Paul said it, James said it, and Peter said it too: Sufferings or trials for the cause of Christ is a positive sign that you are right with God. Therefore, as challenging as this is, rejoice! Yet, it is a human reaction to ask God, “why me?” Our poor response is not necessarily surprising given the fact that Job, one of the greatest men who ever lived, did not respond especially well to his trial. Job despaired of life, became angry, and even challenged God to a debate he believed he would win. God expects better things of us, and as Peter transitions to the final section of his letter, he gets our heads on straight when it comes to trials.
It is not uncommon for some to be “surprised” by tragedies that are the natural events of life and a result of a fallen world. Ecclesiastes repeatedly mentions the “bad days” and the “crooked” things in life. That being said, Peter is not primarily talking about natural tragedies in life, but suffering because of one’s faith in Christ. But why would one be surprised at suffering for Christ? Therefore, Peter gives reasons why one should not be surprised. The first point is that these trials “come upon you to test you.”
James tells us that this “test” is valid whether it is general suffering in life or we are suffering because of our faith (James 1). Regardless of the source, we are so busy being upset that we forget the importance of the test. When I think of a test, I think in terms of school and grades. When I took a test, I wanted to get a good grade. I studied, I prepared, and I was ready when it come to tests I took in school, and in the end, I succeeded. I did these things expecting a good grade as my reward. Are we concerned with how God is “grading” our response to His test for us? When we are ridiculed for our beliefs, are we passing the grade? When we have an opportunity to state what is right and wrong, do we compromise and not speak plainly on what God teaches? Are we ashamed to stand up for the gospel of Christ? Do we seek the praises of men over the praise of God?
The most significant part of the test, however, is the discovery of the condition of our faith. What will cause us to cave in? How much pressure does it take for you to say, “I’ve had enough of this”? Prov. 24:10“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” We need to get something very straight here: our faith in Christ is basically meaningless until we have passed these tests.
But how do we rejoice in the test? Peter’s answer is that we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Suffering for Christ is especially notable because that is when we really know Christ (Phil. 3:10-11). Knowing Jesus is when we have truly acted as Jesus acted and experienced what He experienced. Further, we are able to rejoice now because we will be able to rejoice then. Sharing in His sufferings means we will also share in His glory.
Some actually think that they are blessed when they are not being persecuted. This my brethren is not the Spirit of God’s Word by the Spirit of error. All faithful Christians shall suffer persecutions and they shall all suffer the same afflictions. 2 Tim 3:12 f; 1 Pet 5:9,10 So, when you are not being persecuted for the cause of Christ, then is the time to worry about your soul’s condition. Some actually vote each election day in hopes to elect a politician who will take away their trials and persecutions. Brethren, this will never happen. First of all, God keeps his promises and secondly, dare we fight against God? If you do, expect to lose that battle! There is no shame in suffering for Christ and no one should ever feel ashamed. 1 Pet 4:16 Instead, one should glorify God in the name of Christ.
Notice the words, “It is time…” Peter is not talking about something far in the future. He is talking about the present. Therefore, the “judgment” is not the final judgment. The “judgment” is the suffering they are enduring and will soon endure even more. As the household of God they are suffering a fiery trial that is testing them concerning their faithfulness. That being so, what will be the outcome at the final judgment on those who do not obey the gospel? If we think as a Christian we have it bad, just imagine how the disobedient will suffer! Believe me, we don’t want that suffering.
1 Peter 4:18 is a quotation from Proverbs 11:31, “If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!” You can see that Peter is not saying that the righteous barely get into heaven. Peter is saying the righteous get to heaven through difficulty, through suffering and trials. And if the righteous must suffer this way, can you imagine the outcome of the unrighteous? If God would have His own people go through such, those who are disobedient will suffer far worse. So worse, that even Sodom and Gomorrah is not even close to the torment that will come upon them.
Peter’s conclusion is to follow the example of Jesus. 1 Pet 2:20,21 When you suffer according to God’s will, just leave it in the hands of God. Remember this, you are not alone. Every saint is going through what you are going through. Jesus verily paid the price for our sins. Verily, we must pay the price by following in his footsteps. When we obey God, we suffer even as Paul suffered. When we do wrong, the offense of the cross stops. Gal 5:11
Obey the gospel! Remain steadfast in the apostle’s doctrine! Take up your cross daily, and follow HIM. This is the strait and narrow path which leads to life everlasting. Don’t lose faith my beloved, rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice! Philip 4:4 Know you are marching to Zion, and that your reward awaits you! Is it any wonder why the saints of God ask Jesus for his return to be today? As Peter wrote, “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God…” 2 Pet 3:12 Even as John wrote, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus”! Rev 22:20