Depending on where you live, persecution for your Christian faith may be a fact of everyday life or something that doesn’t impact you much. Either way, Jesus said you will be persecuted, and Jesus always tells the truth.
Blessed = Supreme Happiness
“Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23) Jesus said this as part of his Sermon on the Mount (also known as the Beatitudes), as recorded in the books of Matthew and Luke. The word “blessed” is translated as “supreme happiness” in Greek, so this is not just normal happiness Jesus was talking about. This is EXTREME happiness, so happy that you”leap for joy”! Read these two referenced scriptures again using “supremely happy” in place of “blessed”. This is what Jesus said.
Who would be ‘happy’ to be hated, excluded, insulted, and rejected? What Jesus said doesn’t make sense in the natural realm, but He is talking about spiritual things here. In the spiritual realm, all things are possible with God.
Current Events in Persecution
When I read John 16:2-4, I think of current events in the Middle East, particularly Iraq, where Christians are being forced to convert to Islam or face persecution in the form of exorbitant taxes, imprisonment, or even death. Unbelievably, this is all done in the name of Allah or God. Jesus said this would occur, so we should not be surprised or dismayed. God is in charge. He always has been, He always will be.
Take courage and comfort that Jesus said, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world” (John 17:14). Again, Jesus emphasized the spiritual realm, not the natural realm, when He said, ”they are not of the world any more than I am of the world”. In this prayer, Jesus outlines how closely we are identified with Him. What an honor! We cannot serve and follow Christ as His disciples if we reject our call to be persecuted, for Jesus was persecuted, too. The type of persecution each Christian is called to face may differ, but the call to persecution itself is universal for the body of Christ. (Read 2 Timothy 3:12)
Take comfort in Jesus’ prayer for us: ”My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) Jesus’ prayers were always heard and answered by the Father; we have the same assurance in 1 John 3:21-22, 1 John 5:14-15. Nothing can touch us, or our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, unless God allows it. Any harm we experience must be viewed in light of the spiritual realm, not the natural realm. God is still in charge. He always has been, He always will be.
Call to Action
If you are from a country where persecution for your faith is not a regular occurrence or common threat, visit Christian Solidarity Worldwide (www.cswusa.org). Click on Pray at the top of the page, click on the Prayer Calendar link, print a copy of their monthly prayer calendar, and commit to praying for the persecuted church this month. You will be amazed at how much persecution is going on around the world every day! I have partnered with this organization for many, many years and highly recommend you prayerfully consider doing the same.
If you are from a country where persecution for your faith is common, I pray you find encouragement in knowing that your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are praying for you, standing with you in the faith. You are not alone.
Praying for the persecuted church is powerful for those you pray for and for yourself. It keeps your heart soft and compassionate. We must not forget our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, and we must continue to pray for them until Jesus comes back.