Bible Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19, NKJV
For those of us who call the Western World home, we have—for the most part—lived a life of religious freedom. We have not had to fear for our health or our family as we have worshiped our Saviour.
This is not the case in other areas of the world. I’ve met a pastor in India whose skin is scarred from an acid attack. In Nigeria, Christians are regularly killed for their faith. In some parts of the Middle East, you can be murdered by your own family if you profess Christ.
In some ways, even the freedom of religion in our country feels like it is slipping away, as “cancel culture” seems to take ever-greater precedence over the First Amendment.
Some might debate me on this, but it certainly feels like we’re entering a new era in the United States, where there will be a cost to following Jesus.
This is nothing new, of course. Approximately 2,000 years ago, shortly after Jesus physically walked the roads of Jerusalem, Christians were already suffering for His Name.
In 1 Peter 4:12-19, we are told how we should respond when the world attacks us for our faith.
As Christians, we must expect sufferings (v. 12). Peter advises us to expect and anticipate suffering. It is unavoidable.
We occasionally act like we should get a free pass because we’re Christians—even questioning God’s goodness when bad things happen—but God promised that difficulties would come our way.
In John 16:33, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
If God promised us that we’re going to go through hard times, we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens.
We can rejoice when we go through trials (vv. 13-14). It sounds odd to say we can rejoice during suffering, but there are several reasons why we should:
1. First, we can rejoice because when we suffer we are identified with Christ. This is exactly what the disciples did in Acts 5:41: “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
2. Second, we can rejoice because we share in God’s glory. Just as we suffer with Him, we will also share in God’s glory when He returns in the near future.
3. Finally, we can rejoice because when we are reviled, insulted, persecuted or mocked, God’s Spirit will rest on us.
Our suffering will be a result of following Christ (vv. 15-16). We often want to play the victim, and claim we are being attacked when we’ve actually brought the suffering onto ourselves by our own actions (and it has nothing to do with our faith).
There are consequences for our sin. If you are a thief or a gossip, you brought the punishment upon yourself.
Peter makes it clear that we should not suffer in that way, because—as followers of Christ—we should live a life set apart for Him. Rather, we will suffer the wrath of the world because of our faith.
We should glorify God in our suffering (vv. 16-18). We are not to be ashamed if we suffer for Christ. Rather, Peter instructs us to glorify God instead.
Why? Because the suffering we endure on this earth in our service to Christ pales in comparison to the hope of eternity that awaits us in Heaven. On the other hand, “those who do not obey the gospel of God” must still face eternal judgment.
The passage is summed up in 1 Peter 4:19, which says, “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.”
We are not promised an easy and carefree life as followers of Jesus. Rather, we are promised that we will experience a “fiery trial;” maybe several trials.
There is a cost to following Jesus, which Peter knew well.
How will you respond when this happens? Will you become angry with God, turning away from Him? Or will you run towards your heavenly Father, finding peace, understanding and—as unlikely as it sounds—rejoicing in the midst of the fire?
We will face pain in this life, especially as followers of Jesus, but the eternal reward far outweighs the momentary sorrows.
Scripture Reference: 1 Peter 4:12-19
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.
16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
“If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.