As I detailed in my last article, 1 Peter is a letter written to suffering people. Peter reveals three reasons for why Christians suffer in this life: Sin, Salvation, and Self. To read more about that, click here. His purpose in the letter is to teach Christians how to suffer well. The key is SUBMISSION.
These three forms of suffering come up at least four times (2:19–21; 3:13–18; 4:12–19; and 5:7–10). Here is one text with a great outline for us:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (Reason for suffering: We live in a SIN-cursed world) But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, (Reason for suffering: our SALVATION through Christ) you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. (Reason for suffering: our own SELF) Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (The proper response: SUBMISSION) 1 Peter 4:12–19
Read verse 19 again: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” Two things to note here:
- Suffering Christians have to submit to God.
Peter writes “...entrust their souls to a faithful Creator….” We can respond to hardships in three ways: (A) Getting angry and giving up on God; (B) Acting like the situation isn’t really a big deal and suppressing it with fake “joy” on our face; or (C) Face the pain and trust God. Obviously, option C is a Christian’s proper response. We would do well to pray “Father, this is a tough trial, but I want to learn whatever it is You want to teach me through this, and be an example and witness to everyone I meet along the way, giving glory to You no matter the outcome.” Easy thing to say when going through a hardship, huh? (No…!)
- This submission is an active (or intentional) submission.
Peter tells us to entrust ourselves to God “while doing good.” We can’t roll over and just let life happen to us. “Let go and let God” is a deceiving quip - and not a part of Peter’s theology. We are to grab our suffering by the horns and grow from it.
Over and over, Peter points to Jesus as our supreme example of how to handle suffering. So what was Jesus’ response to hardships? Here are a few thoughts. I’m sure you can come up with many more.
(1) He loved his persecutors.
(2) He was patient with those who deserted him.
(3) He suffered joyfully [Hebrews 12:2].
(4) No hatred, no revenge, no threats.
(5) He was never angry with God.
(6) He endured patiently.
(7) He accepted God’s will over his own [Matthew 26:39]
(8) He never returned evil for evil [1 Peter 3.9].
Jesus comes up over and over in this letter as our example of how to suffer well. He pursued his crucifixion with a determined attitude as he submitted to God and his tormentors. (see 1 Peter 2:21–24; 3:18; 4:1; 4:18–19).
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:21–24
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2