The Price We Pay

Bible Book: Matthew  5 : 11-12
Subject: Persecution; Commitment; Perseverence

Matthew 5:11-12 and Luke 21:10-13

There is a lot of evil in the world, but there is nothing new in that. As a matter of fact, the word evil” occurs 513 times in the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The Bible calls Satan the prince of this world, and he is well deserving of the title. Jesus, answering those religious fanatics whose hearts were filled with murderous intent: “You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars” (John 8:44, HCSB).

We love the Beatitudes of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, especially the first ones, but I wonder how many people really think the last one applies to them? Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:11-12).

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time reading, memorizing, quoting, and preaching from Psalm 23. Over the years, certain things have come to mind as I prepared a funeral sermon or a devotional from this great psalm. In the first place, the entire message of Psalm 23 is found in the first verse. Everything else is a commentary on that. David was inspired to write, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Again, everything else is a commentary on those words. David knew well the responsibilities and rewards of a good shepherd.

God first establishes a relationship with the sheep of His pasture. They recognize him, know his voice, trust him, and follow him. There are two things that stand out in that relationship: provisions and protection. He provides a relationship with the sheep. Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10) establishes a relationship with the sheep of His pasture. The good shepherd provides everything the sheep need to live, survive, and thrive. Jesus does that for His followers. The good shepherd protects his sheep, just as David protected his sheep with the rod and the staff, not to mention his sling. Jesus protects the sheep of His pasture in ways we cannot imagine.

We may make one of two mistakes here. First, we may assume that once we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior we should not expect anything bad to happen to us. Secondly, it is doubtful that many believers in America anticipate or expect persecution as a result of their faith in Jesus Christ. Sadly, many professing believers live such a worldly life that the world assumes they are of the world. They look like those of the world, they speak like those of the world, and some even smell like them.
But those who live a faithful and committed Christian life will pay a price in this world.

Now, I would like for us to look at three “P”s we can expect to see if we live a life that reflects the Light of the World in the world.


A. He Provides Us with a Personal Relationship with Him.

When you confess your sin and trust Jesus Christ for His great salvation you become a child of God and you are permitted to call your Creator your heavenly Father. The moment we believe in Him we enter a special relationship with the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

B. He Provides Us with Our Daily Bread.

James (1:17) assures us that every good and perfect gift is from above, meaning from God. In the Model Prayer, Jesus teaches us to give thanks to the heavenly Father for our daily bread. All believers need to stop and count our blessings from time to time. We should thank him for our daily bread, for safe drinking water, rain to produce crops, and the sun on which all crops depend. We should thank Him for the Sun, moon, and stars (if only for their beauty). Let me give you another reason for thanksgiving you may not have considered: gravity that holds you on this planet.

C. He Provides Us with a Guidance.

Guidance for the true believer is a special ministry of the Holy Spirit. He leads us, guides us, disciplines us, and motivates us, all of which lead to spiritual growth and maturity. The Holy Spirit inspired every verse of the Bible. Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).

D. He Provides Us with Instructions.

The Holy Spirit has miraculously preserved the Scripture, and He illuminates our hearts as we read it so we may understand how to apply it in everyday life. Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the ministry, that he should study the Word of God so that he would be equipped to lead a fruitful life (2 Tim. 2:15).

E. He Provides Us with Relationships.

The Lord offers all believers a special relationship with Himself, with the Holy Spirit, and with Jesus Christ: “The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:16-17, HCSB). It just doesn’t get any better than that! At the same time, the one who looks God in the face and says, “I don’t want you”, or “I don’t need you,” will pay the price for his arrogance forever. There is no sin that condemns the sinner more than that.

F. He Provides Us with Spiritual Food and Drink.

Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:48). He sustains life, nurtures and strengthens believers. Addressing the woman at the well, “Jesus said, ‘“Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

G. He Provides Us with Faith, Hope, and Love.

The Lord promises “faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). Faith is the godly faith wish He provides for all believers. Hope, far from wishful thinking, is a certainty: “I know in whom I have believed...” Love is the greatest gift of all; love for God and love for one another.

H. He Provides Us with His Grace.

1. He offers “overflowing grace” (2. Cor. 9:8).
2. He offers “surpassing grace” (2 Cor. 9:14).
3. He offers “sufficient grace” for all matters (2 Cor. 12:9).


A. He Protects Us from Satan.

The Scripture warns, “Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your brothers in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

B. He Protects Us from the World.

The world about which we are warned is not the physical planet on which we live, but the fallen, sinful world that honors Satan, the prince of this world, the roaring lion of whom we are warned.

C. He Protects Us from Ourselves.

1. He protects us from our own ignorance.
2. He protects us from our enthusiasm.
3. He protects us from our imagination.
4. He protects us from our own conclusions.


A. Persecution Is Assured in This World

1. If we are different from the world we will be persecuted.
2. If we confront the world we will be persecuted.
3. If we live for Christ we will be persecuted.
4. If we do not please the world it will persecute us.
5. If we do not please Satan he will see that we are persecuted.

