The new you… and persecution’s reward
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
Yesterday, we talked about how Jesus encourages us to embrace the possibility of persecution. This is because the persecuted are in a place to shake heaven and earth. The new you actually longs to be in that place. Making a difference. Declining to blend into the background – refusing to wear camo gray in a world that desperately needs black and white defined. Persecution is a badge of honor, reserved only for those who will take their stand for God’s truth in the midst of a world that seeks to blur all the lines of morality and truth.
Jesus came to be Light in the darkness. And He calls each of us to be the same.
Scripture gives us examples of those who have embraced their Savior – and also embraced the suffering that can come to those who refuse to love Him timidly.
One of those examples is Stephen, who was one of the very first deacons (Acts 6-7). Described as a man “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” Stephen “was doing great wonders and signs among the people.” You would think that this would make everyone happy. But no. There was a group of people that began to attack Stephen’s character, and eventually, Stephen found himself falsely accused of blasphemy.
At Stephen’s “trial,” false witnesses were brought in to assure his conviction. Stephen’s own defense (taking up many verses) reflects upon how God had moved among His people through the years. Stephen concluded with an outburst of truth that focused on the fact that his Master (and the Savior of all the Jews) had been betrayed and murdered by these same people who were accusing him now.
Stephen’s reward for doing God’s mighty works, and for speaking His truth? Death by stoning (heavy rocks thrown at the victim until his body is crushed and fatally broken). But HOW Stephen died, at the hands of those persecuting him, is remarkable. He died seeing a vision of God in Heaven, with Jesus standing (not sitting) at the Father’s right Hand. And Stephen’s last words were full of grace and forgiveness: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Sound familiar?)
Stephen reminds us that those who are willing to lay it all on the line for Jesus, end up living like Jesus, acting like Jesus, and talking like Jesus. And in Stephten’s case, being betrayed and murdered just like Jesus.
This is the kind of people we are called to be. With a willingness to live for God’s truth that leaves us open to the fullness of what God can do through our lives.
With that amazing possibility comes the possibility of persecution. The darkness always fears and curses the Light – and darkess will seek to resist what it hates.
But the new you is unafraid to be “dishonored” for His Name. You have counted the cost – and count it all joy…
Prayer focus: Help me, Lord, to be totally unashamed of Your Name.