Realizing Your Reward

“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. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

The sacrifices you make for Christ’s sake in this life will be abundantly compensated for in Heaven.

God’s promise for those who are persecuted for His sake is that their reward in heaven will be great (Matt. 5:11). Jesus said, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).

Focusing on that promise instead of your present circumstances is how you can experience happiness amid suffering. That was Paul’s great confidence even as he faced certain death. In 2 Timothy 4:8 he declares, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Another source of joy in trials is knowing that you share the fate of the prophets themselves (Matt. 5:12). Those godly men suffered untold hardships for proclaiming God’s message. That’s a noble group to be identified with!

One final word of encouragement from Matthew 5:11: persecution will not be incessant! Jesus said, “Blessed are you when. . . .” The Greek word translated “when” means “whenever.” You won’t always be persecuted, but whenever you are, you will be blessed. In addition, God will govern its intensity so you will be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13). He knows your human weaknesses and will supply the necessary grace and peace to get you through. That’s why you can rejoice when otherwise you might be devastated and filled with grief.

If you are willing to make sacrifices now, you will receive incomparable rewards in the future. How shortsighted are those who protect themselves now by denying Christ or compromising His truth rather than sacrificing the present for the sake of eternal blessing and glory!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the example of the prophets and others who have suffered for Him.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 21:33-39 and Hebrews 11:32-38.

  • How did Jesus illustrate the persecution of God’s prophets?
  • What is Scripture’s commendation to those who suffered.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

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Receiving Christ’s Wounds 

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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” (Matt. 5:10-11).

The persecution you receive for proclaiming Christ is really aimed at Christ Himself.

Savonarola has been called the Burning Beacon of the Reformation. His sermons denouncing the sin and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church of his day helped pave the way for the Protestant Reformation. Many who heard his powerful sermons went away half-dazed, bewildered, and speechless. Often sobs of repentance resounded throughout the entire congregation as the Spirit of God moved in their hearts. However, some who heard him couldn’t tolerate the truth and eventually had him burned at the stake.

Jesus said, “‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Sinful people will not tolerate a righteous standard. Prior to Christ’s birth, the world had never seen a perfect man. The more people observed Christ, the more their own sinfulness stood out in stark contrast. That led some to persecute and finally kill Him, apparently thinking that by eliminating the standard they wouldn’t have to keep it.

Psalm 35:19 prophesies that people would hate Christ without just cause. That is true of Christians as well. People don’t necessarily hate us personally but resent the holy standard we represent. They hate Christ, but He isn’t here to receive their hatred, so they lash out at His people. For Savonarola that meant death. For you it might mean social alienation or other forms of persecution.

Whatever comes your way, remember that your present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory you will one day experience (Rom. 8:18). Therefore, “to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing” (1 Pet. 4:13).

Suggestions for Prayer

When you suffer for Christ’s sake, thank Him for that privilege, recalling how much He suffered for you.

For Further Study

Before his conversion, the apostle Paul (otherwise known as Saul) violently persecuted Christians, thinking he was doing God a favor. Read Acts 8:1-39:1-31, and 1 Timothy 1:12-17, noting Paul’s transformation from persecutor to preacher.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

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Three Kinds of Persecution 
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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” (Matt. 5:10-11).

When you speak out for Christ, you can expect harassment, insults, and slander.

Jesus mentioned three broad categories of suffering that Christians will experience. The first is persecution. “Persecuted” (Matt. 5:10) and “persecute” (v. 11) both come from the same Greek root meaning “to pursue” or “chase away.” Over time it came to mean “to harass” or “treat in an evil manner.” Verse 10 literally reads, “Blessed are those who have been allowing themselves to be persecuted.” You are blessed when people harass you for your Christian stance and you willingly accept it for the sake of your Lord.

