“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. “Not only that – count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. (Matthew 5:10-11, The Message)
Martin Luther King, Jr., in a speech in 1965, said, “If you haven’t discovered something that is worth dying for, you haven’t found anything worth living for.” As 21st century Americans we live for our careers, we live for our educations, we live for our families, we live for our nation, but do we live for our God?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3) willingly went into the fiery furnace, not with a certainty that God would save them, but because of their zeal to live their lives for their God. They refused to bow to the idol made of gold, and they were persecuted for it. We are taught—maybe even expected—to bow at the altar of the media, the altar of the shopping mall, the altar of the self.
By climbing the ladder of the beatitudes, we can live a committed life to God. A life filled with persecution—or making others uncomfortable—because our lives are filled with bowing down to the one true God. This life brings with it joy and gladness. Isaiah and Jeremiah knew this joy and gladness. Peter and Paul knew this joy and gladness. When we live our lives for Christ, we live in a joy and gladness that the world cannot give us. And we live as Easter people, filled with a hope that can only come through the Risen Christ.
- Have you personally experienced being “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” or had “all kinds of evil” spoken against you because of Christ? Why or why not? When and how?
- If his faithful commitment to the God he called “Abba” (Daddy) cost Jesus his life, why should following him be comfortable and pain-free?
- What idols in your life do you need to refuse to bow down to?
- What does it mean to you to be people of hope?
- Are you in a place in your spiritual life where you can rejoice in the midst of your suffering? Why or why not?
Pray: Lord, may your Holy Spirit dwell within us so that we can live each day for you. Help us to put aside our selfish needs and desires and to stop putting them first. You are first in our lives. Amen.