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Blessed Are You When People Insult You

A worship service led by Darrell Delaney, and Nate Glasper Jr. on Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” We give special thanks to André Thomas for his contributions as a consulting director and his encouragement of our student musicians.

Blessed are You When People Insult You

Prelude: “Rising”
Music: Jordan VanHemert © 2021 Jordan VanHemert
Led by Lisa Sung, Greg Scheer, and Calvin University students

Song: “He is God” (Psalm 46)
Text and Music: Wayne Robinson © 2021 GIA Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved. A-703303.
Led by Nate Glasper Jr., Lisa Sung, and the Calvin University Gospel Choir with soloist, Satrina Reid

Call to Worship & God’s Greeting
Led by Todd Cioffi

Song: “Lord, Prepare Me”
Text and Music: Randy Scruggs and John W. Thompson © 1982 Whole Armor Music and Full Armor Music; arr. West Angeles Cogic Mass Choir ℗ 2007 Motown Gospel
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by Nate Glasper Jr., Lisa Sung, and the Calvin University Gospel Choir with soloist, Scotty Pearson

Song: “I Will Trust in the Lord”
Text and Music: traditional, PD; arr. Jefferson Cleveland © 1981 Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. A-703303.
Led by Nate Glasper Jr., Lisa Sung, and the Calvin University Gospel Choir

Prayer of Confession and Assurance of Pardon
Led by Lisa DeYoung

Song: “Amazing Grace”
Text: John Newton (1779), PD
Music: Virginia Harmony, 1831, PD
Led by the Calvin Prison Initiative Choir and Erinn Epp

Read or watch to learn more about the Calvin Prison Initiative.

Prayer of Illumination, Scripture Passage, Sermon, and Prayer of Application
Led by Darrell Delaney

Prayers of Intercession for Those Who Are Persecuted with “His Eye is On the Sparrow”
Text: Civilla D. Martin (1860-1948), PD
Music: Charles H. Gabriel (1865-1932), PD; arr. Horace Clarence Boyer (1935-2009) © 1982 Horace Clarence Boyer
All rights reserved. A-703303.
Led by Nate Glasper Jr., Lisa Sung, and the Calvin University Gospel Choir with soloists, Zoe Shumake and Shamara Tumblin, and liturgical dancers, Alia Johnson and Sara Brown

Led by Darrell Delaney

Song: “Total Praise”
Text and Music: Richard Lee Smallwood © 1998 T. Autumn Music
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by Nate Glasper Jr., Lisa Sung, and the Calvin University Gospel Choir

Sermon by Darrell Delaney

Darrell Delaney Good evening. I said, good evening! It is a pleasure to be with you here tonight to bring the Word of God. We are in this series on the Beatitudes. And tonight we're going to talk about “Blessed are those who are insulted and persecuted.” So, would you stand for the reading of God's Word in body or in spirit? And then I will pray, and then we’ll begin.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and say falsely all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” This is the word of the Lord. You may be seated.

Let's pray. Father God, in the name of Jesus, thank you for this day. Thank you for who you are and what you're doing in our lives. Thank you for the point you bring us in our walk with you. And we just want to acknowledge the fact that you are in complete control of every situation. You're not in heaven twiddling your thumbs, wondering what's going to happen next, but you know exactly what you are doing. You had a date on the calendar for this very moment. You're the author and the finisher of our faith and also the sustainer of it, and you're faithful to complete the work you started with us. So, Lord, we thank you for the opportunity to hear your Word tonight, to learn from your Word. May we be doers of the Word, not just deceiving ourselves by just hearing it, and may everything said and done be blessed tonight because your Spirit is here with us. In Christ we pray. Amen.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil falsely against you because of me.”

Matthew has a goal when he is writing this gospel message. His goal is to show that Christ is the Messiah that has been promised. And he shows that Christ has the Messiah's authority, not only in casting out demons, not only in raising from the dead, ultimately, not only in over teaching and healing bodies. He is the Messiah, and Matthew shows five different ways that Christ is who he says he is.

So if you don't remember anything I say from this point on, remember that God declares us blessed. Blessed are people who are happy, who are fortunate, who are to be envied because they are in a position that God has put them in. It is not a position that they can earn for themselves. It's not a position that they deserve, but it is a position of grace. And so this passage says, Blessed are you when. Not if. When you are persecuted, when people belie on you.

I don't know if you've ever been to college before, but there will be people who try to say things about you that are not true, whether it's with you here or virtually in your social spaces. How many have been lied on? How many have been falsified about? I have. People insult; people give you a hard time. It's not if; it's when. But it's in this condition that God says we're blessed, especially if it's for Christ’s sake. So if you're blessed, you're blessed because God says you are. And it's not because you are insulted because of something you did, because if you did something, then it's your fault. It's not a lie if you did it. But if you are insulted on the account of Christ, if you're trying to live your life the way God has called you to live it, then that means you are getting from people what you do not deserve. It's on account of him that we receive a hard time from people.

