OK, so 2 Timothy 3:12 is true, now what? What if we examine our life in light of this verse and see that we have no persecution? What do we do? I think you have three big options:
1) Justify your lack of persecution.
This can be done many ways. I mentioned a couple yesterday–You can say this was only true in Paul’s day or you can pretend that people treating you weird is persecution.
Some have even gone so far as to say there are two groups of people Paul is dealing with–the first group is the general mob of Christians and the second group are those who actually want to live godly. In other words, there are average Joe Christians and Superman Christians. Superman Christians can expect some kryptonite whereas average Joe Christians are off the hook. I find this to be ridiculous. All believers will have a desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, it’s kind of one of the main points of being saved.
In the end, you can justify your way out of this one all you want, I just wonder what God will say about your justification on Judgment Day. Whose word judges you: yours or God’s?
2) Go get persecuted.
This option seems logical. If all who live godly in Christ suffer persecution, then if I get persecution, I must be living godly. There are some who read this verse as a reason to go be a dork so that someone will hate them. Once they get their desired hatred, they call it a day, “Yup, I know I’m saved cuz I got persecuted.”
Seeking the end is not what Paul desires. Any old moron can get persecuted for any old reason. Every popular person has critics. Notice Paul never said, “All who are persecuted are living godly in Christ Jesus.”
3) Get a true desire to live godly in Christ Jesus.
The only proper application of this passage is to desire to live godly in Christ Jesus. If you do not currently have this desire, you may need to get saved first. Then you need to focus on Christ–That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.
This is where self-denial enters and the life of Christ takes over. Perhaps there’s some growing you need to do before anyone notices your desire to live godly. Paul doesn’t say “you will suffer persecution every minute of every day.” The persecution might be later, but if you have a desire to live godly, it will show up.
In the end, I really don’t think this is a verse you should freak yourself out about. I think this is a verse of consequences, not a verse of mode of operation.
The context shows this. Paul talks about the persecution he endured at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra and then goes into 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea and all who will live godly. . .”
Paul is not telling us to pursue persecution, he is telling us that this is the inevitable result of doing Christianity right.
Paul’s main point on Christian living is that it’s about the life of Christ, not you. Do this and the results will take care of themselves.