Darkened picture of the stoning of Stephen

Jesus Christ’s blessing of persecution found in Matthew 5:10-12 declares:

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Matthew 5:10-12

I use to think that this verse mainly applied to physical persecution but that is not true. This beatitude promise works with all types of persecution including verbal and emotional.

Here is what I found out about persecution and how God turns persecution into a blessing.

Definitions

Persecute or persecuted are interesting words. The Strong’s definition of persecuted found in Matthew 5:10 is as follows:

G1377 – diōkō (dee-o’-ko) A prolonged (and causative) form of a primary verb δίω diō (to flee; compare the base of G1169 and G1249); to pursue (literally or figuratively); by implication to persecute: – ensue, follow (after), given to, (suffer) persecute (-ion), press toward.

Did you know that the word “persecuted” means “to pursue?” I didn’t. To pursue something is not always wrong. A person can pursue in a manner to do evil or a person can pursue in a manner to do good. The Bible has examples of both usages.

“To Pursue” Good

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. Romans 14:19

But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 1 Timothy 6:11

See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Hebrews 12:14

“To Pursue” Evil

Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Acts 7:52

And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. Acts 22:4

And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. Acts 26:11

But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. Galatians 1:23

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: Galatians 1:13

Here is Webster’s 1828 dictionary definition of the word “persecute”:

PERSECUTE, v.t. [L. persequor; per and sequor, to pursue. See Seek and Essay.]

1. In a general sense, to pursue in a manner to injure, vex or afflict; to harass with unjust punishment or penalties for supposed offenses; to inflict pain from hatred or malignity.

2. Appropriately, to afflict, harass, or destroy for adherence to a particular creed or system of religious principles, or to a mode of worship. Thus Nero persecuted the Christians by crucifying some, burning others, and condemning others to be worried by dogs. See Acts 22.

3. To harass with solicitations or importunity.

With a basic understanding of the definition of the word persecute let’s go back to our main question:

How Does God turn persecution into blessing?

Let us first remember that turning persecution into a blessing is an amazing transformation. Let’s take the example of Stephen’s persecution found in Acts 6:5-15; 7. Note some of the characteristic traits of the people who were persecuting Stephen.

  1. Filled with bitter hatred.
  2. Gathered intelligent people to refute the arguments of Stephen.
  3. Tried to convince the people that Stephen was preaching delusive (misleading) and dangerous doctrines.
  4. Had revengeful hatred towards Stephen.
  5. Witnesses were hired to bear false testimony.
  6. Had stubborn unbelief.
  7. Had prejudice.
  8. Pretended to be horror-stricken.
  9. Resisted Stephen’s words.
  10. Were besides themselves with anger.
  11. Stopped their ears to hearing what Stephen was saying.

When you look at these characteristics of Stephen’s enemies it is amazing how this persecution could be turned into a blessing. Jesus says:

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Matthew 5:11-12

Jesus is telling us we can rejoice and be exceeding glad in persecution when characteristics like the ones shown above fall upon us for righteousness sake.

How? The short answer is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ walked in the path of this persecution for you and I. Because of his life, we can be saved from our sins. If Jesus Christ walked in the path of persecution, then persecution for righteousness sake can become a privilege for Christians as they have the opportunity to walk with Jesus in the path of self-denial and reproach.

I once visited a Christian family who had a son. This son loved his dad so much. The dad had his own business using a small skid loader for landscaping. The son wanted to be just like his dad and do everything his dad did. The son demonstrated his love for his dad by playing with his toy skid loader and pretending to work like his dad worked. Whenever the son was given an opportunity he sat on his dad’s lap in the skid loader and experienced first hand the work his dad did. After he would come out of the skid loader he was so happy that he had the privilege of working with his dad.

What Did Jesus Go Through?

  1. Opposed by united forces of Satan.
  2. Evil men and evil angels arrayed themselves against Jesus.
  3. His unlikeness to the world (divine compassion) provoked the bitterest hostility.
  4. Fiercest opposition and enmity because Jesus would give no license for the exercise of the evil passions of our nature.

Why Did Jesus Go Through Persecution?

The book “Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings” states it this way:

Between righteousness and sin, love and hatred, truth and falsehood, there is an irrepressible conflict. Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings p.29

Jesus went through persecution because his character was a perfect example of righteousness, love and truth.

If you as a follower of Jesus Christ desire “to pursue” righteousness, love and truth then you will experience this “irrepressible conflict.”

Persecution and reproach await all who are imbued with the Spirit of Christ.
Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings p.29

Are you beginning to catch the pleasure and gladness available by being persecuted for righteousness sake knowing that you are following Jesus? You have the privilege of walking in his steps.

Principalities and powers and wicked spirits in high places are arrayed against all who yield obedience to the law of heaven. Therefore, so far from causing grief, persecution should bring joy to the disciples of Christ, for it is an evidence that they are following in the steps of their Master. Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings p.29

I find it praiseworthy to know God can take persecution and turn it into a blessing. Praise God! What a blessing it is to be a Christian.

The Bible gives no promise for an exemption from trials but don’t be sad because of this. The Bible has a better promise than an exemption from trials which can be found in Deuteronomy 33:25 & 2 Corinthians 12:9

Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be. Deuteronomy 33:25

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You are guaranteed strength according to all your days. Amen.

For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. 2 Corinthians 1:20

Dear Christian. Go forward in faith. If you meet persecution remember the words of Jesus:

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Matthew 5:10-12

Be blessed, be exceeding glad. Through persecution the character of God is revealed in His chosen ones. If you are a partaker of Christ’s suffering you are destined to be partakers of His glory.

God bless you as you experience being persecuted for righteousness’ sake for the Bible says: Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12