Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”1
Jesus called out, “If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].”2 Jesus himself loved us so much that he died for us, so that we can love him. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”3
When we love someone so much, we are willing to sacrifice something for the one we love. And in some cases, to the point of sacrificing everything.
Not everyone is called to be persecuted, but we all are called to live out our faith unabashedly for Jesus’ sake. “When I, the Messiah, come in my glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels, I will be ashamed then of all who are ashamed of me and of my words now.”4 Persecution is a privilege given to few who live out their faith. It is a privilege, not a calamity, because “great is the reward in heaven.”
If we read stories about persecuted heroes of faith5, they face challenges with divine peace and joy. Even in the face of death, they sense and see the glorious heaven waiting for them. For example, Stephen just before he was stoned to death, “being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.”
The men and women of faith were chosen by God to be his ambassadors and God walked by their side through the end. Many of us, due to our circumstances, cannot imagine what it feels like to be persecuted for our faith, but we have faith that if God chooses us, he will make sure we are ready.
Jesus loves us first so that we can love him. Let us stay true to our love for him, no matter what.
Matthew 5:11 WEB
Luke 9: 23 AMP
John 15:13 WEB
Luke 9: 26 TLB
A good book to read, among many, is “Jesus Freaks” by DC Talk.