MY SON TIMOTHY, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
This is the Epistle we hear on the Sunday when we also hear the parable of the Tax-collector and the Pharisee. In that parable, the Pharisee boasts of being unlike many different sinners because he prays often, fasts twice a week, and donates 10% of all he has.
In the Epistle above, we hear another Pharisee boast about his accomplishments, his teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, etc. This Pharisee is the author of the Epistle, Saint Paul. Elsewhere, Paul says that he was one of the best Pharisees of his class. However, unlike the Pharisee in the Temple, Saint Paul also boasts of things like his persecutions and sufferings.
Who, in their right mind, would boast of those? Well, people who endure them for the glory of the Lord and His Gospel. Paul even specifies, "All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Everyone who desires to follow Christ is almost guaranteed some sort of persecution. Knowing this, are we ready? Are we on board with being persecuted? If not, why are even in church?
The fact of life is that we will suffer through something at least once in our life. Why not suffer for Christ, and with Christ then? Saint Paul says that the Lord rescued him from all of his persecutions. And the Lord will do the same to us, if we go through this life of joy and suffering with faith.
I do not mean for any of this to sound easy because it is not easy. No suffering, ever, is easy. No persecution is enjoyable. But I find comfort in at least one thing - our God knows suffering, He has endured persecution. What other god can claim that? What other god can say that he knows what we are going through? Our God can, by virtue of the incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, when the Son of God become a human being like us. God doesn't just know suffering in theory, He experienced it. That's why He can rescue us from all sorts of persecutions and suffering.
Think about it also in this way - by suffering we are identifying with God. Right? He became a human being to identify with us, and suffered. Now we suffer to identify with Him, and be rescued.
It's not easy. But then again, what is?
To read notes on the same Epistle from the previous year, click here.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest