Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
Slander is no stranger to the servant of God. At times, it is even needed for God to accomplish what He wills in us. For Christ Himself “made himself of no reputation'” (Philippians 2:7). We are so concerned about reputation, yet Christ ought to be our example. “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).
At times, it is necessary to be humbled to grow in God’s grace. To expand us, He must bring us lower and lower. John the Baptist said it best, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). This is a great paradigm of spirituality. Men are always searching for and striving for greatness, yet the words of our Lord echo back, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11), “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” (Mark 10:44).
Throughout my years of ministry, the testimony of Charles H. Spurgeon has been a great comfort and encouragement to me. He has become my counselor, though removed by over a century. I doubt there ever was a preacher who experienced more vicious public slander than he. He struggled with depression from early on in his ministry. He had Matthew 5:11-12 hanging on the wall by his bed to remind himself every day that he was in good company.
The following is an illustration that Spurgeon shared in his autobiography “C. H. Spurgeon, The Early Years.”
“I read the other day of a traveler in Africa who learned by this experience. Certain men were pulling his boat up the river, and as the rope tailed along, it disturbed a bee’s nest, and in a moment, the bees were upon him and his cabin. He said that he was stung in the face, the hands, and the eyes. He was all over a mass of fire, and to escape from his assailants he plunged into the river, but they persecuted him still; attacking his head whenever it emerged from the water. After what he suffered from them, he said he would soon[er] meet two lions at once, or a whole herd of buffaloes than to ever be attacked by bees again. So that the simile is a very striking one. A company of mean-spirited, wicked men are no bigger than bees, mentally or spiritually. They can get together and sting a good man in a thousand places until he is well-nigh maddened by their scorn, their ridicule, their slander, and their mis-representation. Their very littleness gives them the power to wound with impunity. Such has been the experience of some of us, especially in days now happily past. For one, I could say, I grew inert to falsehood and spite. The stings at last caused me no more pain than if I had been made of iron. But at first they were goading enough. Do not be surprised, dear friends, if you have the same experience. And if it comes, count it no strange thing. For in this way, the saints have been treated in all time. Thank God the wounds are not fatal, nor of long continuance. Time brings ease and use creates hearty-hood. No real harm has come to any of us who have run the gauntlet of abuse, not even a bruise remains.”
Paul was attacked while under house arrest in Rome. People were preaching the gospel for the purpose of hurting Paul. “The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds” (Philippians 1:16). Here were people doing ministry out of spite for Paul, yet his response was a wonderful, Spirit-filled one: “Whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (1 Peter 4:16).
“Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” (1 Peter 4:19).
So rejoice, and be exceeding glad! What better way to “decrease,” and to grow in meekness, than to patiently take the wrong that is done to you, drawing ever closer to your Saviour for comfort as you choose not to retaliate or run to your own defense? Great is your reward in heaven, and you are in good fellowship as you travel through your God-appointed valleys.