Expect Suffering & Trust God - 1 Peter 4:12-19
Do you ever feel like you just can’t seem to get rest from suffering and mayhem?
Other questions people ask concerning suffering: Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why would a good God allow so much suffering in the world?
…Why is this happening to me?
To those who belong to God by faith in Christ, Peter says…
Don’t be surprised; rejoice!
Is Peter seriously telling believers to not only anticipate suffering but also to rejoice in it as a privilege?
Yep, he is.
First, why should we expect it?
The Apostle Paul tells his protege Timothy that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim.
The Apostle John says something similar to Peter’s words here…
Why should we not be surprised that the world doesn’t like us (that is, true believers)?
Like John, Peter was there at the last supper on the Thursday evening of Passover week when Jesus said,
So that explains why we can expect it, because we are being identified with Christ.
But why rejoice?
Well first, for the same reason, namely, the privilege of being more closely identified with Christ!
Also, although Peter doesn’t emphasize it here in this verse (though probably suggests it in v. 17 regarding disciplinary judgment), the NT points out that suffering producing growth in Christlikeness is reason for rejoicing:
Finally, Peter says specifically that suffering for Christ not only increases our joy in God now but also that it will result in rejoicing with exceeding gladness at his second coming!
- He seems to be suggesting that suffering for Christ now increases our joy then.
It may also be that Peter is already here foreshadowing his point in vv.
17-18… that those who suffer for Christ in this life are being disciplined as sons, but those who suffer only for sinning without repentance and faith will end up condemned as sinners.
The result for suffering discipline as sons is exceeding joy when Christ returns.
The result for remaining in sin is unthinkably worse suffering than what we experience in this life!
To summarize what Peter says in the first two verses…
Believers should expect suffering as a part of God's sovereign care over them, rejoicing that it makes them like Christ and increases their joy in future glory.
One more thing I don’t want to fail to point out: Our rejoicing in suffering only makes sense “to the degree that” it is taking place as we “share in Christ”— suffering unjust treatment for the good of others, and not suffering for our own wrongdoing.
- In fact, “to the degree that you share in christ’s sufferings, rejoice” is emphasized in the Greek text by coming first in order.
So I believe “to the degree that...” is the key to understanding where Peter goes next.
Suffer insult for Christ and not for sin.
It is actually a spiritual blessing to be insulted for the name of Christ, but not to suffer for your own sin.
There is no shame in being called a “Christian”; rather, it is an honor.
(bc it glorifies God)
Suffering insult for the name of Christ is in fact a blessing because it results in confirmation by the Holy Spirit and reminds us of the unsurpassed greatness of our future reward/inheritance.
So we rest in the knowledge of God’s current blessing on our lives (presence and pleasure), and with anticipation we look forward to a future reward…
NOT because of sin - A murderer would be one who takes vengeance into his own hands.
Thieving too would mean Christians might perhaps resort to stealing when their goods have been wrongfully confiscated.
- The first two sound extreme and obvious, while the second two are more general and subtle.
Don’t let your suffering be as an evildoer of any kind.
(BTW, some translations have “criminal,” but I believe this is even broader than necessarily being charged with a crime.)
Finally, don’t even let it be for meddling in affairs that you should keep your nose out of.
Don’t be a busybody who gets into trouble for that.
- As Paul says in Rom.
12:18, If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Back to the overall concept then of suffering insult for the name of Christ and not for sin… - If you suffer specifically because you are a “Christian,” one who follows Christ (that’s what it means… follower of Christ… not ‘little Christs’ as some have popularized.
The term comes from the idea of Herodians, for example, as being partisan to Herod, following and supporting Herod… It is probably correct, however, to understand this as historically originating as a derogatory reference to followers of Christ.)
Peter says, if you are following Christ, then embrace the insult as a means to glorify God.
If it honors God, then wear the moniker with honor.
There is no shame in being insulted as a follower of Christ; it is an honor.
- It is the Christian’s honor to suffer like Christ and for Christ.
Those who think they are harming us by insulting us for doing what is right according to God’s word have certainly got it wrong.
In fact, see the contrast in the next two verses as to how believers can understand God’s present judgment versus what those who continue to disbelieve and disobey can expect regarding judgment…
Embrace judgment as discipline now to not fall under condemnation later.
Here Peter adds an additional perspective on suffering that considers God’s judgment of sin: it can either be received now as discipline, or… and this is indeed a horrific and undesirable outcome… one can bear the full weight of God’s judgment as final condemnation.
