Lesson 8 – Persecuted for Righteousness

Persecuted for Righteousness

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.

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 5:10-12


Jesus presented seven emotional attitudes for Christian personality development before He introduced the one in our text.  Each one is a challenge Christians need to embrace for our sancti-fication.  God’s purpose for creating mankind and the Christian goal in sanctification are described in the following scripture:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.  Rom. 8: 28, 29

The last beatitude Jesus presented may be the most difficult challenge. Surely a person who has the seven beautiful attitudes taught by Jesus would be loved by everyone.  However, Jesus warns us to expect persecution.  Our persecutions must be embraced with the emotional attitude that they are blessings if they are for righteousness sake.  This is legitimate suffering.  Jesus never taught suffering to show humbleness.  Most of the suffering that is happening daily is illegitimate suffering.  It is not a learning or character building exercise.

Suffering cuts across the grain of people’s natural tendency to avoid pain.  It is also a counter cultural revolutionary way of thinking in contrast with what is generally accepted as “preaching the gospel” to the world.  Can you image a gospel evangelism program with the theme: “Come to Jesus and suffer?”  It might even raise some eyebrows of some of us “in the pews.”  Many of us may need a “paradigm shift” before we will seriously consider developing the attitude of feeling blessed in our legitimate suffering.   Our attitudes make up our personalities.  Please review the notes on Philippians 4:8 in the Introduction of Lesson Six for the definition of a paradigm.  Basically, our paradigm is the set of values with which we encounter events in our lives.  It is described by the often heard phrase, “Well, the way I see it.”

Let us consider the following points and the related scriptures to gain insight about the divine paradigm a Christian must have before we will develop an attitude of suffering for righteousness sake.

1)  Jesus’ view of suffering for Himself and His disciples:

a)  The success of the mission of Jesus was based on His own attitude about personal suffering (Luke 4:18, 19; 9:21, 22).

b)  John, the Baptist, had been cast away in prison for his part in Jesus’ mission.  He sent his disciples to inquire about the validity of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah.  Jesus assured him His mission was on track and John would be blessed if he accepted suffering as a basis for its success (Luke 7:22, 23).

c)  The people Jesus categorized as “number two” soil fell away because they would not accept discipline by tribulation (Luke 8:13).  The missing link in their personalities was the healthy attitude of suffering when being persecuted for righteousness sake.

d)  Jesus assured the “Twelve” they would need to develop this attitude in order to do the work He would leave them to do (Luke 12:11, 12).

e)  Jesus drew the original “bottom line” for who is, and who is not, His disciple (Luke 14:27).

2)  Paul’s paradigm about the value of suffering.  See Rom. 6:19-23; I Cor. 9:24-27; II Cor. 1:8, 9.

a)  He made the connection between suffering, hope, strong character and glory (Rom. 5:1-5).

b)  He made the connection between suffering and being comforted (II Cor. 1:3-7).

c)  Paul made the connection between suffering and life (Phil. 3:10, 11).

3)  Peter said, “He who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”  I Pet. 4:1.

4)  The Hebrew writer’s aim was to convince the recipient’s of his letter the value of discipline by tribulations.  These Christians had accepted “suffering for righteousness sake” when they were first enlightened.  At the time this letter was written they had lost this powerful attitude (Hebrews 10:32-39).  What had happened to them?  They had lost sight of the goal of Jesus’ mission.  “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons.”   Heb. 12:5.  Jesus’ mission is to bring many sons to glory in God’s family (Heb. 2:10).  Parents who love their children discipline their children and so does God (Rom. 12:4-12).  Discipline is a tribulation for the child, even though the parents may perform it for righteousness sake.  If the child learns to see the value in this act, he or she will feel blessed.  The others will surely feel persecuted.  It is a learning exercise for children of natural birth and also for children born by spiritual birth (John 1:12, 13).


