ENDURANCE – THE EIGHTH STEP TO HAPPINESS

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We have been making our way through the beatitudes which are found in Matthew chapter five. Each begins with the word blessed which also means happy – and we have been finding steps to happiness. What we find are nine attitudes faithful followers should display. Today we are focusing in on verse ten:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 (NKJV)

What this verse tells me is that we need an attitude of ENDURANCE. I am old enough to know that whatever I do – I will be criticised. Even if I do nothing – I will be criticised. I don’t know about you – but I’d rather be criticised for doing the right thing than for doing the wrong thing. I’d rather be persecuted for doing the right thing than doing the wrong thing. I’d rather be called a fool for following God – then to be called a wise man for following the devil. Right at the start of this series of messages, I told you the story that Franklin Graham tells:

Sámi Dagher had been a maitre’d at the world famous Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut before Lebanon’s terrible civil war. Just before the war broke out he left the hotel to plant a small church in one of the poorest areas of the city. When he approached the hotel manager to inform him that he was resigning, the following dialog occurred:

“God has called me to preach,” Sámi told the manager. “I’m leaving the hotel.”

“Leaving? You’re a fool! You’re crazy! A man in your position making good money, and you quit?”

“I leave for something more important than money. I’m going to preach the name of Jesus Christ.”

“You’re going to give up this good position to preach for some god? You must be crazy. No! I’ll tell you the right thing to do. You stay here and make money, Sámi. I need you.”

“No, I can’t stay any longer. I’ve prayed and this is what I must do.”

Then the hotel manager grew angry and shouted, “I curse you! One day, Sámi Dagher, you will come to the threshold of my door, and you will beg for a crust of bread, and I won’t give it to you. I will let you starve! Do you hear my words? Not a crust!”

Quite sometime later, during some of the heaviest fighting, Sámi heard a knock at his door. It was late at night, so Sámi told his wife and children to stay in bed. He answered the door himself. When he opened the door, the hotel manager stood before him.

“I couldn’t sleep,” the man said. “I wanted to see how you are doing and talk.”

Sámi made coffee and they discussed the old days they enjoyed at the Phoenicia. Sámi sensed the man had come for another reason, but the man wouldn’t say. Finally Sámi said, “My friend, it is late. Why have you come to me?”

“Oh, nothing, Sámi. I just wanted to talk of old times.”

The man walked to the door and opened it. As he stood in the doorway with his head hung low, he turned to Sámi and said, “I have no food. I have not eaten for two days. Do you have anything you could spare?” Sami of course gave him something to eat.

What do we lean from that story? He is no fool who follows God – even if he is criticized. In this beatitude, Jesus is telling us persecution will come. Actually, I’d be as bold as suggesting that if we do not experience persecution, we may need to do a check on how well we are following God. Therefore, because Christians will suffer for what they believe, we MUST have an attitude of endurance. The King James Bible would call it longsuffering. Some other translations speak of this quality as patience. Paul lists this attitude among the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians chapter five:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV)

Long-suffering – what a great word, which means … suffering long. What an important attitude and quality to have in times of criticism — and it is important to have this attitude in times of persecution, when we are jostled and challenged about the very things we say we believe. If you are serious about following Christ – you will be criticised. If you are a faithful follower of Christ – you will be persecuted. If you practice what the Bible teaches – you will be face pressure placed upon you. This pressure, let’s call it being harassed simply for being a Christian, will come, and how you handle harassment matters. Something we do well to remember God is more concerned with our CHARACTER than He is with our COMFORT. The apostle Paul was in jail and writing to Christians he loved and who lived in Ephesus. He said to them:

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1–3 (NKJV)

Jesus doesn’t ponder whether or not you will be persecuted. He doesn’t consider whether or not you will be criticised. He doesn’t hassle over the fact that you will be harassed – if you are faithful to Him – He knows you will. He says we must endure under pressure – stand firm under persecution – hold tight when harassed. Jesus says:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 (NKJV)

