9. The Cross And Our Response to Trials (1 Peter 4:12-19)Related Media
Not many of us ever experience the “furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10) like Job, whose attack by Satan caused the loss of his family, his health, his possessions, the complaint of his wife, and the constant barrage of criticism from his three counsellors. Despite this egregious suffering, he never lost his faith in God but clung to his conviction that his circumstances were all under the sovereign control of God. In response to his wife’s advice to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9) he replied, “’Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job. 2:10).
In times of suffering and affliction, the words of the apostle Paul encourage us: “2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:2-4).
From the time that the gospel began to spread, Christians began to suffer opposition and persecution, even martyrdom, starting at Jerusalem itself (Acts 4:1ff.; 5:17-18; 7:58-60) and expanding outward to other parts of Asia Minor (e.g. Acts 12:1-5; 13:50-52; 14:4-6, 19; 16:16-24; 18:12; 19:23ff.; 20:3; 21:27ff.). As we have already noted in our previous articles in this series, undoubtedly that’s why the theme of 1 Peter is that of suffering as a Christian even when doing good (1:6-7; 2:12-12, 21; 3:14; 4:1-2, 14, 16).
All types of opposition to Christians and the gospel continues to be widespread throughout the world today, ranging from disinterest to mockery, from persecution to martyrdom. Whenever we proclaim the gospel we can expect opposition of some kind, whether it be indifference, ridicule, or outright hostility. Such was the case for Peter’s readers who were scattered across Asia Minor, which today we know, for the most part, as Turkey. Some of them were actually dealing with opposition at the time Peter was writing to them and others were facing the imminent prospect of opposition. The passage we are studying in this exposition continues that theme, specifically “Responding to Trials,” and the primary thrust of the passage is that for the Christian, suffering has divine purposes – our blessing and the glory of God.
I. The Privilege Of Suffering Is Identification With Christ (4:12-13)
1. Suffering now is assured (4:12). “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (4:12). This continues the thought from 4:1 where Peter exhorts them to “arm” themselves, not with physical weapons but with the same attitude as Christ manifested when he suffered. Now Peter says, “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you.” The implication is that suffering from trials will come, whether you are suffering now or whether it will come later. He forewarns them to not be “surprised when it comes upon you” for come it surely will. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. When “the fiery trial” comes, we should not be surprised because sufferings are part and parcel of Christian experience to the extent that (1) we “walk as Jesus walked” (1 Jn. 2:6); (2) we are salt and light in the world (Matt. 5:13-16); (3) we are “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20). When we do live for Christ, then we can expect negative reactions of all kinds and intensities from unbelievers.
So, don’t be surprised “as if something unusual were happening to you.” It’s not unusual but perfectly normal and common in our Christian experience. In fact, concerning suffering Peter says, “to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you might follow in his steps” (2:21). Jesus himself said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Further, lest you are concerned about how you can deal with this suffering as a Christian, the counterpart is that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). These are words of great comfort and encouragement despite present suffering.
“The fiery trial” is a term used here to describe the opposition that Christians face when they stand up for Christ and the gospel. In the context of metallurgy, the refining process reveals the strength of the metal (such as steel) and it removes impurities (as in the case of precious metals - cf. Prov. 17:3, Rev. 3:18; 1 Cor. 3:13; Malachi 3:2-3). Similarly, when we face “a fiery ordeal” for the sake of the gospel, such tests expose the strength of our faith and, in the process, remove spiritual impurities. Peter has already referred to this experience when he writes that “the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:7).
It’s not a question of “if” such testing will occur in our lives but “when” - “when it comes upon you to test you.” James makes the same point when he writes, “2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3). Again, not “if” but “when.” James points out that trials in the Christian life are inevitable, inescapable, unpredictable, individual (“various kinds”), and sustainable. That is not to say that all Christians suffer the same degree of opposition from unbelievers, but that we will inevitably face suffering of some kind for our faith due to our identification with Christ who endured the most egregious suffering of all – the perfectly sinless one (1 Jn. 3:5) was crucified for us in our place (1 Pet. 3:18). It’s all about union and identification with Christ. By suffering with and for Christ, we are united with him in his life, death, and resurrection, as Paul puts it: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom. 6:5).
