“Blessed are they who are PERSECUTED for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The characteristics described in the Beatitudes flagrantly counter the world system. The more a person lives for Jesus, the more likely the world will react negatively. To whatever degree a person fulfills the first seven Beatitudes, he is likely to ‘experience’ the eighth. The apostle Paul lived a godly life and as a result he suffered greatly (though God ‘strengthened’ him).
“All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” [ 2 Timothy 3:12 ]. How could the apostle Paul make such a sweeping statement? Well, he makes it on the basis of a deep conviction about the nature of Christianity and the nature of the sinfulness of man. He was convinced that there is such a tension between Jesus’ message and way of life of Christians on the one hand, and the mindset and way of life of the world on the other. That conflict is inevitable.
The Christian, by trying to make peace, stirs up strife—and that is what causes him to be persecuted. Godliness generates antagonism. That doesn’t mean we should strive to make enemies, but we shouldn’t be surprised when we do. A godless, angry, sinful world will react when confronted righteousness. By acting like ‘salt’ in the world wounded by sin (Matthew 5:13) we will get a ‘reaction’—salt in a wound stings!
Know that persecution won’t be incessant (and probably not a ‘intense’ as what the apostle Paul experienced). But when it does occur, God brings His blessedness to the willing soul. He always makes suffering for His sake bearable. We aren’t to seek persecution, yet we’re also not to run from it—and when in the midst of it, we are not to compromise!
If you live in direct opposition to Satan and his ‘system’ you will experience antagonism from people who don’t agree with Jesus’ message. Righteousness carries with it the ‘price’ of persecution.
But, there’s a way to escape persecution. All you need to do is approve of the world’s standards, morals, and ethics. Instead of ‘separating’ yourself from the world you must go along with it—laugh at its jokes, enjoy its entertainment, smile when it mocks God, and let people take the Lord’s name in vain. If you never take a stand for Jesus, you will never be persecuted for His sake.
However, if you are a Christian and if that’s true of you, you need to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Those who live that way need to remember Jesus’ warning: “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed” [ Luke 9:26 ].
There is a ‘price to pay’ for living in God’s Kingdom. You will be living contrary to the world’s system—it separates the “wheat from the chaff.” As you allow Jesus to live in and through you, you hold up a standard unbelievers cannot attain. People who love their sin and recognize they can’t live up to that standard will want to remove it so they can remain content their in sinfulness. Christians are indeed persecuted for righteousness’ sake that may hit close to ‘home’. Things like losing your job, losing close relationships, or other things that prick the ‘sensibilities’ of people.
Many of us are not willing to be persecuted (I struggle with that myself). Sometimes we are not willing to be ‘bold’ and say what needs to be said. We accommodate ourselves to the world so it will ‘like’ us. We may justify our behavior, saying, “If I’m popular with people then eventually I’ll be able to sneak in something about the gospel.” But God doesn’t need ‘sneaky’ people. He needs people who are willing to ‘confront’ the world.
Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” [ John 15:18-19 ].
Jesus wants us to have our hearts primarily focused on Heaven. There is no other way that you can rejoice and be glad at the loss of your earthly joys. How shall we rejoice and be glad when these things are taken from us if we don’t love Heaven more? The Christian martyr, Jim Elliot, said: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” (American missionary to the Auca Indians in Ecuador – “Beyond the Gates of Splendor” and “End of the Spear” are movies about him and his four missionary friends).
The apostle Peter—who was persecuted tremendously after Jesus ascended into Heaven, and was martyred on a cross (hanging upside down)—tells us not to be ‘surprised’. “Dear friends, don’t be surprised or shocked when you go through painful trials that are like walking through fire, as though something unusual is happening to you” [ 1 Peter 4:12 ]. He also said not to be ‘afraid’ when it comes—God will be ‘with’ you: “If you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it, so don’t be afraid and don’t worry! Instead, worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it” [ 1 Peter 3:14-15 ]. The more you are persecuted, the more you should focus on God’s love for you, since His “Perfect love casts out all fear.” No matter what you do in life, somebody is not going to like it. So, you may as well do the things God likes—because only His ‘opinion’ matters for eternity!
All this is because Satan hates God, and wants to ‘hurt’ God, but he can’t. So, he is going to ‘hurt’ Him by hurting you, God’s “children.” There will be ‘pressures’ on you from Satan to make you ‘cave in’ and keep you from doing the right thing. (“For the accuser [Satan] of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth—the one who accuses them before our God day and night” [ Revelation 12:10 ]).