It is a well accepted fact that if people cannot see the value in a principle they will not use this principle in the formation of their habits.  Jesus’ beatitudes are for the development of personality.  Personality is manifested in the fruit of habits (Matt. 7:17, 24).  When Christians lose their vision of the goal of Jesus’ mission, we will no longer accept discipline by tribulation.  Howbeit, it is still necessary to develop the personality and character of Jesus (Col. 1:27).  Sonship and our eternal inheritance is the reward for suffering (Rev. 21:7).  When we view our life in this world with the personality of Jesus as our goal, we will understand the need for tribulations.  It is a learning process.  This learning process is our daily life.  The world is our classroom.  There are no recess periods.  Judgment Day will be the day for rewards.

Life is difficult because learning is difficult.  It has always been difficult for mankind after Adam and Eve broke covenant.  God drove mankind out of His presence and subjected everything to decay (Rom. 8:18-25).  This condition will continue on earth until the manifestation of the sons of God.  Everybody, including Christians, are waiting in our decaying state for the final adoption at Judgment.  Once mankind received the knowledge of good and evil they became aware (Gen 3:22).  Adam and Eve were aware they were naked.  They were also aware of their sin.

Mankind has awareness.  Christians need to become more aware of what is productive and what is destructive.  The root cause of the Hebrew Christians’ losing their faith may have been their inability to properly discern good and evil (Heb. 5:14).  The reason we need to understand what is good and what is evil is because of the life situations we encounter daily.  We need to choose good the first time, lest we are overcome with evil (Rom. 12:21; 16:19).  Choosing evil is not a mentally healthy decision.  Many problems arise from choosing evil.  Many tribulations must be endured by Christians when other people choose evil.  Christians must learn to solve problems and enjoy tribulations as learning opportunities.  Some people try to avoid the problems they need to solve because of the pain involved.  Proverbially speaking, they live with their “heads stuck in the sand.”

Learning is a problem for many people because we need to think in order to learn.  Thinking is a problem for lazy people.  Laziness may be the culprit behind many human deficiencies (Tit. 1:12).  We need to be more conscious of what we are conscious of down deep.  All people have a very active sub-conscious mind.  It controls much of how we see the world about us.  It is where our value system is stored.  It is within our learning processes we bring to consciousness the things that are not “on the side of truth.”  John 18:37.    We need to correct our memory bank, in some cases, of what we have decided is good and evil with what God says is good and evil.  Some of our emotional attitudes from which our personalities have been developed may have come from evil.  We can re-learn them.

One evil emotional attitude many people have developed is that since suffering hurts, it is evil.  Jesus suffered and He hurt just like any other mortal.  Did He have the wrong attitude?  Do not all Christians need to think and learn?  Christians need to learn to think like Jesus thought (I Cor. 2:16).  Suffering for righteousness sake may hurt; however, it is a worthy attitude and it will produce the by-product of happiness.  Suffering loses its pain because of the joy of success, or the hope of success.  Happiness can never be the goal.  The goal is to be like Jesus.  Happiness will be the result of meeting challenges and becoming equal to them.  Success will prepare us for the next challenge.  Failure will make the next challenge more difficult.  Why?  The answer is because the meeting of a challenge and becoming equal to it is how strong healthy character is built within Christians.  Courageous character is what will be needed to meet the next challenge in our lives (Matt. 7:24-27; Phil. 3:12-14).

All worthwhile accomplishments are preceded by an exercise in suffering.  The gift of enough money to retire from work will not develop the work ethic (II Thess. 3:10-13).  The discipline of one’s self to work builds character (I Thess. 2:9).   Discipline is the key to all worthwhile suffering.  Some suffering is not worthwhile.  Suffering must be for righteousness sake.

People generally seek to avoid persecutions and physical distresses.  It may be hard for some of us to attach happiness to persecution.  This is the challenge of our text.  We will simply need to have an experimental type faith to find out if happiness will follow (Phil. 3:7-12).  Our persecution must be for righteousness sake if the outcome is blessedness.  We have, and will, suffer many persecutions.  The question is whether or not we will rejoice in our tribulations (Rom. 5:3).  Jesus assures us we will remain happy but only if it is for righteousness sake.

