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In recognition of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, this sermon was given based on 2 Timothy 3:12, "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." The message emphasizes the fact that suffering for the name of Christ was a normal expectation for first century Christians and for thousands or millions of Christians today.
What is normal? Someone said, “’Normal’ is the setting on your washing machine!” Some psychologists have promoted the idea that no one is “normal.” Every person has some psycho-social hang-ups, or personality quirks. I think this might be a definition we all can agree on: Normal is whatever I am; abnormal is whatever you are!
How do we apply the word “normal” to the Christian Life? What is normal for the Christian? I suppose we could develop another series of messages on this topic, couldn’t we? If we took a poll of all the Christians we know and asked them what the Christian life is normally like, we probably would get some very interesting responses.
Among all of the different answers we could provide for what a “normal Christian life” involves, there is one answer provided for us in the Bible. It is normal for Christians to face opposition from the enemies of Christ.
Today, as we give recognition to the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, I wanted to take this opportunity to briefly look at some of the passages in the Bible which describe persecution as a normal part of being a Christian.
In Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy he literally states, “all who will live godly shall suffer persecution.”
With the help of God’s Spirit, I want to speak about the conditions that foster persecution; the Christian expectation of persecution; and the preparation to overcome persecution.
The Conditions that foster persecution:
2 Tim. 3:1-9
This section of chapter three the Apostle Paul describes the conditions of the “last days” and “perilous times.”
For a long time, people have debated about what exactly Paul means by the term “last days.” Some believe it is referring to the end of time, while others point out that biblical writers (Hebrews for example), considered their own era as the “last days.”
“God has, in these last days, spoken unto us by His Son.” (Heb. 1:2)
My purpose today is not to discuss the exact period of time Paul is describing, but to simply point out the kind of time he is describing. It is a time when people have turned away from the truth in pursuit of all types of pleasure and self-gratification. Those conditions are ripe for evil to excel and righteousness to be attacked.
We have seen limited instances of people suffering legal attacks and even some physical attacks for their faith in this country. I believe with all my heart that if we do not experience a genuine revival and spiritual awakening in our country then we will witness a continuing rise of persecution that will progressively get more severe.
The Christian expectation of persecution:
2 Tim. 3:10-13
Paul clearly indicates that persecution is a normal expectation for the child of God living in a spiritually hostile world. Paul isn’t the only one that felt persecution was a normal part of the Christian’s life.
John 15:20 (NKJV) Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
Acts 14:21-22 (NKJV) And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."
1 Peter 4:12-13 (NKJV) Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
The Preparation to overcome persecution:
2 Tim. 3:14-17
It is not accidental that Paul emphasizes the value of Scripture in this context of suffering persecution in an environment of evil. It is as if he is blaring the truth out – the most reliable remedy against persecution is immersion in the Word of God.
Mark 4:16-17 (NKJV) These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness;  and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word's sake, immediately they stumble.
Contrast the condition of these represented in the parable with the people Paul is describing when he writes to the Corinthian believers.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NKJV) We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—
We need to be praying for our brothers and sisters who suffer for Christ.
We need to be preparing ourselves for the potential time we may also suffer for Christ. (Immerse ourselves in the Word of God.)
We must realize that no amount of persecution can separate us from the love of Christ.
Romans 8:35 (NKJV) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Our closing song asks a question: “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?”Am I prepared to fight the good fight of faith, recognizing that there are going to be hard battles and that it is not going to be easy? Am I prepared to endure hardship as a good Soldier and even suffer at the hands of those who hate our Lord? Neither Jesus nor the Apostles presented the gospel message and the Christian life as something that was going to be nice and easy, or a “bed of roses” as we sometimes say.