Given the choice, I don’t think that anyone would choose a life of pain and suffering. But as Christians, that is what we have done. We are never promised that life will be smooth sailing when we accept Jesus as our savior. What we are promised is that God will make a way through it. If we look at Jesus’ life we will see that He also had many struggles and in the end suffered tremendously for our sake. With that in mind, it is no wonder that we suffer since we are called to emulate the life of Jesus.
There are many verses and stories in the Bible that teach about suffering and how Christians should handle themselves when faced with struggles. Today, I want to talk through 1 Peter 4 and look at what we can learn from this passage. There is a lot of discussion on who actually wrote 1 Peter, many say it was Peter but others argue that the use of the Greek language was too advanced for it to have been written by a fisherman. 1 Peter 1:1 tells us that it was the writer was the Apostle Peter and he had taken the gospel to many exiles, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” Regardless of who is believed to be the writer, we know that God was the ultimate writer of this text and that it is being used to guide and teach us today just as much as it did in the days it was written. In those times the provinces Peter was writing to were experiencing a lot of religious persecution. Although today many of us are blessed enough to live in a country that has religious freedom, we are often reticulated and persecuted by the court of social media and popular opinion.
1 Peter 4:1 says, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.” The same attitude as Jesus… What does that actually mean? Well, we start by looking at the way Jesus handled Himself under the pressure. We see that He was graceful, calm, and joyful no matter what He faced. That is completely the opposite of how I act when I feel the pressure. I have a tendency to live in complain town where I work in the factory of short temper. Maybe you don’t live in this town or work in this factory but my guess is that you are not living as Jesus did. The question is how did Jesus manage to keep cool in spite of everything He went through. Well, He knew the plan, He was in direct communication with God and He was sent for this exact purpose.
The good news is that the rest of 1 Peter 4 gives us a guide on how to walk out of complain town and into eternity. Verse 2 gets us moving in the right direction, “As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” It is here, we see that we must submit our entire being to the will of God and turn away from living for evil human desires. Verse 3 then says that we have lived enough of life in evil ways and now it is time to make a change. In other words, we have wasted enough time spinning in circles trying to do it “our way”. Unfortunately, this change is going to draw a lot of attention. 1 Peter 4:4 says, “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.” The world will not be able to understand why we are changing and making the effort to go away from these sins. The world sees these sins as comfort, they get so much enjoyment for them they would never consider giving them up. This might sound a little brutal but let them… Let them say what they want and do what they please, in the end, you do not have to account for their actions, only your own. The best way to minister to someone who will not listen to what we are saying is to show them instead. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.
Non-believers may look at us like we are fools for openly choosing to move away from the pleasures of sin and to a life with pain and suffering for what we believe but what they don’t understand is that believers are looking past the things of this world into existence in heaven that far outweighs all of the bad we face on earth. Verse 7 of 1 Peter 4 tells us that the end is near, that we should be focusing on what is to come. Then verses 8 through 11 give us the guide to do that.
Love each other deeply
Be hospitable without complaining
Rejoice as much as we suffer
Use your spiritual gifts to serve others
Speak the words of God
Shine the light on God
The key to overcoming the pain and persecution is to keep doing the things people are judging you for and to keep doing the will of God. It is not if we will be tested but when. We shouldn’t be surprised when we are tested or when things are not going well. For when we suffer, it is an indicator that we are living as Jesus did. We are placing the kingdom of God above the things of this world. Those who are not doing the same are going to have questions. They are going to treat you differently than everyone else. Just remember, the devil only has power over the things of this earth, so the only way he can get to you is by using those things to try to derail you.
I urge you to read 1 Peter 4 in its entirety and soak into the wisdom it gives about how to handle the pressure and pain of living a life for God. I challenge you to look at the pressure and pain as a present from God. See it is a sign that you are upsetting the devil because you are standing in opposition to his evil ways. I want to see a generation like the disciples in Acts 5:17-42, that even when they are severely beaten they knew that is a blessing from the Lord and a sign that they are living in His will. “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” Acts 5:41.