Persecution and tribulation were a sign or token that the disciples were on the right path.
And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me (Phil. 1:28-30).
This suffering was ‘given’ to these Christians. The Old Testament prophets were on the same pathway.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matt. 5:10-12).
The Corinthian’s salvation was made effectual by suffering the same suffering that Paul and Christ had suffered.
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation (2 Cor. 1:3-6).
The Greek word for ‘effectual’ is generally translated by the verb ‘to work.’ Their salvation is effectual or works by enduring the same suffering Paul was suffering. Paul said that the suffering of Christ abounded in him which is to say that Paul and the Corinthians were following in the same pathway Christ walked.
God calls men out of the world to walk in the same steps of suffering that Jesus suffered. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21).
The popular notion that Jesus suffered so that we don’t have to suffer is simply not according to the scriptures. He suffered so that we would follow his example. In fact, we are commanded to have a mind to suffer. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind” (1 Pet. 4:1-2).
The disciple is not above his master and must follow the same steps. “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).
This is a promise, and the Lord’s disciples must have a mind to endure as he suffered. This is a critical reason that many are not able to follow Christ. In the parable of the sower he describes the disciple who falls away.
But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended (Matt. 13:20-21).
He did not say ‘if’ tribulation or persecution arises, but ‘when’ it arises. This is the plan the Lord has for his children.