So what are we to do? Suffering now is assured but be encouraged…
2. Glorification later is anticipated (4:13). “Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ” (4:13a). This is the offset to Christian suffering now.
To “rejoice” in sufferings is a distinctly Christian response. Here Peter gives us the reason why we can and should rejoice in the midst of sufferings – “as you share in the sufferings of Christ.” Just as Christ suffered for doing good and for telling the truth, so we should expect and be willing to suffer and thus to share in his sufferings.
The apostle Paul makes the same point: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24). Paul associates his sufferings with the sufferings of Christ. As he continued the work of Christ (in establishing and developing churches) so his sufferings were a continuation of the afflictions vented on Christ himself. Indeed, all who minister in Christ’s name will similarly suffer with and for Christ. That’s how and why we can rejoice in sufferings. It’s all a matter of the right perspective. We can rejoice in circumstances that we would otherwise find burdensome because we are associated directly with Christ in his experience here on earth. So, rather than trials being a negative experience they become a positive experience by having the right attitude towards them and by having the right goal in mind. But this response to trials will only be true in us to the extent that it results from our identification with Christ and to the extent that we view our sufferings as sharing “in the sufferings of Christ.” In other words, we may experience trials as a result of our own bad choices or wrong associations, but the trials Peter is talking about are those that result from serving Christ and from experiencing the same opposition that he did, precisely because we are followers of Christ.
In keeping with Peter’s view of the Christian life, sufferings now are followed by glory hereafter. Indeed, this is God’s ultimate purpose in Christian sufferings - “so that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (4:13b). Suffering is never an end in itself for the Christian. Suffering is not the full picture of the Christian experience, nor is it the full reflection of our identification with Christ. There is so much more than that - there is always the end in view, namely, our glorification with Christ in his glory. This was the experience, he says, of the O.T. prophets who searched diligently into what “the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1:10-11). Indeed, Peter himself was one who was “a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker of the glory that is going to be revealed” (5:1), referring probably to his experience at Christ’s transfiguration, death, resurrection, and ascension. Later in his epistle he says that suffering precedes and is eventually replaced by eternal glory: “10 After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pet. 5:10-11). Just as we have been called to share in Christ’s sufferings so we have been called to participate in his glory.
The apostle Paul expresses the same truth: “17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). It’s all in the perspective. If we have the end in view, then we can sustain tests and suffering by regarding them as a transient, visible experience beyond which lies an eternal, invisible reality into which we will one day enter. Again, Paul affirms the same truth as Peter that suffering with Christ precedes and is directly related to glorification with him (Rom. 8:17).
Thus, if we face trials now as the consequence of following Christ and representing him here and now, and if we have the long view that these earthly experiences are going to be replaced by eternal bliss, then we can face them with joy. It’s not that Peter or James or Paul are advocating asceticism or an unrealistic, dreamworld view of our existence. They aren’t saying that life’s circumstances are always joyful occasions, for sometimes they are decidedly not. Nor are they trivializing sufferings such as health issues, loss of employment, financial downturns, relationship conflicts etc. No, what they are saying is that you “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed” (4:13). The former (sharing Christ’s sufferings) precedes and guarantees the latter (sharing in his glory).
So first, the privilege of suffering is identification with Christ (4:12-13). In so identifying with Christ, suffering now is assured and glorification later is anticipated - we rejoice in sufferings now and participate in Christ’s glory when it is revealed. Second…
II. The Blessing Of Suffering Is Glorifying God (4:14-16)
1. When you suffer for the name of Christ you are blessed, but not for doing wrong (4:14-15). Suffering for the name of Christ is often marked by the reproach of unbelievers. “ If you are insulted for the name of Christ…” (4:14a). If our lives speak to the unbelieving world that we belong to Christ and are seeking to live for him, then we will undoubtedly encounter opposition in the form of personal slander and ridicule. The “name of Christ” is a much slandered name, being used by unbelievers in cursing. It is much slandered because of who he is. Jesus said, “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause’” (Jn. 15:24-25).
