• Jem Howe

#295 – HOW TO RESPOND TO PERSECUTION (26/2/21)


Matthew 5:12. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Jesus is recorded as saying Rejoice and be glad when we face ridicule, violence and even death as a result. Why? Because as this verse says, we have a reward in Heaven. There are a number of other verses that talk about how, in all sorts of testing, slander and persecution we are to be a people who respond in a different way. We are to be reminded of who we are in Christ, and be thankful for our reward and salvation in Heaven. We read,

Romans 8:35-39. ‘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.’
1 Peter 5:10. ‘And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.’

See also, 2 Corinthians 6:4-7, 8:1-2; 1Thessalonians 1: 6-7 and James 1:2-4


So how can we respond?


i) Thanksgiving and prayer:

As we saw, the real power behind the persecution of Christians is the devil and his dominion. As Jesus reminds us in the first and last Beatitude, we are not of that kingdom any more. We are in the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and

‘The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.’ (1 John 1:4)

Let’s thank Jesus for the weapons of thanksgiving and prayer. Let’s also pray for others who may well be facing persecution, prison and death. We can make sure we are informed about those who follow Jesus around the world and pray for the situations.


A great resource is Open Doors who have just produced the World watch list - 2021 of the top 50 countries where Christians face the worst persecution at the moment. You can view the Parliamentary launch by clicking the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEG7lY-3Bho&ab_channel=OpenDoorsUK%26Ireland

They also have great children’s and family resources to help engage your kids in praying


ii) Blessing and giving;

Luke 6:27-19. “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.”

The church in Macedonia, in a time of real affliction, out of the joy they had they were also to give to others facing difficult times. These are a direct challenge to the values and practices of the world around us, whilst avoiding unnecessary confrontation and antagonism.


iii) Make Disciples.

The Gospel of Matthew finishes with what we call The Great Commission - Go and make disciple, teaching them to obey everything I have taught you.

By living out the values of the kingdom of heaven, by speaking and telling others about Jesus, we defeat the powers and authorities that would try to stop the good news of Jesus.

Who can you tell about Jesus, or help to grow in their faith?



COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - BLESSED ARE THE PERSECUTED


Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.


Suggested opener/Ice-breaker

Can you remember a time when you were wrongly accused of doing something?


Introduction - please share in your group

This week we are finishing the Beatitudes with the final one.

Please read Matthew 5: 10-12.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

In many ways, this is perhaps the most challenging Beatitude. It is hard to imagine how being persecuted is a sign of being blessed.


In finishing with this, Jesus brings the Beatitudes to a close. He concludes as he started by reminding his hearers and us that it is those who are followers of Jesus - those who are now in the 'kingdom of Heaven' should expect to be persecuted. Jesus emphasises that this is “You”.


These verses highlight 2 reasons for the persecution of people in the kingdom of heaven.


1. Righteousness sake: a great cause

Gods righteousness and justice - a life shaped by the Beatitudes is one that, turns the world's values on its head. When you but up against a different value system - you are going to face opposition


2. On Jesus account: a great name.

Please read John 15:20-21.

“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. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”

The world, the flesh and the devil will attack those who are active citizens of the Kingdom of God. Our response is to be one of peacemaking, gratitude to God, prayer and love, even for our enemies! We are to respond by keeping our eyes on the 'reward' that we will receive.


Discussion questions

1. Did God speak to you about anything in particular from Sunday's message or the blogs this week?

2. How, and from whom, could we expect persecution?

3. Jesus says our response to persecution is to “rejoice and be glad”. What makes it possible for a Christian to do this?

4. What other verses can you think of that link joy and persecution?

5. How can these help you and others?

6. What could your response be to the fact that Christians face persecution?

A helpful resource to help us to pray for the persecuted church is Open Doors - World watch list - 2021 top 50 countries that face worst persecution at the moment. To watch the Parliamentary 'watch list' launch click the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEG7lY-3Bho&ab_channel=OpenDoorsUK%26Ireland


They also have great children’s and family resources to help engage everyone in this.


Investing and inviting

Those who are prepared to suffer will seek to share their lives and the gospel.

1) Who has God put into your life that we could pray for together?

2) How are you planning to 'invest and invite'?

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