For the past few Wednesday evenings in our Romans class, we’ve discussed the change that will take place in the entire creation when our Lord returns to establish His kingdom. In the 8th chapter, Paul wrote, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” The subject of suffering occupied us for a while as we considered this question—is the suffering of the present worth the anguish we go through as God’s people? Paul was convinced there is no contest. Of course, it is worth it because future glory so far supersedes present pain.
Another question we considered is the false teaching that suffering Christians are out of God’s will and their struggles are caused by lack of faith. According to these false teachers, suffering is abnormal for those who trust God completely. They say God does not want His people to suffer. We find this is distinctly the opposite of the apostles’ and our Lord’s teachings. Notice how Peter supports Paul’s position in Romans about the glory that will be revealed in us. He wrote in 1 Peter 4:12-13: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
The tone of 1 Peter makes it clear that suffering for Christ is not to be unexpected. Peter says, fiery trials are not extraordinary for God’s people. It would be strange not to have them. The explanation for these trials comes in verse 13 and is attributed to the sufferings of Christ. To paraphrase Peter, he tells these persecuted Christians, “Don’t be surprised when people hate you and want to kill you. If you desire to follow Christ, you will not receive better treatment than He received.” The reason for this should be easily discernable even if we don’t consider the natural negative disposition of men towards the gospel. We can approach the problem from another angle which is simple deductive reasoning in the comparison of our lives to Jesus Christ.
What kind of man was Jesus? He was kind, compassionate, considerate, supremely loving, temperate, patient, self-sacrificing, perfectly righteous, and a dozen other superlatives that could be added. How was He treated? He was abused, accused, told He was from Satan, and run out of town. He was called a glutton and a drunkard; He was accused of sedition and finally cruelly crucified. All of this happened to the perfect God-man.
Now consider your life. How do you compare to Jesus in any of these areas? I am sure you have some good traits, but each of us even at our best falls far short of Christ’s example. So, how will we be treated being imperfect as opposed to the perfect Son of God? Not for a minute should we expect better treatment.
You may say, “How depressing! Is it really worth it?” This is when you should remember both Peter and Paul’s answer to this question. 1 Peter 1:6 says present suffering is a temporary condition. In 4:13, he says Christ will appear in His glory and you will be exalted and honored with Him. The worst trial you face for the cause of Christ will be worth it when you realize your final salvation. Never fear what anyone can do to you. As Peter says in the last verse of the fourth chapter, you can commit the keeping of your soul to Christ. He is the powerful Creator who speaks the word and vanquishes all enemies. The trials are there to prove your faith not to prove you don’t have faith.
If you don’t have trials, I would be very concerned whether you are born-again and living your faith. Why? Because the devil does not persecute his own. Much more can be said on the subject. To hear more, come to the Romans class. It’s hard on the flesh to get out on Wednesday night. If you can’t take that much conflict with your flesh, you surely don’t understand anything you’ve just read.
Pastor V. Mark Smith