In his sinless perfection, Jesus condemned the utter sinfulness of humanity. That’s why they hated him because he revealed the truth about them, truth that they did not like. They would rather believe the lie of the devil than the truth of God in Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). This and many other of Jesus’ claims earned him the hatred of humanity, expressed in all its fullness at the cross. And because Christians are united with Christ through faith in him, the world also hates us. Jesus said to his disciples, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (Jn. 15:18). The hatred that was poured out on him when he was here on earth continues to be poured out now on believers.
Our identification with Christ makes us the target of the ridicule and hatred that Christ bore here on earth. Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). By this he meant that Christian discipleship involves our thorough identification with him, even to the point of his death. Indeed, this was the whole purpose and motivation of the apostle Paul’s life - “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10).
Perhaps you are wondering at this point, if the Christian life is all about suffering, is it really worth it? Well, if that is what you are wondering, here is a word of encouragement: The Christian life is also the most blessed life. When you suffer for the name of Christ “…you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (4:14b). While we anticipate the future blessing of rejoicing with Christ “when his glory is revealed” (4:13), even now we enjoy the present blessing of the Holy Spirit who indwells us and empowers us to endure all our present sufferings for the name of Christ. Indeed, “the Spirit of glory and of God” rests upon us even now. Whenever we are discouraged by opposition to our faith in Christ and our union with him, we are blessed to receive special strength from the Holy Spirit and to even now experience and be assured of the glory that is to follow.
This word of encouragement is now followed by a word of warning. “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler” (4:15). Peter wishes to qualify the blessing he has talked about in 4:14 by pointing out that there is a legitimate cause for suffering and there is an illegitimate cause. If we suffer as a Christian by faithfully bearing the name of Christ, that is legitimate and the blessing we receive from so doing is a special sense of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But if we suffer because of our own wrongdoing and not for the cause of Christ, then that is illegitimate. In that case we are not suffering for the name of Christ – we are suffering for our own sinfulness. So, don’t think that you can live any way you want and expect God’s blessing. And don’t interpret all suffering as proof that you are living a godly life, or even proof that you are a Christian, for such may not be the case. We are responsible to ensure that our behavior is a manifestation of our faith and a true representation of the one we serve.
So, when you suffer for the name of Christ you are blessed, but not for doing wrong (4:14-15). And…
2. When you suffer for the name of Christ you can glorify God, and not to be ashamed (4:16). “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” From an unbeliever’s point of view, suffering for the name of Christ is ridiculous, even shameful. Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone commit their lives to following a dead person, who, in their opinion, was an impostor, a fraud. As far as they are concerned Christ was a false messiah and following him puts you in the same category. That’s how the world views us. That’s why they heap dishonor and ridicule on us as Christians. They dishonored Christ and cast him out and they do the same to us.
But the reality for us is that it is an honor for us to join with Christ in his sufferings, not something to be ashamed of. It’s easy to be ashamed of the name of Christ, isn’t it? That’s how the devil wants us to react – to be so ashamed that we turn away from following Christ. That’s Satan’s primary goal, to rob us of the joy of our salvation and persuade us to give up Christ. On the contrary, how we respond to Satan’s attacks as a Christian gives us the opportunity to speak powerfully for Christ and thus to bring glory to God. When we defend Christ by declaring the truth about him and his saving work on the cross, we bring glory to God. When we offer full and free salvation to those who despise us, we show the love of God to our neighbor and that brings honor to the name of Christ. In so doing we are bring glory to God “in that name.”
We can only act in someone else’s name when that person has delegated to us the authority to do so. We have been delegated by Christ the authority to speak and act in his name. This eliminates, of course, any word or deed that is not for his honor. You cannot act in someone else’s name while, at the same time, dishonoring that person or dishonestly representing him. To act in the name of Christ is to act on his authority as his representative in the world, where we are his ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20).
So first, the privilege of suffering is identification with Christ (4:12-13). Second, the blessing of suffering is glorifying God (4:14-16). Third…
III. The Purpose Of Suffering Is For Judgement (4:17-18)
At first glance, this principle may seem strange to you. But it answers the question about where God is in all this suffering and what God’s purpose is in all of this. The answer is that God’s purpose is to expose the truth about everyone - believers and unbelievers – and he does so by way of the purification of believers and the condemnation of unbelievers. There are, then, two types of judgement…
1. For the godly, judgement now is for the purpose of purification (4:17a). Continuing his thought from 4:16, Peter continues: “For it is time for judgment to begin at the house of God” (4:17a). In view of the distinction Peter has already made between (1) suffering as a Christian in doing what is right, not for doing what is wrong; and (2) suffering to bring glory to God, not to be ashamed, he now explains how that distinction is revealed and judged. For Christians now, judgement takes place in the context of the church, “the house of God,” and its purpose is our spiritual purification. Judgement takes place now at God’s house because that’s where God dwells, and where God dwells must be kept absolutely holy because God is holy (Lev. 11:44). That’s why God is exercising judgement now in the lives of Christians, his holy people (cf. 2:9) and one way he does so is by “the fiery trial when it comes upon you” (4:12). These trials act as a spiritual refining process, the purpose of which is to expose any impurities and remove them, so that the people of God are made fit for God’s presence both now in the church and in the future at the judgement seat of Christ, where judgement is not for the condemnation of their persons but for the commendation of their works that have been done for Christ.
The positive aspect to suffering in the Christian life is that God is not absent when they occur - quite the opposite. God’s purpose in our trials is for our good. We are helped to stand up under such pressure when we know that God’s intended outcome from it is that our faith be stronger and purer than it was before. That is God’s good purpose to test the genuineness of our faith, the purity and strength of our faith, for it is only when pressure is exerted that our faith is exposed for what it really is – strong or weak, pure or impure. When we see God’s purpose in trials, then we can respond with the distinctly Christian response – we can “rejoice with great joy.”
Thus through suffering, God’s judgement in the church now has as its purpose the exposure and elimination of any known sins in order to purify us spiritually and render us fit to stand before him now and in the future when Christ comes again.
So, for the righteous, the first purpose in these sufferings now is the judgement of purification, but…
2. For the ungodly, judgement later is for the purpose of condemnation (4:17b-18). This judgement of unbelievers has a radically different purpose and result from that of believers. Concerning this judgement, Peter asks two related questions…
Question #1: “…if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (4:17b). The implication in this question seems to be that the suffering that Christians endure now comes from unbelievers. So, if Christians must endure such trials and suffering now from unbelievers in God’s refining process, what will be “the outcome” of the judgement process for them, “those who do not obey the gospel of God”? While Peter does not answer his own question here, he does give us some insight into the answer in 4:5, but Paul answers the question directly: “6 God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed” (2 Thess. 1:6-10).
The judgement of unbelievers will take place at a future time before the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15) where Christ will sit as the judge of all the earth. That judgement will not be for commendation of their persons or works, for there will be none. Rather, that judgement will be for condemnation of their persons and their works, all of which were done for self, sin, and Satan.
Question #2: “And ‘If the righteous is scarcely saved what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’” (4:18). Quoting from Proverbs 11:31, Peter highlights the difficulty, humanly speaking, of God’s people being saved. It isn’t that believers are “scarcely” saved in the sense that they only just make it into heaven by the skin of their teeth at the last moment, but in the sense that the righteous are saved “with difficulty” due, in this context, to the suffering they endure (cf. 4:14).
