We’ve been talking through the Beatitudes and what they mean for us as followers of Jesus. We started out by looking at how they affect our heart and our inward attitudes. Now we’re talking about what the Beatitudes have to say about our outward relationships and how we interact with the world. Specifically, we’ll be focusing on the last Beatitude today, looking at how we as Christians can deal with the difficulties that come with being followers of Jesus.
Read Matthew 5.10–12.
Before we talk about how to respond when we experience suffering for being faithful to Jesus, we need to take a step back. Jesus makes three assumptions about our lives as Christians, and for the rest of this Beatitude to make sense, those three assumptions all need to be true for us.
1. The first assumption that Christ makes is that we, as Christians, are meaningfully engaged with the world around us. Instead of living in a bubble where we isolate ourselves from the problems and brokenness of the world, we need to be fully engaged in the conflict we see around us. Last week, we talked about being peacemakers. If we are to be peacemakers, we need to be engaging in a world that isn’t at peace.
2. Jesus also assumes that we’re not only engaged with the world, but we’re living a distinctly Christian lifestyle. In Matthew 5.13–16, Jesus tells us to be salt and light in the world. This means that we should demonstrate lives that are both distinct (salt) and visible (light).
3. Notice in verse 11, it doesn’t say “blessed are you if people insult you”. It says “blessed are you when people insult you.” If the first two assumptions are true—that we’re engaged in difficult places and we’re living visible lives as Christians—then Jesus knows that we will experience difficulty because of our witness for Christ. These difficulties are different based on where we live and work, but Jesus makes it clear that it’s a question of when, not if. Some examples of the difficulties we face in our culture are:
- Getting labeled in a condemning or derogatory way.
- Facing judgment because of our lifestyle decisions (1 Peter 4.4).
- Facing judgment or discrimination in our workplaces because of our beliefs.
Question: Which of these assumptions are true in your life right now? What kind of difficulties are you currently facing because of your decision to be salt and light for Jesus?
Even though we face difficulties because of our faithfulness, Jesus assures us that we’ll receive great rewards in heaven. We’ll look at three of these rewards today.
1. One reward of costly faithfulness is that it gives us the opportunity to reach our full potential. James 1.2–4 tells us that facing difficulties produces perseverance, and with perseverance comes maturity. As we face difficulties because of our faithfulness, we have the opportunity to grow in our faith and mature as followers of Jesus.
2. A second reward of costly faithfulness is greater influence.
Read Matthew 25.14–29.
Just like the servant who was given more influence because he was faithful in hard times, God loves to entrust more influence to His children who practice costly faithfulness. If we’re faithful in the hard times, we can be trusted in the good times.
3. One other reward of costly faithfulness is an incredible eternity with Jesus. In Revelation 22.12–13, Jesus says that He’s coming back soon and that He “will give to each person according to what they have done”. He’ll take stock of how we reacted to difficulties and criticism from friends, family, and coworkers and we’ll be rewarded for our faithfulness for eternity.
Question: Reflect on a time when you experienced one or more of these rewards because of your choice to be faithful. How can you use those times as encouragement to continue to stay faithful now, in the midst of the difficulties you’re currently facing?
These are some pretty amazing rewards that Jesus promises us for our faithfulness, especially when it’s costly. Luckily, there are some concrete practices that we can put into place to help us stay faithful in times when we’re suffering. That can be difficult when suffering is a result of our choice to be salt and light, but there are three things we can do to help us stay the course.
1. We can be mindful of others’ suffering. 1 Peter 5.9 tells us that “the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings”. We can be encouraged knowing that we’re not alone in facing our difficulties, and we can also encourage our fellow believers by praying for them in their suffering.
Question: Who do you know right now that’s suffering or experiencing a season of difficulty? Take time to stop and pray for them.
2. We can remember that suffering is only for a season.
Read 1 Peter 1.6–7.
If we keep in mind that these seasons of suffering are just that—seasons—and that they don’t define our lives, it will be easier to remain faithful in the midst of them. If we rest in the knowledge that God’s kindness is with us and that His plan is perfect, we can be encouraged to stay faithful.
3. We can anticipate and invite the rewards of suffering. When Jesus died on the cross, He endured the ultimate suffering because He was staying faithful to God. The story doesn’t end with Jesus’ death, though. His resurrection is just as important because it shows us that God can redeem something as tragic as the crucifixion. And if God can redeem the crucifixion, He can definitely reward our suffering for costly faithfulness.