Everyone suffers – the good and the bad, the old and the young, the rich and the poor. No one is exempt. Christians certainly aren’t excused from suffering. Jesus said that the prophets were persecuted and we will be, too (Mat. 5:10-12). Paul said that all Christians will suffer (2 Tim. 3:12). He knew, in a deeply personal way, the pain of suffering, yet he said that today’s sufferings can’t compare to eternity’s glory (Rom. 8:18).
Persecution is an opportunity for spiritual growth. Do you want to be closer to God and to God’s people? There’s hardly a better way to deepen your faith than to endure persecution. That’s why James tells us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2), because “the man who endures temptation … will receive the crown of life” (James 1:12).
Allow me to direct our attention to 1 Peter 4. Much of this entire book is devoted to the topic of suffering for our faith. Peter says that Christ suffered for us and that we were called to suffering ourselves (1 Pet. 2:21). He continues the conversation about Christ’s suffering in chapter three: “Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). It is with that backdrop that chapter four begins.
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God (1 Pet. 4:1-2).
Will you respond to suffering in a way that will bring about spiritual growth for your soul? Peter tells us how to do it here in 1 Peter 4.
1. Be defended.
Peter says that we need to be armed to defend ourselves against one of Satan’s most powerful weapons, persecution. You know as well as I do that the devil will use suffering to shake our faith. Peter says that we must arm ourselves with the mind of Christ. When Jesus “suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23). That’s what we must do.
2. Be determined.
Some people are going to think that we’re weird for choosing a path that could bring suffering our way (1 Pet. 4:3-4). Peter assures us, “do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Pet. 4:12). We do that, don’t we? We suffer and wonder, “Why is this happening to me?”. But why do we think that we’re the only Christians who will never suffer? Why do we think that we will be the only Christians in history who haven’t been persecuted?
Peter says that our suffering is not strange. Instead, we ought to be determined to rejoice in it (1 Pet. 4:13), to glorify God in it (1 Pet. 4:16), and to commit our souls to God in it (1 Pet. 4:19).
Let’s wrap it up: Do you really want to be a strong Christian? Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Mat. 5:10). When the pain comes, let’s choose the path of growth. Christianity is called “the Way” in the book of Acts. We don’t claim that it’s the easy way. We don’t claim that it’s the way of least resistance. But it is the right way. It’s the way that Jesus says leads to eternal life and rest with Him and with God. That’s the way that I want to walk. What about you?