God’s holiness is so pure and so demanding that the righteous are saved from his judgement by the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross (not their own efforts) and they are purified for his presence through the “fiery trial” that he inflicts on them. Nonetheless, though these trials are severe and painful, they are temporary and not an experience of which to be ashamed, but one through which they can bring glory to God. In other words, their sufferings have a redemptive objective.
But what about “the ungodly and sinner” who are not sheltered by the blood of Christ on the cross, who have rejected the gospel, and who have ridiculed Christians for their faith? What will happen to them? Well, that’s a different story altogether. It might look now as though unbelievers will escape God’s judgement, but such is not the case. The reckoning day is coming when unbelievers will face God’s eternal judgement at the last day, a judgement which will be enacted by Christ himself on those who have rejected him and who, in this context, have expressed their rejection of him through ridiculing and persecuting his redeemed people. They do not face fiery trials now but they will face the eternal fire of God’s judgement later when they will be banished eternally from the presence of God in the lake of fire.
We have already studied three good purposes that God has in passing us through sufferings and trials: First, the privilege of suffering is identification with Christ (4:12-13) – that’s good. Second, the blessing of suffering is glorifying God (4:14-16) – that’s good. Third, the purpose of suffering is for judgement / purification (4:17-18) – that’s good. And fourth…
IV. The Lesson In Suffering Is To Trust God (4:19)
This also is one of God’s good purposes in suffering. Whenever we face suffering for doing good in the name of Christ, there are two principles we need to keep in mind…
1. Trust God’s will (4:19a). “Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will…” Despite all that you may be passing through today, keep in mind that your suffering is according to the sovereign will of God.
Knowing God’s will is one thing; trusting God is another. Many Christians struggle with this whole concept of knowing God’s will. While it is beyond the scope of this exposition to delve into it, let me just say that we can discern God’s will as it is revealed in his word, through prayer, through the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit who indwells us, through our transformed minds that are able to discern the things of God (1 Cor. 2:6-16), and through God’s providential ways with us. God has not left us helpless. In fact, he has given us all that we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). Our responsibility is to trust him to carry out his will in and through us.
While we might think it strange that any suffering or hardship is “according to God’s will,” when you stop to think about it, the knowledge that God has determined our circumstances (whether easy or hard), and that he has established the parameters for those circumstances should give us comfort. Whatever trials we confront in our testimony for the name of Christ, we can take comfort that those trials will never run out of control nor will we ever have to bear them alone. We can be encouraged and strengthened in our faith by the knowledge that our trials enable us to identify with Christ in his suffering, glorify God, purify us for his presence, and teach us to trust him. Our trials are for our good under the hand of our omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving and good God.
You can be assured that God is with us in suffering for the name of Christ and that whatever trials we may endure for the sake of Christ are according to God’s sovereign will. By such testing we discern the will of God, Paul says (Rom. 12:2). Submission to God’s will keeps us going, enables us to endure when things get tough. That’s what motivated the apostle Paul. He recognized that he had not yet obtained the goal – he was still on the journey: “12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).
As Christians, we know that suffering for the name of Christ is not just a coincidence of circumstances. Suffering for the name of Christ does not occur by some sort of impersonal force or fatalism. No, we suffer for the name of Christ “according to God’s will.” This should be an encouragement to us just to know that God is in control. He establishes the parameters of our trials and tests - their extent and their duration - and he determines their good purpose. Every good thing we enjoy and every difficulty we face come from the hand of our all-loving God whose every act is for our good and blessing. James reinforces this when he writes, “2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Similarly, he says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). So, James does not emphasize the trials to the exclusion of the blessings. No, both are part and parcel of the Christian life and both come from God’s good and purposeful will. God has a purpose for our good in every circumstance of life that we encounter and he brings them into our lives for us to learn and grow in our faith and in our understanding of him and his ways with us.
