You are getting a Black Belt and have become a spiritual warrior after this step. If you have followed the series and practiced the steps to heaven on earth, you are at the highest point of spiritual fitness: Enlightenment, which we discussed last week.
However, Enlightenment is not the final step to spiritual maturity. You need one more step beyond Enlightenment: Endurance. The reason is we live in a world of darkness, and when you shine your light in the dark, you disturb the evil force, and it will try to take put you out. An enlightened person is a threat to this dark society.
For example, Abraham Lincoln shined his bright light on the darkness of his days, and he was assassinated. Marti Luther King, Jr. shined his bright light into the darkness of injustice, and he was murdered. Jesus Christ, the light of the world, was crucified. There are uncountable examples like that in human history. Jesus said,
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” (Lk 13:34).
A prophet is someone who enlightens the society of their time. They are what Jesus called “peacemakers.” If a holy place like Jerusalem cannot contain the prophets, don’t expect the rest of the world to be better.
I don’t mean every peacemaker will have the same fate as the above-mentioned saints and prophets. I am just highlighting some extreme cases to demonstrate the nature of the beast. You must be aware that this dark world does not welcome your light. The path after enlightenment is as rough as the path before. That’s why Jesus said you must carry the cross “daily” to follow him.
If you want to have a comfortable life, go with the follow of the fallen world. It means that if you get up in the morning and find your life is running smoothly, you may be heading the wrong way. The brighter you shine, the more likely you are persecuted by the dark forces.
Jesus does not want us to be like a straw fire that flames out in a short moment, but he wants you to shine forever. He said,
“And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (Jn 15:16c).
To bear the lasting fruit means to shine your light for eternity. So, he offers us the blessing of Endurance. The good news is that his method of endurance is easy.
Before we continue, let us refresh our memory of the Eight Steps to Heaven on Earth. They form the acrostic CAREFREE:
Jesus has taught you a very simple way to sustain your success as a peacemaker. Let’s explore his secret of Endurance through today’s scripture lesson.
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper! You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
Today, we will focus on the eighth blessing in the Beatitudes. It’s from the Gospel According to Matthew 5:10-12. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
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).
[This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]
Unlike the previous seven blessings, where Jesus spoke only one verse for each of them, this last blessing has three verses. It signifies how important Endurance is. So, let us learn the secret of endurance based on these blessing. There are three simple 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 seemed unreasonable. They believed Jesus was mentally ill because of sayings like this—asking people to rejoice in persecution.
Who in the right mind would teach people to rejoice in persecution? It sounds masochism. Even some Christians do not understand these teachings and avoid reading or talking about them. Can you rejoice during adversity? Is it reasonable at all? Is it a mental illness 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 intention of the darkness that wants you to lose your joy. The moment you lose your joy, they win, and you lose. The first principle to win against evil is to rejoice.
Your joy could trigger their curiosity about 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. The psalmists encouraged you 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 voice 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 Reflect.
2 – Reflect
Jesus then says,
“… for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mat 5:12b).
The prophets are the peacemakers of their times. If they were persecuted, can you be an exception? There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to attacking godly people. They have done it in the past and will do so in the present and the future as well.
If you want to endure the persecution, you need to reflect on your motive. Why do you want to enlighten the world? Do you expect your enlightenment will give you positive returns on investment? If so, you will be greatly disappointed.
Many people believe in karma—what goes around comes around—and expect their good deeds would bring them equivalent returns. The concept of karma may encourage good deeds, but karma is simplistic and unrealistic. Here’s why. Confucius said,
“A good deed with an ulterior motive has an evil seed.” ~Confucius
You have an ulterior motive if you do good deeds for good karma. Your intention is no longer clean because your good deeds become transactional rather than transformational.
Instead, choose to do good with grace. Grace is good deeds without a motive, and it’s transformational. Grace is light. Enlightenment is all about receiving grace and giving grace. Your grace is what makes you a peacemaker.
You have heard that “no good deed goes unpunished.” That’s the reality of this fallen world. When you are punished for your good deed, your light is put to the test. It’s time for you to reflect on whether you shine your light out of grace or an ulterior motive.
Since the human mind tends to be transactional, your grace might dry out when you see what goes around does not come around. In that case, Jesus wants to remind you that you are not alone by reflecting on the prophets of the past to 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).
The word “endure” is mentioned three times in this passage. 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 adversity with the wisdom of the ages.
If you cannot rejoice in persecution, you need the third principle of Endurance:
Sometimes, adversity can shake you into a higher level of Consciousness and lead you to another cycle of growth. Remember that Consciousness is the first step to heaven on earth. It does not mean we start all over, but we go through a new upward cycle of growth to a higher level of spiritual maturity.
It’s like, after getting the first black belt in Karate, you enter the dan-level black belt. 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 of learning, you don’t go back to the original white belt.
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 growth but also the condition of growth?
Each tree ring has information about the weather condition and other environmental data 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 would tell us a lot of environmental 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 a pearl of great price that he would sell everything to buy it. That means you become conscious of a treasure worth sacrificing everything else 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).
Jesus revealed to us that the Kingdom of God is worth everything you have. It’s worth enduring the storms of adversity. With each cycle, your light will shine brighter and broader. You will discover that every step is a blessing.
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.
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.