“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” (Matthew 5:11-12 NLT)
Making disciples and spreading the blessings of God’s Kingdom where it’s needed most, is risky business! Yet it is the calling of all Kingdom Disciples.
A year ago, I frequently awakened in the middle of the night. Two of my coworkers had been arrest in a country famous for hostility toward the Gospel. Under such circumstances it was hard for me avoid anxiety. For these coworkers beatings and torture were probable. Execution was possible. God’s blessing was a promise; Jesus declared it, but almost too hard to believe.
When the ordeal ended, I visited one of these friends. After listening to the story, I asked to have it written up and passed on for you:
“At the beginning of the 2013 I was detained for 2 months because of my desire to follow and obey Jesus in a certain country. I had a lot of time to meditate on Jesus’ words: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely because of My name…” It was very difficult for me not knowing what might happen; being cut off from the outside world; being anxious that I might dishonor Jesus’ name and my fellow workers during interrogation.
At the same time I really felt blessed: the incredible privilege to share in the fellowship of His suffering (albeit a very little bit). The Bible became more real to me than it had ever been. It was my everyday manual on how to ‘behave’ (forgive, give, bless, answer respectfully).
Sometimes I sensed Jesus’ overwhelming presence and love for me and sometimes I didn’t feel anything, but I knew that He was there, watching over me. What I went through cannot compare with what He suffered on the cross and yet I felt His encouragement and smile. Meditating on His suffering encouraged me greatly. It became very precious to me and I got a deeper understanding what it cost Him.
I’ve never felt so extremely needy, weak and empty, but when I had nothing left and thought I was falling, tumbling down the crevice, I found that His hand was there to catch me. Some days I had no praise or worship in my heart and just gave Him my emptiness, but every time Jesus met me and lifted my head. It’s something that I never want to forget.
After this experience I feel that I’m ‘limping’ (like Jacob). I’m very much aware of my weakness and yet I’ve seen Jesus’ faithfulness and power. It’s difficult to describe, but Job summarized it for me: ‘My ear has heard of You but now my eyes have seen You.’ (Job 42:5). I’m blessed indeed.”
Though the name cannot be given, due to security, on behalf of us all, let me give the author of this story our thanks. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of how Jesus kept His word and blessed you in the face of intense persecution. And so He promises to bless everyone who faces persecution for living as Kingdom Disciples.
Question for reflection: What aspects of today’s story might help you and your disciples willingly face persecution?
Kingdom prayer: Lord, You have called us to proclaim the Good News of Your Kingdom in word and deed. Please pour out Your grace upon us when we face mocking, lies, threats and harm so we may be faithful and fruitful. Amen.