2. Trust God’s faithfulness (4:19b). “…entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” You can entrust your soul (life) to him. Through the finished work of Christ on the cross and your faith in him, your soul is eternally secure. You can count on it, no matter what! Your trials now may be long and dark, but your vindication is near and totally secure. The One who made us also knows all about us and cares for us more than we will ever know. We can “entrust” our lives to him for his safekeeping as our “faithful Creator.” Any suffering that we may endure for Christ’s name can be endured when we know that behind all these events is our faithful, good, and kind God. Remember, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Any sufferings that we experience in the course of “doing good” will always be accompanied by his sustaining grace.
Our tendency during tough times in our lives is to figure a way out, to rely on our own ingenuity to solve the problem, to take a different path in order to terminate the suffering. But Peter exhorts us to “entrust our souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” We must not abandon doing the right thing in order to escape the trial. Whatever our circumstances may be, we must always pursue “doing good.” Similarly, the apostle Paul encourages the believers in Galatia: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). Giving up when things get rough is not an option for Christians. Through the empowerment of the Spirit and encouragement of God’s word and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are enabled to face each trial as it comes and so to honor and serve our “faithful Creator.”
The prophet Isaiah reminds us of God’s faithfulness: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10). In every circumstance, God is with us as he strengthens us and enables us to persevere, thankful in the knowledge that “for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Let us never forget that truth. Let us learn to trust his faithfulness. Sometime we wonder how suffering for our faith can possibly be for our good. But the truth is that it is only through such testing that our faith is strengthened and revealed to be genuine. Indeed, throughout such experiences God pours his grace into our hearts to keep us from wandering or becoming discouraged, as the apostle Paul reminds us: “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
Our theme throughout this study has been “Responding to Trials” and our thesis has been that for the Christian, suffering has divine purposes – our blessing and the glory of God.
None of us likes suffering, whether physical or spiritual. But the reality is that suffering as a Christian is inevitable because the world “hates” us even as it hated Christ (John 15:18-25). So, to the extent that we are faithful to him, we can expect opposition, ridicule, enmity, and even persecution for the name of Christ. But lest we think that suffering as a Christian is random and purposeless, our passage in 1 Peter 4:12-19 reminds us that sufferings have a distinct purpose in the Christian life. They “come upon (us) to test (us)” (4:12) in order to grant us the privilege of sharing in Christ’s sufferings (4:13; Phil. 1:29) and thus bringing glory to God (4:16). Trials of all kinds in the Christian life serve the ultimate purpose of purifying us from the sinful contamination of the world (1 Jn. 2:15-17), conforming us more and more to the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29), and making us fit for God’s holy presence (Lev. 11:44; 1 Peter 2:9-12).
So, with this in mind, let us confidently “entrust our souls to (our) faithful Creator” knowing that we are eternally secure in Christ. Let us press on in faith without doubting (James 1:6). As Paul exhorts us, let us “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).
Even in suffering, God’s ways are for our good as we have learned from this study. Remember that…
I. The Privilege Of Suffering Is Identification With Christ (4:12-13).
1. Suffering now is assured (4:12).
2. Glorification later is anticipated (4:13).
II. The Blessing Of Suffering Is Glorifying God (4:14-16).
1. When you suffer for the name of Christ you are blessed, but not for doing wrong (4:14-15).
2. When you suffer for the name of Christ you can glorify God, and not be ashamed (4:16).
III. The Purpose Of Suffering Is For Judgement (4:17-18).
1. For the godly, judgement now is for the purpose of purification (4:17a).
2. For the ungodly, judgement later is for the purpose of condemnation (4:17b-18).
IV. The Lesson In Suffering Is To Trust God (4:19).
1. Trust God’s will (4:19a).
2. Trust God’s faithfulness (4:19b).
As we close this study, let us be encouraged by these verses:
Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Hebrews 12:1-2, “1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (cf. 2 Thess. 3:13).
Ephesians 3:20-21, “20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Related Topics: Christian Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution