Let us never forget that all the saints, prophets, righteous, apostles, martyrs, and confessors did not enjoy comfort and prosperity, indulgence and pleasure, human honor and glory, but on the contrary, they experienced poverty and deprivation, pain and suffering, ridicule and debasement, torture and bitter death. In every time period, all the people of God who want to keep His commandments and live according to His will taste the demonic darts of jealousy and malice.
If you also desire to follow the Lord, you must keep in mind that you will face dangers, you will suffer persecution, and you will taste bitter poison. The wise Sirach clearly warns us: “My son, if you have decided to serve the Lord, prepare your soul for temptation” (Sirach 2:1). The Apostle Paul also makes the following unmistakable confirmation: “And all they who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). For this reason, when you do something good and you receive something bad in return, not only should you not be sad but you should also rejoice. Not only should you not be discouraged, but you should become more eager to execute good works. In this manner you will also be crowned with the incorrupt wreath of eternal life, just as Christ’s disciples were. Now they participate in His heavenly glory; whereas, while they were still on the earth, they experienced nothing other than persecution and sorrows. “For we have become a spectacle unto the world,” writes one of these apostles. “We hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are slapped, and we wander from place to place homeless…When we are reviled, we bless. When we are persecuted, we are patient. When we are defamed, we respond with love. We have become as the filth of the world” (1 Cor. 4:9-13).
Do you know who gives us this awe-inspiring description concerning the sufferings and the patience of the apostles? It is the apostle who suffered more than all the rest, the Job of the New Testament, the divine Saint Paul. From the day that Christ appeared to him up until the martyrdom with which he concluded his life, he knew nothing other than trials and sorrows. A short while prior to being apprehended, he said the following words to the presbyters of Ephesus: “At the instruction of the Holy Spirit, I go unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there. I only know this: In every city I go to, the Holy Spirit informs me that bonds and afflictions are in store for me.” (Acts 20:22-23).
“Well, since bonds and afflictions are waiting for you, then why are you going there?” we could ask the Apostle Paul. To this he would reply, “This is precisely why I am going there. So I can be apprehended and chained; in order to be imprisoned and accused—even to die for Christ.” “Hold on, Apostle! Aren’t you embarrassed to go all over the world bound as a criminal? When people see you in this state, aren’t you afraid they may attribute weakness to the God Whom you preach and thus not believe in Him?” Now the Apostle Paul will respond to us
with a verse from one of the epistles he wrote to the Philippians: “The things which happened unto me have actually turned out unto the furtherance of the gospel. So that my bonds in Christ have become evident in all the palace, and in all other places. And most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Ph. 1:12-14).
Do you see how the bonds have greater power than even the resurrection of the dead? He was tied and imprisoned in Rome, and yet he made most of its citizens become his followers. When he was tied and imprisoned in Jerusalem, he made the ruler Felix tremble with fear (cf. Acts 24:25) and king Agrippa stand in amazement (Acts 26:28). When he was in chains on the ship, he exercised control over the sea and calmed even the fierce storm, and thus he saved two hundred and seventy six people from certain death (Acts 27:1-44).