10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I think there are two things that totally separate the men from the boys Spiritually. The first is persecution, and another one is health problems, especially really severe health issues, where it’s life and death.
In both of those situations, there are incredible testimonies form people of the work of God in their lives through the situations that seem like they should be the most bleak.
And the reason for that, at least in part, is that those are the situations where the most is taken from you, at least in a worldly sense. And you look to God, and you can either be mad at him, to hate his plans, or you can see that God is all you need. That you were designed to live for God.
We so often associate blessing with a thing that God gives to us. Perhaps it’s a certain lifestyle, a certain amount of happiness in life, success in our relationships.
But in the Beatitudes, we hear of the blessedness for the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the peacemakers, and even, those who are persecuted.
And the thing that undergirds each of these is a relationship with God.
It’s counterintuitive to us that the person who is persecuted for rightouesnes sake is blessed.
That seems like a curse.
Part of the reason that those who are persecuted for the sake of Christ are blessed is that there are times in the face of persecution where a person who overcomes evil with good, overcoming darkness with light, is something that God can use as a witness to the world of the grace to which that person testifies.
That which the world means for evil, God can use for good.
Sometimes, it’s because a person is in a place where they can be persecuted that they are enabled to share the message of Christ with those who are persecuting them.
One such story is Virginia Prodan.
She was a Christian in Romania when communism reigned and having faith could bring persecution.
Prodan was a lawyer who stood up for Christians in her country. One day, she came to her office and a man was waiting for her. He had come to kill this woman. In that life and death situation, she shared the message of the love of Christ with this man.
Writing for Christianity Today in 2016, Prodan said to this man: “You are here because God put you here, and he has put you to a test. Will you abide in God or in the will of a man—your boss, President Ceausescu, who requires you to worship him? God has given you free will to choose.”
She continued to talk to this man:
the good news is that God has prepared a way out for every one of us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ ”
As I continued to talk with him, he appeared smaller and more peaceful.
Finally, he brought his hand to his forehead and said, “You are right. The people who sent me here are crazy. I do need Christ.” He promised, “I will come to your church as a secret brother in Christ. I will worship your powerful God.”
Today, that man is a pastor.
What incredible examples those stories are of the power of the gospel.
Stories when the power of the gospel takes root in the life of someone who had opposed that message. And the gospel is that powerful. Hardened hearts can be made soft. The gospel is a message that gives new life to the dead.
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.