WILL WE LAY DOWN OUR LIVES?
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10
I know that for many of us we have never really experienced persecution. I know that we live in a day and age where we have pretty much never experienced anything more than just living out our lives in a pretty successful manner. We have never been called to sacrifice our lives for our faith or to hide in buildings or caves to have worship. Many of us have never had a time in our lives where we didn't have anything we needed at our finger tips. As we are thinking about Thanksgiving, I hope and pray that we truly are thankful for the lives that we have and realize the true opportunity that we continue to take for granted as a free nation that can profess the Gospel. I know that when I was growing up, I never thought that anything would ever be taken away from me and that the United States is the land of the free and home of the brave. My parents did an awesome job raising me to understand right and wrong and taught me that if I wanted anything in life I would have to work hard and always try to be a man of my word. But I have never been in fear of my life in the USA or ever worried that I would ever face persecution until I have watched how things seem to be unraveling over the last 10 years.
Persecution is coming and I am watching it occur in many different forms already in our country. I have been in Poland and Germany where people were beat up because they were professing Christians, and I have watched how people, filled with hate and anger, beat up someone just because they don't have the same beliefs. I have prayed that type of evil would never surround my family, but as each day passes, evil continues to take more and more opportunities to shut down our foundational beliefs in this world. And I just want all of us to know that it always happens little by little over time so that we get use to the change and it seems as though it really didn't effect us. Just like the example of the frog... If you
place a frog in hot water it will jump out, but if you place him in warm water and turn up the heat little by little, the frog becomes accustomed to his environment and will sit there and not recognize the real trouble he is facing. With that example in mind, the reality is that we are losing our religious freedoms and that is the first step before the persecution arrives. Are you prepared to defend your faith? Are you prepared to give your life for what you believe? I know that we think that may never happen, but scripturally I know that there has already been days where people were killed for their faith. People that were willing to stand up against wrongs in this world in the name of Jesus that have been beaten beyond recognition. Mindsets that have been changed over time to think that sin in this world is ok because we see it on TV and social media and we don't want to offend. Churches are failing the world because we are building up walls and expecting the world to be changed, but the world cannot change unless we are willing to get our hands dirty and that means professing our faith, not being ashamed, and prepared to face whatever may come because of our declaration. It is so easy to do that in a church building, but are we willing to do that when our job, our livelihood is on the line?
Jesus helps us to recognize the happiness that will be experienced by those who have been fighting the evil that is in this world with the WORD of GOD. The inequalities, evil regimes, people trafficking and even murder continues to occur in this world because of the unwillingness we have to step into the conversations or fight in the battles. Jesus understood persecution and so did the church at the time. The followers of Jesus had faced many perils and bouts of slavery. They had faced famine and drought. They had seen wars and death that caused families to be left fatherless and homeless. When Jesus speaks of persecution, the audience is able to understand because they had either lived it out in the past or were currently experiencing persecution in their lives. That is why so many were waiting for a Messiah/King. They wanted to seek revenge... they wanted to pay back all of the wrongs and they wanted to finally be on the top instead of just fighting to make it through the day. That is so much of why they loved it when they heard Jesus was the Messiah. They felt as if their struggles would soon come to an end, but what they soon realized is the Jesus was not going to be a king that reigned with an iron scepter but THE KING who was willing to show grace, peace and love. Jesus is sharing a valuable life lesson with us when He says blessed are the persecuted. Happy are the ones that have been reduced to nothing for the sake of the Gospel. Blessed are the ones that are finally able to see joy in total loss of worldly things. Once again it is paradoxical because one would think that so many would not be happy, but remember the attitude is the ability to fill the voids in our lives with the power of Jesus.
We are able to experience the Kingdom of God when we realize that it is better to give than to receive. We are able to realize that it is not our status in the world, but the status of our hearts that matter to God. Once we are able to realize that in humility that we are set free from our bonds to this world, then we will understand the power that persecution provides for our eternal destination. Those being persecuted have nothing more to rely on than Jesus. Those that are persecuted have experienced the evil of the world and have finally seen the power of Jesus to overcome all things even death and defeat. I just hope that all of us have gained more wisdom from the lessons of the beatitudes, because Jesus was and is preparing us for the battles that have happened and the battles that are still to come. We have to be ready and also prepare each other so that when we are on the frontlines, we will walk by faith and not fear. We will truly see the blessing in the times when we are persecuted for our faith and not stand around wondering what we should do next. If you
look back at the image of Martin Luther King, Jr., you will notice that the statute is not completed. As one who stood up against inequalities and continued to stand on his faith in God, I am blown away by the way Martin Luther King, Jr's faith in God continued to grow even stronger with each day of persecution that he faced. He never backed down because God had instilled within him the battle for injustice that had to be won. But the real reason the statue is not completed is because there is still more work to be done in our community... our country and our world. I hope and pray that we continue to prepare to seek joy in times of peace, but also to stand on the foundations of our faith when the persecution in our world is finally at hand. Little by little things are changing... are you ready to lay down your life... figuratively and literally for what you believe. Churches buildings are closing but the church was never the building... it is people that make up the church and NOTHING has and never will shut down THE CHURCH if we are willing to give our lives to the cause.