Thursday, November 29, 2018

Devotional: Expect and Welcome Suffering, 1 Peter 4:1-19

Outline 1 Peter 4.1-19

Peter continues discussing suffering in chapter 4. His main point is that, as Christians, we should expect and welcome trials and suffering because they work out God’s will for our ultimate salvation. In a way, trials and persecution function as God’s judgment, not to condemn the Christian, but to remove and conquer our propensity to sin and accept the inferior benefits of the world. Persecution focuses us on God and his superior blessings. Thus, Peter urges that we should respond to trials and suffering with acts of grace and love enabled by God’s power. When we do this God promises deeper fellowship with Christ, glory, and the blessing of the experience of the Spirit, which will bring praise to God, purging of sin and completion of God‘s work of grace in our lives.

In 4:1 Peter again points to the example of Jesus. Just as he suffered in the body in order to defeat death and sin for all of creation, we need bodily suffering to overcome sin in our own lives. Suffering has a way of making spiritual things a higher priority and taking our minds off of fulfilling selfish desires and passions. It highlights our dependence on God and helps us see the meaninglessness of things that our flesh values. Those that have never experienced the comfort of the Spirit in suffering will never understand this. Suffering can appear to be a negative judgment on a person but Peter assures us that it will result in a positive outcome as the Spirit’s work of transformation prepares us for glory.

Thus, Peter urges believers to respond to trials and persecution with daily practical acts of love and grace. (4:7-11)Suffering often is the means God uses to enable the believer to make more use of the power and gifts God has given them. Suffering focuses us on the things that are important which energizes our prayers.  Suffering provides a perspective that enables us to give all our resources (hospitality) to serve without grumbling. A proper response to suffering energizes our spiritual gifts and increases our ability to serve effectively. Just as Jesus showed God’s glory through suffering, so we show his glory better as we experience times of suffering.

Finally,Peter says that we should not be surprised when we suffer or are persecuted and insulted. Instead we should “rejoice and be glad” that we have been chosen to “share Christ’s suffering.” The rejoicing is not in the pain and suffering itself, that would be crazy, but like Jesus we look through the suffering to the blessing, salvation and glory that will result from it. Everyone will experience God’s judgment. Better to let God perform his work of purifying us in the fire of suffering now than stand before him with a wasted life later. We can be sure that our “faithful Creator” (4:17) is going to set things right for us and for those who cause the suffering. Thus, our best question in the midst of suffering should not be “why?” but can always be, “how can I do good in this situation?”

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