1 Peter 4:12-19
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
- Evaluate your Suffering
Since suffering is assured, we should make sure we are experiencing it for the right reasons. It is a sad but simple fact that some kinds of suffering do not bring the blessing and grace of God because some of our suffering is deserved. Verse 15 reminds us that some suffer as a result of their sinful behavior “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.” Some suffering is self-inflicted while other kinds can be forced upon us by other people. How many Christians are suffering as a result of wrong choices they have made in life? They may be miserable and moaning because God is allowing them to experience the natural consequences of careless choices. Some suffer because they are reaping in the present what they sowed in the past, Galatians 5:5-6. While others are experiencing pain because they are enduring the chastening and correction of God’s discipline as a resulting of unconfessed sins, Hebrews 12. These kinds of suffering do not qualify as spiritual suffering. Peter is also cautioning us to be careful about how we respond to right suffering. When you suffer unjustly, the flesh wants to strike back but Peter stressed that persecution is no excuse for lawlessness. In 3:9 Peter reminds us that to respond to suffering with retaliation is wrong, for instance confiscation of property is not to be compensated for by theft. Regardless of the trials Christians are to trust Christ and do nothing that would justify punishing them as criminals 3:17 “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Do you have a spiritual response to suffering or a secular one? It is interesting to note that Peter here places meddlers and murderers in the same category. I wonder if the modern church would lump meddlers and murderers in the same sentence. We would never give a pass to those who murder but what do we believe about busybodies? You see just as murder kills relationships so does meddling. Now as Peter resumes his preaching about right suffering in verse 16 he tells us not to be ashamed for suffering as a Christian but to glorify God for the privilege. We can praise in the pain when we trust in His plan. As Peter calls us to not be ashamed perhaps he remembers that time in his life when he was ashamed of Jesus and afraid to be identified with Him, Matthew 26:69-76. But that is not the same Peter preaching here, regardless of your past you can live out God’s plan in the present. Peter wants us to know that when we suffer for serving the Savior this world will want to make us feel like we are in the wrong and we need to remember that this guilt is not from God. We will be blamed for our belief, but we must be bold and not be ashamed of our God or His gospel. When you suffer for the Savior and are rebuked by this world do not receive the shame they heap upon you. Your Father sees all and is well pleased with you just as He was when Peter when he stood before the Sanhedrin to answer for his godly words and deeds. Peter also reminds us that suffering is profitable, when it purges and purifies our lives. Suffering speeds sanctification as our character becomes conformed to Christ. As we focus on sufferings ability to transform it helps us deal with the temporary discomfort Christians face in the process, because once this life ends, so does the suffering. Life is not lived merely for the present; we need to have a future focus. Its hard being a Christian, but it’s a whole lot harder being a heathen. They will also endure difficulty only to end up in hell without the hope of heaven. Life is hard, that is just the way it is because we live in a sin saturated society. But remember it’s hard for everyone, you are not being picked on or singled out, it’s just life. Yet even though your path seems paved with problems remember you have access to the problem solver, the Prince of Peace. While a Christian can cast their care upon Christ, the lost has no Lord and Savior to go to when they suffer.
- Entrust your Suffering
As chapter four comes to a close we are given a solution for those who suffer according to the will of God. It is a profoundly simple solution, entrust your soul and suffering to the Savior, verse 19 ”So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” When we suffering solely for the sake of Christ, we must follow faith to its fullest extent, by deliberately handing over our life and its challenging circumstances to the Lord. Of all the titles for God, why use Creator? Because your faithful Creator who originally made you in His image is now in the process of remaking you to be more and more like Him and less and less like the distortion which sin has created. When we entrust our care to the eternal One we become free to let go of the bad and the baggage. We get to live lives of good instead of grumbling and grudges even though we are suffering and hurting. That’s what Paul and Silas did as they suffered in the Philippian jail, despite the problems they were praising God and living for His glory. The world we live in sees suffering as something to be avoided at all costs but Christians can have a totally different perspective. For us, suffering is precious because it produces Christ’s character in us and an awareness of His love for us. That even though He loves us where we are He also loves us to much to leave us that way. That he loves us enough to use trials and tests to transform us. We can rejoice inwardly even though we may suffer outwardly because we have the assurance that God has an overriding beneficial purpose and plan. Don’t let your trials tempt you to turn and stop trusting God. He knows what He is doing and only He can take the trials you face and turn them into treasure.