“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)
We would all like life to be easy. As much as we hate to admit it, however, we all have to endure suffering in this life. The problem of how the Christian must endure this inevitable suffering is addressed by the apostle Peter. Although his focus is on the undeserved suffering of persecution for the name of Christ, the principle he lays down can be applied to all types of suffering. Peter asserts that judgment begins with the household of God, a reference to Ezekiel 9:4ff. God wants a holy people, a people separated from sin and the world. As we endure persecution or any type of suffering we begin to realize what is most important to us. In this way suffering strips us of our imperfections and flaws. Persecution also purifies the Church by separating the nominal Christian from those who truly bear Christ’s Name. Such suffering, therefore is never in vain. This judgement is only the beginning. The judgement on the believer is not the same judgement that will befall the nonbeliever. Hebrews 10:26-31 indicates that this judgement will be far worse. God’s judgement of the believer is for his good, but for the unbeliever, it is punishment.
Peter also indicates that if we suffer reproach and criticism it should be because we live up to the name of Christian. That alone will bring insult upon us. We can endure undeserved suffering because not only do we bear the name of Christ, but we also bear His Spirit. If we suffer reproach, it should not be because we deserve it. Rather we are to avoid living in sin or adopting the worldly values of our culture. Each of us have a high calling: to live as Christ did, an example of God’s righteousness to all the world, no matter what we may be called to endure. Resolve now to be a better witness for Jesus by living a righteous and holy life and by standing up for the truth. If we are persecuted and insulted, we need not fear, or be ashamed, but rejoice. We are walking in the Father’s will.