Matt. 5:10 – Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I have to admit, I always struggled with the persecution thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I am honored to be criticized for my faith but I am not too excited about beatings, stonings, or beheadings. I used to feel inferior when I read about the joy of the martyrs. It made my faith seem so small. It wasn’t until I was touched by supernatural joy, the blessedness Jesus spoke of, that I began to understand. Peter even said, in 1 Peter 4:14 – “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” To me that answers everything, there is a special anointing and joy reserved for physical persecution for Christ’s sake. Here is how William Barclay described John’s disciple Polycarp and his persecution.
“To have to suffer persecution was an opportunity to show one’s loyalty to Jesus Christ. One of the most famous of all the martyrs was Polycarp, the aged bishop of Smyrna. The mob dragged him to the tribunal of the Roman magistrate. He was given the inevitable choice–sacrifice to the godhead of Caesar or die. “Eighty and six years,” came the immortal reply, “have I served Christ. and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” So they brought him to the stake, and he prayed his last prayer: “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy well-beloved and ever-blessed son, by whom we have received the knowledge of thee … I thank thee that thou hast graciously thought me worthy of this day and of this hour.” Here was the supreme opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty to Jesus Christ.”
There is a special celebration reserved for the martyrs in heaven. There seems to be an anticipation growing as the world is judged at the end. If God is God, there can be no greater honor than to suffer for the sake of His Name, it will not go unnoticed or go unrewarded. Again, the joy is not reserved for the next world only, this joy is connected to the sufficiency of grace in this life to rejoice in the Lord when facing extreme resistance. So if you are being attacked for your faith, rejoice; the Spirit of the Lord is on you.