I am a planner. To the very core of my person, I like to plan things and I like things to go according to plan. I plan out my days, input as much detail into my calendar as I can, and always have a plan.
I also like to think quickly on my feet, to develop a new plan if the first plan ended up not working out.
Regardless of how much I like to plan, there are certain things I don’t like to plan for. These are those “worst-case-scenario” kinds of plans, when things actually don’t go according to plan. In my head I think they are necessary to prepare for, sure, but I don’t enjoy planning for these as much. These are the kinds of plans you put in place that you don’t want to have to use.
One time recently I was driving on the highway, and I knew I was going to be on this highway for a couple of hours. There I am, bumping along, listening to a podcast, and all of the sudden I notice: the hood of my car is bouncing up and down an uncomfortable amount. It didn’t look good. I had, a couple months prior, had some issues with my hood latch. I pulled over and took a look at my hood and latch, and sure enough, there was a problem. A bolt was missing where the latch attaches to the frame of the car! That’s why there was so much bouncing going on with the hood. Well, I didn’t have a spare bolt, but thankfully there was still one bolt there. I shut the hood as well as I could, lifted up on it a couple of times to make sure it was secure, drove to the nearest exit and bought shoelaces at Walgreens. I strung them through the hole, the front grate of the fender, and tied multiple knots in there to make sure it was not going anywhere. Thankfully the plan worked! It may have looked silly, but I knew the hood wasn’t going to fly up on me while I was driving.
Just like there are things in life we don’t necessarily WANT to prepare for, but we do it “just in case,” Jesus gives us some advice in Matthew 5:10-12 about something we should plan for because it will more than likely happen if we are going to faithfully follow Him.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Plan for it
Faithful followers of Christ need to plan to be persecuted, because the prophets, Jesus, and so many of His followers have been persecuted before us. There’s an expectation of it in verse 11 where it says “when others revile you.” Here’s one thing Billy Graham says of persecution: “The Bible clearly says that faithfulness and persecution often go hand in hand.”
This is not an enjoyable or desirable thing, but it is the reality of someone who believes in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not a feel-good, everyone gets along, everyone is good, all things are good, kind of message. It is a message about sinful human beings needing a Savior, and that Savior being Jesus Christ alone.
John MacArthur writes, “As long as people have no reason to believe that we are Christians, at least obedient and righteous Christians, we need not worry about persecution. But as we manifest the standards of Christ we will share the reproach of Christ… Persecution is one of the surest and most tangible evidences of salvation. Persecution is not incidental to faithful Christian living but is certain evidence of it” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 1-7, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), 220-21)
Rejoice and be glad in it
How? When faithful followers of Christ are persecuted, they know that theirs is the kingdom of heaven and their reward is great in heaven. What are these blessings of the kingdom of heaven?
There are certain blessings here and now, in the present, for the follower of Christ. We can receive the blessing of joy and strength from the Lord, regardless of external circumstances. There is also the assurance that any sacrifice or service for God will be done in vain. There is also a special blessing for those who are martyred There is also a blessing of reward in eternal life, the blessing of living forever in the Kingdom of God enjoying His presence.
There is no promise of fix or reprieve when it comes to persecution, but the promise is for those who remain faithful, you will be blessed by God.
1 Peter 3:14 says But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled…