By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
It may not always appear to be a blessing to have to endure rough times, but Jesus wants us to understand it is. Like each of the blessings we have discussed over the past several weeks, this blessing is here on earth and in heaven.
Matthew 5:10 (ESV): Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Reflect on the life of Jesus Christ. He lived a humble life devoted to healing the sick and teaching the lost. Jesus was consistent and unapologetic in his message. He called out the atrocities of the rich and poor, the powerful and meek, as well as the popular and the disliked. By living a life of righteousness, when Jesus was put to death on the cross, everyone knew He was innocent. Along with His burial and resurrection, the fact Jesus lived a sinless and selfless life is powerful. We may not be able to live a sinless life, but if we can live a Christ centered life that creates hardship for us, people will know we are innocent. Consider how you felt when you heard a story of someone released from prison after a wrongful conviction was overturned. You think about the years of their life they lost, how you would have felt if you were in that situation, and wonder how something like this could happen. The answer to the last question may vary, but it ultimately leads to sharing the Gospel. If the only reason you are being persecuted is because you are a Christian, even an unbeliever understands that is wrong. They may not know why you are holding fast to your faith, but they know it means more to you than your well-being. There is no greater proclamation of your faith in the return of Jesus Christ than for you to make decisions based purely on your salvation.
Hebrews 11:6 (ESV): And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Understanding the commitment required to remain faithful, Jesus makes it clear the reward is entry into the kingdom of heaven. The apostle Paul says, he does not consider his suffering when making decisions because they pale in comparison to his reward in heaven (Romans 8:18). In a world where people are focused on amassing wealth and instant gratification, having an eternal mindset makes your testimony influential. Stay true to the faith, understanding if you suffer for the faith, your reward will be greater than anything you may have lost on earth. And more importantly, the testimony of your steadfast faith while suffering may help bring a lost soul to Christ.