It is a fact that much of the world’s persecution is for reasons other than righteousness.   They are suffering because of their own unrighteous deeds, their deeds of lawless acts.  Sin is lawlessness (I John 3:4).  We learned in Lesson Four that if our desire for God’s righteousness is as strong as it is to satisfy our hunger needs, we will be satisfied.  Our inherited drives will be satisfied, or we will have a hope for their satisfaction.  We will be happy.  When we submit our will to God’s righteousness we fulfill our inherited drives.  We are walking by God’s spiritual law of life.  When we live our lives according to God’s spiritual laws we will always be blessed even if we are persecuted.

Those who live a lawless life will also suffer persecution but they will not be happy.  They think the problem is “out there.”  Peter cautioned Christians to understand this paradoxical phenomenon.  When people slander us for telling them about our hope, we need to be careful how we respond, lest we come away from the encounter with a guilty conscience (I Pet. 3:13-17).  There is nothing more devastating to Christian growth than a guilty conscience.

In Matthew 5:11 Jesus spoke of the persecution of righteous people.  The persecution was coming from people with evil motives.  There are evil people in this world who have been taken over completely by Satan.  They seek to persecute those who serve in the name of the Lord.  They will even lie to cause harm to be brought upon those who seek God’s righteousness.  Jesus encourages Christians to take their reviling and lying happily if it is on His account.  He promises a great reward in heaven.  A Christian can stand any type of suffering because of the great promise of eternal life as a child in God’s kingdom.  It is because of the resurrection of the dead that we can happily withstand all threats to our safety urges.  We can be brave.  There will be no cowardly people in heaven (Rev. 21:8).  Walking by faith is a counter-cultural path to the cowardly path.  Cowardly has been translated from the Greek word “deilos.”  The root of this word is dread; timid, and by implication faithless – fearful.

What does it mean to suffer on account of Jesus Christ?  There are two different areas in which we will suffer.  One is when we try to change our bad attitudes into the likeness of His healthy attitudes.  When we put these new attitudes into action we will sometimes be taken advantage of by other people.   We must expect this to happen.  If we know it will happen then we will not be surprised.  People will not always appreciate the good we are trying to do for them.  This is a form of persecution.   It may come from our fellow Christians.  We must not expect the same attitudes to have been developed in all Christians that we may have mastered.  We allow for spiritual growth in the church.

The second area in which we will suffer persecution is when we try to present the teachings of Jesus Christ to the world.  The teachings of Jesus will expose evil; not only the professed evil but those who present themselves as upstanding unbelievers (John 3:20).  They have their own philosophy of right and wrong.  They will persecute us when we reveal the righteousness of God because it will put them in the wrong light.  They have convinced themselves they are good.  They have convinced others they stand for the right but the will of God will show them to be unrighteous.  Some will change but some will revile and lie about Christians.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why might the attitude set forth in our text be more of a challenge than the first seven?
  2. Name the change in some people that will need to be made before they will be willing to consider the attitude of suffering.
  3. Summarize Jesus’ attitude about suffering as it is revealed in the gospels.
  4. Under what postulation might we be lead to believe John, the Baptist, died a happy man?
  5. What were some of the connections Paul made with suffering?
  6. Explain Peter’s statement in I Pet 4:1.
  7. How does the Hebrew writer clarify the attitude of suffering for righteousness sake?
  8. Under what condition are most people ready to have a suffering attitude?
  9. In general, what is the result of Adam and Eve breaking God’s covenant?
  10. What became of most importance after mankind obtained the endowment of awareness?
  11. List some things that make life difficult.
  12. How does laziness compound the difficulties of life?
  13. What are the two different areas in which Christians may suffer for Jesus?
  14. What must Christians expect to happen when we start putting the beatitudes into practice?
  15. When we present the teachings of Jesus to the world and it exposes evil, why might we expect persecution from the good and upstanding citizens of the community?

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