Have you ever thought of joy as being a part of persecution and suffering? In this command, it is. As ironic as this sounds, the command to rejoice is an invitation to hope and courage during trials. Enduring persecution and suffering for the sake of Christ conforms us to His image...
Where this command is found:
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Joy and gladness is normally the furthest thing from our minds when we think of persecution and suffering. Yet rejoicing is exactly what Jesus commands us to do. He’s not asking us to glorify suffering, hurt or pain. But rather, we rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake and therefore share in eternal rewards! This is exactly what Peter described when he wrote:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified” (1 Peter 4:12–14).
Suffering for Jesus is not easy; it requires us to die to self and embrace the selfless nature of Jesus. But when we choose to rejoice, God brings us into greater intimacy and fellowship with Himself. (See Phil. 3:10.) God’s goodness and grace is then seen through us and this becomes a tangible testimony of God’s love to those reviling and persecuting us.
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How do we prepare for suffering and persecution? Consider how you would train for lifting weights – you would start with small weights and increase from there. In the same way, God desires to train us in the small things.
As we engage with God in the classroom of rejoicing, one of the first things He will do is change our perspective on suffering and persecution. From our human perspective, suffering and persecution threaten our happiness and comfort.
Have you ever wondered what would have happened to Paul and Silas if they had not chosen to rejoice during that dark night in prison? In view of their circumstances, they could have sat back and complained.