Suffering as Godliness – 2 Timothy 3:10-12

In contrast to the false teachers, Paul lists his own suffering as an example of what will happen to anyone that wants to live a godly life (vv. 10-12).  This is somewhat surprising for contemporary Christians who are fed a steady diet of “health and wealth” gospel – if you are really spiritual and doing everything God requires, you will be blessed, you will be happy, healthy and wealthy.  That is the exact opposite of Paul’s point in this passage.  Paul knows that his Gospel is the truth because he has suffered physically as a result of his preaching of Jesus.

It might seem odd, but Paul recalls his first missionary journey as an example of his suffering. He specifically has in mind the persecution he faced in Asia Minor (Acts 14). In Antioch, Paul is opposed by Jews from the Synagogue, who follow him to Iconium to harass him. Paul was attacked in Lystra, stoned and left for dead (Acts 14). Perhaps these persecutions were chosen because he was “left for dead,” or perhaps this period continued to haunt him in his ministry for some time.

Honk for Jesus

While that physical attack was important, Paul has in mind the constant treat from the Jewish community throughout that first journey as well as the threats to his churches reflected in the book of Galatians.  The attack on Paul’s character reflected in Paul’s early letters may have been more painful than the physical pain he faced in Lystra.  It appears that some of Paul’s opponents described him as unqualified to preach the gospel (Gal 1) or worse, as a charlatan (1 Thess 2, for example).

A potential problem with this review of Paul’s ministry is that it all occurred on the first missionary journey, before Timothy began to travel with Paul (Acts 15). This is sometimes used to argue that the letter of 2 Timothy is a pious forgery.  The writer introduced a historical error by saying that Timothy witnessed these events himself.  On the other hand, Timothy was from Lystra himself and joined Paul mission with the full knowledge that Paul is often persecuted physically and opposed by very powerful people where ever he preaches the Gospel!

Paul states very clearly that everyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted . This is a common theme throughout the New Testament: Jesus was persecuted and so too will his followers face similar trials.  Galatians 5:11 indicates that Paul was persecuted because he was preaching that the Gentiles were not under the Law.  The immediate background is his troubles in Asia Minor to which he alludes here in 2 Timothy (cf. Rom 8:35, 1 Cor 4:12, 2 Cor 4:9, 12:10, Gal 4:29, 5:11, 2 Thess 1:4).

If Timothy’s desire is to live a godly life, he will in fact face some sort of trial or  persecution.  Paul knows that Timothy is at the moment facing a difficult time because of the false teachers in Ephesus, even if that has not developed into a physical persecution at this point. This text is clear that the one who is “in Christ” will suffer like Christ.  Perhaps this is an indication that the opponents in Ephesus are not really “in Christ,” they simply do not suffer!

Imagine what would happen in Evangelical Christianity if people really believed that they should suffer for Jesus rather than expecting to be wealthy because of their faith. When was the last time you took a rock to the head because of your faith in Jesus?

9 thoughts on “Suffering as Godliness – 2 Timothy 3:10-12

  1. If people really believed that they should suffer like this for Jesus, this world would be a different place. I think that there would be a whole lot more people out in other countries and even out in the U.S. reaching out to others and helping to reach all people with the Gospel. I think that it would be a better place to be in, because more people might be reaching out to others to share their faith with them, on the other hand, it could totally close people off because they do not want to suffer.

  2. I’d like to comment on the health and wealth aspect of this post. I think one of the basic human desires is to have a better life and be successful and prosperous. With that being an innate desire of the human, people search religion to find out a new way to have a better life. Indeed, those who put their faith in Christ have a better life, and an eternal one for that matter, but so many people make the misunderstanding that life will get easier when you become a Christian. In some aspects, this is true. We have a God that we can cast our burdens and cares upon and He will listen and guide us. However, struggles and pain doesn’t magically disappear. In many cases, life will carry more challenges as a Christian and there will be persecution. The gospel is encouraging in that when persecution happens, we have a hope and peace to rely upon and be grounded in. The heath and wealth gospel is deceiving because it remains in a temporal perspective of wealth and health holding great value. It is deceiving because it makes our faith surrounded by health and wealth and makes one come to the conclusion that our health and wealth is dependent on faith. I think we have to analyze our prayers and ask ourselves what we are really praying for. Are we actually praying for God’s will to be done or are we praying for temporary things that don’t last? We have to have an eternal perspective. It can be a scary prayer to pray for God’s will to be done, because that might include refining times or trials to get through with God or relying on Him when we stand up for our faith. Not a lot of the time do Christians know what they are “getting into” when they decide to follow Jesus. Timothy knew, and He still committed himself to Christ. I like how the writer mentioned the faithfulness of God in verse 11, because it shows that even when we are persecuted, God remains faithful.

