In this passage, Peter continues with a pretty common theme for this letter. Suffering as a Christian. The believers he writes to were facing persecution because they were following Christ. So Peter continues to encourage them in the midst of that suffering. Rather than be troubled by it, rejoice in it.
Don’t Be Surprised at Your Trials
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.
1 Peter 4:12 NIV
“Don’t be surprised.” Sometimes we are guilty of believing that once we accept Christ as our savior, all of our problems will go away. And, when instead of going away, they get worse, we wonder what went wrong.
Nothing has gone wrong. Our troubles in this world will increase when we come to Christ. This world that rejected and crucified Jesus is not going to treat us any differently than it did him (John 15:18-21). Rather, we should think it strange when we do not face opposition from this world.
God allows these trials to come on us for a purpose; to test us. Peter also expressed this in 1 Peter 1:6-8; that the trying of our faith will result in praise, glory, and honor when Christ is revealed. Our trials burn off the impurities in our lives and demonstrate the reality of our faith.
Rejoice In Your Suffering
But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:13 NIV
Rather than be surprised at the trials and suffering, we should rejoice. Rejoice that we have been counted worthy to suffer for our Lord (Acts 5:41).
In Romans 8:17, Paul links our sharing in the suffering of Christ now, with a future sharing in his glory. Rejoicing in our suffering seems counter-intuitive, yet that is how it works in the kingdom of God. In this world, suffering is considered to be something to avoid. And we often bring that attitude with us when we come to faith.
But unlike this world, in the kingdom of God, suffering for Christ is positive. It would seem that the more we suffer for Christ in this life, the greater our joy in the life to come. When Christ’s glory is revealed, those who have shared in his suffering will also share in his glory (Rom. 8:17).
Insults Equal Blessing
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
1 Peter 4:14 NIV
Some people can ignore insults. But others of us may be deeply wounded by them. The affirmation of others is important. And that can make taking a stand for Christ very challenging. The world will not generally take that well. You can expect to be insulted.
But Peter tells me to consider an insult from the world to be a blessing. At least so long as the insult comes because I am faithful to Christ. I am blessed, because of the Holy Spirit’s presence within me. So rather than be distressed because of the insult, take it as confirmation that God is at work in you. And understand that those who are insulting you are, in reality, complimenting you. They see that you are willing to take a stand contrary to the world and for Christ. So, when they insult you, you might consider thanking them.
Not All Suffering Is Blessed
If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.
1 Peter 4:15 NIV
Not all suffering is good. I can rejoice in my suffering as a Christian. But there is nothing to be gained by suffering for my own sin. If you steal something, and wind up in prison, don’t rejoice in your suffering. That suffering has no value for you.
You might also suffer because of someone else’s actions. Or even because of illness or age. That is different than suffering for Christ and is outside of what Peter is talking about here. No doubt God can use that suffering for your benefit. But throughout this letter, Peter has been speaking specifically about the suffering we might face specifically because we are believers. It is when I participate in the suffering of Christ that I will participate in his glory.
Praise God that You Bear Christ’s Name
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
1 Peter 4:16 NIV
Clearly Peter is concerned about how his readers are, or might be, responding to suffering. Over and over, he encourages them in their suffering. Expect it. Rejoice in it. And now, don’t be ashamed when it happens.
When you suffer for Christ, rather than respond with your head hanging down, lift it up and praise God. Praise God that you bear the name of Christ. And praise him that you have been considered worthy to participate in the sufferings of Christ.
Judgment is Coming
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?
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
1 Peter 4:17-18 NIV
This is a strange passage that is a bit challenging. It appears to refer to the Old Testament prophets who foretold judgment to come upon Israel for their sin. They were God’s people who were facing judgment. It was for their disobedience. But God’s judgment was coming.
So by implication, those of us today who are God’s people can expect God to judge us for our sins. The penalty for that sin was paid for by Christ. But I am still answerable for how I live my life as a believer.
And if that is the case, what can those who reject God’s offer of salvation expect? Judgment will be coming to them. They will have to face the judgment of God and give an answer for the suffering and insults they have inflicted on God’s people. And they will have to do this without the benefit of Christ’s redeeming work.
Be Committed to God
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
1 Peter 4:19 NIV
Are you suffering for the sake of Christ? Suffering according to the will of God? Good! Keep it up. Commit yourself anew to your creator, who is faithful and will care for you. And continue to do good. Live like Jesus in the midst of a fallen and sinful world. A world that has rejected Christ. And that now rejects you.
Don’t be discouraged by your suffering. Rejoice in it.
Call to Action
If you are going to live a godly Christian life, you should expect pushback from the world at large. Those who reject our Lord will also reject those who follow him. Determine ahead of time how you will respond to their persecution. Peter tells us not to be discouraged by it. But rather to rejoice. Consider it an honor, or blessing, to suffer or be insulted for Christ.
- Peter tells us not to be surprised at suffering as a Christian. But should we be surprised when we don’t? When the world accepts us as its own?
- How does Peter tell us we should respond to our suffering for Christ?
- Will believers really be judged by God? If so, what is the nature of that judgment?