B. Fox’s Book of Martyrs Chronicles the Martyrdom of Saints.

1. Stephen was stone for his faith.
2. James was killed at the orders of Herod in A. D. 44.
3. Peter and Paul were martyred in Nero’s persecution.
4. John was a martyr. Fox writes that John founded the seven churches of Revelation to which Jesus sent letters. Fox also noted that John was boiled in oil and then sent to Patmos, but that he was the only apostle who was not martyred. It seem more likely that he was exiled to Patmos and then boiled in oil.
5. Polyarp is one of the great examples of martyrdom.
6. Countless martyrs were slaughtered for their faith in the Lord. One of the most amazing stories has to do with two soldiers who moved to commit themselves to Jesus Christ after serving as guards while a martyr was being beheaded, and they themselves became martyrs for their faith.

C. America May Face Persecution That We Cannot Imagine.

1. America was founded on Christian principles. The Founders were very specific about that, even to the point of stating that this country was founded on the Bible and Protestant Christian principles. The heart of the First Great Awakening was the message by John Wesley and George Whitefield: “Ye must be born again.” Early laws were based on the Bible. David Barton tells us that in the early days of this country a congressman might ask for permission to speak, and when recognized he might say, “Let me read you something I read in the Bible last night,” and he would read a passage. Another lawmaker might then say, “If that is in the Bible it should be included in our laws. I make a motion that we make that a part of our laws in America.” Again, I believe it was David Barton who said that a court had to rule on charges that a man had used God’s name in vain when he used the word meaning to condemn someone in a profane way. The court ruled that only God can damn anyone, therefore, to use that term as he had was indeed using God’s name in vain. The man was fined.

2. America has moved away from God and His word. Francis Schaeffer wrote that England entered the post-Christian era in their history in 1895 and America in 1935. In both cases, the date he used followed a major push by evolutionists to sell citizens on the idea that evolution was science and the Bible a myth.

I spent an hour with Ken Ham once when we both arrived for a pastors conference early. I had been following his work and recognized him from his picture when he was associated with the Institute for Creation Research. He wanted to feel me out about how I thought his message would be received by Louisiana Baptist Convention pastors. I assured him that those who would be there to hear him would love what he had to say, and those who would not agree would show up that evening for the convention. In a presentation I later saw on a DVD or tape, Ken Ham said that he had suggested to children when they heard someone teach that the world came into existence by accident and that man had evolved over billions of years from some mass that washed up on a shore, that they might raise their hand and say, “Sir, were you there?” The point is that the one who gave us the Creation account in the first chapter of Genesis was there.

3. America is moving toward the world view on everything. My son John, a Christian attorney in Monroe, Louisiana, sent me an Internet site where I could read a sermon by a Baptist pastor, who obviously had either left the Southern Baptist denomination, or simply chosen a more liberal Baptist group. This pastor stated that schools are for teaching English, Math, and History, and not for teaching about God. He asked, “If you want to put God in school, which God would you want in the school? That statement makes about as much sense as the response of my Systematic Theology professor when he expressed his approval of the Supreme Court’s ruling that took the prayer out of public schools. I am sure he agreed with them when they took the Bible out of public schools. William Bennett wrote a book that focused on the change in the moral index of America that showed a marked increase in moral sins following those rulings.

The pastor I mentioned earlier asked which God we would want to put in schools. Do you think any of the Founding Fathers would have asked such a ridiculous question as that? What God would George Washington want in our schools? How about Thomas Jefferson? What God do you think James Madison wanted in public places? What about John Adams? Abraham Lincoln? How about Ronald Reagan. The only problem with Reagan was that laws had already been change to try to keep God out of public schools. Those laws not only keep teachers from talking about God, they have Christians across the country saying the same thing that pastor said.

No, I do not want Islam taught in our schools. Nor to I like what I hear is being taught in some schools: that Allah is God Almighty. That statement has the breath of the devil on it. When people, ignorant of God and the Bible, but well educated in evolution, drove the Bible out of our schools and allowed satanic lies to be taught across America in public school classrooms, they gave us a culture that is anti-God, anti-Scripture, and anti-Christian. We are reaping the harvest of that today.

Perhaps you have seen the reports that someone has proposed revising the Constitution of the United States and the Bible. Both, he believes, are either out of date or corrupt. He, apparently, is not alone, for one man has proposed a Queen James version of the Bible.

4. The church has moved toward the world. Those who remain true to the Word of God may be persecuted. Maybe we should state that in a stronger way: The church that does not compromise with the world will be persecuted by the world. The worldly church does not have to be too concerned. There is nothing the world likes more than a worldly church. There is nothing Satan loves more than a worldly church, for the simple reason that he is calling the plays in the world.

I don’t know how many times I have heard some singer say, “I got my start singing in the church choir.” Some of those singers sings the songs of the world, in places of the devil. If they glorify drinking, profanity, immorality, and lust, they are servants of the devil, not of the Lord. Sadly, too many church members are so compromised that they don’t stop to consider these things. How can Christians cheer for someone who sings of lust, drugs, and alcohol, and infidelity? How can Christians applaud those who use vile language in songs, call on people to harm others, or kill cops?

5. I have personally witnessed the influence of Christ in a public school. The Bible was read in many classes each morning and that was followed by prayer. The United States flag and the big picture of George Washington were prominently displayed. When the Baptist or Methodist church in town had a revival any student from the sixth grade up who had a note from home was permitted to walk down town and attend the morning service. We would hear a sermon about the Good Samaritan or something like that, but nothing doctrinally controversial.

One day, there was an announcement that the movie, The Greatest Story Ever Told, would be shown at a theater over twenty miles from our Sledge, Mississippi high school. I took my note and rode the bus to see the movie. All students were not Christians. Some were profane and immoral. Some were dishonest and loved off-color jokes. We witnessed jealousy, envy, and strife, but we sat under a number of godly teachers and administrators who placed great value in the Word of God.

On the first day of school my Junior year our English teacher, Miss Hicks, took the first half of that class to tell us how she spent her summer. She had gone to Ridgecrest, North Carolina for Youth Week at the Southern Baptist Conference Center. The theme for the week, she told us, was God Has a Plan, a Place, and a Purpose for every life. She talked with us about that theme, with no effort to persuade anyone to choose between churches in the area or even to “make a public profession of faith.” I don’t know but one person who was greatly moved by what Miss Hicks shared with us that day, and a few months later she invited him to be one of three students she invited to go to Youth Week at Ridgecrest the following June. That was an unforgettable experience for that student. I should know because I was that student.

One day at school, my principal and baseball coach asked me if I had seen anyone in the dressing room when I went in to dress so I could drive my bus to take students on my route home. He said, “Someone stole some money from James Barlow’s billfold and he works hard for his money. I know you didn’t take it, but I was wondering if you saw anyone in the area at the time.”

On our Senior Trip, we went to New Orleans, Biloxi, and Gulf Port. One evening several of us boys were walking to the building where we were staying when some girls from another place began talking with our boys. I didn’t like the way the conversation was headed, so I walked on to the cottage and got ready for bed. In a little while there was a knock at the door and I opened it to find our Superintendent standing there. The principle from the other school had told him his girls had told him that boys from our school were responsible for the conversations between the students. He said, “I wanted to ask you what you saw because I know you will tell me the truth.” I didn’t have much to tell but I did say that our boys did not initiate they contact. Why did both the principle and the superintendent come to me with their questions? It was the God issue. In a public school. I still cannot see that God was a threat to the students or teachers.

6. If we repent we may avoid persecution. We must repent if we are going to ask the Lord to bless us. Some American Christians are turning His house of worship into a playhouse for devil, and I don’t mean vile, evils sins. I mean that we are compromising on moral and social issues, like alcohol, entertainment, and all sorts of social issues. We pray, “lead us not into temptation” and some dress to tempt, and in a manner that honors the prince of this world and dishonors the Creator of this world. Some couples may profess to be Christians, but live together without being married, attend Sunday School together and then go to the worship service without ever hearing that there is anything wrong with the way they live. Some worship services feature the world’s music and take young people to places that are worldly. As long as they can report a growth in the group they interpret that as God’s approval, not understanding that the world will be drawn even to a church if that church or church group is worldly.

7. There seems to be a falling away from the Lord today. You can tell from the language, the entertainment, the money spent on recreation, the conversations about the interests of members that the church has failed America. Here is a test for you: Just what does it take to get you to miss Sunday School and worship services? A trip to the Mall? Baseball of soccer practice? A movie? An out of town football game? A visit to grandma’s house? There has been a falling away from the Lord and from His church for some time. The question is, is there any hope.

8. There is an answer. Someone asked me what it would take to bring Christians back to the Lord. I believe I do have an answer. Persecution. That’s right. I do believe it may take persecution to bring the nucleus of the church back to the cross, back to the church, back to the Word of God, back to the point that we will see a core of believers who are committed to the will of God, regardless of the price.


I began by mentioning some of the martyrs mentioned by John Fox back in the Middle Ages. Let me stress, that I don’t want to go through a persecution. I read about persecution in the Middle East, in the Far East, in Africa, and other places. Persecution, a serious persecution, probably would not add numbers to small, middle, large, or mega-churches. But it would bring together a nucleus of believers whose prayers could move mountains, even in our day.

The question is, where would a persecution leave many of our church members? This is a question a lot of church members really need to ask today. I attended a youth camp with a group of our young people a number of years ago and heard a very committed lady who had grown up in another country. She called herself a missionary to America. If we continue the push God out of the public arena, out of our schools, and even out of our church, will we see churches from other countries send missionaries to America? Or will our Lord return before that happens? I have no idea, but it breaks my heart to see America look God in the face and say with Judah, “We will not obey You!” (See Jeremiah).

Listen to these words from our Lord:

“Then He told them: “Nation will be raised up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. (11) There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven. (12) But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of My name. (13) It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness.” (Luke 21:10-13, HCSB).

Let me ask you something? What price would you pay to be the kind of witness Jesus was talking about here? I don’t know about you, but I would never ask to be persecuted in order to become a more effective witness for the Lord, but that would not be my choice. When I think of anything like that, I pray with John, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).