they would persecute us if we followed Him. That is not the Ameerican picture of a prosperous and blessed Christian. You listen to some television preachers and you get the impression that you follow Jesus and everything is great: A nice big home, a successful career, happy all the time. But Jesus said, “If you follow me, remember I don’t have a home to lay my head down in.” He said, “If you follow me you have to be willing to lose your life.” And on top of that, when the heat is turned up, rejoice. Be glad, be happy, rejoice.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, would later write, “Count it all joy when you encounter various trials and testing of your faith.” Literally, throw a party; be happy. Happy about trials? Someone has said the bad part about tribulation is you have to tribulate. Ouch. And it is to be a cause for joy in our lives; double ouch.
Honestly, I am not going to go looking for trouble. I am not seeking out trials and tribulation. I am not going to hang a sign on the door of my heart that says, “Persecution, welcome here.” But I want to hear the words of Jesus. And when the fiery furnace presents itself, or the lion’s den, or the unkind words of those who don’t understand come, I want to be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might.
Jesus told Peter in John 21, if you love me, and if you do what I have for you to do, you will die a difficult death. He sent word back to John the Baptist in prison basically saying, “You are going to die, don’t lose heart. Be faithful.” I would love to tell you that following Jesus is all “apple pie and mom’s smiles.” But it is not. It is often very trying. Be of good cheer, however, God blesses the faithful.