The Application of Suffering
Peter tells them basically four things are necessary if you are to be triumphant in a fiery ordeal. Number one, expect it. Number two, rejoice in it. Number three, evaluate its cause. And number four, commit yourself to God. Expect it, rejoice in it, evaluate its cause, and then entrust yourself to God. Now, this in a way sums up all of the instruction in this epistle along the lines of suffering.
1. EXPECT IT
v12 - Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.
Jesus told us that in this life we would face many troubles, in large part due to our allegiance to Him.
AD 64 - Nero: Rome fire, blame and execution of Christians (used as torches).
First Peter, most theologians believe was written around this time. If this is accurate, "fiery trials" is a pretty vivid word picture.
But as soon as we say that, it makes a whole lot of things in our lives look ridiculous. I will die for You, but I can't find time to sit and read Your Word each day. I will die for You, but prayer doesn't seem real. I will die for You, but I can't talk to Jim at work about You. I will die for You, but I can't support Your cause by committing a portion of my income to You. One of the best ways to bring wonderful Christ-honoring changes into your life is to measure your way of life by your willingness to die for Jesus.
2. REJOICE IN IT
v13 - Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
James: Consider it pure joy...
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4)
3. EVALUATE ITS CAUSE
14 If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. 15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. 16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! 17 For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News?
This is a warning and reminder--don't act like a fool and then think you're suffering "with Christ."
Paul made a similar declaration to the Romans...
Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. (Romans 6:15-18)
We can choose to suffer for the wrong things. Peter is pleading with us to make our suffering count for something. Don’t waste your suffering racking up massive amounts of debt. Don’t waste your suffering in the bottom of bottle or at the end of needle. Don’t waste your suffering by breaking apart your relationships. Instead, make them count.
In this life, you are going to suffer. Peter wants you to make sure you suffer for the right things—for eternal things.
4. ENTRUST YOURSELF TO GOD
v19 - So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
This is where it really starts getting good. When we choose to suffer with Christ—entrusting ourselves to God—we discovery in a real and tangible way that God will never fail us. So many of us go through life longing and hoping to experience more of God’s presences, but we refuse to entrust ourselves to God, allowing Him to prove Himself trustworthy.