Suffering as a Christian (1 Peter 4: 12 - 19)
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 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 a thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household: 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.”
This is a challenging scripture. Nobody wants to suffer pain or hardship. The thought of suffering a fiery ordeal (v12) would probably fill most of us with dread. However, we are told that suffering is sent to test us, and this suffering enables us to participate in the sufferings of Christ. Somehow, as we engage in the ministry of Christ (being obedient to what He has told us to do) we will share fellowship with Christ through suffering in His name (v13, & Philippians 3:10-11).
Christ suffered greatly for us on the Cross, and fellowship with Christ involves sharing in His suffering. This suffering is connected with our reward in heaven. There is a sense that suffering in this way refines us, as gold is refined in fire (Zechariah 13:9). We are to consider it a blessing to suffer for our Christian faith. We must expect suffering, as everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). We are blessed through this suffering because it indicates that we are walking with God and His Spirit rests on us (v14). It is proof of an obedient Christian life. Those who have suffered due to their ministry for Christ can take encouragement from the fact that this suffering is part of God’s plan. God who loves us, knows all about what we have gone through! We are blessed that He chose us and we are honoured because we obey Him.
We must be clear that suffering in this sense means righteous suffering, because we have chosen to follow God and His ways. This is completely different to the suffering that we inflict on ourselves and on others through sin, disobedience and foolishness. It is not the same as suffering that occurs as a result of our own bad decisions or wrong doing. It is interesting to note that being a “meddler” is mentioned in the same sentence as being a murderer, thief or criminal (v15). Meddling basically means being a busybody or troublemaker, with the intent to cause the suffering of other people or for your own satisfaction or gain. This kind of behavior often causes great pain and disruption. It appears to be considered as seriously as other crimes. When we cause suffering as a result of our own sin, we need to learn to recognise it and repent. This is not the kind of suffering that is meant in this scripture. Instead when we suffer for Christ we have nothing to be ashamed of, although the enemy may try his best to make us feel condemned. We can choose to meditate on v16 and praise God that we bear his name.
God uses suffering to discipline us in this lifetime, because He begins His judgment in His own household (v17). We are God’s children and therefore part of His family. This suffering is the worst that can happen to us because we are confident of our eternal salvation in Christ! However, for those who do not know God, the judgement that is coming is far worse. We can rejoice in the suffering we experience now, because we are confident of living in His will. We can choose to give our lives to Him and continue to do good, because of our confidence in His faithfulness (v19), for His love and mercies never end (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Almighty God, thank you for choosing me to be part of your family. Help me to trust you and to have full confidence that you are in control even in the midst of hardship and suffering. I pray God, for your encouragement through any test that I may have to overcome as I obey You. Help me to continue to walk faithfully beside you. Thank you for your faithfulness and love. Thank you for the confidence that I can have as a follower of Christ, that I will receive my reward in heaven. In Jesus' name, Amen.