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Finding Happiness (Part 8)

Matthew 5:10-12
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    "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [11] "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. 
 
The final beatitude is the longest one because it comes with an explanation.  The last two verses accompany the one sentence beatitude to clarify its meaning.  Jesus defines persecution for the sake of righteousness as being insulted, persecuted, and saying evil against you falsely.
 
Many Christians have the experience of being insulted for their faith.  We live in a hostile climate where we are often insulted.  While culture preaches tolerance toward all faiths and creeds it promotes intolerance towards Christians.  
 
The scripture also says, you will be happy, if you are persecuted, not just insulted.  Maria Durant was young, beautiful and intelligent. 17th Century life in France was difficult, especially because if itís religious intolerance.  Maria was imprisoned for talking about her relationship with God.  For 38 years she suffered for Christ in a prison cell while her peers married, had children and relished their grandchildren.  Life passed her by.  
 
Eventually she died a martyrís death.  The enemy thought he silenced this witness, but he didnít.  Though dead, she continues to inspire those who go to the place where she was imprisoned to read the single word she scratched on the dungeon wall Resistez--resist!
 
It happened in the 17th Century and it is happening today.  Abdul Rahman was on trial for his life this week in Afghanistan.  The first paragraph of an article dated March 20, 2006 said,   ďDespite the overthrow of the fundamentalist Taliban government and the presence of 22,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a man who converted to Christianity is being prosecuted in Kabul, and a judge said Sunday that if convicted, he faces the death penalty.Ē  According to news reports, the charges were dropped today.  "The court dismissed today the case against Abdul Rahman for a lack of information and a lot of legal gaps in the case," (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
 
This beatitude also says, you will be happy when you have all manner of evil spoken against you falsely.  DefCon, a left-wing special interest group, recently took out an ad in the New York Times with the headline: "These Religious Leaders Have a Serious Gambling Problem,Ē Among others, the ad pictures Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family.  Appearing on the OíReilly Facor, Dobson said, ďThis is absolutely scandalous - a full page ad implying that we have something in common with Abramoff. I have never met the man, never talked with him, and have never taken a cent from anyone having to do with the fight against gambling. We fight gambling because it's a curse and we are morally opposed, not because there is some financial gain. These are lies!" (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
 
They said Jesus was a drunk, Paul was not really an apostle and that anyone could do Moses' job. So Dobson is in good company. The moment Christians teach their convictions they can expect that someone will slander them.  
 
Right about now you may be saying, thatís OK, I donít want to be that happy.  I really donít want to suffer persecution.  I hear you.  But the truth is, if you donít encounter resistance at some level, youíre probably not living your faith.  The gospel we live is offensive to those who reject its claims and because they have not experienced the new birth, they will act out of the old nature and will insult, persecute and slander believers.  Actually, Iíve noticed that believers will do the same to one another.  Because of an experience I had with church conflict some twelve years ago, Iíve been a student of church conflict.  Iíve spoken to many church leaders, read many books on the subject and have done a fair amount of writing about it myself.  Iíve observed that Christians often persecute each other.  Too bad.  It shouldnít be that way.  But even if we stop doing it to ourselves, you can be sure that it will be done to us.  
 
Only those who hold deep convictions will suffer for what they believe.  A person with shallow beliefs will live incognito or will disavow their beliefs when the world puts pressure on them.  They will agree not to exercise their rights of free speech or their command to evangelize, and be silenced by the intimidation of others.  Only a person with deep beliefsóreal beliefs will be persecuted.  And believe me, they will be persecuted. Phil 1:29 says, ďFor to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,Ē (NASB)  Believing in Him and suffering for Him go together.  Suffering is part of Godís plan for our lives.  1 Thes 3:3 says, ďand to keep you from becoming fainthearted in all the troubles you were going through. (But of course you know that such troubles are a part of God's plan for us Christians.)Ē (TLB)  Persecution is inevitable for those living godly lives.  2 Tim 3:12 says, ďIn fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,Ē (NIV)
 
So how does this bring happiness?
 
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