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. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Today in our study of 1 Thessalonians we consider the opposition of the world that hates Christ. The persecution of Christians is a theme common to the apostles. Suffering is often addressed by the writers of the New Testament because of the terrible persecution inflicted on them by an empire that was hostile to Christianity. One of their greatest challenges was to get new converts to buy into it as the badge their faith was real. In 1 Peter, Peter hits on the theme in every section of his letter. He tells his readers to rejoice in their salvation even though they experience terrible trials.
When Jesus called twelve men to be His disciples, He warned that following Him and witnessing for Him and remaining true to the faith would not be an easy path to follow. Although the gospel of Christ is the only hope for a world awaiting the wrath of God, people reject this message and they often do it with hatred and sometimes with violence.
The tone of 1 Peter makes it clear that suffering for Christ is not to be unexpected. Peter says, “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” The explanation for these trials comes in 4:13 and is attributed to the sufferings of Christ. To paraphrase Peter, he tells 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 discerned even if we do not 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 Jesus 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, and yet He never struck back at anyone that wanted to harm Him.
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. The indignation we feel when treated badly is just one more example of our inability to match His standard. 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.
Reading this you may say, “How depressing! Is it really worth it?” This is when you should remember Peter’s answer to this question. 1 Peter 1:6 says this 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 come to the realization of 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!
Pastor V. Mark Smith