The following is an excerpt from our new 7-day devotional, ‘Blessed Are The Persecuted’. Sign up to receive your free copy at the bottom of this page.
“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. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
– 2 Timothy 3:12-17
Verse 17 must be one of the most famous verses in the Bible. Paul speaks to the power of Scripture to encourage, correct, and train believers. But few of us would be aware that the context of this profound reflection on Scripture is preparing for persecution.
In 2 Timothy, Paul writes to his friend and disciple, Timothy, who was pastoring a church in Ephesus. In this part of the letter, Paul reflects on his own suffering and the persecution he has faced for his decision to follow Jesus. He has been arrested, shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned, and stoned, all because of his faith. Every one of Jesus’ apostles faced immense persecution for their faith, including Paul. But then, in verse 12, he takes it one step further, asserting that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. It is not an ‘if’ or a ‘maybe.,’ it is definite. He is telling Timothy to expect suffering to come to him and the Ephesian church, as a guaranteed consequence of following Jesus.
So, if Timothy, and the church, are to expect persecution, how does Paul recommend they prepare for it? Here, Paul does not encourage Timothy to fear persecution or run away, but to turn his attention to God’s all-surpassing provision for his every spiritual need. Like a tree with deep roots can withstand harsh winds and heavy rainstorms, so can a believer face all kinds of suffering if their roots are deep in the character of God as revealed to us through Scripture. The best way to respond to persecution is to lean into the truth and love of God.
We can also take this as an encouragement here in the 21st Century. Whether we are currently facing persecution for our faith or facing it in the future, followers of Jesus can be sure that the Word of God is sufficient to equip us for every good work. We can dig our roots deep into the character of God and see his provision for people who have walked through what we are facing.