This is the seventh in a series on 1 Peter. The series begins here.
Although Peter’s letter was written to Christians who faced torture and death for their faith, much of the encouragement and hope we find here can speak to any type of suffering. Our lives encounter many sorts of suffering … not only physical and verbal attacks from outward opponents, as some of the early Christians were experiencing, but deeply personal and private mental anguish, physical battles, broken relationships, the ongoing war between the old nature and the Spirit within, financial crises, grief… every one of us can add our own dark days to this list.
I’ve started this post a half dozen times, scrapped it, started again. Peter has so much to say about the suffering that is part of our pilgrimage, and every person who is reading his letter today will find the Spirit speaking to them in different ways. I can’t begin to reflect on everything he has to say, and I can’t begin to presume to know what kind of suffering you are going through … and so, I found it difficult to … begin.
As Peter spoke to you, did you focus on the rewards waiting, after faith has held through suffering? Or were the most prominent passages for you today the verses on how God’s people should respond to undeserved treatment? Perhaps uppermost in your mind was the tangled and ugly conflict at your workplace, as you read about the example Christ set for His followers, or maybe your thoughts are filled with the pain your church is living through as some of today’s winnowing issues cause division and hurt.
As I’ve read 1 Peter, two things have come into sharper focus for me.
“Suffering is walking on sacred ground.”
I read those words somewhere else during my sojourn in 1 Peter. They’ve stayed with me, an echo of Peter’s words.
Somehow, suffering deepens and strengthens our relationship to Christ. Of course, if one’s heart is not “set on pilgrimage” (as the psalmist says), then suffering can be responded to with bitterness and hardening against God. But Peter assures us that suffering cements our partnership with our Lord. We learn even more of God’s power and grace. We’re purified and strengthened. Peter talks about suffering leading us to a place where we’re “done with sin.” (Wow!) And gives us the promise that “the glorious Spirit of God rests on you.”
Our natural inclination is to shrink back and look for detours around the terrifying, discouraging, and hostile terrain along our pilgrimage home.
But it’s sacred ground, where God pulls us ever closer.
The one way to respond to persecution
Even if your life is being threatened because you bear the name of Christ, says Peter, don’t worry or be afraid of the threats.
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way (3:14-16).
Isn’t that an interesting juxtaposition? Faced with real opposition and danger, what do we do?
Worship Christ as Lord of our lives!
That’s certainly counter-culture.
This is the one thing to hold on to, no matter what suffering we experience: Worship Christ. Give Him place as Lord. Focus on Him. Know His promises and hold onto them. Arm yourself with the same attitudes He has. Give yourself to the mind of Christ (4:1).
Instead of worrying and being afraid, worship Christ as Lord of your life.
Peter sums it all up in 4:19. Walk on the sacred ground of suffering. Keep on doing what is right.
“And trust your lives to the God who created you, because he will never fail you.”