What do you expect from the kingdom of heaven that we experience while here on earth? Happiness and material wealth? Not hardly. But you can experience an abundant life of peace and joy on the inside even with persecution, trial and trouble on the outside.
If you have peace with God through salvation you can have the peace of God in a confident settled hope of eternal salvation in Christ Jesus. And this confident hope will produce good works in keeping with your faith. And these good works will reflect Christ that lives in you and you will be hated by the world!
We love to claim the promises of God. We love to claim His promises of provision and protection. But how many of us have claimed this promise: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12)? I haven’t. Who likes to be persecuted?
Yet Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-11).
In all the other beatitudes, the word “blessed” is used once, but in this particular beatitude, Jesus used the word “blessed” twice to emphasize the generous blessing given by God to the persecuted.
Of all God’s promises, the one Christians like to talk about least is persecution. No less than 90 times in all but two books of the New Testament, Christians are promised one thing: Persecution will come. Just as we are assured of God’s love for us in Christ, just as we can be confident that our sins are fully paid for in the death of Christ, we can be sure that we will experience persecution for the sake of Christ.
That we would truly believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain. And we would be willing to stand firm on the foundation of the gospel, as people certain that our lives are no longer ours, but Christ’s, and therefore He can do what He wants with them in order to bring Him glory.