Victoria Fellowship Church
International & Interdenominational
Bible Study Worksheet – January 8, 2017
Theme: Building Blocks for Godly Living
Topic: Joyful Perseverance
Text: Matthew 5:9-12; 1 Peter 3:8-18
Key Verse: Matthew 5:10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (NIV)
Last Sunday, we started our series of studies on the theme “Building Blocks for Godly Living”, with a study on “Blessed Attitudes” , based on the first eight verses of Matthew 5. Those verses cover six of the nine statements of Jesus Christ which we call “the beatitudes”. Key point we noted from the study include:
- Jesus spoke the beatitudes to His disciples – those who already knew Him. The word “beatitude” means “happiness”. These sayings should therefore be seen as the key guideposts to a Christian’s happiness. It is possible to be born again but still not be happy.
- The first of the statements – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” is the anchor piece for the rest. To be poor in spirit is to have an attitude that says “I cannot make it by myself – I don’t have what it takes”. This is what makes us submit to Christ, yielding to the Holy Spirit in all things – humility, mercifulness, coping with life’s tragedies, longing for righteousness, etc.
- God cares most about our heart because all we do or say originate from there. A sanctified heart is one whose pure motives guide everything. We need to constantly examine our hearts for the motives behind what we do as it is possible to do the right things for the wrong motives. We also must be careful about judging others whose motives we may not know.
This Sunday, we will be considering the topic “Joyful Perseverance”, based on Matthew 5:9-12 and 1 Peter 3:8-18. Suffering is not a popular sermon topic in many churches these days – we would rather have “prophecies” of how all our material problems would be solved and how everything would work so nicely for us that our enemies would be green with envy. However, our Lord made it abundantly clear that suffering is part of the salvation package. He spoke about the need to persevere and the provisions He has made for us to finish strong. Key points to note in this study should include:
- The possibility and even likelihood of suffering as a result of faith in Christ should always be made clear in our preaching of the gospel. It is dishonest to present the Christian faith as a passport to a problem-free life.
- The suffering we experience as a result of our own faults – including lack of progress at work due to poor performance, sanctions due to breaches of the law, and deprivation due to lack of financial prudence – should not be seen as persecution, and do not count as Christian suffering.
- When suffering for our faith, we should encourage ourselves in the Lord by meditating on the experience of Christians who have suffered similarly, and on the strength God provides.
- Christians who are not suffering persecution should constantly remember and pray for those who suffer persecution and violence as a result of their devotion to Christ.
Jesus Christ took time to prepare the minds of His disciples for the peril – yes, the peril – of following Him. Hear Him: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23); “… they will seize you and persecute you. They will … put you in prison …” (Luke 21:12); “… the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.” (John 16:2). Even when He promised a hundred- fold reward for those who forfeit family and loved ones for His sake, He made it clear that the reward would be “with persecutions” – Mark 10:29-30. It should be noted that mere profession of faith in Jesus Christ may not in itself attract persecution. It is the righteousness for which the believer subsequently stands that makes the unrighteous world around him uncomfortable and therefore engenders persecution. If we respond to an altar call, confess Jesus as Lord, go to Church often and do all the religious things, but continue to participate in and tolerate unrighteousness, the world would not be bothered.
1. What considerations would make someone choose to receive and follow Christ despite several warnings of likely persecution, including possible death?
In our second text, Apostle Peter writes extensively on what persecution for righteousness means. He notes that suffering the consequence of our bad conduct must not be taken as persecution, but that “… if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” (1Pe 3:14 NIV). Apostle Paul buttresses the point about misreading what amounts to persecution when he warned the Romans: “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:4). Perhaps because there is a subtle good feeling and consolation about suffering, we often attribute every suffering to the fact that we are Christians.
2. (a) Give examples of sufferings which we sometimes wrongly claim to be persecution. (b) How can we determine when a suffering is for righteousness?
For the persecuted, Apostle Paul gives a reason to persevere: “consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18). However, there are Christians who find themselves in environments where righteous living is considered the norm for civilisation. It is known that countries that are highly rated in terms of integrity – both personal and corporate – happen to be countries where basic principles of righteousness as taught in the Bible are also the norm, even when most of the citizens are not committed Christians. Christians in these environments tend to not suffer persecution for righteousness. In effect, we do not all face persecution for righteousness. However, God still places a responsibility on every Christian: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3).
3. (a) In what practical ways can a Christian suffering persecution encourage himself or herself to persevere? (b) In what practical ways can every Christian be involved in supporting those that suffer persecution for the sake of the gospel or for their commitment to righteousness?
Father, whenever you allow us to suffer for the sake of the gospel and for righteousness, grant us the grace to stand and respond in ways that glorify You. Remind us to constantly pray for our brothers and sisters that face such persecution and to support them in every way. in Jesus’ name. Amen.