The second form of suffering is “insults” (v. 11), which translates a Greek word that means “to reproach,” “revile,” or “heap insults upon.” It speaks of verbal abuse—attacking someone with vicious and mocking words. It is used in Matthew 27:44 of the mockery Christ endured at His crucifixion. It happened to Him and it will happen to His followers as well.

The final category Jesus mentioned is slander—people telling lies about you. That’s perhaps the hardest form of suffering to endure because our effectiveness for the Lord is directly related to our personal purity and integrity. Someone’s trying to destroy the reputation you worked a lifetime to establish is a difficult trial indeed!

If you’re going through a time of suffering for righteousness’ sake, take heart: the Lord went through it too and He understands how difficult it can be. He knows your heart and will minister His super-abounding grace to you. Rejoice that you are worthy of suffering for Him and that the kingdom of heaven is yours.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those who treat you unkindly, asking God to forgive them and grant them His grace.
  • Pray that you might always treat others with honesty and fairness.

For Further Study

Throughout history God Himself has endured much mocking and slander. Read 2 Peter 3:3-9, then answer these questions:

  • What motivates mockers?
  • What do they deny?
  • Why doesn’t God judge them on the spot?


From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

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Are You Avoiding Persecution? 
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matt. 5:10).

If you don’t experience persecution, people probably don’t know you’re a Christian.

I heard of a man who was fearful because he was starting a new job with a group of unbelievers whom he thought might give him a bad time if they found out he was a Christian. After his first day at work his wife asked him how he got along with them. “We got along just fine,” he said. “They never found out I’m a Christian.”

Silence is one way to avoid persecution. Some other ways are to approve of the world’s standards, laugh at its jokes, enjoy its entertainment, and smile when it mocks God. If you never confront sin or tell people Jesus is the only way to heaven, or if your behavior is so worldly no one can distinguish you from unbelievers, you will probably be accepted and won’t feel the heat of persecution. But beware!

Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you. . . . Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory” (Luke 6:269:26). The last thing anyone should want is for Christ to pronounce a curse on them or be ashamed of them. That’s an enormous price to pay for popularity!

If you take a stand for Christ and manifest Beatitude attitudes, you will be in direct opposition to Satan and the evil world system. Eventually you will experience some form of persecution. That has been true from the very beginning of human history, when Abel was murdered by his brother Cain because Cain couldn’t tolerate his righteousness.

You should never fear persecution. God will grant you grace and will never test you beyond what He enables you to endure (1 Cor. 10:13). Nor should you ever compromise biblical truth to avoid persecution. In Philippians 1:29 Paul says that persecution is as much a gift of God as salvation itself. Both identify you as a true believer!

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize 1 Peter 2:20-21. Ask God to continually grant you the grace to follow Christ’s example when difficulties come your way.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-33, noting the severe persecution Paul endured for Christ’s sake.


From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

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Paying the Price of Righteousness

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matt. 5:10).

There is a price to pay for being a Kingdom citizen.

Unlike many today who try to make the gospel palatable for reluctant sinners, Jesus made it clear that following Him had its price. Rather than acceptance, fame, prestige, and prosperity, you can expect rejection and persecution. That’s not a popular approach to evangelism, but it’s honest. Also it insures that no one will try to enter the kingdom on the wrong basis.

Jesus wanted His hearers to count the cost of discipleship. He knew that many of them would be disowned by their families and excommunicated from the Jewish synagogues. Many would suffer persecution or martyrdom at the hands of the Roman government. They needed to count the cost!

Persecution did come to those early Christians. The Emperor Nero smeared many of them with pitch, crucified them, and then burned them to light his garden parties. He condemned Christians for refusing to worship him as a god, and blamed them for the burning of Rome in [sc]A.D. 64. Christians were accused of cannibalism because Jesus said, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:56). They were said to be revolutionaries because they believed that God would one day destroy the earth.

