Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blessed are Those who are Persecuted

A few weeks ago, I was at an FCA event supporting a couple of the SDSU FCA students as they shared their testimonies. Afterwards we had a gentleman come up and visit with Jordan Paula, one of the SDSU football players, on the awesome season the Jacks were having and the upcoming games. I remember Jordan talked about going to Youngstown that weekend and how it was going to be a tough game; not only was the team decent and had been difficult to play in the past, but it was on “home turf” and so the spectators would also contribute to the fight of the game. He talked about how much people there loved football and how much they got into it. He said something along the lines of them needing to go into the game focused on the game and to not get distracted or intimidated by the multitude of voices surrounding them as they played. Immediately I had an analogy come to mind with our spiritual lives. Now, I am by no means claiming to be a football player (hehe), but in the same sense, when we make a commitment with Christ, we should expect to walk into the arena or playing field of confrontation. In fact, in John 15: 18-26, Jesus spoke to his disciples about the “world hating them without cause.” Although it’s a long passage, the words of Jesus summarize exactly (surprise, surprise right?) what came to mind that day I was listening to that conversation about “playing on someone else’s field.”

The World Hates the Disciples –
18"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.'[a] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'[b]
26"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.

Even if the SDSU football team “performed miracles” in the way that they executed plays or put up a wall in defense, Youngstown was still going to ‘hate them.’ In the same way, Jesus performed miracle after miracle for these people and they still did not believe in him or the Father. This hatred was actually a fulfilled scripture from Psalm 35:19 or 69:4. These passages say this:

Psalm 35:19- NIV
19 Let not those gloat over me
who are my enemies without cause;
let not those who hate me without reason
maliciously wink the eye.
Psalm 69:4- NIV

4 Those who hate me without reason

outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.

The English Standard Version Commentary says this about John 15:25

“Jesus declares that the Jews’ hatred of him fulfills OT scripture, specifically Psalm 69:4 (Psalm 35:19 and note on Isaiah 6:9-10). This Davidic psalm depicts the figure of a righteous sufferer who is zealous for God but is persecuted by God’s enemies for no good reason. Thus Jesus found a precedent for his enemies’ hatred toward him in the antagonism encountered by David. ‘Without Cause’ reminds believers that hatred and persecution against Jesus and his followers is often not because of any wrong that they have done but simply because of irrational evil in the hearts of the persecutors.”

Interesting how this perfectly ties into the beatitude discussed at both big church (Brookings Wesleyan Church) and Oasis on Sunday evening.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10- ESV

For whatever reason, when faced with a trial, I immediately feel as though I have done something wrong to deserve the pain or suffering in my life, but in these passages—if the suffering is done out of a righteous act, it is said that you should be blessed! I love ‘suffering passages’ in the Bible because almost every single scripture verse is paired with this glimmer of hope. Check out John 16: 25-33, specifically verse 33:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Wow! In respect to our analogy of football, God’s already played and won the game for us! We don’t have to go into the opponent’s playing field and be fearful or ashamed but with peace and power! We are guaranteed to win no matter what. One final passage in
1 Peter 1:3-12 says this:

Praise to God for a Living Hope- NIV

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

The sufferings you face, no matter the degree,( “of all kinds” )your faith---greater than gold is being proved genuine resulting in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ comes. You are to be filled with “inexpressible joy” because you are winning the game, you have an eternal salvation. The people of the Old Testament sought after the coming Messiah and even angels long to fully understand salvation and YOU have it sitting right before you. How blessed we are to know Jesus Christ as our Savior so that we have this thing called ‘hope’ in times that we are suffering. I want to remind you, the Jacks won that night; I don’t know all the little details, but if they went in with the focus of winning the game no matter the sideline-conversations or the plays of Youngstown--we too should approach the battles we face everyday with the fact that we have nothing to fear for Christ says
“ Take heart; I have overcome the world.”

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