First, Peter indicates that some of what we experience now as suffering can be attributed not only to God allowing it, but also to God using trials as chastening judgment of his own house, his church.
- Peter is speaking here of God using loving discipline on his own to purify us from sin and to strengthen us for doing good.
It is consistent with what the author of Hebrews explains in chapter 12 of that letter:
“Endure suffering (or hardship) as discipline” (from v. 7)… God is treating you as sons.
—> Oh, that is good news indeed!
So, Peter says in our text, alluding to the words of OT prophets, now is the time for God’s chastening of his own house.
And the goal is a responsiveness to it that leads to repentance and ongoing growth in faithfulness to Him.
It is far better to recognize and respond to God’s judgment as discipline now than to experience his judgment as final condemnation.
Peter’s rhetorical question concerning the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of Jesus (that he reveals God and restores us to God)… the outcome for those who do not respond stuns and silences us.
- It does NOT make us point fingers at our insulters and go, “so there!”
No, it causes us deep grief and concern for their separation from God both now and forever.
We are motivated to suffer innocently and continue doing good in order that some might “see [our] good deeds and glorify God” (2:12)… in other words, that God might be pleased to use that testimony to draw them to himself through faith in Jesus Christ.
In essence, then, those who are saved are reminded here that time is short and that we ought to willingly suffer not only for our own strengthening and purifying in faith, but also that others might see the sincerity of our commitment to God and be inclined to look more closely at the truth.
And to those who are ‘pretending’ to belong to Christ or are outright rejecting him, the question followed by the OT quote (from Prov.
11:31 in the Septuagint) is a severe warning: Understand God’s holy judgment against sin and respond to Jesus now.
Do NOT wait until final judgment.
Then it is too late, resulting in condemnation.
To tie up this paragraph, Peter concludes with a point he previously made concerning Christ, how entrusting ourselves to God’s sovereign care is what will get us through in the meantime…
Trust God and do good.
Remember that Peter has already established this as Christ’s example for us:
The bottom line is that we can entrust ourselves, like Christ, to the sovereign care of God, even and especially when it is His will that we suffer for doing good.
Suffering “according to God’s will” should make us think of at least a couple of things (which we’ve already at least touched on):
In the goodness of God’s sovereign care over us, he is the one allowing this suffering, and he is trustworthy.
Does a coach make you run a lot to be mean, or does he have a goal in mind for you that requires that you be trained in endurance?
Does a teacher make you redo an assignment to punish you, or to help you learn and understand the concept so that you are able to use and apply it, building on it for further study and understanding?
Do our parents discipline and instruct us to just make us do what they want, or are they training you to live in a way that is ultimately best for you, that you will learn to submit to God’s authority and respond rightly to him?
- More than any of these, God allows suffering to teach us to rely on him and not ourselves, to hate sin and flee from it, and to strengthen us and make us fruitful for His church.
- Know this, if anyone can be, God can be trusted to always have your BEST interest at heart!
It is also means that there is a right way and a wrong way to suffer.
- It’s all about responding rightly to God.
It is not God’s will that we should sin, but it may very well be his will that we suffer consequences when we have sinned to cause us to consider God’s loving discipline in order to repent and be restored.
It is not God’s will that we claim to bear the name “Christian” and to claim that we are being mistreated because of it, when in reality we are mistreated or opposed because we are indeed immoral, divisive, or self-promoting.
That’s crying “persecution,” when in reality they are consequences for being a jerk… and it does NOT bear good testimony to Christ and glorify God. - To supposedly suffer for doing good, for the name of Christ, but then to do so with bitterness and resentment, or with self-pity, or with retaliation… is not the will of God.
Christ suffered with the mindset/intention to suffer for the good of the very ones mistreating him, without sinning and retaliating, to let suffering prove his obedience of faith.
And the ultimate result was vindication and glorification… which Peter tells us is our hope—to be like Christ now in his suffering and so to be like him in the end when everything God has promised proves true!
I would like to conclude this morning by turning this around the other way.
We’ve just said that there is a wrong way to suffer, but then what would be the right way?
Conclusion: Where do you go from here with your (current and future) suffering?
Our right response to suffering (“according to God’s will”) must mean then at least five things:
We use it as opportunity to be refined/purified and strengthened for the battle.
2. We perceive it as a privilege to be identified with Christ and to draw closer to him by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.
3. We see it as opportunity for God to prove our faith, to persevere in faith without sinning.