“God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God: the Kingdom of Heaven will be theirs! You will be blessed when people insult you, and 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.” Matthew 5:10-12
The Apostle Paul warns believers in 2 Timothy 3:12 (CEV) that, “Anyone who belongs to Christ Jesus and wants to live right will have trouble from others.” Three things believers should remember when they face opposition: (1) opposition can make me more like Jesus, (2) opposition will deepen my faith, and (3) opposition will give me eternal rewards. When believers face opposition, some things they can do include: (1) don’t be surprised, (2) don’t be afraid, (3) don’t be ashamed, (4) recognize the source, (5) refuse to retaliate, and (6) respond with a blessing. The 8th beatitude at the top of the page promises blessings for those who face opposition and are persecuted for their faith in Christ.
Open your group with a prayer. This is only a guide – select the points you want to discuss.
1. Read John 15:18-20 in your Bible and put it into your own words. How might opposition make believers more like Jesus?
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” John 3:19 (NASB)
2. Read John 3:19 above, which is in the account of Jesus speaking to Nicodemus at night. What – or Who – is the Light? Why did men love the darkness rather than the Light? What is God’s judgment of these people according to Jesus?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24 (NASB)
3. Discuss in your group how you feel about the persecution of Christians around the world. How have you or anyone close to you been impacted by disapproval or rejection because of your faith? Next read John 12:24 above and Matthew 5:10-12 at the top of the page. Discuss how these verses give you hope and help you more confidently and fearlessly proclaim your Christian faith as a result.
“We’re not fighting against human beings, but against wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly realm.” Ephesians 6:12 (TEV)
4. Ephesians 6:12 above teaches believers that our battle is not against flesh and blood – but rather against “spiritual forces in the heavenly realm!” How might this truth affect our compassion for – and witness to – people who oppose our faith?
“Stay away from stupid and senseless arguments. These only lead to trouble. God’s servants must never quarrel. (Instead) be kind to everyone… and be patient. Be humble when you correct people who oppose you…. They’ve been trapped by the devil, and he makes them obey him, but God may help them escape.” 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (CEV)
5. What can we learn from 2 Timothy 2:23-26 above about handling opposition to faith in Christ? How do these verses say we should witness to others, and how might this approach help those who are trapped by the devil?
6. Read Romans 12:17-19 in your Bible and discuss what these verses say about retaliation. Give real-life examples of how you might handle persecution based on Jesus’ example in 1 Peter 2:23 (NIV): “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”