“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”
“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
(2 Timothy 3:1-5, 10-13 ESV)
Shortly before his death, in his 2nd letter to young Timothy, the Apostle Paul speaks of the terrible godlessness of the ‘last days’, encouraging the young pastor of the church at Ephesus to remain strong in the faith no matter what trials he might face. After speaking of his own suffering and persecution, he declares:
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (v. 12)
While we tend to focus on the ‘last days’ and it’s sinfulness, we often gloss over this short passage. Perhaps there a few significant points to ponder.
1. We are told that all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Not some, but ALL.
2. We are told that those who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted. We are not told those who actually life a godly life will be persecuted, but those who desireto do so willsuffer. Is that an indication that those whose desire is to live godly in fact live godly lives? Is it saying something about being able to appear to live godly without a genuine desire to do so, for whatever reason? Perhaps it’s both.
3. We are told that those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. That speaks to a genuinely godly life – in Christ Jesus – not a tawdry imitation born of selfish reasons. There seems to be noticeable difference between what’s real and what’s Memorex. It’s one thing to not be ‘one of the popular crowd’ because of proud, self-righteous behavior and quite another because your life gives off the aroma of Christ living in you. The former is deserved while the latter is the ‘smell of death’ to those that are perishing in their sin (2 Cor 2:16). The light of Christ always exposes darkness for what it is and convicts those in bondage to their sin, of their sin.
4. Finally we are told that those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. It’s not a ‘maybe’ thing. A godly life in Christ will always bring suffering and persecution. Call it a ‘natural’ outcome of a vibrant life in Christ. You don’t have to look for it and you won’t be able avoid it unless you are never seen in public.
So what are we to do?
First, realize that persecution from the world is a natural and inevitable consequence of your desire to live a godly life, for genuine desire will bear the fruit of godly living.
Secondly, when suffering and persecution comes at the hand of those who hate you because they hate Christ, follow Paul’s advice to young Timothy:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (Emphasis mine)(2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)
We ordinary folk might not be pastors or specially gifted evangelists, but we all have the ministry of evangelism – to present Christ to the lost world in which we live! And when real p[persecution comes (We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!) we will be able to say with Paul in prison:
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. . . .What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
(Philippians 1:12-13, 18 – 21 ESV)