The Greater the Suffering, The Greater the Glory to God!
Section 6.1 of 1 Peter (1 Peter 4:12-16)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
The sixth section of the First Letter of Peter shows itself to be something of a conclusion for the long winded Peter. There is the sense of a fatherly reassuring tone in words at this point. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you…” One can almost picture Peter in modern terms being that father looking at his son whom he loves after he gets beat up for being around the bully kids, “What did you expect would happen!?” Peter had previously mentioned that the one who suffers in the flesh, suffers because he turns away from sin. What else do you expect to have happen? Christ suffered, what makes you think you will not? Peter continues, “but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing…” Many might balk at this, but it is really something that we must all learn how to do.
I wonder how many of you might have experienced a moment where someone who is your senior, someone you respect, tells you that, “You must be able to find good in the hardships of life.” Or something of the sort. That was certainly true during my time in the infantry. In spite of all the hardship, all the difficulty, all the loss of sleep, all the physical strain and exhaustion, at the end of the day, my brothers and I would end with laughs and jokes. Most of them being about the follies of one another that day! I still remember running to catch up with my Platoon Commander to move some friendlies out of the way so we could launch rockets into a house we were taking fire from. I was carrying the radio which made me so top heavy that as I ran to catch up with him I straight face planted and skipped across the asphalt of the street like a turtle in my body armor! I got up as quick as I could and caught up with him. Man was that embarrassing! Didn’t think about it in the fight, but later on, man was that funny!
We must keep ourselves full of joy, rejoice in the hardship, recognize that it is only temporary, “..so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” This too shall pass! You know that your inheritance lies in wait for you in the presence of God, why would you let the grievances of this world corrupt the joy that God has given you? “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” Why else would they come to revile you? They see joy coming from you that they do not have, and if they do not respond by coming to you to receive that same gift of grace, then they will revile you for it! The evidence of that blessing becomes so convicting of their own wicked ways, do not fret when they revile you for it! Love them even more!
“Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler…” No doubt these are the likely accusations that were being brought against these local congregations as the wicked gentiles sought to cast them out. Peter, here, is calling them, not in a “don’t be bad” kind of way, but in the manner of the context of the letter. He is telling them to live as a Christ follower. Live in the way! Let the people know what it is to be a Christ follower, don’t live in the shadows! Go forth and show the people what you truly are. If they revile you, then let them do so for the truth. Let it be revealed by their actions that their slander is nothing but that! Live out the life in love, dignity, and decency. So that the only thing they could possibly you call you out on, or declare you guilty of being, is a Christian! “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.”
Surely these congregations were filled with members who felt shame for loving Jesus. They were being made into outcasts, ostracized from those they once called friends. Their life styles being so drastically changed compared to the surrounding cultures that a separation between them and the gentiles was only natural. But not in the positive sense of that. They were being made to feel guilty of doing something wrong against others for coming to faith. How true that is of most college aged men and women who come to their faith. We are living in a time where Christians are being shouted down in the streets simply because they want to live in a right relationship with God, and desire for others to do so as well so they can come to true peace and joy! All we long for is that all should be saved from the inevitable. There is nothing in that to be ashamed of at all! With every reviling that comes your way, be filled with joy and glorify God to the highest. For you stand as a light that the darkness is trying to snuff out. In your hardship, your difficulties, always remember this lesson from Peter. The greater the suffering, the greater your glorification of God should be. Once you survive it, you will find yourself laughing at those moments. For those in other parts of the world who may not survive it, you know what the Lord has in store for you. Glorify His name till the end so that others may come to that same joy.