ALERT BUT NOT ALARMED
Lord, to walk with You is to suffer for You.
Read 1 PETER 4:12–19
Suffering for Being a Christian
12 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. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 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? 18 And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[a]
19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
a 1 Peter 4:18 Prov. 11:31 (see Septuagint)
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“We don’t yet see things clearly… But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do… Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly” (1 Cor. 13:12,13, The Message).
In a recent interview, a prominent British neurosurgeon talked about the ﬁne line between making sure the patient and the family understood the risks of the upcoming brain surgery before giving hope for a successful outcome. He wanted everyone to be as prepared as they could for the possible loss of their loved one, but still to have conﬁdence in him to face the operation in the best frame of mind. Peter thinks similarly. He knows there is value in not being taken by surprise by the suffering which may come, going as far as saying “Don’t be ashamed!” “Rejoice!” (cf. 16,13). Jesus took the same approach, warning his disciples of troubles to come: “Be alert!” but “do not be alarmed” (Mark 13:33,7). This is engaged alertness—a realistic apprehension of what the future may hold. It is destructive only when it makes us stop trusting God and take our eyes off him.
In the past few centuries, Christians in the western world have not expected to suffer for their faith. We think of persecution as happening elsewhere, but that is beginning to change now that biblical values are not accepted in our societies and individual human rights are taking precedence over what was formerly thought good for society. Peter is clear that Christians cannot expect to avoid punishment for wrong-doing, but our actions towards others in defending our faith must be rooted in God’s Word.
New Testament writers tend to frame suffering in view of Jesus’ return. Only then will true justice be seen to triumph and all will acknowledge God’s sovereignty. This means we must live in the here and now with an active expectation of the second coming. After 2,000 years of failed guesses, we should be wary of detailed scenarios of how the end times will play out, but the promise is that we will be “overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (13).
What difference do you think it would make if you thought of your suffering as the privilege of participating in Christ’s suffering?
Lord, we grieve over the suffering imposed on our brothers and sisters in oppressed countries, and we pray for their continued steadfastness in the faith.