Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:19, NKJV)
Not all suffering is equal. Sometimes suffering is deserved. The apostle Paul once said if he had committed anything worthy of death, he did not object to dying (Acts 25:11). He would accept the suffering that comes from being guilty of evil (Rom. 13:4). Peter had just warned against sins that bring suffering, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters” (1 Pet. 4:15). At other times, one can “suffering wrongfully” “because of conscience toward God” (1 Pet. 2:19). Suffering can happen through no fault of your own, and because of your faith in Christ (1 Pet. 2:18; 4:12-16). When we suffer “according to the will of God” we are able to endure it by committing our souls to God. The word “commit” means to deposit (for protection), as one deposits money into a bank for safekeeping. How do we deposit our souls to God for protection? By “doing good” (1 Pet. 4:19). God is trustworthy to safeguard our souls as we “maintain good works” (Tit. 3:8; do His will, Matt. 7:21). God does not say He will remove the suffering, but that He will protect us as we go through it. Dedicate yourself to keep on doing what is good and right when you suffer for following the will of God. By doing so, you are depositing your soul to the faithful Creator, who will keep it safe long after the suffering has past (1 Pet. 5:10-11).
3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. (1 Peter 4:3–4, NKJV)
Jesus taught that seeking the praise of men at the expense of truth produces spiritual grief: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Lk. 6:26). Seeking praise from peers tempts us to compromise truth for the sake of approval. Today’s passage also reminds us we are not defined by what others say about us. Here we have evil people speaking evil things about Christians who are not sinning, but who are doing the will of God (1 Pet. 4:1-2). We cannot expect people in the world to always think well of us. When they do not, it does not necessarily mean we have done something wrong in God’s sight. Jesus was hated without a cause, and He explained that will also happen to His disciples (Jno. 15:25, 18-20). We will be spoken against when we separate ourselves from worldly people and their excessive sins. It is unrighteous to judge a Christian guilty and reproachable merely because a worldly person has something evil to say against him or her. God’s approval is our goal. Therefore, “who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed” (1 Pet. 3:13-14).
41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:41–42, NKJV)
The apostles had just been beaten and threatened for preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:40). One would think they would go underground to avoid further pain and threats of death. But, astonishingly, they continued daily to teach and preach, both publicly and privately. Their faith in Christ was greater than their fear of men. The apostle Paul vividly portrays the suffering of the apostles when he said, “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now” (1 Cor. 4:11–13). Later, Peter would exhort us to have courage to gladly accept suffering as a Christian: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Pet. 4:16). Like the apostles, we must “not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” – regardless of the reactions of those who refuse to believe in the power and authority of Jesus Christ to save.
30 And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? 31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (1 Corinthians 15:30–32, NKJV)
Our hope in Christ transcends this life. His empty tomb forever declares Him to be the Son of God with power over death, assuring us that we will be raised by His power in the last day (Rom. 1:4; John 5:28-29). Lives lived without hope in Christ are pitiable. There would be absolutely no reason to suffer deprivation or sacrifice one’s safety for the sake of Christ if the dead are not raised. What a pitiful existence that would be (1 Cor. 15:19-20)! The hedonistic culture of Corinth indulged the desires of the flesh because, after all (as the unbelievers reasoned), “tomorrow we die.” Indeed, that philosophy would be appealing “if the dead do not rise” (v. 32). But, such a view of life cannot and will not satisfy the soul (Matt. 16:26; Psa. 42:1). Our longing for meaning in life is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jno. 14:6). So, be strengthened in your faith and do not give in to fleshly allurements. Neither yield to false doctrines that deny the resurrection of the dead. Jesus was raised, and we shall be, too. Suffer every danger and sacrifice every comfort necessary to gain Christ, and attain to the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:7-11).
1 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, 2 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 Peter 4:1–2, NKJV)
Christ suffered for us; “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). His suffering in the flesh compels Christians to equip ourselves with His mind or attitude; the decision to do good and, if need be, “to suffer for doing good” (1 Pet. 3:17; 4:1). Contrary to the “health and wealth gospel” taught by false teachers, being a Christian does not free one from suffering. The devoted Christian accepts a life of suffering for doing the will of God. In verse two, Peter says such suffering includes no longer living to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Our devotion is to the will of God. Even when your former companions in sin think you are odd, and speak evil of you for no longer joining them in sin, remember that you have “ceased from sin” and cannot continue to practice it (1 Pet. 4:3-4, 1). Peer pressure is powerful, but we must see it for what it is; the attempt of sinful people to draw us into sinning along with them. Resist. Suffer (when it comes to that). Live for the will of God. Do not live for the lusts of men.
13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (1 Peter 3:13–15, NKJV)
Peter does not say Christians will be free from harm when we follow what is good. On the contrary, suffering for the sake of righteousness will happen. God blesses the Christian who endures such troubles and threats (cf. Matt. 5:10-12). Just as God assured Isaiah that He was his “sanctuary” (holy abode and sure protection) in the face of opposition, so the Lord is for us (v. 14; Isa. 8:12-14). As you “sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart” (NASB), you will be equipped with the necessary faith to be prepared to give an answer for your hope in Christ. So that, even when you suffer for what is good, you will not grow weary. If Christ is not Lord of your life, then you will not long endure suffering for the sake of what is right. Instead of faltering when defamed for being a Christian, let us say with Paul, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1:12).
22 … “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:22–24, NKJV)
Being a Christian is not a pain-free zone. Jesus Christ, whose name we wear, suffered enormously to secure our redemption. He suffered injustice, ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and physical torture unto death, despised as a criminal and rejected by men. Yet still, some Christians find it a burden to deny themselves the simplest comfort in order to serve Christ. Let us be clear: We cannot follow Jesus without taking up our cross daily. That means sacrifice. Self-denial. Total faith and complete obedience. To try to follow Jesus without complete self-denial will cause you to lose your life. Only when you lose yourself for His sake, will your life be saved.