January 31, 2024
The life story of Jesus is one filled with suffering. Peter, one of the 12 disciples, witnessed it and heard Him talk about it on many occasions. Here are 2:
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
Just prior to the cross, Jesus said, “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” (John 15:20).
This persecution or suffering that Jesus and those who followed Him experienced was due to their faith in God.
The Lord Jesus is the champion of our faith. He is both the founder and perfecter (Hebrews 12:2), and all those who bear His name will endure suffering.
This is what the first century believers were learning. So, Peter writes a letter (his first letter) about suffering for your faith. The translators have divided his letter into 5 chapters, which provide 5 lessons dealing with suffering.
Chapter 1 teaches that suffering for your faith has great value.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so 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 Peter 1:6-7).
Gold is a precious commodity on our planet, but Peter instructs us that when faith is put to the test it is more valuable than gold. It is more valuable in the economy of God. Earthly riches will provide sustenance, luxury, and possibly personal recognition, whereas faith that has been tried will confirm our salvation, develop our character, and ultimately bring honor to Jesus Christ.
Tested faith is not a quick or easy process. It spans the whole of our Christian lives and brings us into dark valleys of tears that cause us to turn our hearts heavenward. God allows this and places great significance upon it.
Chapter 2 focuses on the sufferings of Christ, which give us help to endure.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23).
The example of Jesus is perfect. There were no failures. There were no flaws. He did it impeccably. While none of us will be able to handle suffering like He did, through His indwelling Spirit, He will help us.
His life is a record of how to maintain faith in severe trials. His example can help us. Knowing that He went before us is a great inspiration. Knowing that He understands how difficult life can be is a huge encouragement.
Peter gives a little glimpse of how Jesus trusted His Father instead of retaliating. Jesus understood, not only the purpose of His suffering, but that in the end God would have the final word. He saw the big picture and how justice would be carried out by God, which gave Him the ability to endure present suffering.
Chapter 3 reveals that suffering provides an opportunity to bless others.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it’” (1 Peter 3:8-11).
Retaliation is often the first response because it is natural for us to want others to pay for their wrongs. The spiritual response is to use suffering as an occasion to be of benefit to the wrongdoer and your own life.
Imagine the outcome if Jesus had retaliated instead of submitting to His Father’s will. We would all be hopelessly lost in our sins.
The wise words of Solomon have a place here. He says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). When someone speaks unkindly to you or says something about your faith or Savior, it is so easy to answer in kind. The advantage is often not in what we say but in how we say it. Peter also reminds us that handling suffering properly will affect us and help us to see “good days.”
Chapter 4 reminds us that participating in Christ’s sufferings will produce joy.
“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. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:12-14).
The joy doesn’t come so much in the actual suffering itself, but in knowing that we are participating in the sufferings of Jesus. None of us enjoys hurt, pain, or adversity, but we can rejoice in that we are continuing the legacy of what our Lord and Savior began.
More than that, we joy in the fact that “the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14b). In the face of insult and hatred from our adversaries, we can experience the overwhelming power of God’s Spirit giving us strength and victory.
Lastly, Chapter 5 points us beyond the suffering to its purpose and the final outcome of it.
“And 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. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10-11).
We have not only been called to suffer, we have been called to eternal glory in Christ. We live in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4), but one day it will be over and the suffering will yield to majestic, magnificent glory.
It is not just that now it’s suffering and then it’s glory, but rather that the suffering of today will enhance the glory of a future day. The humble mindset, the winsome smile, the inward attitude, and the patient endurance are all working toward something greater, something bigger, something far grander.
Our suffering will to some degree elevate the glory of our Savior. What an honor we have!
Thank you for praying for our prodigals and for revival.
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel