Peter’s first letter asks a rhetorical question, “Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good” (I Peter 3:13)? After asking this question he makes a starting statement that we “may suffer for doing what is right.”
Suffering, Really I Have to Suffer
I Peter 3:13-22; I Peter 4:12-19
Peter continues by making some incredible statements, statements that we need to carefully consider.
The First: We are blessed. Why? Because we suffer.
The second: We should not fear. Why? Because they have made the LORD (that is Christ) Holy in their hearts.
The Third: We should be Ready? Ready for what? To provide a defense of their hope when required and be able to defend ourselves in the court of law or in private one on one conversation.
The Fourth: We should keep our conscience clear. Why? Because when we are accused we can confidently know and say for certainty that we have done no wrong.
Peter includes it is better to suffer for doing good. Why? Because Christ himself suffered for His righteousness (verse 17).
Christ suffering brought about a way to forgive sins, because He died a death which was total separation from God. Why did he suffer and die? So that you and I would not ever have to suffer complete separation from God as he had to experience. Sin brought about separation from God, and death, death without the hope of Christ is completely and permanent separation from God.
Why is this important? So that those who believe in Christ might be brought to God. For the only thing God has ever wanted is to be with us. This is why he created us in the first place, for Him be with us.
God desires us and through salvation he accomplishes this purpose. But if I accept Christ today and live for another 70 years, am I really ready to live with Christ today? No because over a life time of walking with God, we become changed. When we daily study His word and pray to God, he changes us little by little each day. God uses difficult times in our lives, not to punish us but to gain a deeper understanding of God himself. He uses our suffering to strengthen us. He uses our difficulties and trials so we can aid others and strengthen them. When we share out experiences together, we draw strength from each other and draw closer together in Christian love and draw closer to God as we see His will worked out in the lives of others.
Peter describes some of these trials as a fiery ordeal. Fire is an interesting metaphor to use for fire can be used in a destructive way, such as a house being destroyed by fire. But fire can also be used in a purifying way. It all depends on what is experiencing the fire.
Yet fiery trials are not something that we should desire. There is no shame in suffering for your faith as a Christian, but to purposely put yourself in harm’s way, because you are a Christians is wrong.
I can hear some of you saying, “Hey wait a minute, I am a Christian and hasn’t Christ promised that I would never suffer?”
Before answer that question, let me point something out. On more than one occasion I have heard Christians, new Christians say, “life was easy before I became a Christian. God must not love me because he doesn’t do a good job taking care of me.”
If it is the devils purpose to keep you from gaining life in Christ, why would he make your life miserable before you because a Christian. Easy life, equals life without Christ. Since it is his job, his sole purpose to keep your from life with Christ, wouldn’t he do everything possible to discourage you, to prevent you from gaining this life with Christ? Certainly.
It is similar to a game of football. It is the Christians purpose to gain the goal, score the touchdown and in the end win by living his or her life in Christ. But there is also a team that wishing to prevent you from gaining that goal. It is their desire to stop you in any means possible from crossing that goal line. Instead they would rather push you toward their goal line and that goal line is death and destruction, eternal separation from God.
The Bible is full of stories of people even though they were sinners they eventually won the battle and gained the goal of life with Christ. But there are other stories of the Bible that show others that failed and why they failed, that we might learn from their examples.
In the Old Testament, Isiah, Ezekiel, Malachi and other talk about a time of judgment, but they always talk about the judgement coming upon both the righteous and the unrighteous. These three prophets just mentioned teach that the judgement always falls on the children of God first.
These difficulties, these trials, these sufferings that come to our life and not pleasant. In fact they seem to come at all the wrong times.
But our character is being molded and shaped daily to better reflect the character of God.