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Jun 16, 2019

Life in the Kingdom: Those Persecuted for Righteousness

Life in the Kingdom: Those Persecuted for Righteousness

Passage: Matthew 5:1-11

Speaker: Pastor Chris Riedel

Series: Life in the Kingdom

Keywords: righteousness, beatitudes, persecuted

Blessed are those that are persecuted for righteousness sake. A faith lived out in action as much as in words, can in itself be a testimony to the hope, grace, and love we find in Jesus Christ.

Scripture:

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." - Matthew 5:10-12 

Devotional:

For most Christians in the United States, as well as in many areas around the world, it is difficult to relate to the idea of being persecuted for our faith. We can't imagine having to hide our Bibles, sneak into places of worship, or conceal our prayers. I've certainly never felt that I would be in danger if I shared my belief in the Gospel. 

I've openly been a part of various Bible study groups with fellow Christians for well over 18 years. It is the simplest thing in the world for me to share what I have learned about Jesus over the course of my life as well as the questions I have about my faith with these folks. 

And yet, I can't be content to insulate myself only in groups of believers. My world, my community, and in fact, my very own group of friends is full of people of different faiths and many who claim no faith at all. So while I'm reasonably certain no one has spoken evil about me or set out to do me harm, there have been a few occasions when even a tame response has stung me. I've been met with an eye roll here or there. There have been times when some have assumed that because I am a Christian, it must follow that I am also uptight and judgmental. Not too long ago, after a neighbor we'd been praying for passed away, I was told "prayers don't work."

And shamefully, in the wake of those rare instances, I have hesitated to share the Gospel further. I've stopped short of explaining that my belief in prayer is more about a relationship with a Savior who gives me light in the midst of the darkness and less about an expectation that everything will work out as I want. I've kept verses that have given me comfort and peace when I've been angry and disappointed to myself. In an effort to avoiding coming on too strong, I've tempered my words, cowered in the corner with my hurt feelings, and hunkered down with my tight circle of like-minded Christians. 

The verse in Matthew emboldens us to live our faith out loud. While I am comforted by the promise of a reward in heaven, I'm even further encouraged by the fact that a faith lived out in action as much as in words, can in itself be a testimony to the hope, grace, and love we find in Jesus Christ. I know that I cannot do this without the power of the Holy Spirit at work within me and it is He who pushes me to tamp down fear of rejection and ridicule. When we are faced with any push back to our faith, let us remember from whom our strength comes. It comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121). 

Prayer:

Holy, sovereign Lord. We are grateful that You bless us even when we are faced with persecution or ridicule. We rejoice in Your promise of the kingdom of heaven. We ask you to strengthen our faith and our resolve to live that faith out loud with love, grace, and compassion. Amen. 

Written by Jennifer Skinner, member of Arcola Church and a Texan (Texas Longhorn to be specific!) living in beautiful Virginia with her very patient, funny husband, and three very impatient, funny boys/ball players. She is also a blogger, The View From Behind Home Plate, who writes about finding extraordinary grace and blessings among the cleats and dirt and testosterone that fill her ordinary days.