I have been spending the last month or so reading and re-reading I Peter. Last night I read I Peter 4 and 5 again. There is so much good stuff in here that I want to share with you, I just copied it all and italicized some of what has particularly stood out to me.
4: Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Suffering for Being a Christian
12 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.13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[a]
19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
5: To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”[a]
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (Italics mine.)
I am sometimes amazed at the number of Christians who believe that the Christian life is supposed to be easy and happy and care-free. It makes me wonder if they have actually read the whole Bible, because what I read reminds me that when we are living for Christ, life is probably going to be hard, hurtful, and painful, and that when we experience those things that is good! It means we are done with sin (4:1), it means we should rejoice (4:13), it means we are blessed (4:14), it means we shouldn’t be ashamed (4:16), and it means we should continue what we are doing (4:19).
I am guilty of it, too. Taking the easy way out. Not standing up for what I believe quite as strongly as I should because I am afraid of suffering. I am afraid of people not liking me. I am afraid of being labeled. I am afraid of not fitting in.
But we are called to a life that includes suffering and persecution. We are called to a life where we stand up against the grain of the culture. We are called to a life that puts Christ at the center and everything else falls away. And we are warned that this will be hard, we will be tempted, and the enemy doesn’t like it (5:8-9).
But when we choose to live the hard life, choose to resist temptation, choose to go against the culture, although we will suffer, after suffering we will be restored (5:10).
It is hard to live this way, but our commitment to Christ, along with the promise of restoration, has to trump comfort. We need to be accepting of suffering for the sake of Christ.
I am not suggesting that we suffer for the sake of suffering. I am saying that when we are living a life that is pleasing to Christ and bringing him glory and suffering comes, we can get through it when we trust in the restoration that is promised at the end of our time of suffering.
For those of you suffering for the sake of Christ today, I encourage you to keep on doing what you are doing.
For those of you living safely, I encourage you to step out and live the hard life for Christ.