Satan will also use other people—even your friends or spouse—to get you to ‘curse’ God. In the story of Job, his wife said: “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”
Just like Job’s sufferings, God does not promise that a Christian will never get sick, be poor financially, or never have any big problems—because He is more interested in developing your character like Jesus’ (who suffered greatly), deepen your faith, and bring you into a closer relationship with Him.
“Persecuted” Related Bible Verses:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
[ Isaiah 41:10 ].
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
[ Psalm 46:1 ].
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
[ Isaiah 53:7 ].
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
[ Matthew 5:12 ].
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.”
[ Matthew 24:9 ].
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
[ Matthew 5:38-39 ].
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
[ Matthew 5:44 ].
“And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
[ Matthew 10:22 ].
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
[ John 10:10 ].
“‘Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.’”
[ John 14:1-3 ].
“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
[ John 15:20 ].
“Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
[ Acts 14:22 ].
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
[ Romans 8:35-39 ].
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
[ Romans 12:12 ].
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
[ Romans 12:14 ].
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
[ Romans 12:19 ].
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
[ 1 Corinthians 10:13 ].
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”
[ 2 Corinthians 4:8-12 ].
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
[ Galatians 2:20 ].
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”
[ Philippians 3:7-9 ].
“We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. 5 And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering. 6 In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you. And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven.”
[ 2 Thessalonians 1:4-7 ].
“My persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.”
[ 2 Timothy 3:11 ].
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”
[ 2 Timothy 3:12 ].
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”
[ Hebrews 10:36 ].
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
[ James 1:2-4 ].
“When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”
[ 1 Peter 2:23 ].
“If you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it, so don’t be afraid and don’t worry! Instead, worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”
[ 1 Peter 3:14-15 ].
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised or shocked when you go through painful trials that are like walking through fire, as though something unusual is happening to you.”
[ 1 Peter 4:12 ].
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
[ Revelation 2:10 ].
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FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT #4:
On the one hand, the quality of patience evokes images of stoicism, tolerance, and passivity in most people’s mind. On the other hand, there are people who are easily irritated. They invariably let others know it, either by a steady stream of grumbling, carping and griping, accompanied by a face ‘painted’ with the pain of having to suffer the ‘fools’ surrounding them, or they “blow up” in red-faced fury, shouting a torrent of invective intended to let everyone within hearing distance know they have been put upon and have “had it.” The great bulk of us are somewhere in between. We may not show this much agitation on the outside, but inwardly we are churning with varying degrees of stress, wishing that people would “just get on with it” so we can do our thing.
Patience is a quality of wise, controlled restraint that prevents believers from speaking or acting hastily when faced with a situation of disagreement, opposition, or persecution.
The Greek word for patience is “makrothumia” (pronounced: mah-krow-thew-me-ah). It can also be translated “perseverance,” or “longsuffering.” Makrothumia is patience in respect to persons, while another word “hupomone,” meaning “endurance,” relates to ‘putting up’ with things or circumstances. Makrothumia is especially related to “love,” whereas hupomone is especially related to “hope.” The opposite of makrothumia is wrath or revenge, whereas the antonym of hupomone is cowardice or despondency.
Patience almost always involves ‘waiting’ in some form or another. Waiting for the Spirit to guide you in a situation; waiting for circumstances to change for the better; waiting for someone to change their actions and thoughts; or waiting for your own attitude and perceptions to accommodate to what is taking place in your life.
Patience is a major characteristic of God—delaying His wrath upon us for sin, and allowing time for us to ‘come to our senses’. This should ‘fill us’ with gratitude. “So he prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm’” [ Jonah 4:2 ].
Also note the other qualities patience in the last two references. The qualities of grace, mercy, lovingkindness, goodness, and truth allow God to work with people so they can remain alive and eventually transform into His image. If God struck back at people like short-fused humans frequently do, no one would be alive today!
Since God patiently waits for us, we should be patient with one other in the midst of uncomfortable and stressful situations. We can do this as we let the fruit of the Spirit—of which patience is a part—manifest itself in our lives. While patience can be passive in a sense, it is also purposeful. It could be called “redemptive waiting.” We are waiting for the relationship or the situation to be redeemed by God as we wait upon Him to use us, to change the situation, for the other person to change, or even for us to change ourselves. Patience is allowing God to work in ways that we can’t always foresee or understand. It can be hard, but it is always much easier if we ‘rest’ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and let His fruit manifest itself in our heart, mind, and soul.
