Suffering is one of the least common denominators of the human race. It translates our very different lives into something relatable. Suffering is nearly tantamount to being alive. Everyone deals with it, but not many people understand it. I know that when you are in the crucible of suffering the last thing you need is a list of points pontificating on your sufferings. Job’s friends set a great example of what not to do to someone. In a very real sense, “Suffering imposes a limit to all reasoning” (Hans Küng). However, we are not left entirely to blind faith or dark resentment. First Peter is an excellent book to turn to after the dust has settled to understand something of God’s view of suffering. It’s kind of like a New Testament parallel to Job, but with some actual answers. Peter tells us to arm ourselves with a mind to suffer. This is defensive language and implies that Christians need a basic education concerning suffering. This is because, ultimately, if we allow it to, suffering plays a very positive role in God’s operation to save us to the uttermost.
Ten Points on Suffering in 1 Peter:
1. Suffering is common to all believers. It is not an unusual or strange experience. No one is exempt from suffering.
Beloved, do not think that the fiery ordeal among you, coming to you for a trial, is strange, as if it were a strange thing happening to you. –1 Peter 4:12
2. Suffering is something that is according to the will of God.
So then let those also who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing to a faithful Creator. –1 Peter 4:19
For it is better, if the will of God should will it, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. –1 Peter 3:17
3. As Christians, we are called to suffering.
For this is grace, if anyone, because of a consciousness of God, bears sorrows by suffering unjustly. For what glory is it if, while sinning and being buffeted, you endure? But if, while doing good and suffering, you endure, this is grace with God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered on your behalf, leaving you a model so that you may follow in His steps. –1 Peter 2:19-21
4. Suffering is a characteristic of the mind of Christ, the way Christ understands and realizes things. His concept, His logic, in incarnation is suffering.
Since Christ therefore has suffered in the flesh, you also arm yourselves with the same mind (because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin). –1 Peter 4:1
5. To follow the steps of Christ is to follow Him in His suffering for doing good. Sufferings are the footsteps left by Christ from the manger to the cross.
For what glory is it if, while sinning and being buffeted, you endure? But if, while doing good and suffering, you endure, this is grace with God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered on your behalf, leaving you a model so that you may follow in His steps. –1 Peter 2:20-21
6. Sufferings are used by God to prove and try the believers’ faith; this produces preciousness, praise, glory, and honor.
In which time you exult, though for a little while at present, if it must be, you have been made sorrowful by various trials, so that the proving of your faith, much more precious than of gold which perishes though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. –1 Peter 1:6-7
7. Sufferings are used to arm the believers with a mind against the flesh. Suffering responds to Christ’s redemption, which saves us from our vain manner of life, by cooling down the flesh to preserve us from a sinful life.
Since Christ therefore has suffered in the flesh, you also arm yourselves with the same mind (because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin), no longer to live the rest of the time in the flesh in the lusts of men, but in the will of God. –1 Peter 4:1-2
8. Through our sufferings we are able to share in the sufferings of Christ and to rejoice at the revelation of His glory. Blessedness, joy, and glory are the concomitants of suffering.
But inasmuch as you share in the sufferings of Christ, rejoice, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice exultingly. If you are reproached in the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. For let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler into others’ affairs; but if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this name. –1 Peter 4:13-16
9. Our sufferings produce us as witnesses of the sufferings of Christ. This is not the same as knowing Christ’s sufferings doctrinally, or knowing verses about Christ’s sufferings. It is to become a witness of His sufferings experientially, so that we are able to testify firsthand to others as they pass through sufferings. God brings us through sufferings for the sake of the Body of Christ (Col. 1:24; 2 Cor. 1:4-6).
Therefore the elders among you I exhort, who am a fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory to be revealed. –1 Peter 5:1
10. Sufferings produce a positive result. They perfect, establish, strengthen, and ground us for the eternal glory into which God has called us.
Be sober; watch. Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking someone to devour. Him withstand, being firm in your faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being accomplished among your brotherhood in the world. But the God of all grace, He who has called you into His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself perfect, establish, strengthen, and ground you. –1 Pet. 5:8-10
Adapted from Yu, Andrew. “The Christian Life and Its Sufferings.” The Ministry Magazine 12.1 (2008): 203-213. Print.
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Great post from 1 Peter! Just to add to the subject, an except from the book, “The God of resurrection” ….
“What is the significance of suffering? This, that the devastation it brings to the old creation provides an opportunity for the God of resurrection to impart Himself to His creatures, so that they emerge from the death process with a divine element in their constitution. The primary purpose of suffering in this universe, particularly as it relates to the children of God, is that through it the very nature of God may be wrought into the nature of man. “If indeed our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is being renewed day by day.” Through a process of outward decay an inward process is taking place that is adding a new constituent to our lives.”
Very true. Thanks for sharing. I think you definitely see that in Paul’s writings. What I like about these points in Peter’s writings is that they are very practical.