Christians can go through the same hard times that unbelievers go through. In fact, sometimes we have it worse than the unbelievers in this life.
Our brothers and sisters early on in the Church of Christ experienced horrible things. They were beaten by the religious and thrown to the lions by the pagans. Our brothers have been persecuted, tortured and killed. In some parts of the world, this still happens.
I am very thankful for the freedom we still have in this country to follow Jesus without the fear of being tortured or martyred.
But I am concerned about some Christian's (including my own) desire to be persecuted for their faith in Christ. This is something I would constantly mull over before I surrendered to the grace of God. I would evaluate myself, my sincerity and my sins and believe that if only I could endure persecution, I would prove myself to be genuine. Then I would finally be free from the love of this world.
But something struck me - The early Church I read about in Acts didn't want to be persecuted and killed. They were so paranoid about Paul, they wouldn't let him around them after his conversion for fear that he was trying to trick them. They didn't enjoy being persecuted! They didn't go looking for it. It came to them.
In fact, Paul criticizes people who are into masochism and asceticism. He says they appear very spiritual with their self-made religion and harsh treatment of the body, but none of it has the ability to restrain the desires of the flesh.
The early Church didn't seek pain, it naturally came to them. They didn't evaluate themselves. They didn't evaluate their faith. They evaluated Jesus. They evaluated what he had done for them. They mulled over the wonderful truth that their sins were forgiven and that death and pain were nothing to be feared any longer. They understood that death is just a step through the veil where they would finally see clearly the face of their Creator.
They didn't look at pain or death. They looked to what lay ahead.