THE PERSECUTED


STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM

THE PERSECUTED
==============
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

With our hunger and thirst for righteousness comes the promise of persecution
for those who take a stand for God. We have not been
called to safety and
comfort but to serve in the midst of conflict.
Persecution is not to be
strenuously avoided, for it is the result of
righteous living. To avoid it,
one would have to cease living
righteously.

The early church went through much persecution for their
faith in Christ. It
affected their livelihood. They had to ask themselves,
Should a Christian
craftsman create idols for the temples? Or should a tailor
sew robes for
heathen priests?

Persecution affected social and family
life. Most feasts were held in the
temple of some god. A common invitation would be dining at the table of such a
god. Even an ordinary meal in a home
began with a cup of wine poured out in
honor of the gods, like grace before a
meal. Could a Christian share in such a
meal like that?

Severe
persecution meant being flung to the lions, burned at the stake, or
being
wrapped in pitch and set alight to provide light for Nero’s palace
gardens.
Or it meant being sewn in animal skins and set upon by Nero’s hunting
dogs.
Christians were tortured on the rack; scraped with pincers; had molten
lead
poured on them; had red-hot brass plates fixed to the most tender parts
of their bodies; had eyes torn out; had limbs cut off and roasted before their
eyes; had hands and feet burned while cold water was poured over other
parts
to prolong agony.

Most of us have never in our lives made a real
sacrifice for Jesus. To have to
suffer persecution is to walk along the same
road as the prophets, the saints,
and the martyrs. To suffer persecution is
to make things easier for those who
are to follow. To suffer persecution is
to experience the fellowship of
Christ, as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did
in the furnace (Daniel 3:19-25).
It is not always so dramatic, but it is
nevertheless real. Most of us enjoy
the blessing of liberty today because men
and women in the past were willing
to buy it for us at the cost of their own
blood, sweat and tears.

RESPONSE: I will accept persecution, whether mild
or hot, which comes as a
result of righteous living.

PRAYER: Lord,
encourage those today who are experiencing severe persecution
for Your name.

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