The final Beatitude that Jesus presents to his disciples is challenging to grasp. Jesus is basically telling them that they will be persecuted because they follow him. There will be difficult times and suffering as a result of following Christ, yet he says to rejoice in these times! Jesus was mocked, beaten, persecuted, and even crucified, and we are to follow after him? This seems insane, but it is what he calls us to do. This is all part of being a genuine follower of Christ. We must find our identity in Christ Jesus and not in the world.
What does this look like today? What sacrifices must we make? How can we better focus on Christ every day? What changes must you make in your life so as to better follow after Christ, and to live as he lived?
I would challenge you to look at the life of Paul this week. Paul suffered many hardships yet we find him rejoicing in the Lord. Look through Philippians. Paul wrote this while in prison and one of the main themes is joy.
I know that this aspect of walking with Christ isn’t the most appealing. It would be nice if we didn’t have to face trials and tribulations, but without these things we would never grow, and we would not rely on God’s grace. Challenge yourself this week to do something difficult. Develop a relationship with someone that would stretch you. Serve somewhere new, allowing you to grow and be transformed by the Spirit.
I haven’t really experienced anything quite like Paul, but I have faced challenges in my life. There have been many times when I have had a decision to make, either taking the easy road or the more difficult road. I must admit that many times I have decided to go the easy way, which in turn means I missed out on a great opportunity to grow. There have been times when I did go the more challenging way, and during these times I had some of the most incredible experiences of my life.
It all started my second year at Bethel College when I first decided to confess some things that I had been dealing with to a friend. This led to getting a mentor, which then led to applying spiritual disciplines to my life. Following this I decided to live in the freshman dorm again with a Resident Assistant (RA), which was definitely stretching me beyond where I was comfortable. I’m so glad I did this, however, because I developed friendships that have transformed my life and still live on today. From here I decided to become an RA, which was another challenge in my life, but necessary for my spiritual journey. This led me to going on a missions trip to the Caribbean and then later to Africa, and also to where I am today, working with the kids in Elkhart. None of these decisions were easy, but every one of them was valuable in helping me to grow in my faith. It is so important to look for opportunities to grow, stepping out of your comfort zone and striving to live like Christ. It’s all a matter of giving up your life to Christ every morning when you arise, letting God be God. And this is a tough thing to do.
Finally, read through Luke 9:23-27. How would your life look differently if you began each day surrendering everything to Christ?
*Here are some other passages/verses to check out concerning suffering for Christ: Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:18, 2 Timothy 3:12, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 4:13