Monday, May 18, 2020

Comment on a Lectionary Reading: 1 Peter 4:12–14, 5:6–11

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. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:12–14, 5:6–11


There are many things going on in this part of Peter's letter to some Christians who were have a difficult time of it. He writes about trials and tests, rejoicing in the face of such things, being blessed by the Spirit and attacked by the devil, being anxious and being strengthened. Each of these is worth more than just a little meditation.

However, what I'm going to do instead is to take a look at what they are all focusing on: suffering. Peter was counseling these saints on how to respond to the suffering that they were facing.

'Suffering', however, is one of those words that we can use without really understanding what we're talking about. So, let me use a different word that I think gets the point across better: pain. Peter is writing about pain, the pain those Christians were dealing with just because they were Christians. They were under the gun, feeling the pressure. And it was painful.

So, how did Peter respond to them? What was his wise counsel? Consider what Peter was telling them.

'…do not be surprised…as though something strange were happening to you.' What you are experiencing is simply a part of being a Christian. Following Jesus includes suffering. It includes pain. That should not be a surprise.

'But rejoice...' (This isn't a call to be happy. It's about being optimistic because Jesus is at work.) The pain you feel is part of His plan to conquer the world. And He will conquer the world. That is something to be optimistic about. Rejoice in that.

'Humble yourselves.' Don't react against what God is doing in your situation, even though it is quite painful. Rather, submit to Him.

'so that at the proper time he may exalt you'. Submit to God in your painful situation in the sure hope that you will most certainly be honored by Him.

So, what might you take away from all of this? Being a Christian involves pain because being a Christian involves fighting against sin. It doesn't have to be the pain of persecution which is what the recipients of Peter's letter were likely dealing with. But it will be some sort of pain because some sort of sin will be attacking you. When that happens (not 'if'), don't give in to things like self-pity or anger or despondency or any of that. Instead, pray. Pray for grace, the grace Jesus has provided so that you will be able to respond well to the attack and to the pain. Pray for the grace to submit to God and to rejoice in what Jesus is doing. And pray to be able to do all of this because of a confident hope that you will be honored by the Father.

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