You are getting the Black Belt for your Spiritual Fitness today. Intrigue? If you have followed the series and gone through the process faithfully, you are at the high point of spiritual maturity. Let me explain.
Today we are expounding the final blessing: Endurance. After Enlightenment, comes Endurance. You might wonder why there is another step after Enlightenment. The reason is we live in a world of darkness, so when you enlighten the darkness, you make the darkness uncomfortable and it will try to take you down and destroy you.
For example, Abraham Lincoln shined his bright light on the darkness of slavery, and he was assassinated. So was Marti Luther King, Jr., who shined his bright light into the darkness of racial injustice, and he was also assassinated. There are uncountable examples like that in human history. The way of Enlightenment requires enlightening the world, and the dark world does not like it.
I am just highlighting extreme cases. It does not mean you will have the same fate if you shine your light into the world. I do not intend to scare you or discourage you from seeking Enlightenment, but that is the nature of the beast. The brighter you shine, the more likely you are persecuted by the dark forces. That is why Jesus said,
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:10).
I hope you remember what “righteousness” means since we discussed it a couple of weeks ago. Righteousness, according to Jesus, is not a legal term but a relational term. Righteousness is about loving God and loving people; nothing more nothing less. The Great Commandment is the definition of righteousness.
In the previous blessing, you shine the light of righteousness into the darkness by reconciling relationships between people and God, and among themselves. You have become a peacemaker, and you are called a child of God—a prince or princess of peace. However, just as the world crucified Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, you will also be persecuted for your Enlightenment, unless you enjoy your Enlightenment in the mountains, which does not enlighten any one. Enlightenment without shining on others is not real Enlightenment.
You must accept this fact that we live in a world where “no good deed goes unpunished,” or you could be consumed by the disillusionment of the unjust world. If you expect the world to reward you for your Enlightenment, you will be bitterly disappointed. You know the story of my father, who was imprisoned for saving the lives of the young people from drugs.
Even though you cannot change the nature of the fallen world, Jesus has given you a blessing to endure it and the way to handle it. Jesus said that he wants you to not only bear fruit but also bear the fruit that lasts (John 15:16). He does not want your light to shine like a straw fire that lasts just for a few minute, but he wants your light to shine for eaternity. So, he is blessing you with Endurance.
Before we continue, let us refresh our memory of the Eight Blessings, or traditionally known as the Beatitudes. They form the acrostic CAREFREE:
Unlike the previous seven blessings where Jesus spoke only one verse for each of them, this last blessing of Endurance has three verses. It signifies how important the blessing of Endurance is. He said,
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mat 5:10-12).
Jesus does not only state the blessing but teaches you how to endure. So, let us learn what is the best way to endure persecution and setbacks. There are three principles of Endurance.
The first principle is:
1 – Rejoice
Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” (Mat 5:12a)
Does it sound strange that Jesus wants you to rejoice during suffering? A while back, there were a group of psychologists in England questioned Jesus’ sanity because some of Jesus’ teachings are unreasonable. They believe Jesus was mentally ill because of the saying like this.
Who in the right mind would teach people to rejoice in persecution? It is masochism. Even some Christians do not understand these teachings and avoid reading or talking about it. Can you rejoice during adversity? Is it reasonable at all? Is it mentally ill to rejoice in hardship?
What would you do? If you were Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement, you knew you were doing God’s will, but “people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely,” what would you do?
Would you retaliate with anger, hold grudges, withdraw, or give up? None of these helps because that is what the persecutors want you to feel.
But Jesus wants you to rejoice. In other words, you must not lose your sense of humor. You are not rejoicing for your own suffering, but you are rejoicing for doing the right thing. You are draining the swamp with your Enlightenment. So, when swamp snakes try to bite you, you know you are doing the right thing. Therefore, you can rejoice.
It is the intension of the darkness that wants you to lose your joy. The moment you lose your joy or lose your sense of humor, they win. You lose. The first principle to win against evil is to rejoice.
Your joy could trigger their curiosity on Christ. They will see your joy and wonder, “What kind of people that is that they are able to rejoice even in persecution?” Peter said,
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Pe 3:13–15).
Your joy can trigger their curiosity and ask you to give the reason for the hope you have, so be prepared to answer their questions. Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” Your hope also comes from knowing that “your reward is great in heaven.”
How do you rejoice? One way to rejoice is by singing. Many places in the psalm we are encouraged to sing and make a joyful noise. You do not have to have a great voice to sing. Psalm 100 says,
“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with joy;
come into his presence with singing.” (Ps 100:1-2).
