Todays Scripture reading is 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."
Whenever I read something from one of Peter's letters I like to remember, "He was there!" He was with Jesus - alot! His letters were much later in His life - perhaps 25 or 30 years after he walked and talked with Jesus. So here is this guy that as a younger man followed Jesus in the flesh, then received his calling to be and apostle and then spent the rest of His life sharing with others around the world about Jesus! Now at this age talking, via letters, to Christ followers with sage wisdom and experience!
When he says, "do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you" I wonder if he is remembering back to Jesus word's we heard last Sunday recorded in Matthew 10. One reason they shouldn't be surprised is because Jesus said this would happen. Jesus said His followers would suffer at some level - economically, socially, relationally, physically - for him so do not be surprised. Vintage Peter is updating Jesus' warning for his generation - perhaps the "fiery ordeal" is a reference to being burned at the stake! The resistance to Jesus and His message was and is real.
As i read these words and contemplate them into my life and my age several thoughts rise to the top.
I should not be surprised when ministry too people who are disconnected from God and not followers of Jesus is difficult, frustrating and just plain ole hard. I must not be naive. I must not give up too early! The life of following Jesus and being a deliberate witness for His name is challenging and will take every ounce of my patience, perseverance, courage, faith, love, ingenuity and strength. I live in a world that desperately needs all that Jesus has for them. He and His message will be resisted - its a broken world - I need to remember that!
Another part of this reading is convictingly informative for me. Peter seems to want to make sure we don't confuse suffering for Jesus with suffering we might do because of our own brokenness, sinfulness, rebelliousness or ignorance! 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" I need to remember that! I think Peter is gently warning me not to use "suffering" as an excuse somehow for not dealing with some sin or brokeness within my life that God wants to deal with through His grace in my life and truth that calls me out. This is a gracious call to aspire to live a life that is "not about me" - that is "ordered and shaped" by Christ, under constant "Jesus transformstion" so that my very life is a powerful witness for Jesus - and if I suffer - let it be for my association with Christ - "praise God that you bear that name!"
Well how are things hitting you from this text! I am challenged, convicted and inspired!
I would love to read your thoughts! Please share them!