We can learn a great deal about why patience is so vital by comparing the process we are going through to an artist sculpting a work from a piece of marble. Chip by chip, over a period of time, an artist uses hammer and chisel to shape a conception from a raw slab of rock until the finished figure is revealed. God is doing much the same with us except we are living raw material with mind, emotions, and the liberty to allow or disallow the Artist to continue. If we are impatient, not allowing God to complete His artistry by our constant yielding to His tools, we will never be ‘whole’. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” [ James 5:7–8 ].
Patience is also not merely a fixed determination to hold our place in the ‘teeth’ of the wind, but to make actual progress in spite of it. A ship may ride out a strong wind with a snug anchor and strong chains, though another may set the sails to take advantage of the wind to bring it closer to its destination. It is this latter attitude that James is bidding us have and use.
Notice that the Spirit does not perceive patience as passive. It works! The fruit of its work can be either another virtue it is producing or preserving.
Patience is manifesting wisdom in a heated or tense situation. This takes reliance upon the power of the Holy Spirit, built upon a foundation of God’s Word. We can all muster up a certain amount of patience with our flesh, but it takes spiritually empowered patience from the fruit of the Spirit to deal with most heated confrontations we face in relationships.
Being patient in no way means we are weak, though to some we may at first seem so—nor does it mean that we approve of their conduct. Though we may hate their conduct and suffer keenly when it affects us, Jesus tells us to “bless them”—meaning we should confer favor upon or give benefits to them. We can do this by wishing the person well, speaking kindly of and to them and seeking to do them good.
Jesus said: “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” [ Matthew 5:39-45 ].
Situations like this may be the most difficult test we will ever face. Patiently deferring retaliation and committing the circumstance to God’s judgment is indispensable to the best possible solution. But the primary point of Jesus’ instruction, however, is not how to resolve these situations, but that we may act as ‘children’ of our Father. By imitating God’s pattern, we will resemble Him and take a giant stride toward being ‘formed’ in His image.
Patience is love forbearing. Patience suggests self-restraint under the pressure of provocation, especially undeserved provocation—“slow to become angry.” It is often described as a gentle resignation to a situation or another person that is not likely to change (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3). It highlights God’s ‘natural’ ability to be patient with us—reflecting His great love for us.
Patience is a two-way street. We desire others to be patient and forgiving toward us in our faults, but do we practice the same attitude and conduct toward those whose faults offend us? Well, God clearly demands reciprocity. He expects us to pass His patience and forgiveness toward us on to others—as Jesus did.
Patience shown to others often comes as we become realistically patient with ourselves. We sometimes beat ourselves up because we are not growing spiritually as we think we should. God is the best judge of our spiritual growth and we must understand that spiritual maturity takes time to develop. Francis de Sales a Jesuit theologian stated, “Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself.”
It is interesting that Solomon connects impatience to pride. He observes that the impatient haughtily seize on something before it is finally worked out, while the patient see a thing to its end and are rewarded. This principle also applies to God working with us: “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly” [ Proverbs 14:29]. Patience grows from a combination of faith, hope, love, and self-control.
It is not difficult to trace the source of biblical patience in God’s children. The apostle Paul states, “Love suffers long and is kind” [ 1 Corinthians 13:4]. As noted above, patience is directly associated with love and hope. Here in the “love chapter,” Paul lists patience first among love’s works. Paul adds that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” [ Romans 5:5 ].
“Patience” Related Bible Verses:
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.”
[ Psalm 37:7-9 ].
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”
[ Psalm 40:1-3 ].
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;”
[ Psalm 130:5 ].
“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”
[ Proverbs 15:18 ].
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
[ Proverbs 16:32 ].
“Patient persistence pierces through indifference; gentle speech breaks down rigid defenses.”
[ Proverbs 25:15 ].
“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.”
[ Ecclesiastes 7:8 ].
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
[ Isaiah 40:31 ].
“By your endurance you will gain your lives.”
[ Luke 21:19 ].
“To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;”
[ Romans 2:7 ].
“And endurance produces character, and character produces hope,”
[ Romans 5:4 ].
“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
[ Romans 8:25 ].
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
[ Romans 15:4 ].
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
[ Galatians 6:9 ].
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
[ Philippians 4:6 ].
“And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.”
[ Hebrews 6:15 ].
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”
[ Hebrews 10:36 ].
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
[ James 1:2-4 ].
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”
[ James 1:19 ].
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.”
[ James 5:7 ].
“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”
[ James 5:11 ].
“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
[ 1 Peter 2:19-23 ].
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
[ 1 Peter 3:9 ].
“I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.”
[ Revelation 2:3 ].