Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12
Here in the United States, we Christians may take a few well-aimed insults. We might be the recipients of a stinging comment or two. But step into West Africa, and you’ll find some believers who are ostracized for their faith, cut off from their families, made into economic and social outcasts. Travel a little further into parts of the Middle East, and the penalty for following Christ gets even stiffer: death. In some places, death would be preferable to long imprisonments in filthy cells, torture, and starvation.
Whether a believer suffers only from someone mocking her or faces an arena of hungry lions, persecution is far from joyful. And to consider a blessing? Well, I just can’t do it.
And neither could Jesus. Read these verses carefully. He did not say persecution was a happy event. He did not say it was a blessing.
The blessing was the heavenly reward, not the persecution itself. God Himself bottles his children’s tears, keeps count of their lashes, winces when they are struck. And with each blow, He adds to their blessings stored up in Heaven, waiting for them.
So, see that believer there in Asia, laying on the cold stone floors of a prison? God has a blessing waiting for him at the end of his journey. He’ll step out of his jail cell into Heaven and receive it – a heap of treasure, a blessing from his Father who loves him.
Jesus spoke these words to remind us, to encourage us. If we suffer because we follow Him, we have a great reward in Heaven. Blessings are often not abundant on this earth. I’m so glad I’m only here for 70 to 80-some-odd years. I’ve got an eternity of blessings on the other side.
And I can’t wait to see the pile my truly persecuted siblings get.