Suffering According to God’s Will
1 Peter 4: 12-19
I’d like you to turn with me to 1 Peter and to chapter 4, verses 12 to 19.
In order to understand vv. 12-19, we need to know two introductory points about the context of our text.
First, in my view, Peter wrote this letter to exhort Christians who suffered for their faith in Jesus Christ to be holy and to hope in God as they suffered for their faith in Christ.
Second, Peter grounds his exhortations to be holy and to hope in God and God’s sovereign work of salvation in Christ.
I want to highlight four truths from this text.
First, don’t be surprised when you suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ (v. 12).
Second, rejoice, and glorify God when you suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ (vv. 13-14).
Third, don’t be ashamed to suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ (vv. 15-18).
Fourth, trust God when you suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ (v. 19).
So let’s dive in to the passage and to the points:
Don’t be surprised when you suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ (v. 12).
12 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.
Peter begins verse 12 by exhorting his audience not to be surprised/shocked by this fiery trial that has come upon them as though something strange/foreign has come upon them. The fiery trial refers to suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ. More specifically, it refers to suffering insults, revilements, and social rejection from the society in which these Christians lived, because Peter states in verse 14 that these Christians are blessed if they are reviled/insulted for the name of Jesus.
Peter calls this trial “fiery” because he associates it with God’s chastening or judgment of his people for the sake of purifying their faith. In 1 Peter 1:7, Peter refers to the suffering of these Christians with an analogy of gold being refined through fire. He asserts in 1:7 that their tested faith, which is more precious than gold refined by fire, would be proven to be real when Jesus returns.
Don’t be shocked when you suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ.
For those of you who are working in a government department, don’t be shocked when your colleagues don’t want to hang out or befriend you because you don’t want to take bribes in your office. Don’t be shocked when you receive opposition or criticism from those whom you serve.
For those of you who are young, don’t be shocked if you experience severe loneliness and discouragement because you don’t want to join in their wicked ways or drunkenness.
For those of you who are stay-at- home mothers or ladies, don’t be shocked if at some point in your life some people avoid you because you don’t join them in their gossip. And don’t be shocked when the people whom you thought would stand with you and support you do not.
Don’t be shocked when you suffer precisely because of your faithfulness to Jesus Christ.
2. Rejoice when you suffer for your faith in Jesus (vv. 13-14).
13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
This verse 13 introduces us to one of the many tensions of the Christian faith: namely, the tension of joy co-existing with suffering.
Keep on rejoicing.
When you are thrown in the cellars of suffering, keep on rejoicing.
When you dive in the sea of affliction, keep on rejoicing.
In fact, keep on rejoicing not in spite of the affliction but even because of it.
This is not a little piece of advice about the power of positive thinking. This is an utterly radical, abnormal, supernatural way to respond to suffering. It is not in our power. It is not for the sake of our honor. It is the way spiritual aliens and exiles live on the earth for the glory of the great King.
“Count it all joy when you meet various trials,” is foolish advice, except for one thing — God. Peter gives certain reasons why we can “keep on rejoicing” when the suffering comes. They all relate to God.
a. Evidence of Union with Christ
Keep on rejoicing because your suffering as a Christian is an evidence of your union with Christ.
Verse 13a: “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings” In other words your sufferings are not merely your own. They are also Christ’s. This is cause for rejoicing because it means you are united to Christ.
Joseph Tson, a Romanian pastor who stood up to repressions of Christianity, wrote,
This union with Christ is the most beautiful subject in the Christian life. It means that I am not a lone fighter here: I am an extension of Jesus Christ. When I was beaten in Romania, He suffered in my body. It is not my suffering: I only had the honor to share His sufferings. (“A Theology of Martyrdom”)
Keep on rejoicing, because your sufferings as a Christian are not merely yours but Christ’s and they give evidence of your union with him.
b. A Means to Attaining Greater Joy in Glory
Keep on rejoicing because this joy will strengthen your assurance that when Christ comes in glory, you will rejoice forever with him.
Verse 13b: “that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” Notice: keep on rejoicing now, so that you may rejoice then. Our joy now through suffering is the means of attaining our joy then, a thousand-fold in glory.
First, there is suffering, then there is glory. Paul said, “If we suffer with him we will be glorified with him.” First the suffering, and then the glory — both for Jesus and for those who are united to him.
So keep on rejoicing now in suffering in order that you might rejoice with exultation at the revelation of his glory.
c. The Spirit of Glory and of God Resting on You
Keep on rejoicing in suffering because then the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
Verse 14: “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
This means that in the hour of greatest trial there is a great consolation. In great suffering on earth there is great support from heaven. You may think now that you will not be able to bear it. But if you are Christ’s, you will be able to bear it, because he will come to you and rest upon you.
