Suffer Joyfully in Accord with God’s Will (1 Peter 4:12-19)

by FBCMagnolia

As the letter draws to a close, Peter reminds his readers that they should not be astonished when they suffer.  God is using the suffering to purify the church; therefore, they should unreservedly give themselves to God in their sufferings.

Peter also reminds us again that sufferings are for the purpose of testing and refining our faith.  Therefore, we ought not to conceive of our suffering as something strange or unexpected.  Instead, Peter declares that believers are to rejoice in the test that suffering brings for being members of God’s household.  Suffering for Christ in this world characterizes believers as strangers, with heaven as their future place of eternal residence.

Here in verse 12, we see that Suffering is the norm for Christians, not a surprising exception.  Why does Peter remind us that suffering is the norm for Christians?  This is because if we are astonished at the suffering that occurs, we might become over whelmed.  We might even misinterpret sufferings as God not loving us.  An advance warning of suffering helps us to be prepared for suffering, so that our faith is not threatened when difficulties arise.

Why is suffering the norm for Christians?  God uses suffering as the means to purify His house.  Sufferings are not a sign of God’s absence, but His purifying presence.  God uses sufferings to make us more and more like Christ.  Just as silver is heated up to remove impurities, so are God’s children, so that we to can become more pure and stronger.

Verse 13 is in contrast to verse 12.  Instead of being shocked that we go through suffering, we should rejoice at the privilege to the degree that they participate in the sufferings of Christ.  So what does it mean to rejoice in suffering?  Does it mean that when someone hurts us because we are a believer that we says “yes! Give us some more of that”?  No, of course not, we get insight on what God is calling us to do when He tells us to rejoice in suffering in verse 14.

Verse 14 emphasizes that believers are blessed by God if they are insulted because of their allegiance to Jesus Christ.  So the first reason that we rejoice in suffering is because we are blessed by God because His Spirit and glory will rest upon us.  So when we go through suffering, God promises to draw closer to us.  The second reason we rejoice in suffering is because it gives us assurance that we are truly believers.  The beatitudes in Matthew 5 guarantees to us that all that follow after Jesus will be persecuted in Jesus’ name.  So when it happens we gain assurance that we are on the right path.  The third reason that we can rejoice in suffering is because of our hope in the Lord that loves us, we trust that our temporary situation will not consume us.  Therefore, although we may be insulted by human beings, we are blessed by God himself.  We Christians may be reproached by human beings, but we are blessed by God.

Verses 15-16 explains that believers’ joy and blessing is conditioned upon truly suffering as Christians.  Not all suffering qualifies one for God’s blessing and joy, for human beings also suffer when they do what is evil.  Peter encourages us to live in such a way that our sufferings were caused by our devotion to Christ and not by evil acts.  Basically, suffering for Christ is a cause for joy, but being mistreated because of one’s own sin is nothing to brag about.  So in other words, it is good to suffer for Christ, but not good to suffer because you’re a jerk.

Peter also realized that most Christians will not be guilty of obvious sins like murder and stealing, and so he concluded by encouraging believers to even refrain from annoying others.  If believers act like busybodies, they would be considered to be pests who deserve isolation and mistreatment.

The question can be asked, why would anyone be a Christian if all they are promised is suffering?  The simple answer can be found in verses 17 and 18.  If even believers in Christ will be judged, then what terrible punishment must surely await unbelievers, who pay no attention to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Basically, we all will suffer, so it is better to do it temporarily here on earth for the glory of God, than for an eternity in Hell.  The Christians worse day on earth will be infinitely better than a sinner’s best day in Hell.

God saves his people by refining and purifying them through suffering.  It is implied here that salvation is eschatological, a gift that believers will receive after enduring suffering.  If the godly are saved through the purification of suffering, then the judgment of the ungoldly and sinner must be horrific indeed.  Suffering may be difficult now, but by participating in the pain of following Christ believers escape the condemnation coming upon the wicked.

Verse 19 gives us the conclusion to this passage.  Those who suffer according to God’s will are those who share in Christ’s sufferings, who are insulated in Christ’s name, and who suffer as Christians rather than for doing something evil.  The way believers will reveal that they are trusting in God is by continuing to do good.

Therefore, those who belong to God should entrust their lives to their faithful Creator, just as Jesus entrusted his life to God when he suffered.  God is faithful, and so he will see to it that the suffering does not exceed what we can bear.  We should persist in doing good, for entrusting ourselves to God always manifests itself in a changed life, in the pursuit of goodness.  (Schreiner, 2003)

In conclusion, I believe that there are six reasons to keep on rejoicing.

1.)    Suffering is not a surprise but a plan. (v.12)

  1. We keep on rejoicing because the suffering in not a surprise, but a plan.
  2. It is not strange.  It is not absurd.  It is not meaningless.
  3. It is purposeful.  It is for our testing.  It proves and strengthens real faith.

2.)    Suffering is evidence of Union with Christ (v. 13a)

  1. We keep on rejoicing because our suffering as a Christian is an evidence of our union with Christ.
  2. We keep on rejoicing because our sufferings as a Christian are not merely ours but Christ’s and they give evidence of our union with Him.

3.)    Suffering is a means to attaining greater joy in glory. (v. 13b)

  1. We keep on rejoicing because this joy will strengthen our assurance that when Christ comes in glory, we will rejoice forever with Him.
  2. If we become embittered at life and the pain it deals us, we are not preparing to rejoice at the revelation of Christ’s glory.  Keep on rejoicing now in suffering in order that you might rejoice with exultation at the revelation of His glory.

4.)    During suffering the Spirit of Glory and of God will rest upon us. (v.14)

  1. We keep on rejoicing in suffering because then the Spirit of glory and of God will rest upon us.
  2. We seek to be holy; we seek to bring truth, we seek to bear witness; and do not turn aside from risk.  And sooner or later you will experience the Spirit of glory and of God resting on you in suffering.

5.)    Suffering helps us in glorifying God.  (v.16)

  1. We keep on rejoicing in suffering because this glorifies God.

6.)    Suffering shows God’s faithfulness to care for our Soul. (v.19)

  1. We keep on rejoicing because our Creator is faithful to care for our soul.
  2. We keep on rejoicing because suffering helps display where are treasure is- in heaven or on earth.  (Piper, 1994)