You can listen to the podcast here.
Last week we saw that Peter encouraged us to manifest God’s love by using the gifts He gave to us. The emphasis was on serving in love because the end is drawing near. Throughout this letter, Peter has spoken of suffering and persecution and trials. This morning, Peter gives us some more good news.
Take a look at 1 Peter 4:12-16.
Peter gives us this great warning: don’t be surprised, more trials are coming. Just what I needed to hear. Peter has gone to great lengths to establish the foundation of their hope in Christ. He has called his readers the holy people of God, living stones in God’s temple, and heirs of heaven. Since we share in the victory of the resurrection of Christ, it seems awful unfair that the people of God should suffer. Peter’s reminder that more trials are coming may be shocking, but you have to understand why suffering comes.
Peter shows the meaning of suffering from two sides. First, our suffering for Christ is linked to Christ’s suffering for us. We share in Christ’s suffering now, but one day we will share in His glory. One is present; one is future. Consider what Peter knew about the suffering of Christ. He saw first hand what happened in the garden. He saw Christ suffer and die at Calvary. Christ, who is righteous, suffered for us who are unrighteous. In 3:18, Peter said, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” Maybe you are thinking, “But it’s just not fair. I’ve lived my Christian life serving the Lord and all I get is heartache.” Remember Job? His crime, if you will, was that, “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:8) We have a pattern in Christ. Remember in 2:21 where Peter said, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” Our sufferings bear witness to His sufferings. I’m not saying that our sufferings can compare to Christ’s sufferings, but they do link us together so that we can get just a taste of what He did for us.
Second, our suffering does not destroy us; it purifies us. Peter mentions the fiery ordeal. Ordeal comes from the word purosis that means the burning by which metals are roasted and reduced. It can also refer to calamities or trials that test the character of a person. A refiner puts impure metal in a fire to melt the metal. The impurities either burn off or float to the top where they can be skimmed off. The picture is easy to see. Christ allows these trials in our lives in order to remove the impurities in our character. A jeweler has no other way to purify precious metals than to put it in a fire. The same is true of us. All the awesome things of Scripture, all the wonderful things you learn are brought home through suffering. The greatest lessons we learn in this life are brought to the front through the lens of suffering. Christ seeks to purify us by allowing us to suffer; to make us stronger; to make us more like him.
Don’t be surprised and don’t bring suffering on yourself. Verse 14 says, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” Notice this is a conditional clause. It begins with the word, “if.” Peter makes it clear that if we are to suffer or endure trials, it should be due to a real cause, the cause of Christ. Look at the words of Scripture. Matt. 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 1 Cor. 4:12, “. . . When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure.” Phil. 1:29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” In speaking of Saul of Tarsus Jesus said, “For I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:16) Rom. 8:17, “And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” 1 Thes. 3:4, “For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.” You get the idea.
Suffering, persecution, and enduring trials are all part of the Christian walk. Suffering for Christ leads to glory and tastes of glory; it also gives glory to God. Remember the rest of Job’s story. Satan argued that the only reason Job loved God was because of his stuff. After all that Satan did in Job’s life, destroyed his riches, his possessions, his family, his health, everything about him, Satan destroyed. All the accusations Satan brought against God and Job were proved false. Throughout the ages, Christians have stood firmly against the accusations and persecutions that have come as a result of their living for Christ. Paul and Silas sang praises in the prison at Philippi. Peter boldly spoke of Christ to the very rulers who crucified the Savior. The same type of persecution happens today, only worse. More Christians have been martyred in the last century than in all previous centuries combined. But we’re not talking about martyrdom necessarily. We’re talking about suffering for Christ’s name. For taking a stand about anything that is contrary to the teachings of Scripture. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. The idea is that if you are called to suffer for the cause of Christ, you will not be left or forsaken. God will impart His Spirit to you in proportion to your sufferings for His name. The real kicker is that through the Spirit, you’ll have joy and peace. You might be thinking, “I’d never be able to do that.” Matt. 10:19, “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” The Holy Spirit will give you what you need when you need it. If you are called to suffer, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.” In other words, if you are going to suffer, don’t bring it on yourself by committing a crime. Perhaps Peter calls out murder and stealing because they were, and remain against the law.
Peter also mentions troublesome meddlers? This word is also translated mischief maker and busybody. Chances are few of us will be guilty of murder, but who can say they’ve interfered into matters that don’t concern them? Peter is saying that there is no glory to God in suffering for our own wrongdoing and it doesn’t have to be of the magnitude of murder.
Don’t be surprised that trials are coming. Don’t bring suffering on yourself by doing wrong things. When we suffer because of the name of Jesus we should rejoice. It’s contrary to our flesh, but consistent with Christ.