1998-10-29 - Blessed Are You
Luke 6:22-23 "Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23 "Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.
From the Sermon on the Mount, blessing after blessing flows from Jesus to the multitude that gathered around Him to hear - hanging on His every word. The first blessing the poor in spirit will receive, is the Kingdom of Heaven. Next, those who mourn will be comforted. Eight blessings in all are given that day, but the last is strikingly different from the others.
The first seven blessings are blessings that are granted based upon things that He will weave into our character as we grow in Him. I am not a peaceful person at heart. I am competitive and can be very aggressive. But Jesus is weaving gentleness and peace into me. He is using those qualities for His kingdom in spite of my natural tendencies to reach out to hurting people whom He bring across my path. I am humbled and blessed beyond measure when this happens.
But the last blessing can take you aback. In opposition to positive things that God pours into us as earthen vessels, this is how the world often reacts to the grace, peace and mercy that we bring as Jesus' ambassadors. The world is wounded and searching for peace and comfort. But until the wounds are deep enough or the reckless search for something to fill the empty void in a life reaches rock bottom, the reaction to these seven blessings in our lives is often abrupt and hostile.
John 15:18-21 "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 "But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.
The blessing does not come from the hatred or the insults. The blessing comes from this. It is not us that the world hates, but Whom they see in us. When Jesus can be seen plainly in your life, you become a light set on a hill or a lighthouse on a dark rocky coast. While the people around you are indeed ships caught in a violent storm, and you hold the peace and hope they so desperately are seeking, they despise the Source. They hate the Source, because it means they have to agree that they have fallen short of the goal and can never reach it on their own. No one likes to fail. We Americans have historically had a particular hatred for failure - Yankee Ingenuity. The blessing comes when we realize that it is Jesus the world sees in us that they despise. It is a victory in yielding to the Holy Spirit and allowing our character to be molded to His own.
Persecution in our culture can mean being passed over for a promotion, rejected for membership to an organization, being misunderstood -- but it rarely takes on any kind of life-threatening nature. There may be a time coming, perhaps even soon, when that persecution will become much more severe. In many areas of the world today, martyrdom for the Gospel is a reality. A missionary our church was supporting in Vietnam simply disappeared. China persecutes house churches with vigor, often imprisoning the leaders of these churches to hard labor for years at a time. In the Sudan, Christians die everyday - men are murdered and women and children are enslaved - for no other reason than that they are Christians. Please visit the Persecuted Church and Voice of the Martyrs websites (http://www.persecutedchurch.org and http://www.persecution.com)
John 10:27-28 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.
The suffering we resist may be a sign that we are reaching the lost. If we are willing to suffer a fraction of what Jesus suffered for us, the world may see that the peace we have is not based upon blessings that can be taken away. But that the peace and hope we have are founded on the sure knowledge that Jesus Christ has saved us from our sins, is conforming us to His image and has promised us eternal life with Him in Heaven. These blessings are unchangeable and irrevocable.
Matt 5:11-12 "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Lord Jesus - the things we often see as problems may be signs of victories at hand. Give us the grace and the peace to walk through these trials. Let the hope that we hold within us be an unwavering light to those around us in trial or health. Only by relying on Your help will we have the strength to walk on in the light. Amen.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.