The world’s animosity toward Christians hasn’t changed. You might not face the severe persecutions the first-century believers faced, but you will be persecuted (Phil. 1:29). Even new Christians often face difficulties. If they refuse to join their former friends in sinful activities, they might be rejected. If they work for a dishonest boss who expects them to participate in or condone his evil practices, they might be fired or have to quit their jobs. That might bring extreme financial hardship to their families.

God won’t always shield you from persecution, but He will honor your integrity and give you strength to endure any trial that comes your way. Praise Him for His all-sufficient grace!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those you know who are suffering hardship for Christ’s sake.
  • Ask God for the wisdom and strength to face persecution with integrity and unwavering faith.

For Further Study

Read James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 5:10.

  • What purpose does suffering serve?
  • How should you respond to suffering?


From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

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Christ Is Our Peace 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

Christ’s atonement made it possible for man to be at peace with God.

After World War II the United Nations was created to promote world peace. But since its inception in 1945 there has not been a single day of global peace. That’s a sad commentary on man’s inability to make peace. In fact, someone once quipped that Washington D.C. has so many peace monuments because they build one after every war!

It hasn’t always been that way. Prior to the Fall of man peace reigned on the earth because all creation was in perfect harmony with its Creator. But sin interrupted peace by alienating man from God and bringing a curse upon the earth. Man couldn’t know true peace because he had no peace in his heart. That’s why Jesus came to die.

I once read a story about a couple at a divorce hearing whose conflict couldn’t be resolved. They had a four-year-old boy who became distressed and teary-eyed over what was happening. While the couple was arguing, the boy reached for his father’s hand and his mother’s hand and pulled until he joined them.

In a sense that’s what Christ did: He provided the righteousness that allows man and God to join hands. Romans 5:1 says that those who are justified by faith have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:20 says that God reconciled all things to Himself through the blood of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Yet on the surface, the scene at the cross wasn’t peaceful at all. Pain, sorrow, humiliation, hatred, mockery, darkness, and death were oppressively pervasive, but through it all Christ was doing what He alone could do: making peace between man and God. He paid the supreme price to give us that precious gift.

In the future, Jesus will return as Prince of Peace to establish a kingdom of peace that will usher us into an eternal age of peace. In the meantime He reigns over the hearts of all who love Him. Let His peace reign in your heart today!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the peace of heart that comes from knowing Christ.

For Further Study

Read Philippians 4:6-9. What must a person do to know God’s peace?


From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

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Hindrances to Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

Sin and falsehood hinder true peace.

Just as righteousness and truth are the noble companions of peace, so sin and falsehood are its great hindrances. The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately [evil]; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Jesus said, “Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).

People with sinful hearts create a sinful society that resists true peace. Ironically, many who talk of peace will also pay huge sums of money to watch two men beat the daylights out of each other in a boxing ring! Our society’s heroes tend to be the macho, hard-nosed, tough guys. Our heroines tend to be free-spirited women who lead marches and stir up contention. Psychologists and psychiatrists tell us to stand up for our rights and get everything we can for ourselves. That breeds strife and conditions people to reject the peace of the gospel.

Beyond that, the unbelieving world has never tolerated God’s peacemakers. Christ Himself often met with violent resistance. His accusers said, “He stirs up the people” (Luke 23:5). Paul’s preaching frequently created conflict as well. He spent much time under house arrest and in filthy Roman prisons. On one occasion his enemies described him as “a real pest . . . who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world” (Acts 24:5).

All who proclaim the gospel will eventually meet with opposition because sin and falsehood have blinded people’s hearts to true peace. That’s why Paul warned us that all who desire to be godly will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). You can avoid strife by remaining silent about the Lord, but a faithful peacemaker is willing to speak the truth regardless of the consequences. Let that be true of you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for Christ, who is the solution for the world’s problem of sin and falsehood.
  • Follow Paul’s example by praying for boldness to proclaim God’s truth at every opportunity (Eph. 6:19).

For Further Study

Read Matthew 10:16-25, noting the kind of reception the disciples were to expect from unbelievers.


From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

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