“I was ready for it.”
A member of my staff team witnessed a congregant verbally attacking me (calmly, at least) over how much they disagreed with a philosophical decision I’d made.
My team member remarked, “I wish you didn’t have to deal with that.” And I responded, “But I was ready for it.”
It was a moment of coaching for the team member and serves as a reminder to me: whether we are in a congregational leadership role or not, we should always be ready for attacks. We don’t call it “spiritual warfare” for nothing.
In many ways, the Apostle Paul is reminding his protégé Timothy of the same things: be ready for attacks, great and small.
He pens in 2 Timothy 3:12-13:
12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.2 Timothy 3:12-13
New International Version
In verse 12, Paul is widening the gaze of Timothy away from Paul and towards the general experience by the disciples of Jesus. In writing the Greek word translated “everyone”, Paul isn’t implying everyone without exception, but rather he is making a generalized statement of expectation.
In other words, Paul is writing that Christians should expect persecution.
So, what is Paul inviting Timothy to do?
Suffer for Jesus.
What is Paul inviting us to do?
Suffer for Jesus.
Go back and read those two lines again.
We may not like it—and I supposed we won’t—but we should certainly not be surprised. Timothy witnessed Paul’s persecution firsthand. Undoubtedly, Timothy was dealing with some himself. Christianity is marked historically with persecution.
And the persecution should be expected. Paul is telling young Timothy to embrace it!
Lest we think Paul and Timothy were isolated in persecution, consider these Scripture passages.
- 1 John 3:13 – “Do not be surprised, by brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.”
- 1 Peter 4:12 – “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
- Romans 12:14 – “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
- John 15:18-20 (Jesus speaking) – “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”
The persecution we may face might vary greatly from culture to culture and time period to time period, but the faithful will always be persecuted.
And, my dear reader, there are times it won’t be over something as trivial as a philosophical disagreement. It may be much, much worse.
Weekly in the worship service in the congregation I lead, we pray for persecuted Christians. It important for us in the Western world to remember our brothers and sisters who face prison and death for the name of Christ.
Yet, we do not pity them. Instead, we praise God for the power of their testimony.
It’s in our suffering for Jesus where the purity of our childlike faith becomes its most potent.
Embrace it. Don’t fear it. The Lord is your shield. And even if we should die, we die for our King—the One who redeemed us from the pit of Hell.
It’s not a shame; it’s an honor.