10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance,2 Timothy 3:10–12 (NAS)
11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!
12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
The concept of persecution, in my mind at least, involves the infliction of some form of pain after one is cornered or captured (v. 10-11), but persecution includes the pursuit as well (v. 12). That’s what the word means there. See below.
Strong’s Greek #1377–διώκω diōkō; akin to a prim. vb. δίω diō (put to flight); to put to flight, pursue, by impl. to persecute.
It is also used by Jesus in his question to Paul (then Saul) as he was relentlessly pursuing Christians in Damascus.
And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,Acts 9:4–5
So, the word is often used for being on the run for the cause of Christ. This fluid state was dramatically seen in Paul’s first missionary tour.
Therefore, when we’re persecuted we don’t always stand up and fight, but we move on to greener unmolested pastures for the cause of the gospel. Jesus did until he set his eyes on the cross. The disciples were told by the Lord to dust off their feet and move on when rebuffed. We remember also Jesus was pursued by the Pharisees to the end and Paul the Jews in city after city.
But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.Acts 13:50–51
2 Timothy 3 then seems to suggest that we remain viable by dancing and dodging evil in the ring until “the jig is up.” In other words, it’s realized that we are part of the sect of people “turning the world upside down.”
Yes, the time will come when we speak the words the Lord puts into our mouths as we stand firmly with our backs squarely against the wall.
And like Stephen, our stance and message will have an impact on eternity, as did his testimony on a key witness to his sermon and stoning, who later became the most prolific author of the New Testament.
[Personal Note: In the late 1980s as a “rising star” in a large bank in Florida, I was called upstairs to the executive conference room. There I met the highest ranking lender in the system who had heard that in the classes I was holding with budding young lenders, too much “Christianity” was seeping out. In that conference room, just him and me, he said, “In the past I’ve rated you the highest I can, but this issue is the only blip on the radar. You need to leave your faith at the door.” I said without pondering what appeared to be obvious to me, “If I do that, I don’t come in.” Miraculously, I wasn’t ushered out that door that day. Years later I heard that this same man (6’3″, graduate of an elite college, tight end on the football team, and former Army captain) had gone to an evangelistic breakfast and accepted the Lord. Later, I found him totally out of banking and President and Chairman of the Board of one of the most prominent Christian ministries in the world. I don’t know if my stance provided authenticity to the gospel message, but it’s not often, I would imagine, you have a subordinate hold his ground under those circumstances, i.e., the threat of termination, and basically respond with a flat “no.” I would think it would leave a mark. It did on me.]