WHO WANTS to be persecuted? We cannot see happiness in persecution. No one enjoys being maligned. Almost all of us want the goodwill of our neighbors, and it is difficult to see what blessedness there could be in the enmity of others.

Offhand, it would seem that being a Christian should elicit the admiration and acclaim of those about us. A Christian is usually one who lives his life with kindness, honesty, and unselfishness. Such a person should be blessed, not blasted, it would seem. His peers should stand around him and sing, “For he’s a jolly good fellow, which nobody can deny!”

It would seem so! But such is not the case. And it is good that this Beatitude gives us the occasion to sit down and rethink this age-old question: “Why are good people persecuted?” Or as a modern-day author has asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

We Are Not Exempt

A Christian was released from a country that had a hostile regime. He eventually got a job working with Christians. He was asked one day how it had felt to be persecuted for his faith. With a surprised look he said, “We thought it was the normal Christian life.”

You may have concluded, as have others, that there is usually something wrong with those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, that there is some quirk in their disposition, some personality peculiarity or some religious fanaticism which causes others to mistreat them. No, that is not always, or let us say that is not usually, the case.

Nowhere does the Bible teach that Christians are to be exempt from the tribulations and natural disasters that come upon the world. It does teach that the Christian can face tribulation, crisis, calamity, and personal suffering with a supernatural power that is not available to the person outside of Christ. Christiana Tsai, the Christian daughter of a former governor of Kiangsu Province in China, wrote, “Throughout my many years of illness [53], I have never dared to ask God why He allowed me to suffer for so long. I only ask what He wants me to do.” St. Augustine wrote, “Better is he that suffereth evil than the jollity of him that doeth evil.”

The eagle is the only bird which can lock its wings and wait for the right wind. He waits for the updraft and never has to flap his wings, just soar. So as we wait on God He will help us use the adversities and strong winds to benefit us! The Bible says, “They that wait upon the Lord . . . shall mount up with wings as eagles” (Isaiah 40:31).

Christians can rejoice in the midst of persecution because they have eternity’s values in view. When the pressures are on, they look beyond their present predicament to the glories of heaven. The thought of the future life with its prerogatives and joys helps to make the trials of the present seem light and transient, “. . . for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Christians in the People’s Republic of China are an illustration of blessings under persecution. In 1949 when the missionaries were forced to leave, there were approximately 700,000 Christians in China. In the beginning, landowners, the educated, and Christians were marked for elimination. Of these three categories, which increased in spite of persecution? Those who were “persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Today, reliable estimates range from 30 million to 50 million Christians in China.

The early Christians were able to experience joy in their hearts in the midst of persecution. They counted suffering for Christ not as a burden or misfortune but as a great honor, as evidence that Christ counted them worthy to witness for Him through suffering. They never forgot what Christ Himself had gone through for their salvation, and to suffer for His Name’s sake was regarded as a gift rather than a cross.

Billy Graham, The Secret of Happiness (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011).

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