Before we move on from the Beatitudes, there is something more the Lord would have us recognize about the blessings of the persecuted, which are of particular importance to the church in America. Though it is not a saying of Jesus that we must do; it is something we would be wise to consider.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12

A friend of mine was one of the first to enter Communist China when the bamboo curtain was opened for business with the West. He went in looking for the remains of the church, those who had for many years been targeted for destruction by that evil government. While meeting with one of their leaders, he began praising the Chinese church for its endurance against the persecution. The leader listened quietly and then responded in a way that surprised my friend.

The leader explained that they also thought the government’s attacks were persecution, at first. In their crying out to God, they learned from Him that their suffering was a result of His judgment. He had found them lacking for His intended purpose and plan. Most proved His judgment right by denying their faith and betraying their brothers. What remained has become God’s instrument for the most powerful evangelistic movement the world has ever seen. Even now they are going as martyrs, back to Jerusalem.

So what does this have to do with the American church? What are we to do with this?

I suggest to you that the American church should be more concerned about God’s judgment than about the persecution that may come at the hands of the world. The blessings and heavenly rewards will come only to those that are persecuted for righteousness sake, to those who are living for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Dare we ask ourselves, “Am I living a life worthy of persecution or a life worthy of judgment? Will we know when the pressure comes?”

Just to be clear, I am not talking about God’s judgment of eternal damnation – though some will be surprised (Matthew 7:21-23). The judgment that came to the church in China, and is hanging over the church in America, is the judgment of God to purify and to shake loose so that what remains cannot be shaken.

If there is something we must do in response to these sayings of Jesus Christ regarding persecution (and I believe there is), it is to judge ourselves (1Corinthians 11:31). Need help? Here is a good place to start:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1John 1:9

Finally, as difficult as it is to imagine anyone rejoicing and being exceedingly glad when persecuted (or judged), careful consideration proves that it is the appropriate response. The First Century disciples rejoiced to be found worthy to suffer for Jesus Christ and His kingdom (Acts 5:41, Romans 5:3) and many since have found martyrdom to be the highest honor in Christendom (see Foxe’s Book of Martyrs). Indeed, we are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Romans 8:17).” It is quite an encouragement to know that suffering for Christ’s sake has such a profound and heavenly purpose.

God bless you with grace and courage for tribulation and the purifying fire of God (Hebrews 12:27-29).

Humbly yours and forever His,