  3. I think that because of the culture that we live in, we think that being prosecuted should not be a common issue. I think that being prosecuted shows a lot of what our faith is built on. If you are announcing your faith than people are not always going to agree with you on everything. If you are making it well know that you are following Jesus Christ some people might hate you for that. We should not being holding back our faith just because we are afraid people are going to hate us. We live in a very people pleasing culture and that can be damaging in our faith. We are not living this life to please the people around us, we should be pleasing the Lord. I agree with Rachel when she says that this post is more of a wellness aspect. We try to live a life that is filled with being successful and being well off, but that is not always the case. We have to live uncomfortably in order to live in the faith of God. We have to live in our toes because we never know what will come our way. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

  4. I am a little confused on why Paul does not Bible’s point when it comes to suffering and being Godly because it seems as though he is pretty accurate with a lot of other areas. Is it because Paul’s view on living Godly was skewed when he was tortured by the Jews? It could be a sort of own personal anger in Paul that is leading him to the point he shares with the people. It makes me feel a little hesitant in believing in a man such as Paul when his personal opinions can be a factor in what he is teaching when it comes to the church. I think it shows so much respect and faith in Timothy when he goes along the journey with Paul knowing that he is almost guaranteed to be persecuted at some point. He knows that he needs to be tested in that way in order to live out eternity with the Lord Himself.

  5. Paul suffered often and for a long time for Christ. Beaten and imprisoned in the name of the Lord; preaching the Good News. Since Paul was persecuted and suffered for Christ, it is a big part of his testimony. He has witnessed how God has used his story to better the kingdom of God. To me, it makes sense, why then Paul would think that anyone who is pursuing a deep relationship with Christ would suffer. In our society, it is evident that throwing rocks at one another is not tolerated. Not to say it isn’t happening in other countries, but generally, you do not witness it happening in the United States. I think today’s society is more persecuted with the tongue. If you are living a life of Christ and people are noticing and asking questions, you better bet, that people are going to watch you. And once you are watched and you make a mistake, more than likely, you will hear about it and be ridiculed. Would Paul consider that our persecution? There are still people being put in prison because they are proclaiming the Lord’s name to a broken part of the world. That is Paul’s definition of persecution. Would the definition change person to person or would Paul tell us that most of us are falling short in living for Christ?

  6. We as Christians, and our being in a first world country, bring us to always think that nothing bad should happen to us because we are God’s children. When in reality we challenged the most because each of us has a calling and Satan does not want us to fulfill that calling. Paul knows this first hand. “Paul knows that his Gospel is the truth because he has suffered physically as a result of his preaching of Jesus” (P. Long, Blog). We are to live for God and in that we need to realize and understand that we will be persecuted. Especially since out Lord was persecuted. “Jesus was persecuted and so too will his followers face similar trials” (P. Long). We are called to a life in Christ and that life does not entail a life of easy going. It involves being able to overcome what God gives us as He does not give us more than we can handle as it states in 1 Corinthians 10:13. Paul and Timothy want us to understand this and respect the fact that our Christian lives will come with hardships. “What is true for Paul is true for all who seek “to live a godly life in Christ Jesus” – they “will be persecuted” (TTP, 287).

  7. I think that this suffering as godliness should not come as a surprise or a new idea to the evangelical church of Christians. If we want to be Christ like, because we are in fact made in the image of God, then have to expect to suffer at some point in our lives. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, suffering is apart of our lives as 2Timothy 1:8 states, we should suffer for the gospel.

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