«If we endure hardship, we will reign with him» (2 Timothy 2:12, NLT).
LET’S REVIEW the story of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, «father of the Christians in Asia.» According to Eusebius of Caesarea, the first historian of the early Christian church, Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John; and Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin, affirms he was appointed bishop by the beloved disciple himself. Hence, experts in the history of Christianity suggest Polycarp played a key role in the transition between the apostolic church and the post-apostolic church. Since he was a very influential and respected leader among believers in Asia, his fame roused resentment from both Jews and Gentiles.
It was precisely that resentment which unleashed a fierce persecution against him. Knowing his arrest was imminent, church members asked him to leave the city. However, it was no use, because a short time later, he was imprisoned and taken to Herod and Nicetes, who tried to persuade him by saying, «V’/hat harm is there in saying Caesar is Lord, and offering him incense, and saving thyself?» Polycarp’s reply was immortalized for posterity: «Fourscore and six years have I been His servant, and He hath done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?»‘ Soon after, he was burned alive.
In a time fraught with intolerance toward Christians, this humble elderly man considered himself worthy of suffering for Christ’s sake, because he knew that Christ had never failed him and that his own death would lend itself to continue to experience God’s faithfulness.
Many of us want to walk the path of Christianity without any setbacks, without pain, without conflict, without anything that requires sacrifice on our part. However, the truth is that we Will be joint heirs of God and Christ «if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together» (Romans 8:17). Polycarp knew there is no glory without suffering; there is no inheritance Without affliction; there is no victory without renunciation. Do we know that?
Maybe we are not being persecuted like Polycarp, and our lives may not be on the verge of being cut short because of our faith, but in our own way we can confirm the Lord has never failed us either.