“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”
~ Matthew 5:10-11 (NIV)
Jesus assures his followers there is blessing in suffering for what is right. This blessing may take the form of inner peace and joy. This is the meaning of the word translated “blessed” or “happy” in Jesus’ teaching called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).
The New Testament writer, James, indicates that pressures are blessings in disguise and should be responded to with joyfulness (James 1:2-3). The MESSAGE paraphrase translates the verses this way: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.”
Helen Berhane was severely persecuted in Eritrea’s prison system because she would not deny her faith. No matter what they did, she refused to give in. She explains:
I told the chief, “I cannot abandon my faith. If you puncture a sack of grain, the only thing that pours out is the type of grain that was in the sack. It is the same with me. I can only say what is inside me; everything that is in my heart must come out of my mouth…The more you punish me, the stronger I will be. If you keep hammering on a nail’s head it just becomes harder to pull out of the wall…”
I could not understand how they expected me to stop believing; it was impossible for me. In fact, the guards were making their own situation worse, because people began to ask what was so special about this religion that Christians refused to give it up, and they also believed. Our suffering became a glory for our faith…I am convinced that the number of Christians has doubled or tripled since they closed the churches. So perhaps God is using this terrible situation for his glory.
RESPONSE: Today I will stand for what is right because I know Jesus will be glorified and I will receive a blessing.
PRAYER: Ask God to give strength and courage to those around the world being pressured to deny their faith today.
1. Helen Berhane, Song of the Nightingale (Colorado Springs: Authentic Media, 2009), pp. 70-71.