The Story: Paul wrote that suffering has been given to believers in Christ right along with faith (Phil. 1.29). Not all the suffering Christians can expect to know is related to persecution, although that’s the context of Peter’s words here. Christians suffer because they struggle against the desires of the flesh and must learn to set aside former ways of living in the world in order to take up those ways more characteristic of life in the Kingdom of God (cf. Eph. 4.17-24; Rom. 6). But Peter’s main point here is that we must not fear to take a bold and uncompromising stand for Jesus before the people who know us. If they hurl insults at us, talk behind our backs, or worse, well, this is what Jesus experienced, and we should arm ourselves in our minds to expect the same. The suffering we experience at the hands of the world bears witness to our redemption, for, as Jesus said, those who are lost in the darkness of unbelief despise the light which exposes their sin (Jn. 3.19, 20; Jn. 15.18-25).
The Structure: The idea that the Christian life should be one of uninterrupted happiness and prosperity has no grounding in Scripture. In the midst of trials Christians must rejoice and be glad, as we know (Jms. 1.2-4). Yet trials are trials, and they are not pleasant, especially when they come in the form of persecution. We need to be more honest about what to expect as Christians if we’re going to be able to prepare ourselves mentally and spiritually to rejoice in the midst of our sufferings.
Why do you think Christians in America and the West experience so little in the way of persecution?
Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For this week’s study, “Endure Hardship: 1 Peter 4,” simply click here.
T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.