As Rutherford said, the Great King keeps his finest wine in the cellar of affliction.
If you say, “What is this?” — the Spirit of glory and of God resting on me in suffering — the answer is simply this: you will find out when you need it. The Spirit will reveal enough of glory and enough of God to satisfy your soul, and carry you through.
Seek to be holy;
Seek to bring truth;
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 upon you in suffering.
So rejoice when you suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ!
3. Don’t be ashamed when you suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ (vv. 15-18).
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
In verse 15, Peter now says be ashamed to suffer for unrighteousness because that kind of suffering brings dishonor in God. There is no honor when one suffers as a murderer or as a thief or as a busy-body or as an evil-doer, for these acts bring shame in society and to God (v. 15).
But Christians should not be ashamed to suffer as a Christian (i.e. for their faith in Jesus Christ) because suffering for Christ brings honor to God’s although it brings shame in this life.
Verse 16: Glorifying God means showing by your actions and attitudes that God is glorious to you — that he is valuable, precious, desirable, satisfying. And the greatest way to show that someone satisfies your heart is to keep on rejoicing in them when all other supports for your satisfaction are falling away. When you keep rejoicing in God in the midst of suffering, it shows that God, and not other things, is the great source of your joy.
Suffering for the gospel is an honor.
Ask God to give you the courage to be willing to suffer for your faith in Jesus if he calls you to do so.
Peter specifically offers a reason why Christians should not be ashamed to suffer for their faith in Christ. Namely, God judges his people in the current evil age by means of suffering via evil opponents of the Christian faith (v. 17). Peter has emphasized throughout the letter up to 4:18 that Christians are the people of God and that they will be saved from God’s future wrath. The implication of 4:17-18 is that non-Christians will not escape God’s wrath since they reject Christ, which they demonstrate by persecuting Christians.
4. Trust God when you suffer for Christ (v. 19).
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Peter concludes in verve 19 by exhorting these Christians to trust God when they suffer in accordance with his will (i.e., when they suffer for righteousness as Christians) as they live righteously.
Trust God when you suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ, because your suffering for your faith in Jesus Christ:
proves that you are trusting in Jesus Christ,
proves that you have the Spirit, and
proves that you will be saved from God’s eschatological wrath on the last day (1:6-10; 2:13; 4:17-19).
When Jesus was dying on the cross, he spoke to God the Father. There he was in the depths of his suffering – alone, forsaken, the eternal Son turned into Sin itself and bearing the full wrath of God that should have fallen on me. And when he gave up his spirit, submitting himself to his Father’s will even to the point of a shameful death on the cross, listen to what he said. He called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46)
That word “commit” is the same as the word we see in v.19, “entrust.” What does God expect you to do when you suffer?
To change the world?
To defend yourself by any means necessary?
Thinking about our suffering Savior, Peter writes, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
Christian, you have a powerful God who made all things with His words. And He caused us to be born again by the same word of His power. He rescued you through the suffering of Jesus, His Son, on the cross and He will take care of you no matter what trials he allows or brings into your life.
So, go and do whatever good you can in the callings God has put on your life – as husbands and wives and children and workers and Christians – go and do good knowing that even if you suffer for it, you are kept by a faithful God and nothing can separate you from His love for you in Christ.
When trouble comes—and it comes to all of us sooner or later, we generally can’t do much about our circumstances. We can’t wave our hands and make the sick well, or put money in the bank, or cause angry people to like us. But there is one thing we can do. It’s what Peter mentions in verse 19. In the midst of our troubles, we can commit ourselves to our faithful Creator.
As I stand back and look at this passage, it strikes me that you will never believe it unless you also believe in the sovereignty of God over every detail of life. Peter is teaching us that every trial that comes our way is under God’s control. Nothing can touch us that does not first pass through the Father’s loving hands. We will never believe in the sovereignty of God in our trials unless we also believe that he loves us with an everlasting love. And we will never be convinced of God’s love unless we fix our gaze on the cross of Christ. There we see how the evil purposes of man serve the eternal purposes of Almighty God. There we behold untold human suffering accomplishing our eternal salvation.
Fix your eyes on the cross. Start there and your own troubles will come into proper focus. What God did for Jesus, he will also do for you.
Apart from the cross, it makes no sense to rejoice in our suffering
In conclusion, brothers and sisters: don’t be surprised when you suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ (v. 12). Rejoice when you suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ (vv. 13-14). Don’t be ashamed to suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ (vv. 16-18). Trust God when you suffer for your faith in Jesus Christ (v. 19). Amen!
I’m fighting a battle
That you’ve already won
No matter what comes my way
I will overcome
I don’t know what your doing
But I know what you’ve done
I’m fighting a battle that
You’ve already won