Can anyone make a joyful noise? Of course, they can. Even pigs can make a joyful noise. When you sing to the Lord, no matter what kind of voices you have it is music to God’s ears.
The result is you have joy in your heart. Joy is one of the characters of the fruit of the spirit. When you rejoice in the Lord, the Holy Spirit is with you, and it expels the evil spirit of persecution from affecting you.
You must rejoice always. Not just in good times. Paul was in prison when he wrote the following verses,
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7).
He asked you to rejoice. You also need to be gentle—that means do not retaliate because the Lord will settle the account with them soon. And we must not worry. Instead of worrying, pray about everything. The more you pray, the less you worry because worrying cannot solve any problems. Through prayer, you invite the indescribable peace of God into your heart, and it will guard your mind in Christ Jesus.
So, the first secret of Endurance is to rejoice and maintain your sense of humor. The second principle of Endurance is…
2 – Reflect
Jesus then says,
“… for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mat 5:12b).
There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to attacking godly people. They have done it in the past, they will do it again in the present and, of course, in the future. One way to endure it is to know that you are not alone and that you need not be surprised by it.
Read and reflect on the story of the prophets who were before you will inspire you for Endurance. In fact, there is a cloud of witnesses before us. The Bible says,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with Endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Where do you find the stories of these witnesses? In the Bible, of course. That is why if you read the Bible regularly, you will find that nothing is new under the sun, and it will help you endure the adversity with the wisdom of the ages.
Suppose you cannot rejoice in persecution, and if suffering makes you lose your temper or trigger some kind of reaction other than rejoicing, it means you have not yet perfected your faith. As the “perfecter of our faith,” Jesus will bring about new Consciousness in you.
That leads to the third principle of Endurance:
Sometimes, adversity can shake us into new Consciousness. At the beginning of this series, I told you a story about a young executive whose brand-new Jaguar was crushed by a brick. The incident woke him up from complacency to Consciousness.
In the same way, persecution and suffering can awaken us to a higher level of Consciousness. So, Consciousness leads us to another cycle of growth. It does not mean we start all over, but we go through a new cycle at a higher level. It is an upward spiral of reformation.
The cycle of growth may also be compared to the Karate ranking. After getting the first black belt in Karate, you become a beginner for Dan level black belt. Sometimes, it is also called Degree black belt—first-degree black belt, second-degree black belt, up to the tenth degree known as “judan.” The point is, even though you start a new cycle, you do not go back to the original white belt. So do not be discouraged from entering a new cycle of growth.
Coincidently, the Japanese word for Ninja (忍者) means Endurer. Many people think Ninja means sneaky warriors, but it literally means someone who endures. So, I can say that you are now at the level of Spiritual Ninja. (Just for the fun of it.)
Another analogy Jesus often used for spiritual growth is from a seed to a fruitful tree. In this analogy, we can compare the cycle of spiritual growth to tree rings. Do you know that each ring of a tree can tell you not only the cycle of the growth but also the condition of growth?
Each tree ring has information about the weather condition and other data of the environment of that cycle. It means each cycle is unique. If a ring is thin and tight, it means the tree had been through rough weather. If it is thick and smooth, it had been through the fair weather.
A tree ring expert can look at the ring and tell the story of that year. Do you know how old the oldest tree in the world is? The world’s oldest living tree is 9550 years old, discovered in Sweden. The rings of that tree can tell us a lot of stories. Of course, I hope we never have to cut it down.
Your life story is also stored in your cycle of growth. Sometimes rough and sometimes smooth, but every cycle is a blessing.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:10)
Notice the reward: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Does it sound familiar? It is the same reward as the first blessing,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:3).
What is the kingdom of heaven? Jesus had used many parables to describe the kingdom of heaven. One of them is like a merchant who has discovered the pearl of great price that he would sell everything to buy it. That means you become conscious of a treasure that is worth sacrificing everything because having it solves other problems. Jesus said,
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.” (Mat 6:33).
Being “persecuted” may make you “poor in spirit” again, which leads you to a higher level of Consciousness and takes you through a new cycle of spiritual growth. With each cycle, your light will shine brighter and broader.
Every step or every cycle is a blessing if you know how to appreciate it and endure it. With this, we finished the interpretation of the Eight Blessings known as the Beatitudes from Jesus’ famous Sermon On The Mount.
Review it frequently and live your life in the upward spiral of blessings. Amen!