Please pray for a surrendered heart, discernment and wisdom as you read today’s reading from 1 Peter 4:12-16: 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
Over the course of my 18 year career since I left college, I have worked in 8 different jobs all around the country. And when I say 8 different jobs, I’m not talking just different companies with each position being a duplicate of the next position. I’m talking completely different career fields (they all tie together in my communication background...but communication is a V-E-R-Y broad, sweeping umbrella). I’ve worked as a writer and special events coordinator in environmental communications for a semiconductor manufacturer, as a technical writer and desktop publisher for a robotic accessories manufacturer, in IT administration for a Native American tribal nation and their business holdings, as a marketing communications project manager, as a Life/Health/Property/Casualty Insurance Rep in two different states, and as a certified teacher. We moved a great deal in the past due to transfers via my husband’s employers - the US Navy and Applied Materials. Inevitably, my career often stopped as soon as it started because we had to keep moving to a new location.
Since I often had a great deal to learn in my new positions, I would have a distinct training period where I became familiar with my new employer, learned any skills I was lacking, earned necessary certifications, or went back to school to take a different path. I can vividly recall the moment in each position, though, where the training period ended, and I was called upon to “do” the job. Like a young bird, I had to risk it all and step out and take a chance on my first flight, hoping that my skills - both old and new - prepared me for what lay ahead. Wow - what a stomach-turning, thrilling, terrifying moment of risk it was each and every time! There were many, many times that I tried a new task during this "on-the-job risking", only to find myself back at square one and facing the difficulty of a new learning curve on something else I hadn’t yet absorbed. I often found myself very thankful for the wisdom of seasoned employees around me!
This week, as we are looking closer at Jesus’ call to His disciples to go and put into practice what they have seen Him do, I can’t help but think of those of those first on-the-job experiences (risks) I faced again and again.
We already know that Christ is calling us to a life of action that flows out of the grace He has given us. I believe that this week we are learning that this life of action in Christ’s name is not going to be easy - it is tough, full of hardships and trials. Peter is telling us, point blank, to expect it. When we take risks and put ourselves “out there” in the name of Christ, hardship is going to happen. Period.
In fact, before Jesus sent out his disciples in Matthew, He gave them practical warnings about hardships and how to handle them, because He knew what was in store.
In 1 Peter, I almost feel like Peter is giving us wisdom he learned through some of the on-the-job trainings he had with Jesus. Peter lived through what he is writing about and, like a seasoned co-worker, he’s giving us tools to ride the waves of hardship that this job contains. It is a bit clearer to me in the Message version:
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.
If you're abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It's the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they're on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that's a different matter. But if it's because you're a Christian, don't give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name! (1 Peter 4:12-16 THE MESSAGE)
So rather than wondering where God is in the midst of a hardship, I can see it as a chance to gain understanding in what Christ experienced on my behalf - and how much more sweeter will peace, joy, and the glory of Christ be after experiencing the trials I’m facing!
In the next part of the reading, it seems that Peter also even goes a step further to say that I can count myself LUCKY because of my hardships.That Christ so shines through me as I risk it all for Him, that the world (or rather, the ‘prince of this world’) has taken notice and is on the attack.
Peter does say, though, to be sure that my difficulties do not intentionally stem from risks taken via my sinful nature. If my hardships stems from that, then it isn’t the Holy Spirit the world sees in me. The world just sees my own foolishness, my sins. But if my trials do stem from the risks I take because of my faith, I can be proud that I'm facing hardships for Christ.
Sounds like a man speaking from on-the-job experience. I pray I can put His wisdom into practice in "on-the-job risking" in the name of Christ each day.