Rebranding My Affliction
Whenever I consider my reaction to tough times, no matter the context, I am challenged with responding in the moment or immediately after in the joyful way Christ expects me to as his disciple. I realize in order to do so requires me to think deeper about my knowledge of and faith in Jesus. It is my hope and prayer that this message moves us to a revised and revitalized joy in response to hard times. Resulting from a renewed understanding and perspective of what is taking place, our Christ-like response, and the eschatological outcome.
So what should our defensive and offensive actions be when we’re dealing with hard times? Peter instructs that we don’t be surprised!! That means do not be or become emotionally or cognitively impacted by the introduction of something new. The extreme persecution of Christians was on the brink. They had been dealing with sporadic episodes here and there, which is why they’re scattered from home. Peter wants them to treat all present and future hard times as no surprise. Not in a continual state of shock. This is an instruction to control our minds and emotions about the situation(s), even while it’s causing us pain.
Application: Well wait, we’ve never experienced these things before. That may be true, but we’ve all dealt with hard times before. Satan might request different methods for different seasons, but the fact is that affliction is affliction. So when news hits our ears, we need re-frame our minds to say “this is no surprise”.
Well what’s going to help my mind to think that way, and not let the initial shock and negative emotions overcome me? It is having the right spiritual perspective about affliction, knowing that all things must be approved by GOD. And if they are approved by him, for children of GOD, the affliction is for our testing. In other words, GOD has designed this whole fiery ordeal to refine his children. Refine means to remove impurities for the purpose of improving. Peter has already touched on this in chapter 1. He now mentions it for healthy perspective so we don’t behave in shock or astonishment at what we go through. A gold or silversmith used fire to heat the metals so hot that they would melt, so he/she could scoop out impure objects. They repeat this process until they start seeing a clearer reflection of themselves in the metal. Thus all throughout the process, they are keeping a close eye on the metal.
Application: We must develop this perspective as children of GOD if we desire to continue in our faith. GOD has always used this process with his children - Psalm 66:10; Isaiah 48:10. The furnace of affliction is how GOD refines us over and over again. All kinds of affliction. GOD is proving our hearts, to reveal values, habits, treasures, priorities, contentment, comfort, etc. He does this individually and collectively. If I have this perspective, then when the next thing hits, it won’t surprise me, I will acknowledge that GOD still has his eyes on me to improve who I am in Christ. And I know that GOD is getting some stuff out of me so he can a better reflection of Christ’s image!!!
Not only that, but because I recognize what GOD is doing, Peter says this fiery affliction shouldn’t be looked at as strange random haphazard event in the life of GOD’s people. Why? Because it comes with the Christian territory!
Application: We must also develop this perspective, and that is hard times come with the territory. I realize everybody in the world at some point deals with hard times, but for a child of GOD we are different because we understand that it is ultimately the will and providence of GOD over our lives. It shouldn’t be I can’t believe this and why why why. But we must progress to David’s words in Psalm 34:19, Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them from them all!!!
So Peter instructs what not to do with the right perspective, then gives the contrasting instruction in verse 13. In other words he gives them instructions what to do as an alternative to being in emotional and cognitive shock at hard times. And this is going to sound like a broken record for some, but I find it so crucial to reiterate because of how Peter communicates it in this verse. Rejoice!! Be Glad!!! What’s interesting is that it’s in the present tense, which means GOD’s children should already be in a regular process of rejoicing!! Thus when hard times hit, there should be no interruption!! But then Peter gives us what level or degree we should be rejoicing. To the same degree that we share Christ’s sufferings. Not consequential suffering, because he says in v. 15 that we shouldn’t suffer for that. But all other affliction we experience, unjustly or whatever, we share in the sufferings of Christ. Suffer means to experience emotional pain and distress due to misfortune and adversity. So to share Christ’s suffering, doesn’t mean to get scourged and die on a cross. It’s the emotional pain we share with him from any affliction!! So this means, whatever I go through, I go through it with and for Christ! And whatever level I go through it, to that level I should rejoice!
Application: It’s one thing for us to shout and rejoice after GOD has delivered us. But it’s a whole nother level when we rejoice in the affliction. As my affliction increases, my praise increases!! All the emotions Jesus experienced, frustration at how others viewed him, rejected by his creation, isolated and lonely, emotions from being misunderstood, physical pain, etc. When I get my mind right, and realize that all I’m dealing with I have in common with Jesus, my lord and king, and thus I’m going through it with him. However long I’ve dwelt on my issues in one day, I should sing, praise, and be glad just as long. To whatever degree I’ve cried, I need to praise him to the same degree.
Watch this! What is the purpose Peter? Why should I praise and rejoice now, in my suffering to that degree? So when Jesus hits the sky, where all of humanity can see him, with a bling so bright that causes every human knee to bow down. Everybody will bow indeed, but Peter says then we will really have cause to leap and shout! Because our gladness will have no limit.
Application: I pray this revamps everyone’s praise. Some people stay down, that’s understood. Some are in extreme pain, understandable. Sometimes we’re so bogged down that when we’re together we don’t see a reason to shout. But understanding now that enduring and praising in my suffering now is going to bring me to a no limit gladness and joy and praise, ought to completely transform my inlook and outlook on my affliction. Now I’m glad that I’m going through something, because my GOD’s eyes are closely on me, he’s refining my life, this is the norm for a Christian, I’m gone praise while I have my breath, because when Jesus returns, I will have a no limit gladness for having joy in my afflictions on earth.
Re-brand your trials. Are you in a continual state of shock about all that you’re going through? Restructure your mind to know GOD’s design in all your afflictions, to refine who you are. Understand that it comes with the territory. Take the alternate route, the route of GOD’s people and that’s to rejoice and praise to the degree of your afflictions, so that we will reach a no limit gladness and joy in the sky when Jesus returns!!! Amen!!!