Luke 6: And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
Do you really believe that there is a reward awaiting the faithful? Do you, in your heart of hearts, where no one else can ever go or see or experience what is going on in there, believe that Jesus is returning and that those who have been faithful to Jesus Christ will be rewarded and that the reward will be far greater than anything that we could imagine? I do not think that I would believe someone if they told me that they never doubted the truths of the Gospel regarding rewards in heaven that make this life all worthwhile. John the Baptist himself doubted when things started going south for him and Jesus didn’t appear very messianic.
In the heat of the battle, when we are tempted to think that it really does not matter if we obey or not, it can become very attractive for us to do what is convenient, easy, pleasant and affirming rather than that which will gain us opposition, ridicule, pain and loneliness. When we do give in and go the way that God says not to, it is because at that moment we really do not believe that there is a great reward awaiting us, or that Jesus is really going to hold this sin against us in some way that effects our rewards in heaven.
Sometimes when we are tempted we do the right thing but not with a great deal of joy, or perhaps without any joy at all. We reason that this act of obedience is the right thing to do and we do it willingly and faithfully but not always joyfully. This too, is its own act of disobedience.
In the text we are considering Jesus says that people are going to hate you and exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil. Then He says “Rejoice in that day …”. I have no difficulty rejoicing later. I can rejoice after the pressure is off and I can look back with gratitude that I didn’t give in. I can rejoice in glory later on when all the hardships have disappeared. But Jesus does not say any of that. He says – rejoice in that day.
We are to have such an assurance that God is going to reward us later that it gives us joy, in the midst of suffering – now. The Christian life is not the hope of joy someday. It is the presence of joy now because of the sure knowledge that our hope is guaranteed. It is joy now even if no one appreciates us and even if we are opposed and persecuted and forgotten.
The sad reality in this is that such joy in western Christianity seems to be very rare. We make a very big deal out of believers who are able to remain joyful in the midst of suffering for the cause of the Gospel. We elevate them to places of heroes and regard them as giants of faith. Jesus is not talking about giants of the faith here. He is talking about possessors of faith. He is simply telling us how ordinary everyday believers are called by God to react to opposition. This is Christianity 101 and it does not often seem that we are doing well at exam time.
It is a great grace that enables us to rejoice in the day that we are opposed and rejected and ridiculed. And such a great grace is ours. Do I show that I have such grace? Do you?
O Lord, thank you that you provide us with the ability to rejoice even when things are hard. Forgive us for not using it and help us to do better from now on.