More Than Mere Endurance
Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Jesus prepared His disciples to accept suffering. They must know that they lived in a wicked world. There were wicked men who would persecute those who seek to live righteously following the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus wanted His disciples to be able to do more than just accept and endure persecution and suffering. The disciples must have been astonished by what Jesus said next.
“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad,
For great is your reward in heaven,
For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
What a challenging thought! Would it really be possible to “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” when persecuted?
The disciples may not be able to determine their course of life. There may not be many things they could choose as their lot in life. However, they could choose their response to any given situation. They could choose to “rejoice and be exceedingly glad”.
1. Joy would be a special gift from the Lord
The words of the psalmist David comes readily to mind as we meditate on the subject of joy. In a quiet psalm of meditation, David wrote these words,
“How long, O you sons of men,
Will you turn my glory to shame?
How long will you love worthlessness
And seek falsehood?
But know that the Lord has set apart for
Himself him who is godly;
The Lord will hear when I call to Him.
“Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.
You have put gladness in my heart,
More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.”
Psalm 4:2-3, 6-7
David drew great comfort and assurance in his heart when he faced persecution in his life. He clung to his faith in God. He drew strength from the knowledge that God would not forsake the godly. He would hear their prayers. He would show His approval and blessing by giving gladness to the heart.
2. Great Joy in mind
The joy that Jesus had in mind was not just a gentle smile on the face. He was speaking of being able to experience great joy. The disciples may actually speak of being “exceedingly glad” in times of persecution. Once again, another psalm written by David comes to mind.
“But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your Name
Be joyful in You.
For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;
With favour You will surround him as with a shield.”
Psalm 5: 11-12
The joy that God can give to the heart of a trusting disciple would be most astonishing! The joy could be so great, they “shout for joy”. The heart is able to rejoice in this manner because of faith in God. He would personally defend them. He would bless the righteous. He would surround Him with favour as with a shield.
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE PROPHETS
The disciples may draw special comfort and encouragement from the fact that the prophets of old were also similarly persecuted. Let us take time to ponder over some of the things the prophets had to endure in their lives.
1. The prophet Jeremiah had enemies plotting against his life
“Now the Lord gave me knowledge of it,
and I know it; for You showed me their doings.
But I was like a docile lamb brought to the
slaughter; and I did not know that they had
devised schemes against me, saying, ‘Let us
destroy the tree with its fruit, and let us cut
him off from the land of the living, that
his name may be remembered no more.’ ”
2. The prophet Amos was maligned by the priest Amaziah
Amaziah spoke evil words against Amos. The intention was clear. He was opposed to Amos preaching in the land.
“Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam
king of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against
you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is
not able to bear all his words.'”
The disciples of Jesus may take comfort in the thought that they walk in the footsteps of the ancient prophets of Israel. They would receive their rewards in heaven.