On his first missionary journey, Paul stopped at Lystra, a rural outpost in modern-day Turkey (Acts 14:8–20). Arriving in the city, he encountered a man who had been lame from birth. The Lord used him to heal this man, and this healing amazed the whole town. Paul and Barnabas had the chance to share the gospel with many who had never heard before. But, just when it looked like there was an open door for ministry, opponents arrived in the city and “stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city” (Acts. 14:19). Left for dead, Paul fled the next day.
Paul knew that being a faithful Christian did not mean victory after victory. In addition to seeing God work powerfully to change hearts and lives, he experienced beatings, harassment by the government, and trials of every kind. Writing from a Roman prison where he faced his impending death, Paul reminded Timothy of his experiences in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (v. 11). At each place he encountered fierce opposition.
Following Christ wasn’t going to get easier. Paul states bluntly, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (v. 12). We live in a fallen world full of sinful and broken people (v. 13). Of course, these are the very people who need to hear the message of the gospel. But we should not be surprised when that message sparks hostility. Paul encouraged Timothy to meet these trials, as he did, with “faith, patience, love” and most of all “endurance” (v. 10). Paul could look back and see how the “Lord rescued me from all of them” (v. 11). Paul didn’t mean that the Lord kept him from persecution, he was saying that the Lord had given him the power to faithfully endure.
>> When we pursue a faithful life we should expect opposition of some kind. Are we willing to endure insults, slights, or the condescension of others? The 20th-century martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us, “Suffering . . . is the badge of true discipleship.”
Thank the Lord in prayer for Paul’s example of perseverance in faith, patience, endurance, and willingness to suffer for Christ. Do we have faith and courage to follow this example?