Michael Youssef - Happiness is in You - Part 8
You know, since its inception, this church has always been on the side of the persecuted. We stood by the persecuted, we supported the persecuted, we encouraged the persecuted, and we prayed regularly for the persecuted. I had the joy, prior to the founding of the Church of the Apostles, of literally training thousands of Christian leaders who live in persecuted land, and I know that there are some people in the West and in America, particularly, who kind of feel sorry for the persecuted. I know that. They say to me, "Look, don't feel sorry for us. We are praying for you, Christians in the West, to have the joy and the blessing of being persecuted".
It's not surprising, therefore, that our Lord Jesus Christ placed being persecuted for righteousness at the apex of the superstructure that we call the beatitude. He put that at the pinnacle, at the top of the top of the stairs that we've been talking about in the last several weeks in Matthew chapter 5, and today we come to this ultimate in godliness. It's the ultimate in godliness. I want you to turn with me, if you haven't already, to Matthew chapter 5, verses 10, 11, and 12. "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you," some translations said, "revile you," "persecute you and falsely accuse you of all kinds of evil against you because of me".
Always underline that "because of me". "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who came before you". This particular beatitude, this top of the top, has double portion of blessings associated with it, double portion. This double portion of blessings are only given for a life that is motivated and propelled by righteous living. This double portion of blessing is only for those who seek a deeper walk with Christ. This double portion of blessings is only for those who have dispensed with law-living, who have dispensed with shallow spiritual experiences, for those who have chosen the narrow way, not the broad highway.
It is for those who seek the glory of Jesus above everything else in life, and that is why the apostle Paul says "all". Can you say "all"? "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted". He didn't say, "Maybe, possibly will be persecuted". I'm gonna explain all this. Here's something I don't want you to forget. When you embrace righteousness and righteous living, you don't have to be confrontational; why? Because righteousness itself is confrontational because righteousness, by its very nature, is in conflict with wickedness. Hear me out, please. You don't have to go looking for persecution. Persecution will find you if you live righteously. And by the same token, there is an easy way to avoid persecution altogether.
You say, "Yeah, yeah". I'm gonna give you both sides of... it's your choice. There is an easy way. I know that experientially. There's an easy way to avoid persecution altogether. All you need to do is just go with the flow. All you need to do is just live and let live, and you'll avoid it altogether. All you need to do is mimic the world. Just repeat what they say. All you need to do is adopt the world's standards and live by them. All you need to do, never express discomfort toward the world's immorality. All you need to do, never stand for biblical marriage. Never stand for the right of the unborn, and you'll never be persecuted. The root meaning of the word "righteousness", now, the root meaning, not the meaning of the word, but the root meaning of the word, is "to divide". It's "to divide, be different, be distinguished".
Listen, the world system hates different. It just hates it. The world system loves conformity, and that is why they will call you names in order to shame you of your righteous living. Here's a fact: Jesus was persecuted because of his blazing righteousness. Jesus was persecuted because he did not fit into their mold. Jesus was persecuted because he would not conform to their image of him. Jesus was persecuted because he was not only, is not only the truth, the whole truth, but he spoke the truth, he lived the truth, and he finally died for the truth. Listen to what he said in John 15:19. "If you were of the world, the world loves its own; but because you're not of the world, therefore, the world hates you," so don't be surprised. The thing that blows my mind is it says, "Happy, blessed are the persecuted".
Now, just before I go any further at this point, I wanna make one statement: from my experience in 45 years, there is a difference between persecuted for righteousness and being persecuted for being an objectionable jerk. You know, back in the '80s, I really had a rude awakening. It really was the first time in my adult life I experienced this rude awakening about the question of tolerance. It's a beautiful word. I mean, I just love the word. It's fine. And the institution in which I was involved, I'm gonna give you the bottom line. I'm not gonna drag it. I found out that, well, by "tolerance," they mean that those who are Bible-believing Christians just supposed to shut up.
That's really what "tolerance" mean. It means that Bible-believing Christians must accept the sin that they have accepted as the norm, and they must accept the heretical teaching that they're teaching. That's really what "tolerance" was. It means that Bible-believing Christians should be good boys and girls and keep their mouth shut. If you open your mouth politely, they will insult you. They will call you names. Now, by the way, the word "insult" here means "to speak in such a way as to injure a person's feeling, in such a way to hurt that person and hurt his pride or her pride".
Why, why do they do this? Why do they call us name? One reason, one main reason is to rouse anger in you. They really do, they want to make you, they wanna make you angry. And if they make you angry, they've won because your anger makes the devil say, "Ah, look, look what I've done. I made him mad. I made her mad". Back then, I can truly tell you, and I have witnesses for that, that every time I spoke the truth, I spoke with a smile. And I looked like an idiot sometime, but I did it with a smile, ah, because I knew that the very heart of the hatred and persecution was directed toward the Lord, not with me.
Listen, I was getting the Lord's mail. I was getting somebody else's mail. I was getting his mail. You see, never, never, never take persecution or insult personally if you just think about what Jesus said: "The reason they do this is because they hate me". And I told you in the last message, when Jesus appeared, the resurrected Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, he did not say, "Why are you persecuting the church"? He said, "Why are you persecuting me"? Because they're persecuting Jesus. That will give you a lot of peace. "Blessed are the persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven".
Now, major part of this kingdom of heaven, of course, is heaven itself. I'm going to say some more about it in a minute. That's the major part, but there is another part that people miss about heaven, or the kingdom of heaven, and that is the righteous-living person is able to reign and rule over their own life. You see, we're gonna reign and rule with Christ for all of eternity, but part of the kingdom of heaven is when you're able to reign and rule your own life in the midst of persecution, in the midst of insult, in the midst of name-calling. You're in control, and you know that they hated your Lord and, therefore, they hate you.
