“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
This must have been a strange saying to those who were looking for immediate glory, or a reign of peace. But the Lord plainly sets before His disciples what their position in this world will be: that the more distinct their likeness to Himself, the heavier their persecutions will become.
A Christian who is walking with the Lord seeks to maintain a conscience void of offense towards God and towards man. For example, in his career he may be offered an advancement if he will agree to do something which is not right. The offer may be a tempting one, but he refuses. Righteousness prevails, but he suffers for it. He is misunderstood, is called foolish, and may even lose his job. Still he can confidently say, “My present loss, under the righteous government of God, will prove to be my eternal gain.” He has a clear conscience and a happy heart; he is drawn closer to the Lord in dependence on Him. Are there not many similar areas of daily life with varying degrees of right and wrong? Measure them all by a righteous standard, and seek to do the whole will of God in all things.
When the King returns from the far country, and calls His own servants around Him, what will it be to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21).
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake” (Matthew 5:11).
Observe that this promise is directly personal. “Blessed are ye.” Jesus is looking at the disciples around Him, and knowing what they would have to pass through, He speaks directly to their hearts. He makes them feel His personal interest in them, and their personal nearness to Himself.
Suffering for Christ's sake is the result of speaking about Him to others. Not merely a decided “no” when we are asked or enticed to do what is wrong, but an earnest heart that watches for every opportunity to speak about the blessed Lord and salvation. You may speak of religion in a general way, of preachers, of churches, of missions, of societies for doing good, and still be popular; but speak of the Lord Himself, of His precious blood, of the full assurance of salvation, of oneness with Him in heaven, of separation from the world, and you will greatly reduce the number of your friends.
Be prepared for this: as far as the enemy can gain power over you, you will be reviled and persecuted for His name’s sake. It may be nothing more than cold rejection or a contemptuous sneer, but all of this was anticipated by the blessed Lord and graciously provided for. He thinks of everything. Believers are never dearer to His heart than when they are despised and suffering for His sake. “Blessed are ye” is His own sweet word of comfort to their hearts. Further, He tells them to “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12).
—Condensed from Meditations on the Beatitudes by Andrew Miller.
If you try to imitate Christ, the world will praise you; if you become Christlike it will hate you. —D.M. Lloyd-Jones