The past few weeks we have looked at what it means to live a life upsidedown from the culture. Looking at the last two “Blessed are the…” that Jesus said in Matthew 5; we find these are the most upsideDOWN from culture outside and often inside the church.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Paul Chappell, founder of West Coast Baptist College said
The Devil doesn’t persecute those who aren’t making a godly difference in the world.
This is so upside down from how we understand the wold and desire the world to be. We are people of comfort, safety, and justice. We see pain and suffering in the world and pray for world peace. There is nothing wrong with the desire for peace, but that is impossible until Jesus returns. In this world we experience much pain and suffering every day.
This can be either because we are not living according to God’s will…or because we are living according to His will.
This may sound ridiculous, either we are blessed by God because we are living according to His will or we are not because we aren’t. Yes it is true that God wants to bless His children. There are many examples of that in the Bible; one of the most common verse that points out God’s Blessing is very misleading to many Christians.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
This verse has been taught, put on t-shirts, mugs, banners, and all over the internet. The teaching from this verse has always been…
God wants to…and WILL prosper you and will Keep you from harm and you will have a great hope of a future that will be even MORE BLESSED than the blessing and good life you have now!
That is technically true, but this is also very misleading. If we read this verse and not the context we don’t know what the prophet is saying to the people.
- Jeremiah was sending a letter to the people who were in captivity in Babylon
- The benefit of the blessing was not for the people of Israel.
The letter begins with…
4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
The Lord was not saying; I don’t worry if you follow the law enough or have enough faith I will take you out of this pain, suffering, and persecution. No He said; I carried you into this persecution and I want you to BE THERE. Settle down, marry, and have children with the Babylonians. Then pray for them to be blessed as your persecutors and captors. God wanted them to trust and obey in the persecution not waiting for the deliverance, but in the midst of it.
Back to verse 11; will God bless His children and prosper them? YES, but not outside of the persecution. Persecution is part of live as people who live for righteousness.
Back to Matthew 5 Jesus revised this idea later in His Sermon on the Mount
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
God is the same Yesterday, Today, and Forever. In Jeremiah God told the people to pray for those who persecuted them and Jesus again instructed us to pray for those who persecute us.
We have been tricked into thinking that hard times in life is a result of lack of faith; but in fact we blessed in the middle of the hard times. This does not mean we should desire bad things to happen, but if we are pursuing righteousness and spreading God’s love we will experience hard times and that is not to discourage us. This is to help sift out the wheat from the chaff in this life. Paul wrote many times about suffering and persecution in life. In his life he experienced great persecution. He wrote to Timothy.
12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted
2 Timothy 3:12
If we want to live a life worthy of the call God has placed in our lives we will experience persecution. We want the benefits of Jeremiah 29:11 without the difficulties that come with that great plan and prosperous future God has for us.
Paul experienced great persecution and knew that all believers who are serving God wholeheartedly not lukewarm would experience persecution so he wrote…
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Don’t give up!
Keep perusing righteousness and when the persecution comes don’t give up or shrink back from the plan and purpose of your life to be in the land. Making your home among the enemy and loving and praying for their blessing as they cause pain and suffering toward you!
Living a life upsidedown means you will be counter cultural, counter natural, counter to everything that our selfish desires want and living fully devoted toward God and His plan.
We have seen the Apostle Paul wrote about persecution, but the Apostle Peter also wrote and experienced persecution. He wrote…
14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.
1 Peter 3:14a
His perspective was almost exactly the same as Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5. To help us understand where Peter was coming from and to back up what Jesus taught here is a story of Peter from Acts 5.
Peter and the other Apostles experienced persecution because they were teaching about Jesus. In the middle of the night the angel let them out of the prison; not to bless them, but to bless those who would hear them.
It is easy to view the blessing in or after persecution as a blessing for us, but we are called to bless those around us. When we experience persecution it is because we are living a righteous and godly life. Not simply avoiding evil and sin, but standing for Christ and sharing God’s love and judgment to those around us.
Peter was thrown in prison for sharing his faith; then when the angel instructed him to continue sharing his faith he did without hesitation.
This is what God has called all of us to do. We may not be called to travel around the world and share our faith, but we are all called to share our faith to someone. When we begin doing this we will experience persecution and opposition, but this is how we live a righteous or godly life.
Remember Israel was not called to wait it out in Babylon, but to begin spreading out and it will be a blessing to the Babylonians and Peter did not become weary in doing good and sharing his faith when in jail or after being beaten up (flogged). He continued into the blessing that he knew was hims if he continued. He read the blessing in Acts 6:1
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing…
The Word of God and salvation was spreading and the number of believers increased greatly. This was not a personal blessing for Peter, but it was a great blessing to the world.
Are we willing to endure persecution for the blessings of others?
Everywhere the Gospel is being shared there is persecution, but in many countries around the world there is great physical persecution happening.
Some statistics on the persecution happening around the world today.
105: churches attacked, burned or vandalized
11: Christians killed every day for their faith
It is believed that if the world was reduced to 100 people for the ease of understanding these statistics 48 out of the 100 people live in a place where they can not freely talk and share their faith.
It is believed that “At least 75% of religious persecution is toward Christian’s.”
We are living in a time when Christian’s are being persecuted everyday. However if we are not experiencing some kind of persecution we must not be living a righteous and godly life.
To recap what it means to live upside down…
- Living a life worthy of the call God has for us.
For I know the plans I have for you
- Living a life sharing our faith and love of Christ.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
- Living a life expecting persecution to come.
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted
- Living a life praying for those who reject/persecute us because of Christ.
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Ravi Zacharias said
Where there has been pain there have been people who sought God, but where there has been prosperity there are people who clench their fist at God.
Go out and BeTheLIGHT to your world and live UPsideDOWN today!