12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy (1 Peter 4:12–13, NKJV).
What are Christians to do when trials come? They will come in various ways, especially when we live godly (James 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:6; 2 Tim. 3:12). Peter teaches Christians how to overcome the distress of trials with the joy of Christ. (1) Do not think your trials are unique to you (1 Pet. 4:12). Trials can be fiery. Your adversary wants to isolate you, but others have faced and overcome trials, and so can you (Heb. 11:36-40). (2) Rejoice to partake of Christ’s sufferings (1 Pet. 4:13-14). Jesus suffered trials, and He comes to the aid of all who put their faith in Him (Heb. 2:18; 4:15-16). Rejoice in Christ and follow His steps (1 Pet. 2:21). (3) Do not be ashamed of being a Christian (1 Pet. 4:15-18). Remain faithful through the difficulties you face for wearing His name (Mark 8:38). Accept suffering for those things that glorify God, and you will be judged faithful for your obedience to Christ. (4) Commit your life to God (1 Pet. 4:19). Deposit your soul for safekeeping to God. Accept the momentary grief trials bring and keep doing good (1 Pet. 2:19-23). Your trial is a moment to purify your faith and look toward your heavenly reward (1 Pet. 1:6-9; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). Faith in Christ overcomes this world’s trials (1 Pet. 5:4). Trust that God will not leave you (Heb. 13:5-6). He will right every wrong and reward your faith with eternal life.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? (Isaiah 53:7–8, ESV)
The Ethiopian read this stunning prophecy of Christ in his chariot during his return home from Jerusalem, where he had worshiped (Acts 8:27-33). Perplexed about its meaning, he asked Philip to join him and explain it. So, beginning with this Scripture, Philip preached Jesus to him, leading to his salvation (Acts 8:34-39). Approximately 700 years before His crucifixion, Isaiah described God’s suffering and sin-bearing servant (Isa. 53). Jesus fulfilled this prophecy. What marvelous humility and complete willingness to endure injustice, agony, and death without defiantly opening His mouth (Matt. 26:59-68). Depicted as a docile sheep being led to slaughter, in death, Jesus “suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21-24). He bore the pains of death for us, an offering for sin accepted by God (Isa. 53:10-12). When people revile you for the name of Christ, do not “revile in return.” Instead, bear the reproach of Christ and commit yourself to God who judges righteously (1 Pet. 2:23; Heb. 13:13-14). Like Jesus, may we surrender ourselves to doing God’s will, knowing He is faithful safely secure our souls in Christ (Heb. 13:5-6).
4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; (2 Thessalonians 1:4–5, NKJV)
Jesus blesses those persecuted for righteousness’s sake (Matt. 5:10-12). Many early Christians were “made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations” because of their faith (Heb. 10:33). The saints in Thessalonica exemplify steadfast endurance in the face of fierce opposition. Their persecution was not due to God failing or forgetting them. Far from it (1 Thess. 3:12-13). Their faithful fortitude despite suffering for their faith revealed two unbending truths. (1) God will righteously judge those who persecute His people (v. 5). Paul explained, “since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you” (2 Thess. 1:6). God will judge those who bring suffering upon the righteous. The persecutors of Christians “do not know God” and “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” therefore, they will experience divine vengeance (2 Thess. 1:7-8). (2) Those who suffer as Christians are worthy of the kingdom of God (v. 5). These faithful ones will share in the glory of Christ when He comes (2 Thess. 1:10; Col. 3:4). Like them, may we faithfully endure trials and the promise of eternal life (Heb. 10:36-39). Do not be ashamed of Jesus (Mark 8:38). Glorify God when you suffer for Christ (1 Pet. 4:16). Great is your reward in heaven (Matt. 5:10-12).
22 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it (Acts 2:22–24, NKJV).
