“Blessed are those who are persecuted FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely ON ACCOUNT OF ME. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way. (Matthew 5:10-12)
Again, the Greek word for blessed (i.e., makarios) used here has a meaning of being fortunate, prosperous or successful. That is, successful are those that suffer persecution when doing the right thing! Successful are those that suffer from insults, persecution, and slander when living a life that represents Jesus! Note these verses do NOT say that suffering brought upon ourselves via poor behavior will make us successful! Self-induced suffering (i.e., suffering we experience as a consequence of our incorrect actions) has no spiritual value (1 Peter 4:15. 1 Peter 2:20. 1 Peter 3:17).
For example, you decide to let someone have a “piece of your mind” and they, in turn, commence to publicly humiliate you. The suffering you are experiencing is self-induced and deserved and will not directly lead to spiritual growth. However, if you repent to God for having sinned then humility can be learned as you publicly apologize to the individual. However, this is simply an indirect benefit to your initial action.
Be careful about giving away pieces of your mind or you might find one day that you have none left!
Realize, as Christians, we will experience suffering ranging from offenses from lost people of the world to those from fellow Christians including betrayal, loss of things, various temptations, persecutions, etc. However, know that it is a loving and just God who passes judgment for suffering to come into our lives to shape our character into that of Christ (Romans 5:3-5. James 1:2-4. John 15:2). This shaping or conforming to the Character of Christ includes the removal of pride (2 Corinthians 12:7). Furthermore, although it is Satan who delivers the suffering to BREAK us (1 Peter 5:8. John 10:10) always remember it is God that judged it right to come upon us in order to MAKE us (1 Peter 4:12-16. 1 Peter 1:6,7. Colossians 1:24. Philippians 1:29. James 1:2-4. 1 Thessalonians 1:6;3:3. 2 Thessalonians 1:5. 2 Timothy 1:8. 2 Timothy 3:12;2:3;4:5. Proverbs 17:3. Isaiah 48:10. Proverbs 27:21. Acts 14:22;20:19,23. Psalms 34:19)
This is because physical growth is a function of time, mental growth is a function of study, and spiritual growth(1) is a function of obedience in the midst of suffering temptation. The ultimate goal is perfect obedience which is the cessation of sinning (1) (1 Peter 4:1). Again, how do we learn obedience? The same way Jesus did, through suffering (Hebrews 5:7-9). In addition, we will not suffer more than we are able and God will always create a way of escape that we might endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). Consequently, if we turn to Him in the trial then God will cause it to “work together for good” (Romans 8:28). However, working together for good does not mean obtaining what we want or think we need but rather being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ – even if that means the suffering must continue for a protracted period of time (2 Corinthians 4:17. Romans 8:29. 1 Peter 5:10). Realize, suffering has been effective when you are more Christlike (e.g., more obedient) at its conclusion. In addition, we can learn to suffer effectively (1) by following the guidance contained in the Bible (2 Corinthians 1:3-10. Psalms 119:71. Ecclesiastes 7:3).
The wisdom of God appears in afflictions. By these He separates the sin which He hates, from the son whom He loves. By these thorns He keeps him from breaking over into Satan’s pleasant pastures, which would fatten him indeed, but only to the slaughter – James H. Aughey
When division strikes an organization, family, or church God expects Christians to stand firm and not allow the chaos of the moment to affect them (Ephesians 6:11-13). During these times of divisive behavior, slander, gossip and a plethora of other evils from Satan we are tested with the result that the spiritual Christians are distinguished from the carnal or worldly ones (1 Corinthians 11:18,19. 1 Corinthians 3:3. Romans 8:5-9). During these times we are to conduct ourselves in a manner “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27. 1 Peter 3:8-11). In other words, God expects the believer to resist Satan’s temptation to retaliate (Job 36:17), to take the high road by being one that gives mercy (1) and to be a peacemaker (1) which includes being willing to break fellowship with people following the darkness when necessary (2 Thessalonians 3:6). People will let you down, but God never will (Hebrews 13:5). We are to keep our eyes focused on the “faith of the gospel” which will anchor our heart and mind during times of conflict (Philippians 1:27). We are to follow the “one Spirit”, the Holy Spirit of God, revealed to us through the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God, which is the heart, mind, and soul of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:27. 2 Peter 1:21).
It is not affliction itself, but affliction rightly borne, that does us good – James H. Aughey
How can you know if we are winning or losing the fight? We are winning the fight when the perfect love of God has removed all fearful intimidation of the situation from us (Isaiah 54:14. 1 John 4:18. Hebrews 13:6. Matthew 6:25-34). We are losing when we allow Satan to discourage, scare or intimidate us (2 Timothy 1:7). We must remember that in Christ Jesus we are already conquerors, and indeed more than conquerors because He has won the victory over sin and death for us at the Cross of Calvary! (Colossians 2:13-15. John 16:33. 1 John 3:8. Romans 8:31-39. 1 John 5:4,5. Revelation 2:7,11,17,26;3:5,12,21;21:7. Revelation 12:11)
Realize, God laughs at His enemies, not in a mocking derisory way but in Holy laughter which places Satan firmly under His feet, and even goes as far as using the enemy to extend His purposes! (Psalms 2:1-4. Psalms 37:9-13. Proverbs 1:20-33. Romans 16:20) We are not in an equally sided battle. God always has a win/win plan for an individual as well as in the big picture (Jeremiah 29:11) (2).
We can be sure that God is working His purpose out in our lives, whatever the circumstances are presently (Philippians 1:6). He has His way of outwitting the enemy and we can look to Him, trusting that He will bring about what we can never do through our own cleverness and human logic (Proverbs 3:5,6).
Again, when we are following the truth of the Gospel people Satan has deceived will oppose us including those we trust the most (Psalms 55:12-14. Luke 22:48. 2 Corinthians 4:3,4. Ephesians 2:2. 1 John 5:19). In these circumstances, we must keep our eyes on Jesus and not the stormy conflict (Matthew 14:29,30). Rest in the truth of the Gospel and know God will judge every evil action brought against us by those that do not like our following Jesus. Ultimately those that follow Satan will be completely destroyed (1) but we that follow Jesus Christ will be completely saved (1) and given the Kingdom of Heaven (1) as our home (1 Peter 4:17-19. Philippians 1:28. Hebrews 10:30,31. Jude 1:14,15. Proverbs 16:4. Revelations 20:11-15. Hebrews 7:25. Romans 10:13. Luke 12:32. Revelation 21:1-8;21:27).
Now that is something to have a BEAUTIFUL ATTITUDE about!
Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another. Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be conceited.Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people.If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head.Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)
Links to this Series:
(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) Adapted from Seeds of the Kingdom Daily Devotional, December 24, 2013: God Laughs at His enemies by Fiona Horrobin.