Persecution as a Gift
“I love you, Lord, my strength, Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer,
My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold!”
Today’s readings: Jer 20:10-13; Ps 18:2-7; Jn 10:31-42
Today’s readings are all about those who are persecuted—from Jeremiah, to David, to Jesus. People who stand up for God can expect to be persecuted—those who are prophets, those who govern God’s people, those who do the very work of God. Prophets are persecuted by those who do not want to hear the truth God has to say to them. Governors are persecuted by those who disagree with the way they pastor the community and by those who want to take their place. Those who do God’s work are persecuted by those who oppose God and who are aligned with the enemy.
Jeremiah was persecuted even by his friends. David was persecuted even by his king. Jesus was persecuted even by his own people, the very people of God, the ones whom God had entered into covenant with.
So you who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, you are in good company. Know that you are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is yours (Mt 5:10). You who are insulted and slandered because of Christ, “rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt 5:11-12). This is the overturning of the wisdom of the world. Those who suffer are blessed. Those who ought to be sad and miserable are those who should rejoice. This is because God will turn your seeming defeat into victory, whether here or hereafter.
Know that “the Lord is with (you), like a mighty champion” (Jer 20:11). Just entrust your cause to Him, and then sing and praise the Lord (Jer 20:12-13). Know that the Lord is your strength, your rock, your fortress, your deliverer, your refuge, your shield, your saving horn, your stronghold (Ps 18:2-3). God is all these, so what more do you need! Even when surrounded by the breakers of death, by the menacing floods, by the tightening cords of Sheol, by the snares of death, all you need do is call out to the Lord, and He will hear your cry from heaven (Ps 18:5-7).
In this world we can expect troubles, pain and even persecution, but we can always look to God for our deliverance. This is what covenant is all about.
As such, we need never fear. In fact, we rejoice in all circumstances. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4)
Then you can always say: “Praised be the Lord, I exclaim! I have been delivered from my enemies.” (Ps 18:4).
Action: Are you suffering persecution at the moment? If not because of your own sin and you stand blameless, then rejoice. Then ask God to deliver you.
Prayer: Lord, at times I feel terror on every side. At times I feel utterly trapped and in distress. It is then that I call out to you, Lord. And I know that you will hear my cry. I know that you, Lord, test the just, probe heart and mind, and rescue the life of the poor. Deliver me, Lord. My confidence is in you. And so I will be joyful. And may the peace that surpasses all understanding always be in my heart and mind. Amen.
God bless you always.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)