1 Peter – 1 Peter 4:12-19 – 14 of 18
When life is going well we push God to the periphery, but when trials come, we become aware of how much we need Him. Suffering under trials and persecution is a major theme of 1 Peter. He wrote this letter to Christians who were going through trials, many of which were undeserved, unfair and unexpected. Today we are going to take a closer look at these fiery trials, and find that insight that Peter gives us to help us navigate these tough times.
The book of James provides some additional perspective on the trials we face. It is similar to Peter in that it is addressed to “dispersed” Christians who are strangers and aliens in a foreign land. (James 1:2-4) From these verses we learn a great deal about trials:
- Trials are common among God’s people. Notice James says “when,” not “if.”
- Trials come in various categories.
- Trials put our faith to the test—they tend to drive us back to the core of our beliefs.
Without trials, there could be no maturity. God often uses them to grow us and yield His intended result. I believe that our text today refers to the kinds of trials that linger and take their toll. 1 Peter 4 addresses the “fiery ordeal” that his readers are facing. He may be speaking metaphorically, or he may be speaking literally about the Roman emperor Nero who blamed Christians for the burning of Rome, and subsequently burned some Christians alive as living torches to light the imperial gardens at night. Regardless of Peter’s specific meaning, in verses 12 and 13 he instructs us on how we should react during periods of struggle.
Oftentimes our initial response to trial involves surprise and shock, but if we view life as a classroom with God as our instructor, tests and trials should come as no surprise, although they may be unwelcome, especially when pursuing a curriculum of Christlikeness. So our reaction should go beyond merely not being surprised to actually rejoicing. (James 1:2) James gives us two reasons why we should be joyful in trials:
- A proper response to trials results in greater Christlike character. (James 1:3)
- God promises a future reward to those who persevere under trials. (James 1:12)
Finally, Peter provides some important things to remember as we face trials lest we become overwhelmed. Trials provide an opportunity to draw upon God’s great power. (1 Peter 4:14) The power of the Holy Spirit is readily available to Believers and can carry us through trials. Sometimes our suffering is deserved and shameful. (1 Peter 4:15) There are times our trials are justified, and we must reap the consequences of sin. We should never be ashamed when we suffer as a result of following Christ. (1 Peter 4:16) When we are mocked or persecuted for our faith, we should rejoice that God considers us worthy to suffer for Him as Jesus suffered for us. Suffering is usually timely and necessary. (1 Peter 4:17) In some cases suffering may be judgment for sin, but in others God uses it to refine our faith in Christ and enhance our character. There is no comparison between what we suffer now and what the unrighteous will suffer later. (1 Peter 4:18)
Peter concludes this section by telling us on whom we must rely during times of trial, by reminding us to entrust or deposit ourselves into God’s safekeeping just as Jesus deposited his soul into the care of his Father as he died on the cross—the ultimate trial. As C.S. Lewis noted, trials are not an elective in the Christian life; they are a required course. When trials come, it’s important to remember that God is faithful and he will not allow you to be tested beyond what you are able to endure. When trials stay, it’s important that you take refuge in God as you seek to honor Him and others in your responses.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Adopt a biblical view of suffering—it refines faith and purifies character.
- Be willing to suffer for your faith. Refuse to cave in to cultural pressures.
- Be courageous. Entrust yourself to God in doing what is right.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)