“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 1 Peter 4:12-19
I must admit, I do not have much suffering in my life. For this I am grateful. I happen to live in a country where freedom of religion (at least for now) is permitted. I can say what I want, worship how I want, and preach what I want. I have little to no restrictions upon my religious beliefs in Jesus. What a blessing. Although this may change in the next decade in the USA.
In addition, much of the Christian world is in persecution. According to Open Door Ministries In 2017, “245 million Christians live in places where they experience extreme persecution, 4305 Christians were killed for their faith, 1847 churches and other Christian buildings have been attacked, and 3150 believers have been detained without trial, arrested or sentenced or in-prisoned.” (www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/)
Whereas I read this passage in the context of living in the USA, millions throughout the world read this as people suffering for the Gospel at this very moment and are enduring what Peter calls the “fiery ordeal.” Peter’s encouragement is to “rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” These brothers and sisters are “insulted because of the name of Christ.
In this passage Peter is encouraging those who are being persecuted. They are the early church. Young in the faith Jews and now a growing gentile population who are recent Christ-followers. They are paving a way in a world that is hostile to Jesus. They are suffering for the sake of Christ.
Yet there is a promise of hope in the midst of suffering. Encouragement in the depths of despair. Peter writes, “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” When we suffer for Christ, we do not do so in vain. He is with us in the suffering and promises us hope and glory both in the suffering and afterward.
Consider your suffering today. Is it faith-based? Is it for the name of Jesus by which you suffer? As Peter writes, “Praise God that you bear that name [Christian].” Praise the Lord in the middle of the suffering as you pray for other believers who are suffering as well by God’s grace and for his glory.
“O Lord God, I pray now for brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering for the sake of being a follower of Jesus. If they did to Jesus what they did, how much more will they do that to us? But our battle isn’t again human flesh but against the principalities of this dark world. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfector of our faith. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen