Suffering for God’s Glory?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
A lot of people say they suffer today, unjustly. The question for the Christian is this. Is your suffering truly unjust, and if so is God getting any kind of glory in it? We don’t see the “big picture” but God does and knows where you are. Let today’s teaching be a comfort and a check as to why you are suffering. Then remember that the overall question should be why, but how do you respond during times of suffering.
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now
“If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
-1 Peter 4:12-19 (NKJV)
In verse twelve, some translations start this part with the word “Beloved.” We find an interesting reference here, because God referred to His Son as Beloved. This title is now given to Jesus’ followers, the Christian.
These believers were genuinely surprised by the persecutions and trials that were happening to them so in regards to this Peter says to not be surprised by it. Often we read this as something that was going to happen in the future but the tense here is present. Meaning that these trials were happening presently and they were surprised by it, but Peter says there is nothing to be surprised about here. Often Christians get in there heads that life will become better because they are Christians. In actuality the opposite is the reality. Often Christians go through persecution instead of glory. These kinds of trials don’t happen because of sin either, these things are expected and it is to advance the “big picture” of God’s purposes. We should take comfort in that fact.
As a matter of fact, in verse thirteen Peter says that we should rejoice during these times. This goes opposite to what one would expect. God’s principles are often opposite to what we think. This is an amazing reality that reveals itself to the Christian when we begin to see the world through the worldview that is in the Bible (Christian Worldview). This truth is throughout scripture but Jesus affirms this reality for the Christian in Matthew 5:10-12, as does Paul in Romans 5:1-2 (just a couple of examples). We know that these present trials will be but shadows in the whole of history when Jesus returns in His glory at the Second Coming of Christ.
Verse fourteen says that if we are reproached for the name of Christ then we are blessed and God’s Spirit rests on us. This phrase (which is in most versions) “the name of Christ” comes from the Old Testament and it does not literally refer to Jesus name but to the character of Christ; which is why often you will hear the phrase “call upon the name of the Lord” amongst those who are proclaiming the Gospel Message; it means trusting Jesus’ character and doing so means that you will trust Him as Savior. So if we are maligned because we walk in Jesus’ character then we should count the trials and persecutions as blessings knowing that we walk in God’s glory and God’s blessings rests on us.
However, verse fifteen gives us a warning. That is, if we are being persecuted because of evil then we should not be happy but know that this is a natural consequence of our evil behavior. If we are persecuted because we are not Christ-like then what is there to be blessed about? What is there to be happy or proud over? An interesting note is that Peter adds people who are meddlers (busy bodies) into the same list as murderers and thieves. He adds them to the same lot. Why? Because a busy body can tear apart a church or community with their words and deeds, causing trouble and assassinating individual’s character.
Verse sixteen reiterates that if we suffer because of Jesus’ sake then we should not be ashamed of what we are enduring, but instead bring glory to God by how we respond to the tribulation. It isn’t about what others have done to you, but how you respond to God through a matter in which you are being persecuted unjustly. In other words, leave it to God and let Him sort it out in the life-hereafter.
Verses seventeen and eighteen remind us that God starts His judgment with His people. The people He calls by His name. If it starts with us, what hope will there possibly be for those who are not God’s? Peter draws upon an Old Testament Proverb (Proverbs 11:31) to illustrate the principle he is drawing upon. God will put His house (church/people) in order before He ever starts putting the evil-doer in order.
Peter in verse nineteen brings this thought to close before moving on to another section by summarizing what he has been saying. He says that those who suffer because of the will of God (God sees the big picture and know how this suffering will work together for His Glory.), in keeping with the teachings of Christ, should entrust themselves to God. Even in the tough times we know that God is sovereign and that He can comfort us and even bring joy in times of sorrow, times when we are persecuted for our faith and doing what God wants us to do. We know that God is faithful; He will always be faithful even in the tough times. God’s faithfulness is a reoccurring and over-arching theme of the Bible.
How will you respond today? If your suffering is because of sin, then you need to repent. If you find that your suffering isn’t because of sin, do you let the experience mold you? Do you trust God through it? Do you rejoice in your persecutions? The Choice is yours.