Suffering to the Glory of God
Would you be willing to undergo suffering for your faith? Or would you simply hide your faith from those who could cause you to suffer?
Suffering is something we would just as soon avoid if at all possible. Of course, we could avoid suffering by remaining quiet regarding our faith. Jesus said in John 15:18-25, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
In this passage, Jesus very clearly taught that anyone who trusts in Him and followers after Him will be hated by the world. There will be animosity between practicing Christians and the culture in which they live. Why? Because people in the world love those who live as they do. When Christians live holy lives, then the world will be put to shame by them and the result will be division. The world will hate us.
Peter deals with this same topic in his first epistle. Peter says (1 Peter 4:12-19):
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 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. 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. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 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? Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.”
Peter presents seven specific points regarding suffering from a Christian perspective.
Trials are not abnormal
Peter is addressing believers in this passage. We often respond poorly to various trials. Peter tells us not to see our fiery trials as something strange. The use of the word fiery certainly brings the process of burning to mind. The only other place this term is used in the Bible is in Revelation 18:9, 18 where the word is used to describe the burning of Babylon during the Millennial Kingdom. With that background, we get the idea that fiery trials denote the severity of the persecution believers will receive at the hands of the world…those, who according to Jesus, will hate them.
I don’t know if you have been burned, but I have. And I can say that nothing hurts so much as the burning of the flesh. So, Peter is saying in this passage that as trials do come to believers, there will be pain; the kind of pain that comes from being consumed by fire.
Peter also tells us that the purpose of these fiery trials is to try the believer. These trials…in the form of persecution…are allowed by God to test and refine our faith. For this reason, believers should consider our trials and persecution as natural and usual.
Do you anticipate that trials will be part of your spiritual life so as to bring you to a mature faith?
When we suffer, we participate in Christ’s suffering
As odd as it may sound, when believers undergo suffering because of their faith in Christ, they are to rejoice. There is little that seems more difficult, at least to me, than to rejoice when I am undergoing suffering–especially persecution. But Peter presents this as a command. We are to rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s suffering. We rejoice now when we undergo persecution and suffering so that we will also be glad with exceeding joy when His glory is revealed. Our joy will come into its fullness at the Second Coming of Christ. What a wonderful day that will be.
Are you will to suffer in the short term to experience the exceeding joy that will come when we see Christ face-to-face?
Believers are blessed when they are persecuted
As surprising as it may seem, we are blessed when we are persecuted. Peter said that we are blessed when we are reproached for the name of Christ. To be reproached is to be insulted or reviled. It means that the believer because of faith in Christ receives verbal abuse. Believers who proclaim the name of Christ will be hated by the world (Matthew 10:22; Mark 13:13; 21:17).
To be blessed means that the believer who undergoes this form of persecution will have spiritual wealth for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.When believers hold up under the such reproach and bear Christ’s reproach, then they reflect the glory of God…this is the Shechinah Glory of God (2 Corinthians 3:10-18). As the world blasphemes God, we for our part, glorify Him.
Are you currently exhibiting the glory of God through your life?
Believers are not to suffer for their own wrongdoings
Many suffer because of their own actions instead of suffering for bearing the reproach of Christ. Peter reminds us that our suffering should not be caused by our sinful actions such as murder, thievery, do evil, or butting into others affairs. We can expect to suffer when we do wrong. That is what human government is for. Our suffering should be because of our faith in Christ and not because of our own wrongdoings.
Are you undergoing suffering? Is it for Christ’s sake or your own?
There is no shame in suffering
Peter says that if one suffers as a Christian, he should not be ashamed. The term “Christian” occurs only three times in the Bible (here and Acts 11:26; 26:28). In the Acts, the term is used by unbelievers …the disciples were called Christians (Acts 11:26) and …you almost persuade me to become a Christians (Acts 26:28). Peter uses the term here as a believer, but he appears to be using it as a negative sense as by unbelievers. Peter is saying that if anyone suffers because “he is one of those people…a Christian,” he should not be ashamed. Even when believers are marginalized by the culture around them, we should glorify God.
How do you respond to name-calling as a worldly response to your faith?
Judgment begins at the house of God
Next, Peter presents a principle of life–judgment begins at the house of God. God has expectations for life. Remember, Peter’s original audience were Jewish believers who were scattered abroad. Peter is telling these believers that suffering is God’s discipline that has come on Jewish believers. God’s judgment, as Peter says, “…begins with us first.” Judgment of the Jewish nation occurred in A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the scattering of the Jewish people (including those who believed in Christ).
Peter is saying that if discipline is severe for believers (through suffering), then it will be even greater and more devastating for those who do not obey the gospel of God. Peter emphasizes this point by saying how the righteous one is scarcely saved. This speaks of the difficulties in life that believers go through that leads up to their glorification. This not being speaking about eternal life. They already have that. It is speaking of how hard life can be under the trials of life. These trials are all about building faith.
Sometime life is difficult because of divine discipline in the believer’s life (Hebrews 12:7-8). But, life is also difficult because of the persecution brought about by the world around the believer. Paul stresses this as he strengthened the disciples saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” This is not speaking of eternal salvation. It is speaking to believers and telling them in no uncertain terms, that entry into the kingdom of God will come after our faith has been tested by tribulations.
We can be encouraged by this, even though suffering is a part of believing, because our suffering is only temporary. Consider the unbeliever who will suffer for all of eternity. The unbeliever will experience the wrath of God. The believer will experience the discipline of God.
Even under the discipline of God, do you rejoice under various trials because you know your reward is in heaven (Matt 5:11-12)?
The believer’s commitment is to the faithful Creator
Peter sums this section of his letter with a deductive summary. He says, “Therefore…” Because of all the things Peter has said about the suffering of believers, he instructs all who suffer according the will of God to commit their souls to Him. Peter is calling for commitment to the faithful Creator. Peter is calling for believers to do good even under extreme conditions. Peter seems to be calling on believers to entrust themselves to the protective protection of the one who Created them.
Paul said it this way in 2 Timothy 1:12, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” Our very souls are to be entrusted for safekeeping into the hands of God.
Have you committed your soul into the hands of God for safekeeping?
My prayer for you and me is this:
Dear God and Father, I come to You today, recognizing that you are the creator and sustainer of all things. I commit my soul into your hands. I know that you are able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. I accept the trials and tribulation that are presented to me in life because of my faith in Jesus, the Christ, because they will build my faith to maturity. Even in the face of suffering, I will stand firm in you with joy, know that my trials are quickly passing. I look to the return of You Son who will reward me for what I have done in the body whether good or bad. Help me Lord to never be ashamed of you even under the worst persecution. Help me to always give you the glory. Amen.