Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. — 1 Peter 4:19
Etched indelibly in my memory is the night my uncle had a massive stroke. As our family gathered around his bedside in prayer, snatches of sermons he had preached replayed themselves in my mind. Copies of those sermons had circled the globe, inspiring many. Would we ever hear him preach again?
The stroke left my uncle partially paralyzed and unable to speak except for a few words. It left me grappling with a haunting question: why?
Months went by. While the keen edge of my question dulled, at times it would surface. Why was this man, whose ministry had been so blessed by God, suffering an affliction that deprived him of his speech?
One day when I was at my uncle’s home, I heard the distinctive sound that meant he wanted me to come to the living room. Seated in his armchair, he had been listening to a tape of a sermon he had preached a number of years before. He rewound the tape, and motioned for me to sit down at his feet, indicating that I was to listen with him.
The sermon was titled, “Why Christians Suffer.” We listened for a moment or two, and then his tape-recorded “voice from the past” said words that arrested my attention with an almost physical jolt: “In the natural, from our human point of view, when we are called to go through fiery trials we wonder why. But Peter said, ‘Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you.’ . . . If the Lord is going to use us, He may prove us by our suffering. He is going to test us and see whether we are going to be a help to someone else. If we rebel against the suffering, we are rebelling against that which we need . . . ”
My uncle looked at me, nodded his head emphatically, and even shook his finger to emphasize the words we were hearing. It was as if he knew the question that had been rolling through my mind since the day of his stroke. He wanted me to know that he still believed the words he had preached those few years earlier!
My uncle understood that Christians may suffer “according to the will of God.” The believers to whom our focus verse was written were likely suffering persecution. Our suffering may come in the form of physical affliction, emotional stress, financial concerns, or a myriad of other ways. However, if we are following the Lord with all of our hearts, we can be sure our suffering is according to the will of God. That means it is necessary. He has allowed it in order to fulfill a purpose in our lives!
If you are suffering today, don’t give up. If you continue in well doing — in making godly choices and staying the course of faithfulness — you will find that there is eternal gain in the hard place you are going through!
Chapter 4 continues the subject of suffering for the Lord. Holy living can bring persecution (verses 1-11), but if believers share the sufferings of Christ, they will rejoice when His glory is revealed (verses 12-19).
Peter began the chapter by warning these believers that the change salvation had made in their lives could result in persecution by the unsaved people about them. When he said, “Arm yourselves,” he meant for them to be equipped as soldiers who have the proper weaponry for battle. For Christians, having the “same mind” as Christ is their weapon — yielding to God’s will and hating sin. Before their conversions, they had spent time living in sin, but coming to Christ had caused a separation from that lifestyle and from those who maintained it. The result might be mistreatment by their former associates. However, God will one day judge those who do not serve Him, because the Gospel has been preached to them and they have rejected the opportunity to live for Him.
Peter challenged his readers to be serious (sober, verse 7) about serving God, and to pray. They were to have “fervent charity” — self-sacrificing love — toward each other, which would cause shortcomings to be less noticeable. At the time Peter wrote, persecution might have caused people to leave their homes, and thus be in need of hospitality. Also, those preaching the Gospel traveled and needed to be cared for, without complaint (grudging) by their hosts. The Christians were to use what God had given them to help others.
In verses 12-13, Peter cautioned the believers not to think their fiery trials were strange or bewildering. Rather, he wanted them to consider these a privilege, for when Christ returned, they would have “exceeding joy.” In verse 14, Peter alluded to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:11. There is no blessing in suffering for doing wrong, but there is great blessing in suffering because of following Christ.
In Peter’s time, the name Christian (verse 16) was used derisively by unbelievers to ridicule those who followed Jesus. However, rather than being ashamed of the title, believers were to glorify God. One commentator suggests that believers did not call themselves Christians, but considered it a high honor when the opposition used it regarding them.
When times were hard for the believers, Peter wanted them to remember that God’s judgment for those who did not follow Christ would be much worse than what they were going through. If God disciplines His followers to purify them, consider what punishment will come upon those who rebel!
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The conduct of the believer
C. In suffering
2. Walk in the will of God (4:1-6)
a. The command (4:1-2)
b. The reason (4:3)
c. The result (4:4-6)
3. Live soberly in view of the coming judgment (4:7-11)
a. In prayer (4:7)
b. In love (4:8)
c. With hospitality (4:9)
d. In service (4:10-11)
4. Realize trials are normal (4:12-19)
a. Means for glorifying God (4:12-17)
b. Reason for confidence (4:18-19)
Living life is not always easy. Yet, the challenges we face are allowed in our lives by God Himself. There are no accidents with God; He makes it all work for our good and spiritual increase. We must make sure, however, that we have the right outlook in the trial, in order for there to be a positive outcome after the trial!