When sticks and stones are being thrown at you – stick it out with an attitude of endurance. Today I give you four positive steps for handling the unpleasant pressure of harassment. The first step is:

Recognise the SOURCE

Ephesians chapter six verse twelve says: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)

God and Satan are enemies. The devil does not want God to win and will use any and every means to attack God. Sometimes we need to be reminded.A spiritual war of terror, if you will. If your enemy can’t get to you – he’ll attack your children, your family, your friends, anything you care about – because he knows if he hurts people you love – he’ll be hurting you. The devil – Satan – can’t hurt God – so the next best thing is he attacks God’s family, God’s children. In Revelation 12:10 Satan is called, “The accuser of our brothers.” He is at war with God and if he can’t harass God – he’ll attack God’s family. When you are under attack – recognize the source. Step two:

Refuse to RETALIATE

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honourable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:17–19 (HCSB)

Jesus was accused of being a drunk, of being a glutton, but he refused to retaliate. He could have pointed out every sin of every accuser, but He didn’t. He left room for God. That’s Trust! That’s Faith! He believed his Father would take care of the situation. When you’re persecuted – harassed – treated badly or rudely because you’re a Christian – believe God is big enough to take care of it His way in His time. That’s why Romans says, “Leave room for God’s wrath.” He’s big enough and we should trust Him. We need enough faith in God so we don’t repay “evil for evil”. Put your trust in God so that whatever comes your way – you know that He will handle it. Refuse to retaliate – leave it for God to take care of. The third step in handling harassment is:  Respond POSITIVELY. 

Another great verse in the book of Romans is: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 (NKJV)  When evil attacks us – we are to respond with good things. Is that normal to return good when someone is attacking you? Is it normal to bless the person who is cursing you? No! It’s not normal, but it is exactly what the Bible tells us to do – return good for evil. If you’re always trying to get even you will never get AHEAD. When someone starts teasing you – or taunting you – and you retaliate – who’s in control? They are! They are pushing your buttons and you – well you become their puppet and you have played into their game. When you say “You make me so angry!” do you know what you are telling someone? You’re saying they have control of your emotions. On the contrary, Jesus tells us to do: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” Matthew 5:44 (NKJV)

And that’s not easy, but it is pretty unusual in our day and age. Is it what God wants you to do? Yes! Is it what God expects you to do? Yes! Jesus says, “Don’t react – respond in love.” When people put you down – build them up. When they hassle you – be nice to them. There are many things in our lives you have little or no control over, but you can control how you respond to evil. Respond with good things, respond in love, and God will smile on you. Step four:

Rest in God’s PROTECTION

Psalm thirty seven says: Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret–it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, They shall inherit the earth.” Psalms 37:7–9 (NKJV)

It’s an psalm is written by David. If you’ll remember, the story of David is a story of persecution and harassment? Do you remember what happened between King Saul and David? David had killed a giant called Goliath which impressed everyone. People everywhere started singing the praises of David. Everyone except for Saul, that is. Saul got jealous, envious – and evil thoughts entered Saul’s mind and heart and he started looking at David as an enemy. As time passed the envy and jealousy in Saul grew – to the point it became hatred. He was so jealous of David that he threw a spear at David hoping to “pin him to the wall”. (1 Samuel 18:11) David had to run. David had to hide. Now that’s harassment –now that’s persecution. David knew persecution, he knew harassment and yet he could write: “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him…”Psalms 37:7 (NKJVWhat’s going on in your life? Are you being persecuted? Are you being harassed? God knows – He sees – He cares and He is concerned about how you handle this pressure. God is more concerned about your character than He is about your comfort. That’s because God is a character builder. He wants you to be successful. He wants you to overcome evil with good. How do you deal with the pressure that comes when you live and behave like a Christian? When harassment comes, do you recognize the source? Do you refuse to retaliate? Do you respond in a positive way – which God would be pleased with? Do you rest in the Lord and have faith in His protection?

If you do – God smiles. Remember: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 (NKJV)