I hope you have your hiking boots on and not some fancy slippers. Our next step in 1st Peter is a difficult one on several levels. It deals with heartache, suffering, persecution, and judgment – many of the things we’d rather avoid even thinking about. But in our journey through 1st Peter, we’ve learned that this is why Peter is writing the letter in the first place. Lambchow reaches many nations with varying levels of acceptance and persecution. But here’s the thing, Peter’s conclusion is for everyone, no matter the situation or circumstance.
Welcome to our 20th installment in our Walk Through 1st Peter. Feel free to join in even if you’ve missed previous articles. By the way, they can be found on our website – Lambchow.com
Peter encourages, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (1 Peter 4:12–19, NASB95)
A Fiery Trial
As we’ve seen before Peter distinguishes between the pain and suffering as the result of sin and that which comes because we love Jesus. Peter calls all forms of persecution, from mocking to a martyr’s death, a fiery trial that is like the suffering of Christ. He even goes so far to say “don’t be surprised” when persecution happens.
Some of you live in a place where there is real persecution because of your dedication to Jesus. You really do risk physical harm, loss of property, loss of opportunity, or loss of rights because you claim the name of Jesus. Do you see that Peter rephrases Jesus’ words? “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.” (Matthew 5:11–12, NASB95) Peter amplifies it with, “keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” And to those being persecuted Peter says, “you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” While I don’t wish or desire persecution on anyone and pray that such things would not happen, you are more blessed than those you don’t suffer persecution.
Most of us live in places where real persecution is foreign to us. A store refusing to say “Merry Christmas” is not persecution. A town’s refusal to place a nativity scene or a ten-commandments memorial is not a fiery trial. These may be harbingers, a sign that our witness and influence is fading, but they are not acts of persecution. Yet, even in the land of the free, there are a few that have suffered loss in the workplace because of their beliefs.
Let’s be Honest
Let’s be honest, Peter is not talking about the circumstances of life. A drought may cause loss of income or even bankruptcy, but that is not a fiery trial. Illness may cause the loss of a job and the depletion of savings, but that is not suffering for Christ. Something not working as it should, like the grass trimmer that refuses to start, is not a judgment from God or a trick of the Devil. Those circumstances and so much more besides are just life. That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from those situations or that God can’t use them. Life’s struggles can and do show us more about ourselves, our wounds, and our sin than we often realize.
So let’s be real about all those things that we are “suffering” in Christ. Which of those are just life, which is the result of our sin or the sins of others, which are the traps of the enemy, which are the results of living in a fallen world, which are real persecution? By prayerfully discerning these we then know how to pray and what to do.
Thy Kingdom Come
Here’s the bottom line. Do you trust God? Do you trust God no matter what comes your way today? Don’t say yes too quickly. It’s harder than you think.
In all the variations of circumstances we’ve covered in this article, from outright persecution to the happenstance of life, there is one common prayer in response. “Your Kingdom come Lord Jesus.”
First of all in our own hearts. Your Kingdom come Lord Jesus in my heart. Show me where I don’t yet trust you fully. Heal the heartache and wounds of the past.
In the circumstances of life that we encounter every day. Your Kingdom come Lord Jesus at my place of work, in my home, and in the marketplace. Your Kingdom come Lord Jesus in the lives of all those around me.
When disease and illness come our way – Your Kingdom come Lord Jesus.
When we suffer the heartache of death and loss – Your Kingdom come Lord Jesus.
And yes even when persecuted because we follow Jesus – your Kingdom come Lord Jesus in the lives of those that hate, mock, bully, abuse, torture, and kill Your people because of their love for You.
Do you trust God? Do you trust God no matter what comes your way today? “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” Your Kingdom come Lord Jesus.