1 Peterby David Burge
Raising children with loving discipline is good and important, but it is also hard work. When parents feel like giving up, it can be worth thinking about the much harder alternative-that is, how much harder parents' lives would become if they stopped loving or disciplining their children! Family relationships would break down. Sin and selfishness would be unrestrained and quickly compound. Generally speaking, good parenting is the far easier alternative in the long run-the path of much less misery.
Similarly, when we feel like giving up in following Christ, Peter encourages us to think about the alternative. We often struggle now as God's chosen people living away from our promised land, but the alternative of rejecting Christ and His rule brings far worse consequences.
Jesus gave the same assurance about taking the narrow, more difficult path of following Him: ″Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few″ (Matthew 7:13-14, ESV).
Many Christians feel the bruises and scratches of the narrow path that leads to life. We are saved and we persevere by God's grace, yet the path of Jesus is both worthwhile and hard.
In God's wise and mysterious plan, we experience the pain now of being exiles in a world not our own. Living in a broken world hostile to God, we sometimes endure difficult treatment, just as our Lord Jesus did. In this way, as Peter says, ″it is time for judgment to begin with God's household″ (1 Peter 4:17). And yet, Peter also says: ″If it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?″ In verse 18, he points to Proverbs 11:31 to make this point-if God's way is hard, how much harder must the other way be? If God's friends suffer, how much worse will it be for those who spurn Him?
You might enjoy reading the many examples God gives us in Hebrews 11 of those who wisely trusted God through suffering. Because God is just, time will show that God's ways are best by far. Justice will prevail. God will vindicate himself and His people.
For believers, this earth is as close to hell as we will get. Sadly, for unbelievers, unless they come to Jesus, this world is as close to heaven as they will get. Peter concludes this section with the simple instruction to keep entrusting our soul to our faithful Creator and to press on with doing good (1 Peter 4:19). God has everything very much under control.
Can you think of ways you have been disciplined by God?
How might you do good and bring the gospel to someone not yet reconciled to God?