Posted On April 3, 2016

Suffering in the Christian Life

by | Apr 3, 2016 | 1 Peter, Featured

Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to walk our readers through 1 Peter in order to help them understand what it teaches and how to apply it to our lives. This series is part of our larger commitment to help Christians learn to read, interpret, reflect, and apply the Bible to their own lives.

Have you ever given much thought to, or even studied, the differences in the major religions throughout our world? Being a Religion major throughout my Undergraduate years, and now as a Seminary student, I have gotten a lot of opportunities to research these mainstream religious teachings. Christianity stands all by itself; Christians believe in a God who suffered for His people.

The Christian faith is the only religion that proclaims a God who suffered. Think about that, no other major religion in the world has a God who lays down His life for the salvation of His people.

This means so much for the Christian! We have a God who comforts us and is able to sympathize with our struggles and our sufferings, which will surely come.

Paul writes to Timothy that all who desire to live a godly life will face sufferings in this life. (2 Timothy 3:12) This is not up for debate. Christian, you will face suffering in this life.

So, what do we do in the midst of suffering? Do we have hope in our suffering? Peter answers these questions here in 1 Peter 4:12-19:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,

what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.    (1 Peter 4:12-19 ESV)

Through these words, Peter is telling us to know three aspects of our suffering.

  • We must know that suffering will come.
  • We must know that through our suffering, God is revealing His glory to us.
  • We must know that God is sovereign and the gospel is still advancing.

Know That Suffering Will Come

As mentioned in the introduction, suffering for the believer is a sure thing. Christ suffered, and just as He suffered, we will suffer.

Our suffering has many aspects. The Scriptures don’t claim that our suffering will look the same; suffering is not identical for all people on every occasion. Rather, God through His Word teaches us all of the complex ways that suffering can come upon us. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Here in these two verses, Paul notes several types of suffering for the believer — mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Each of these differing facets are ways in which we can suffer. Ultimately, as many of us know, when suffering comes, several of these facets of suffering are involved.

Peter is teaching us, that suffering – mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually – is a sure thing. He even expresses that we should not be surprised. We can understand these words completely. Christian, do not be shocked when suffering comes. Know that suffering will come.

Know That Through Suffering God Is Revealing His Glory

What is God doing in our suffering? Let us be confident in one thing, He certainly is not absent while we suffer!

This question can be a difficult one to wrap our minds around and understand. Certainly, in the midst of our suffering, we can be discouraged. We can also think God has forsaken us. During such times, we need to remember, God is there with us. He is not silent!

I vividly remember a conversation that I had with a fellow student, who was a fellow freshman, and lived in the same hall as me. We talked about who God is and what His role was in our lives. He stated that he believed that God was an owner of a fish tank. The Lord created all things and then in this young man’s opinion stepped back and let things happen as nature took its course.

As he said these things, my mind went directly to my childhood. We had a fish tank. We would go buy fish from the pet store, go home, drop them in the tank, and watch them swim around. This is exactly what this fellow student thought God did with us. He created us, dropped us in a tank, and then just watched. This student believed that God was not active in our lives. Furthermore, he thought He did not intervene in lives of His people. He earnestly believed that God was not with us in the midst of our sufferings.

God is active in the lives of His people. He is with us in our suffering. After all, Jesus suffered in every way we do but without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Through our suffering, the Lord is teaching His people to more fully know, who He is! God is revealing to His people glory, so His people will grow in likeness to Jesus.

In our text, God is revealing to us His perfect judgment and grace. For those who know Him, He will one day graciously take away all of our suffering. Those who do not know Him, they will face even greater suffering, unending, unrelenting, conscious punishment for all of eternity. God wants us to understand this truth—that in His justice and grace He is holy, good, and perfect.

Think about Job. We know this story well, as God allowed Satan to test Job. What was his response? “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;” (Job 42:5) Because of his suffering, Job proclaims that he knew God more fully!

God is desiring to produce in the lives of His people endurance for the race of life, all the while revealing His glory to them. He does this through our suffering! Christian, hold fast! In the midst of your suffering, God is there and He is not silent!

Know That the Gospel Is Still Advancing

Our suffering as Christians is a corporate struggle. Christians are to suffer together. Ultimately, we know that the whole world is suffering. Therefore, we must be quick to proclaim the hope that we have in the midst of our suffering, a sovereign God who promises hope in and through Christ!

As a Reformed Christian, I hold to the glorious doctrinal beliefs that highlight the sovereignty of God in all things – creation, our lives, and our salvation. With these beliefs, many want to know how I balance my views on the sovereignty of God and human suffering. I’m often asked, “What does that looks in my proclamation of hope in suffering to a lost world?”

God is changing hearts! We live in a world where sin has caused separation between God and man. Here is the Good News; Christ reconciles His people to God – as the Suffering Servant! Christians have union with Christ, the Son, and a right standing with God, the Father. This is all because of Jesus, who is sovereign and saves whomever He wills. He is still bringing hope to all who call upon His name – who respond to the gospel!

Final Thoughts

I love Matthew 12 where Jesus is telling a parable about entering a house because the “strong man” is bound. The “strong man” that Christ is referencing here is Satan, and even though there is great sin in our world, he is still under the authority of our God, the sovereign King!

Christ is moving freely among all the nations – bringing hope in the midst suffering taking place in the Middle East, Taiwan, Japan, Kenya, Ukraine, France, and the United States. God’s Kingdom is still advancing in our world! Despite the sin and suffering running rampant through our societies, God is still at work.

I love the end of the Acts narrative, Paul is in chains and under Roman captivity. The gospel is still going out boldly and without hindrance. The Apostles, all throughout this narrative, face much suffering, but the Kingdom of God cannot be stopped!

As believers, our lives presently might be characterized by suffering. Our suffering though doesn’t stop the gospel from advancing. The gospel is going out boldly and without hindrance! Christian, know that your suffering has a purpose. Know that the gospel is advancing through your suffering.

Peter tells God’s people to take joy in the midst of our sufferings. He wants us to know that God is with us. This should bring a flood of joy to our hearts! This should lead us to worship His holy precious name. Even though suffering will come, God is very much there, He is teaching us who He is more fully. God is still sovereignly advancing His Kingdom – bringing hope to all who believe.

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