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Suffering Is Part Of The Normal Christian Life

2 Timothy 3:10-13
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings – what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (NIVUK)

It seems wrong that godly people are persecuted while the ungodly seem to flourish (Jeremiah 12:1).  It is wrong!  But when Jesus returns, everybody will have to account for their sin (Revelation 20:13).  Until then, Christians will continue to live in a world which is opposed to Jesus.  Paul was a great personal example to Timothy, and to us.  Wonderfully, during his ministry, Paul’s life was protected despite riots, beatings and imprisonments (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).  He had not been killed, as his persecutors hoped, but was preserved alive for more ministries elsewhere, and to encourage many Christians who also suffered under persecution (Philippians 2:30).

When Paul taught the truth from God, he encountered opposition from people who believed lies.  But he did not stop saying what was true through fear of suffering.  In his own home town of Lystra, Timothy would have seen how the Lord saved Paul despite violent opposition (Acts 14:19-20).  The Lord made a way, each time, for him to continue his God-appointed ministry …. even through his first imperial trial … even though all the other believers deserted him … the Lord stood at his side and rescued him from being thrown to the lions (2 Timothy 4:17).  
Paul asked Timothy to accept that suffering would be part of the experience for everybody who is serious about following and proclaiming Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3-4).  The church in Ephesus needed to understand that too (Ephesians 3:13).  The real church is no place for ‘fair-weather’ disciples, because the gospel proclamation excites real opposition from the people who most need the message.  Because the gospel is God’s tool to release people from the grip of evil, the church must not hide, and believers must continue to proclaim Christ.  However, as they do, they will be persecuted.  But if they don’t speak the truth, the wicked will not hear how to be saved (Romans 10:13-15).
Yes, it does seems unfair to be badly treated when trying to live a godly life, and share the gospel.  But it is no more unfair than when Jesus was crucified.  As Hebrews 12:3 says, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”   We must not lose heart, change our doctrine or way of life to fit in with the wickedness around us.  Instead we must accept that suffering is normal (Philippians 1:29), and is perpetrated by the people who most need to hear the gospel.  It is as true in your office, factory, shop or university as it is in the markets and prisons.  So do not be ashamed of Jesus (Luke 9:26); you may suffer but others will be saved.  Invest your life well!

Suffering Saviour. Thank You for dying for me. I am sorry when I have been unwilling to suffer and have failed to live and speak in praise of You. Please help me to see that my witness is important to the people in the world around me, despite whatever suffering may come. May I take the Apostle Paul’s example seriously as a model for my own life and expect that You will rescue me so that the suffering does not overwhelm me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams