1 Peterby David Burge
Like many who give their lives to Christ in our world today, the Christians in Peter's day also experienced the heat of hostility from family and from society. Peter says: ″Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you″ (1 Peter 4:12). It is the first time he mentions fire since chapter 1. In 1:7, he used fire to refer to the trials that test our faith and show us our faith is genuine as we cling to Christ through them.
So, too, fire here refers to the various trials the Christians in Peter's day were facing, which Peter says came to them in many forms (1:6). It included being ″insulted″ (4:14) and enduring ″the sufferings of Christ″ (v. 13) in ways normally reserved for criminals (vv. 15-16).
Some Christians feel out of place in their school, university, or workplace because they stand up for Christ and refuse to be unfaithful to Him. For other Christians, their trials for Christ are much worse. I've met Christians who had fled their home country in fear of the parents who raised them-how painful it is to be rejected by your own family! Countless sisters and brothers have spent years in prison, many tortured and mercilessly executed.
We might lament such unjust and cruel treatment, and grieve for ourselves or for others. And we might rejoice that even in these times, God is powerfully guarding our faith in Him (1:5). His Word prepares and directs us so that we stand firm. How will that happen?
First, we can be unsurprised when persecution comes (4:12). Second, we can rejoice when we suffer, because it means we share in Christ's sufferings and will rejoice at His return (v. 13). Such Christ-like suffering is a sign of God's blessing and the Spirit's presence with us (v. 14). Third, though humiliated, we remain unashamed, because we bear Christ's name (v. 16). Isn't it wonderful to realise that by ″the Spirit of glory″ (v. 14), we not only endure suffering willingly, but also do so with rejoicing and praise?
Though we have never seen Christ, we love Him enough to suffer terribly for Him. In His mysterious plan, God uses such suffering to make Christians more closely resemble His faithful, suffering Son. Our next stop? Glory!
You might live in a culture that doesn't persecute Christians, but all Christians carry a cross by carrying burdens or making sacrifices for Jesus. What does this look like for you?
How might you practise the three healthy responses to unjust suffering-to be unsurprised, to rejoice, and to be unashamed?