Sentry Magazine, September 2001
In the United States, the church has enjoyed a peaceful existence. Our Federal and State governments allow us to worship freely. However, God does not promise us a carefree, painless life. Very early in his preaching, Jesus promises "Blessed ore 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. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:1-12).
In the parable of the sower, Jesus warns that some of us will fail when we face persecution. He says this: "for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives with joy yet he has no root in himself but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away" (Matthew 13:2-21).
Jesus tells us we have to be ready to sacrifice everything on His account. In Mark 10:28-31, Peter says to Jesus "Lo, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus responds "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brother or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children [fellow Christians] and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. Bur many that are first will be last, and the last first." We must always remember Jesus' promise to reward our sacrifices and our steadfastness when we endure persecution.
We do not know what our individual future holds. We do know Jesus promises:
- His persecuted followers will be blessed with the Heavenly reward;
- some of us will fail to endure persecution;
- the reward comes to those who have sacrificed everything and who endure persecution for Jesus' sake.
Despite His warnings, two men betrayed Jesus the night he was arrested. The difference between these two men is found in their rootedness: Judas hung himself, whereas Peter repented. When we fail Jesus - even during times of persecution - we can always come home to Him and repent.
The door is always open.