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Matthew 5.10-11

As I write, I'm listening to a thing on BBC Radio 5 Live called, '606' which is a footie fans feedback thing. Some Premiership fans are complaining about the standard of refereeing... I saw Exeter City one week... the refereeing there was absolutely terrible. Imagine what it'd be like to be a referee - you'd have to learn to deal with abuse... same with anyone in the public domain - like team coaches, musicians, artists and so on.

So how well do you respond to criticism? What about when it's totally unfair and unjustified? What about if you've even been attacked? How far would you go in your faith?

Every year 10s of 1000s of Christians are killed or die for their faith. Yet other people are prepared to suffer for their beliefs, it's not just a Christian phenomena. For example in the 60s when the then USSR (Russia) banned The Beatles, people used to break their own limbs to smuggle in Beatles stuff! Weird or what!

1. Do you know of anyone who has had abuse or grief because of their faith? It may be you at school or college...

Doing some detached work the other week in an estate we had a couple of lads in their 20s getting threatening but we walked away. Other times I have had lads surround me in a school and other stuff. Generally though I've been OK.

2. Jesus seems to promise that as Christians we will get hassles. How does that make you feel? Why? How can you deal with the way you feel?

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3. Let's take a wee peek at 2 Corinthians 11.16-28 where Paul tells us about his sufferings. Read it through out loud.

Let's see what Paul went through... make a list:

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So we find that outside of Jesus, the greatest missionary faced a fair few problems. Not that we'll all face all or any of these. But you may and we need to be prepared.

4. So how do we get prepared?

When I read what happened to Paul - and more recently to the Chinese apostle, Brother Yun, I wonder how these guys went through all of this? What do you think?

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You know what, there's 2 things we can learn. First, God toughens us up to prepare us. Second, God gives us the grace and strength to deal with whatever we're going through. How would you cope if you came home from a wicked day out and found that your brother had been killed in a car crash while on his way to a holiday after serving God for a year? You know what? I dealt with that. How? Why? Because of God's grace, his Holy Spirit and the prayers of God's people. So get praying for your brothers and sisters who are doing the business for God... and for yourself.

5. So how do we deal with personal, biting, criticism? Let me warn you now - expect this from within the church as much as from outside the church. It's understandable if the world disrespects Christians, but your own Christian crew? Just be warned and bite your tongue. You reap what you sow.

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6. YOUR RESPONSE

How can we respond? How can we prepare? Well, let's learn from the Bible. Remember that many of the apostles and many Christians have their own struggles. We all do. Let's pray for each other. You know what? Many of the Christians in the persecuted church pray for Christians in the West to experience more persecution. Why? Because it often spreads the message of Jesus into new places and the Kingdom of God grow - it's happened a lot, like in China right now.

How can we respond? We have to get it straight that (a) this world is not our home and there is something way better for us with Jesus in heaven; and (b) we must put the Kingdom of God first in all things. This means that our things become secondary and this is what our priorities should be.

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