Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life – men without regard for God. (v3)
To varying degrees, every Christian can identify with the sentiment behind that verse. We have been attacked, persecuted, teased, goaded, etc. in countless ways by people who do not know God and even by those who do. We wonder why He allows this. Have we done something to deserve it? Are we being punished in some way?
Perhaps we forget the words of the Lord in John 16:33: “In this world you will have have trouble.” It doesn’t console us much but we are better off when we memorize the entire verse which reads;
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
One thought we should always consider with regard to our current troubles is the way in which they fit into the larger plan of the kingdom. We may never see or know (in this life) this effect that our troubles have within God’s larger plan. It may be that our struggles and the way in which we face them will move another to seek the Lord or, even longer term, may set up bigger things that we will never see. Contrary to the worldly demand to know everything, we must simply trust in God and His Kingdom plan.
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:14-19)
Peter offers up a warning of sorts in relation to his previous exhortation on the value of suffering. Just as Paul corrected the misconception about grace and sin (Romans 6:1-2), Peter preempts the line of thought that suffering for the wrong reason (murder and robbery) cannot be viewed as divinely ordained. Persecution and struggle must be seen as divinely ordained for each of us as an individual as way purifying us and maturing our faith.
The evangelist in Peter sees a further meaning to suffering as an opportunity to model Christ-like lives for the benefit of the unsaved. He moves his readers to consider how much more difficult persecution and travail must be for those without the hope of Christ. To accept our challenge and continue on with our lives in love and obedience opens the door to see Christ for themselves.
How heavy is your cross today?
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you. but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 5:12-13)
One of the ideas that is found throughout the Bible is the notion of the privilege of suffering. Whether it be persecution or a difficult ministry situation, or even personal disability, the Christian is to rejoice at the idea of being considered worthy of the suffering that we must face.
Frankly, most of us would gladly pass on this privilege.
Suffering for the glory of the gospel runs counter to our survival mechanism. We are wired to avoid pain and difficulty if at all possible and yet Peter, like other authors before him, exhorts us to rejoice at any sudden challenges that appear in our lives. Reading the rest of the verse gives us a clue that helps to change our attitude toward suffering. He reminds us that we are sharing in the suffering of Christ, in however small a way that the Lord deems appropriate for us to do so. Just as our promise awaits us in the distant future, we must also view today’s challenges as having an effect in the future of God’s plans.
Somehow, we still struggle.