Persecution is not when somebody pulls into your parking spot, OK? Persecution is not when someone cuts you off on the street, or when you see you see your neighbor who has a political sign in their yard and you don't want to look at it. That's not persecution, people. Persecution is when you live your life for Jesus and someone says, “You're shining your light a little too brightly, and it's getting on my nerves.” And so if you shine your light at a hundred watts in your heart for Jesus and people around you are saying, “It's a little too bright; you need to bring it down to seventy-five watts or fifty watts so we can continue in the way that we're living,” they're asking you to compromise your faith, not to be so excited about the Lord Jesus. That is a form of persecution, and it could get extremely serious to the point of death. But I want you to know, he says, “Great is the reward. Rejoice in that situation because you're in good company, y’all. You actually have people who went before you who have endured this same thing.”

Now you're getting into what John—what was his name? John Lewis. Congressman John Lewis, bless his soul. He said “good trouble. If you get in good trouble, you're in good company because the prophets got themselves in some good trouble.” Now I want to be real with you. It doesn't feel good to be persecuted. If someone is smiling while they're being persecuted, you probably should pray for them. It's not fun. So it's OK to name that it hurts, that it makes you angry, that it makes you scared, that it makes you feel lonely. You can say, “God, this is no fun. It is bogus. It is not fair.” And you would be right, and you would be in good company because I think Jeremiah was saying some of that when he was in the muck and mire. I think Ezekiel was saying some of that. I think that Hosea was saying some of that when he had to continue to go back to his unfaithful wife. Jesus says the prophets before you were persecuted in the same way, so you are in good company.

Now, no one has found a way as a Christian to be 100 percent liked by everybody in the world and 100 percent obedient to Christ. No one has figured out this equation. There have been many who have tried, but the Lord said in the Bible that you cannot serve two masters. You will be loyal to one and disloyal to the other. So don't try to stress yourself out trying to get everybody to like you and follow Jesus. We’re just saying that we would obey. We just sang that we would trust. We just sang that we would say yes to his will. So let's live that, and if there is someone who says they figured it out, I don't need you to walk away from him; I need you to run. Run from them because there's some compromise somewhere in their lives.

But the thing that gets me most excited about this passage is because it's coming from someone who understands the situation of persecution. We hear and watch in a lie. We know Someone with a capital S who went through this. We know Someone who found out firsthand what it meant to be insulted. We know Someone who found out what it's like to be persecuted against. We know Someone who experienced what it meant to be lied on. Do we know Someone? Say yes if you know him. Do we know Someone who was rejected? We know Someone who was shunned and isolated and singled out. We know Someone who was bullied and had false charges put on him. We know Someone who was shackled. We know Someone who was beaten. We know Someone who carried a cross against his will. Say “Prove it.” Say “Prove it.” Isaiah 53, “He was despised and rejected by mankind. He was a man of suffering and familiar with pain like one from whom people hide their faces. He was despised, and we held him in low esteem. But surely he took up our pain and he bore our suffering. Yet we considered him to be stricken by God and punished by God. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquity.” And because of all of this, y’all—this is the best part—he has compassion on those who go through persecution all over the world because he bears the stripes of someone who understands. Jesus is the only one that can say, “I understand how you feel when people reject you because they rejected me.” I know he can give us the strength to endure hard times. He can give us the encouragement to go through these things. He gives us his approval—well done, my good and faithful servant—in the midst of it, not just when it's all done, but he also gives us victory in the midst of it. And that's why we are blessed, because we reject the world’s standards and we receive God's blessing of approval. It's not material things. It's not the shiny car and a new house. It's not the jewels or a renewed spousal relationship. It’s Jesus. He is the blessing that sits in the furnace of persecution with us, that sits on death row with the one who's waiting to get their head cut off for him. He's sitting there when the gun is in the face of the person who says, “I will not denounce him.” He is there when they are getting stoned and when they are getting beaten and when they're saying, “I will not reject Christ, even if it costs me my earthly life.”

So that is the Jesus we follow. We can keep the faith in this world, and the world will try to discourage us. But if we keep that standard of trusting him, even though we don't deserve what we are getting, even though there's a great reward later and we're in good company, and we understand Jesus went through it, this is why we understand that God declares us that we are blessed when we go through these things. If we hold on to our faith, people, and if we trust in him, even though it's hard, even though it hurts, we have a comforter in the middle of that, and we have someone who can walk with us and assure us that the victory, that the reward is him because we have not forsaken him for this world. “Anyone who saves their life will lose it, but anyone who loses their life for my sake will find it.” It is in his name that we preach. It is in his name that we share good news with everyone else. It is in his name that we live, move, and have our being. Amen. Amen.

Let us pray. Father God, in the name of Jesus, thank you for the opportunity to come here tonight to preach your Word. Thank you for the opportunity to point back to you. It's easy for us to look around at different circumstances or compare to other people and try to figure out why these things are happening to us. But what we really need to be doing is remembering the context of history when we go through hard times, and we pray for those around the world who are actually going through harder times, all because they said they love you and they won't give you up. Help us not to ever give you up, not to deny you. Forgive us for the times that we have. Let us be honest: we haven't always held the line. Forgive us and give us another chance. And thank you for the opportunity to remind us that you're here, and you're understanding, and you love us unconditionally. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Please join us in a time of intercession as we pray for those around the world who are being persecuted.