Suffering for being a Christian
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. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIVUK)
When Peter wrote his first letter, Christianity was a religio illicita: an unlawful or illegitimate religion and the emperor Nero was known to be hostile to Christianity and Christians. God’s people were persecuted then, and they have been ever since, right up to the modern day. What should Christians do when they are exposed to persecution? Here are some pointers from the pen of Peter:
Don’t be surprised (v.12) – after all, Jesus told his disciples, on the night before the world’s hatred nailed him to a cross, ‘Remember what I told you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…They will treat you this way because of my name…’ (John 15:20-21). If we are surprised by our suffering for Christ we will be tempted to ask, ‘Why is this happening to me?’, which can lead to bitterness and bewilderment, so don’t be surprised.
Rejoice (v.13) – not because we are to be masochists, not because we are happy to be in pain but because we ‘participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that [we] may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.’ Through suffering, Jesus has been exalted to the highest place with ‘the name that is above every name’ (Philippians 2:5-11), and we are to follow in the same pattern. Through suffering we too will enter into eternal glory, so rejoice.
Don’t be ashamed (v.16) – in a society where Christians are ridiculed, cancelled, and persecuted for their faith, the temptation is to be ashamed of Jesus and keep our Christianity private. Yet the apostles rejoiced, ‘…because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.’ (Acts 5:41). And the reason, Peter says, is because when we are insulted because of the name of Christ, we are blessed, for the ‘Spirit of glory and of God rests on [us].’ (1 Peter 4:14). When we stand for Christ and honour him, we are blessed because he will honour us, (compare 1 Samuel 2:30), and eternity with him beckons, so don’t be ashamed.
Commit to God (v.19) – the word ‘commit’ means to make a deposit, and we would only deposit some money in a bank we trust. Because God in Jesus suffered supremely at the cross, he is not immune to our suffering and understands what we go through; empathises with us and provides grace to help us in times of need (Hebrews 4:15-16). God cares for us, we can trust him, so commit yourself to him.
Are you facing or going through a difficult trial? If so, take heart. When the Christian walk is painful, we are participating with the one who suffered far more for us. We are giving ourselves to the one who gave himself to us, and we can look forward to the day when the trials are past, and we live with our Saviour forever.
Father, we ask that you enable us to never be surprised or ashamed of Jesus in the fiery ordeals we face. May we rejoice and commit to you in our sufferings, knowing that our future glory with you is safe in your faithful hands. In Jesus’s name, we pray, Amen.
Study by Barry Robinson
About the writer:
Barry Robinson is a minister in Grace Communion International and Regional Pastor for Southern England.
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