1 Peter 4:12-13 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. NIV
Do you ever get caught off guard when all of a sudden you find yourself in the midst of a trial? You wonder, “what did I do to deserve this?” You may even ask God, “why do I have to go through this?” It seems that many of us, when we became Christians, might have thought our lives would just be so blessed, that we wouldn’t have to go through severe trials.
What we learn in chapters three and four of 1st Peter, is that sometimes our blessing comes from the trials themselves. Wait a minute, I’m not sure I like that. I don’t know if I want to suffer a trial in order to be blessed by God! That would be a normal reaction. None of us like to go through fiery trials, as the NASU puts it in the key verse.
It is important to understand what type of trial it is, that Peter is talking about here. Throughout these two chapters, Peter speaks of suffering for the sake of Christ and righteousness. Look at these verses:
1 Peter 3:14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. (NIV)
1 Peter 3:17 It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (NIV)
You see then, that it is suffering for the cause of Christ and doing good, that brings blessing into your life. You might be thinking, “that sounds good, but I would still rather not suffer. It might not be worth the blessing! By the way, how can it really bring blessing?” Good question. Peter has some answers.
1 Peter 3:9-12 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.11 He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." (NIV)
Peter quotes Psalm 34:12-16 here, to let us know how God looks at those who desire to do good, rather than evil. He is teaching us that those who do good, have God’s full attention (v12). He sees their good deeds and hears their prayers.
Then, in 1 Peter 4:1-3, He speaks of a great blessing for those who have the same attitude that Jesus did. “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” (NIV)
He says that those who have suffered bodily for Christ’s sake, get the blessing of having overcome the natural tendency to live for the fleshly desires. Instead they live only to do the will of God. Isn’t that the desire of all of our lives, to live for the will of God? But it seems so very hard to get to that place. Suffering in the body, which sometimes is the will of God for us (see 4:18), can bring us to that point.
Paul was a great example of this. Listen to what he said in 2 Cor 4:8-12 “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (NASU, emphasis mine)
Paul went on to say this in Gal 2:20-21 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NIV)
Paul’s suffering in the cause of Christ had brought him into the place of true selflessness. His life was completely immersed in doing the will of God. What a blessing that is! It would be hard (if not impossible), to come to this place in our lives without ever having suffered for being Christ like in our actions. The truth is, that when you are living a life led by the Holy Spirit, you will face times of resistance, persecution and suffering. So when it does happen, remind yourself of what Peter said and don’t be surprised! Instead, when those times come, remember what you read today and rejoice in the blessing that God will bring to your life.
God bless you