1 Peter 4:12-19 | Our Response To Suffering
In this devotion, I want to speak to you as to how to face a prolonged time of suffering in our life. How to deal with an unpleasant experience in life? Have you noticed that it is very difficult to see the sunshine when the clouds are dark and heavy? Likewise, when one goes through suffering, it is very difficult to see God’s love. Suffering can make us wonder: How can I believe that God is good? Does God really love me?
1 Peter 4:12-19
12Dear 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. 13But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.
16However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17For 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? 18And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
So what is our response to suffering?
1. Don’t Be Surprised At Suffering
2. Rejoice In Suffering.
3. We Must Evaluate Our Suffering.
4. Suffering Purifies Believers.
5. Trust God In Your Suffering.
1 Peter is addressed to Christians in ten or more major churches scattered through four provinces in Asia Minor. From the first spread of the gospel there had been hostility and even violent opposition in many places, sometimes opposition stirred up by unbelieving Jews (Acts 4:1–3; 5:17–18, 40–41; 7:57–60; and 8:1–3, in Jerusalem; 13:50–52 at Pisidian Antioch; 14:4–6 at Iconium; 14:19 at Lystra; 17:5–9 at Thessalonica; 17:13 at Beroea; 18:12–17 at Corinth; 20:3 probably again at Corinth; 21:27–36 at Jerusalem); and sometimes persecution by local officials, whether for political purposes (Acts 12:1–3) or because of a false accusation from Gentiles whose profits from sin were threatened (Acts 16:19–25 at Philippi, cf. Acts 19:23–20:1 at Ephesus).
Thus, we have specific evidence of violent opposition to the gospel from the time it first reached some of the cities to which Peter was writing, and it is not unreasonable to think that similar opposition would have broken out from time to time in the other cities to which Peter was writing.
The passages of 1 Peter gives us instances of persecution (1:6–7; 2:12, 21; 3:14; 4:1–2, 14, 16) and believers being treated unjustly (2:15, 18–20; 3:9, 14, 16; 4:4, 17, 19; 5:9–10).
Oppression and opposition of beliefs are a universal phenomenon.
1 Peter 5:9
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
The theme of suffering as a Christian is a prominent phenomenon in the end times. Suffering as a Christian is not to be thought of as unusual or strange.
1 Peter 4:12
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.
1. Don’t Be Surprised At Suffering
Don’t be afraid of suffering. Do not be surprised at suffering. It happened to Jesus. Jesus said in Mark 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
As you are following Jesus, walking behind Jesus, he is on a path of suffering and as we follow him we are on the same path. If you don’t want to suffer, get off that path and take an other one. It is a wrong approach because at the end, the suffering is going to be much, much greater. We are far better off by taking the path that Jesus took, recognizing that we will face suffering but not be surprised by it.
Don’t be shocked that life is difficult.
Don’t be surprised when somebody is rude to you. When you don’t get that good review at work and your promotion is stalled, don’t be surprised. Believers must understand that suffering goes with our faith.
Suffering has been brought to test us.
Firstly, suffering proves the genuineness of the state of our faith. It also purges our life for greater holiness. Therefore, suffering is inevitable in this world.
The word translated fiery ordeal means ‘fire, burning.’
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
Fire is the means of testing silver and gold.’ The image of a refiner’s fire suggests that such suffering purifies and strengthens Christians. This idea is reinforced by the fact that it comes upon you (or: ‘among you’) to prove you.
Here trials are expected to have a positive outcome. The readers are encouraged to see God’s good purpose behind their difficulties, enabling them to grow stronger in faith and give more glory to God. This he explains in the following verses, showing that such trials are not to be thought unusual or strange, for they are a normal part of the Christian life.
2. Rejoice In Suffering
1 Peter 4:13-14
13But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
Instead of being thrown off balance by trials, believers are to rejoice in so far as they share Christ’s sufferings. In so far as you are sharing Christ’s suffering, keep on rejoicing.’ It is amazing to think that increased sufferings seem only to increase the believer’s joy in the Lord, but Scripture testifies that this is so (Acts 5:41; cf. 16:25; Rom. 5:3; Col. 1:24; Heb. 10:34).
Why Do We Rejoice In Suffering?
Three Reasons To Rejoice:
A. Rejoice Because You Get To Participate In The Sufferings Of Christ
When you suffer you are participating in the sufferings of Christ.
B. Rejoice Because You Share In God’s Glory
1 Peter 3:14
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
God’s glory rested in the tabernacle in the OT.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory.
