How would your life be different if you could face difficult times with rejoicing?
Peter’s discussion on suffering now takes center stage. His hearers are experiencing a very real trial—“fiery”—and they aren’t sure why they suffer for it. How should his hearers face such challenges? After all, the covenant blessings of Deuteronomy seem to suggest that good things come to those who place their trust in God and honor him. Can suffering be a good thing?
Continuing Christ’s Afflictions with Rejoicing
1 Peter 4:12-13 – Trials aren’t unexpected. These come in order to test our character. But more than that, we have the privilege of following in Jesus’ footsteps. Read Colossians 1:24 and see Paul’s attitude in similar circumstances. He believed he was “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions,” insinuating that Jesus’ didn’t suffer enough. If the church is the body of Christ in this world, it will face the same opposition that crucified the Son of God. His holiness and perfection brings conviction of heart or rejection of goodness.
We are encouraged to “continue rejoicing.” This imperative in the Greek is a “present tense” which implies ongoing act of rejoicing, not a momentary thought.
Must we be “happy” in order to rejoice? Does the act of rejoicing require positive emotions to accompany it?
Suffering for Christ a Sign of Blessing
1 Peter 4:14-16 – Suffering because of illegal activity, while uncomfortable and maybe even a trial, doesn’t mark anyone in a special way. Such punishment is simply deserved. But if I suffer as Jesus did and for His cause, then it’s a sign that the Holy Spirit is working in me. This is no cause for shame or disgrace, but rather of honor. God is glorified through it.
How can I know if I’m suffering for the right reasons or causes? Is it possible that suffering persecution or backlash for a political/social cause can be confused with a spiritual one?
Judgement of God’s House
1 Peter 4:17-19 – The Judgment isn’t always a happy topic, but Peter goes further and suggests that those closest to God—His household—are judged first. As the lesson pointed out, Ezekiel 8 and 9 speaks of the abominations of Israel. Israel’s sins bring God’s judgment on those professing to be His followers. Verse 18 quotes from the Greek Old Testament of Proverbs 11:31 suggesting difficulty for righteous to be saved. This gives a slightly different emphasis than the Hebrew text which says that if the righteous are rewarded on earth, how much more the wicked. Peter’s point seems to be that judgement comes on all, and that both receive their reward. If this is the case, then God’s people can trust their final state (their “souls”) to God who is a faithful judge, a loving creator.
What is your hope if you are to stand before the judgment bar of God? How does knowing Jesus and His love make a difference?
No trial is truly a joyful experience, as we tend to shy away from anything that brings pain, whether physical, emotional, mental, or otherwise. But Christians can face all trials with a sense of excitement knowing that good can come of it.