Thursday, July 28, 2016

Happiness in a Promise

Chuckle (church bulletin blooper): "Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation."
Quote: “God never promises exemption. He does promise companionship, which is better. He does not promise to deliver you or me or any other individual from pain, sorrow, or economic disaster, but He does give assurance that He will help us through and that there will be compensations. 'I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.' These are the words of Jesus.” --Daniel A. Poling
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12 NIV).
Jesus said that all who endure persecution for following him will be both blessed (happy) and rewarded. Of course, we should never do anything for our Lord just to receive a reward. We serve him out of love and gratitude for what he has given to us and done for us. The reality of a reward will be wonderful but should not be our motivation. Having said that, happiness is produced in us from knowing our service will be rewarded. From our studies of the Beatitudes, there are several truths about this promise.
The promise is for the here and now. In verse 10, Jesus says, "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Notice the present tense, "is" the kingdom of heaven. If we truly know and love Jesus, we can find joy in suffering for Him and our faith right now. Suffering brings us closer to our Lord, and one another, and the kingdom becomes a reality. Paul knew suffering with and for Christ would bring him closer in fellowship with him. He says in Philippians 3:10: "I want to know Christ and . . . the fellowship of sharing in his (Jesus') suffering."
The promise has a definite future dimension. "Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven." It has been said that "heaven is the most beautiful place the mind of God could conceive and the hand of God could create." "No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV). We know from John 14:2-3 that Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven. Having a place reserved for us in heaven is reward enough, but Jesus says that's only the beginning. We will personally experience his presence and glory for ever.
The promise applies to all faithful Christians down through the ages. Jesus tells us not to feel like lone rangers, "for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." To suffer for what is right is to be a part of a great procession of faithful Christians. Even though what we are called upon to suffer for Christ today, our suffering pales in comparison to what others have suffered. The greatest compliment a Christian can receive is to be persecuted because of righteousness, for then he or she has been identified with God's choicest.
In summary, persecution of Christians is rampant in parts of the world. Persecution can range from the life-threatening to an insidious word from non-Christians or fellow Christians. If we are willing to suffer for righteousness we will experience happiness. The promise, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven" continues to bless those who endure through persecution.
Love, Jerry & Dotse


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