Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Disciples and the World (Matthew 5:12)
After studying the Beatitudes – these promises of blessing, promises of true and deep and lasting happiness – after studying them and realizing that they are the characteristic qualities of the man or woman in God’s kingdom, it’s easy to feel a little inadequate. This kind of person who is poor in spirit, mourning over sin, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, and persecuted seems almost too good to be normal – like we’re looking at someone in a stained-glass window or some kind of a stone statue or plaster saint rather than somebody involved in the reality of day-to-day living.
But God doesn’t deal with plaster saints, and He doesn’t deal with unrealities. Jesus here is presenting the portrait of a believer, and to one extent or another, this characterizes all of us. There are times in our lives when it’s maybe hard to see ourselves here but, in fact, we are. We are the poor in spirit; that is, we are the ones who know we are spiritually bankrupt. And if we are to enter into the kingdom of God, we bring nothing except our need and cry out to God in our poverty for a salvation that only He can give.
We are those who mourn, mourning over our plight, mourning over our sin, mourning over judgment, recognizing what awaits us, mourning over the separation from God that characterizes us. We are therefore the meek. We come, not proud and self-confident but humble and broken, seeking salvation from a merciful God. We are those who recognize we don’t have righteousness but we hunger and thirst for it. We are those who, having received mercy, can show it to others. We are those whose hearts have been cleansed and made pure.
We are those who, rather than being at war with God and everybody else, have become peacemakers because we’ve made our peace with Him. And, consequently, we are those who will, to one extent or another, suffer persecution from a God-hating, Christ-rejecting, Satan-controlled society. This is not some far-off identity to be attained by a select few, this is simply a genuine description of those who are God’s children. Every one of us who is genuinely Christ’s came with these attitudes, came through this process, so that we have been transformed into Beatitude-type people.
We don’t always manifest the same poverty of spirit or sorrow over our sin or meekness or mercy or purity. We don’t always manifest that hunger and thirst for righteousness as we should. We’re not always the peacemaker we ought to be. But that is the character of our life. Those are the things that mark us out as God’s children. And ultimately, because we are transformed, because we are this kind of person, we are at odds with the world around us, and that leads to suffering, that leads to pain, problems.
From message by John MacArthur “The Only Way To Happiness-Endure Persecution”