Therefore, the same presence of God that rested in the tabernacle rest on us. The same presence of God that rested in Jesus rests on us when we go through suffering. So rejoice you share in God’s glory.
C. Rejoice Because Great Is Your Reward In Heaven
11Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Thus, rejoicing in suffering for Christ now will certainly lead to great rejoicing in his presence when he returns: ‘Rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed’ (cf. Rom. 8:17).
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of glory and of God. The Holy Spirit rests on us to bless us and to strengthen us to give a foretaste of heavenly glory.
3. We Must Evaluate Our Suffering
1 Peter 4:15
If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.
When one goes through suffering, one must evaluate whether the suffering is because of one’s wrongdoing or because of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There are four evils mentioned here that really are typical of an unsaved lifestyle. They are used to compare the character of unacceptable suffering.
1 Peter 4:16
On the other hand, if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed.
If you are suffering for the sake of Christ and biblical values, you do not have to be ashamed.
The world may think suffering for conscientious adherence to Christianity is disgraceful, but actually it is an honour in God’s sight, and should be so in the eyes of Christians as well.
The word Christian is found in the New Testament only here and at Acts 11:26 and 26:28; it means ‘follower of Christ.’
4. Suffering purifies the Church
1 Peter 4:17-18
17For 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? 18And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
When we go through suffering, we are getting refined and purified.
Now Peter’s context is keeping the end of all things in mind.
1 Peter 4:7
The end of all things is near.
1 Peter 4:17
For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household.
God’s judgment begins from God’s own house. ‘What is going on in the world?’ the readers might wonder. ‘Why are God’s people suffering and evildoers going unpunished?’ Peter explains that the ‘fiery ordeal’, or ‘refining fire’, of verse 12 is really a fire of God’s judgment.
The picture is that God has begun judging within the church, and will later move outward to judge those outside the church. The refining fire of judgment is leaving no one untouched, but Christians are being purified and strengthened by it—sins are being eliminated and trust in God and holiness of life are growing.
Peter’s language may have been more influenced Malachi 3. Then the judgment which began at God’s house (the temple, Mal. 3:1) will move from there to unbelievers, no longer as a purifying fire but as a judgment of condemnation—which brings us directly back to 1 Peter 4:17
The thought is simply: “If the purifying fire of God’s eschatological visitation … entails, for those united to Christ, such anguish as Peter’s readers are undergoing, what shall the consummation of that purifying divine presence mean for those who have rejected God’s good news—if not a conflagration of utter destruction?”
The application of this passage to Peter’s readers should be clear: If the Lord is already in the midst of his new temple (i.e. his people), they should ‘not be surprised at the refining fire which comes among you to prove you … the Spirit of glory and of God is resting upon you’ (vv. 12, 14).
You can rejoice in his presence.
But with him also comes a refining fire, and they must purify themselves of all iniquities in order to avoid the pain of his disciplining judgment, even while they continue trusting him who alone can enable them to stand before himself
The fire of God’s holiness is so intense that even the righteous feel pain in its discipline. The impious (a godless person, a person without true reverence for God) and the sinner will, by implication, find it to be a fire of eternal destruction.
So suffering purifies us. It is taking out our sin and iniquities and preparing us for eternity with Christ.
So, what should Christians do in such circumstances?
5. Commit Yourself To God
1 Peter 4:19
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
They should do right, maintaining moral purity in their lives, and should continue not to trust themselves but to entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.
What do we do?
a. Commit ourselves to God
b. Continue to do good
No turning back. Complete commitment to God. Just keep doing what is right.
Christians do not suffer accidentally or because of the irresistible forces of blind fate; rather, they suffer according to God’s will.
While this may at first seem harsh (for it implies that at times it is God’s will that we suffer), upon reflection no better comfort in suffering can be found than this: it is God’s good and perfect will.
For therein lies the knowledge that there is a limit to the suffering, both in its intensity and in its duration, a limit set and maintained by the God who is our creator, our savior, our sustainer, our Father. And therein also lies the knowledge that this suffering is only for our good: it is purifying us, drawing us closer to our Lord, and making us more like him in our lives.
In all of it, we are not alone, but we can depend on the care of a faithful Creator; we can rejoice in the fellowship of a Saviour who has also suffered (v. 13); we can exult in the constant presence of a Spirit of glory who delights to rest upon us (v. 14).
Brother and sister, as you follow Jesus and live your life, walk His path of suffering. Be faithful to our God and creator and do good. Let those who suffer according to God’s will commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. This is like Jesus speaking, “(cf. Luke 23:46, ‘Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit’)