1 Peter 4:12-19
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. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 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? And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
When suffering happens, most of us react as if it were something strange. Somehow, we feel like nobody else has ever suffered like we have. The truth is that suffering is part of the experience of living in a fallen world. Instead of reacting to suffering, Peter instructs us to respond to it with a grateful heart. Why? Because suffering prepares us for the second coming of Christ! There is no escaping suffering in this world. Instead of trying to avoid suffering, we are to embrace it and know that God will use it to perfect our character until the time when Christ returns in full glory.
If we suffer because of our faith in Christ, we are blessed and the “Spirit of glory” will be evident in our lives. Of course, not all suffering is the result of our faith in Christ. Sometimes our suffering is the result of sin in our lives. Peter makes this distinction in verse fifteen. If we are suffering, we must make sure it is for the right reasons. But if we suffer because of our faith in Christ, we are to “not be ashamed, but praise God” because we identify ourselves with Christ.
Peter issues a stark warning in verse seventeen, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God.” Believers are going to appear before the judgment seat of Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:10). This is not the great white throne judgment where sinners are judged for rejecting Christ. This judgment has to do with the motives of believers for their service for God. The point that Peter is making here is this: If God is going to judge His own, what about the lost world that rejects the Gospel of God? The suffering of God’s children in this word will not compare to the suffering that is to come to those who heard the Good News of Jesus and rejected God’s gracious offer of salvation.
Peter wraps up this section by encouraging believers to “suffer well” and keep doing what is right as we continually trust our suffering to the One who is faithful to make it all right in the end. Verse nineteen summarizes the entire teaching of the letter. In his commentary on 1 Peter, Wayne Grudem writes, “Christians do not suffer accidentally or because of the irresistible forces of blind fate; rather, they suffer according to God’s will.” This may seem like a harsh statement. But in reality, the suffering that God allows is only for our good: “It is purifying us, drawing us closer to our Lord, and making us more like Him in our lives.”
Questions to Ponder
Are you surprised when you experience suffering? What does it mean to “live in a fallen world”? When you suffer, do you believe that no one else has ever experienced what you are going through? Is your suffering the result of your faith in Christ or the result of your sin or someone else’s sin? Are you ashamed to wear the title, Christian? Are you able to maintain your faith in Christ despite your suffering?
- Praise the Lord of heaven and earth. He is gracious, loving, and a forgiving Father.
- Apologize for any sin you are aware of or that the Holy Spirit reveals to you. Repent of any grumbling or complaining.
- Receive His forgiveness and ask for a grateful heart to respond and learn from the trial/suffering. Pray for patience.
- Ask/pray for eyes to see things from His perspective and invite Him to reveal Himself to You.
- Pray for grace and strength to suffer well with His enabling help.
Abba, thank You that You care, see, and love perfectly. Thank You that You, Jesus, understand everything I am going through. I ask for Your power to strengthen me and others who are suffering. I ask for Your help to endure and persevere, keeping our hearts and eyes on You, knowing You will use it for good. You are purifying us and drawing us closer to You. Help us to trust in You, knowing You understand fully and are for and with us. In the name of Jesus Christ, I ask. Amen.