Nothing takes God by surprise, especially not the death of Jesus. God is eternal and declares “the end from the beginning…saying, ‘My counsel shall stand’” (Isa. 46:10). His foreknowledge compels trustful obedience to Him and not carved images. God’s prophet recorded God’s purposeful foreknowledge, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isa. 42:9). Jesus was delivered to death “by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (v. 23). From eternity past, God planned to save sinners by sacrificing His Son (Eph. 1:4-7). His prophets foretold a suffering Servant whom God would crown with glory and honor (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The sacrifice of Jesus fully expressed God’s love and grace toward us sinners (1 John 4:10; Rom. 5:6-11). Following His resurrection, Jesus said everything in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms concerning Him was fulfilled (Luke 24:44-45; Acts 13:32-33). The apostles witnessed these things and preached the good news of salvation to the world (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8). God planned to save us from sin. Now, He calls on us to believe and obey His Son to receive the gift He planned and fulfilled (Acts 2:36-41; 4:12; Heb. 5:8-9).
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).
28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:28–29, NKJV)
Jesus said the place sin begins is the heart. The heart is the mind, the seat of our intellect, will, emotions, conscience, and volition. “Lust” means to “set the heart upon,” to “long for” (Strong’s Concise Dictionary of Greek NT Words, I:31). In the heart, lusts (and plans to fulfill them) are contemplated, formulated, and postulated before they are practiced (Jas. 1:14-15). The mind is also the place where lusts can be regulated, resisted and refused (Jas. 1:16; 1 Cor. 10:13). Jesus used exaggerated language in vss. 29-30 to describe the extent of the repentance required to remove the source of sin and escape the suffering of hell. Repentance changes the heart so that the lust to sin no longer has a place to reside within us. To repent of our sins we will have to surrender things very dear to us in order not to perish in sin. (The removal of an eye or a hand illustrates the severe nature of repentance.) We will not see the profit of severing our connection to the sin in our hearts as long as our lusts are more precious to us than eternal life. Giving up sin is a small price to pay to escape the everlasting punishment of hell.
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.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10–12, NKJV)
Early Christians faced threats, deprivation, imprisonment, violence and death for their faith (Hebrews 10:32-34). It may be hard for us to envision the blessedness of being persecuted. Yet, our perspective changes when the blessing of persecution is understood in the context of being citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Enduring persecution for the sake of righteousness produces patience and perfects faith (James 1:2-4). Devotion to things above will bring persecution, but it also helps the persecution seem as “light affliction” in comparison to the “eternal weight of glory” to come (2 Corinthians 4:17). Because we trust His word, the Lord’s promise of eternal reward replaces the fear of persecution with confident hope (1 Peter 3:14). Jesus showed us the blessedness of suffering for what is right, and because of His suffering we obtain an eternal blessing (1 Peter 3:18; 2:19-24). Persecution is not seen as a blessing when viewed from a “this world” perspective. But, eyes of faith see the blessing it brings. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven will suffer for righteousness’ sake, and are blessed for it.
17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:17–18, NKJV)
Children of God are heirs of an inheritance that is “incorruptible, undefiled and that does not fade away,” and that is “reserved in heaven.” This sublime inheritance is for those “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5). To share the glory of this eternal inheritance with Christ “in the last time,” God’s children suffer with Christ at “this present time” (Colossians 3:4). The faith through which God’s power guards us unto that Day assures us that any suffering we endure now is not worthy to be compared with the heavenly glory we will experience throughout eternity. Hold fast to your faith in Jesus Christ and accept suffering for the sake of righteousness (1 Peter 3:14; Matthew 5:10). The glory of heaven will remove every tear of the darkness night, and replace it with the brilliance of eternity’s day.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. (James 5:13, NKJV)
Prayer and song. This couplet proves comforting and invigorating as we go through life’s storms and life’s calm. Suffering comes in many forms; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Prayer is a balm for the weary, an assuring strength during times of tumult and uncertainty. And so, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Even as suffering leads to earnest prayer, happy times evoke praise of the Almighty. The Lord is the source of joy that no one can take from us – the joy of victory over sin and death (John 16:20-22, 33). When life brings good fortune, Christians raise up songs of praise to God. We remember that God is the Giver of every good blessing; we did not create our happiness without His good providence. And so, James gives us sound instruction for difficult and happy times. He reminds us to look to God through all of life’s joys and sorrows. The Lord “will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). He will see you through.