Did you know that every one of Jesus's disciples, except one, that's John, every one of them was not only persecuted, but they're condemned to death? You see, James, the brother of John, he was beheaded in AD 36. Thomas, in other languages, Thoma, from which you get the church of Mar Thoma in India, which has been there for 2,000 years, where Thomas went and evangelized, founded the church of Mar Thoma. He was beheaded in India. Simon, the brother of Jude, was crucified in Egypt during the reign of Trajan.
Simon the Zealot was crucified in Mauretania. Mark, the First Bishop of Alexandria, was burned to death in Egypt. Bartholomew was beaten and beheaded in Armenia. Andrew, the brother of Peter, was crucified in AD 80 by Governor Aegean and burned in Achaia. Philip was stoned in Phrygia. James, the brother of our Lord Jesus, was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and when that did not kill him, they beat his head with big sticks until they killed him. And that's to say nothing of Peter, who, when they tried to crucify him, he said, "No, I don't deserve this privilege of being crucified like my Lord and Master. Crucify me upside down".
Question: What suffering are you experiencing for righteousness? Let me repeat this: What suffering are you experiencing for righteousness? Every day at "Leading the Way," every day, we are hearing of Christians being tortured and being deprived of food and sleep and ultimately beheaded simply because they would not deny the faith in their only Savior and Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. The second blessing of this double blessing that Jesus bestow upon those who suffer for the sake of righteousness is that they will inherit heaven. They will reign and rule with Christ. "Blessed are you when they revile you or insult you, speak all sorts of evil and false accusations against you, ah, for My name's sake".
The Bible-believing Christians today are called all sorts of names. We, the most loving people, we're called all sorts of names. Don't ever forget they did this to Jesus. They falsely accused him. In Matthew 11:19, they called Jesus, now, just think about this: Jesus, the pure, sinless Son of God, they called him a glutton and a drunkard. And, "Oh, yeah, he's a friend of those people, the tax collectors". If they falsely accused the perfect Son of God, why are we surprised that they falsely accuse us? When you're slandered for your biblical conviction, Jesus is saying, "Count on me. Look up to me. Leave it with me".
Take time to pray for them. Pray for them. And if you have never done that, you need to do that, and this is how we're gonna have victory. Peter, who learned from his Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, in 1 Peter 4:13, all the way to 19, he tells us, "Far from defending yourself, consider yourself privileged when you suffer for righteousness". In other words, he's saying, "When you are hated, when you are maligned, when you're afflicted, remember their animosity not toward you, but toward the Lord". Don't ever forget this: Satan's number one enemy is Christ. Did you get that? But he can't, 'cause he got his teeth knocked out on the cross, so he can't reach Christ, so what does he do? He takes it out on Christ's followers. He takes on the faithful children of the living God. So he opposes them everywhere, everywhere he can find an opportunity.
In Matthew 5:12, the last verse in this passage that we're going through right now, the Lord says we should inwardly be glad when that happens. Now, don't miss this. The phrase "be exceedingly glad" is not a recommendation. "Please, be exceedingly glad". No, no, no, actually, in the Greek, it's in the imperative mood. In other words, it's a loving command from the Lord Jesus. It's a loving command. "Be exceedingly glad". You and I know that the world can take a lot of things from us, but the one thing they cannot take from us is the joy of the Lord. Jesus tells us that there are two reasons for rejoicing and being glad when you're persecuted for righteousness.
First, because your reward is great. Oh, it will be a great reward. It's a great reward in two ways, by the way. It's far greater the reward than those who just sat in the pews of salvation all of their life. They sat on their blessed assurance, did nothing for God, sacrificed nothing, gave nothing, done nothing. But it's also gonna be far greater than anything that you have sacrificed or lost in this life. There is no comparison, one in a million, one in a trillion, in terms of comparison. The reward also is gonna go on forever and ever and ever and ever, and not just for a few years. You know, this life is gonna end for all of us, and that's why Jesus told us again and again and again and again, "Do not store up treasures for yourselves here on earth" where you're going to leave it anyway, but send it on ahead where it'll be waiting for you on the other side and will last for all of eternity.
Send it on where you will be spending eternity. Don't accumulate here on earth where your descendants are probably gonna blow it away anyway. Send it on where the dividends is incalculable. Question: Should the believer be looking for his reward? Should the believer be faithful in serving and doing and giving so that they receive their reward? Is it wrong to be expecting your reward in heaven? And read my lips: absolutely not. Jesus did. In fact, Hebrews 12:2 says, "Because of the joy set before him," what is that? The resurrection and the ascension and the glorification. "Because of the joy set before him, he endured the cross, despising shame".
Hear me right. It's neither selfish nor unspiritual to look forward to your reward, to work for that reward. The apostle Paul said, "I fought the good fight of faith. I have finished the race. Now I'm lookin' forward to my crown of righteousness. And by the way, it's not only me. Everyone who longs for his appearing".
The second reason for rejoicing when you suffer for righteousness is because you're in good company. You're in good company. How do you like it when somebody call you a prophet? Now, when you suffer for righteousness, you're just like all the prophets of old, the great men and women of the past. The reason I named this series "Happiness Is in You" because every believer has Christ on the inside of them, "Christ in you, the hope of glory," and because Christ is the source of happiness, and that is why it's in you. You don't have to look for it anywhere else. Christ is in you, and he is the source of all happiness, all blessings, all joy in the midst of difficulties. All you need to do now is to appropriate this happiness that's within you.