Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory.” —1 Peter 4:12-13
When we hear of the persecution of Christians today, it’s easy to think we’re facing a situation believers have never before encountered, but that’s not the case. Followers of Jesus all over the world today suffer and die for identifying with the name of Christ.
The first Christians faced dangers inside and outside the church, and yet they found strength to endure. This hope came from the Word of God and from the teaching of godly leaders like the apostle Peter. He wrote two letters encouraging believers to see their trials as a way to increase their faith.
A constant danger of suffering is a lack of proper perspective. Suffering is real and may seem long, but in light of eternity, suffering isn’t hopeless. Peter pointed past the temporary situations in this world to the future inheritance given to Christians by their Father.
Peter was more concerned with helping believers endure their trials than with explaining their trials. Therefore, he first encouraged the persecuted Christians to rid themselves of attitudes and actions that were unbecoming of believers.
If Christians are overly defensive or unprepared to offer a ready defense of their faith, they lose an opportunity to witness for Christ. If they get sidetracked by cultural arguments and neglect pointing others to Christ’s work on the cross, they again lessen their effectiveness. If they cower to the persecutors and refuse to display their faith, Christians lose a tremendous opportunity for influence, even though it may come with a cost.
To have this perspective when people endure suffering, whether mental, physical, or emotional, they need real hope. They need a hope that’s alive and able to offer them something that will give them strength in the trial they’re enduring. False hopes, like false promises, aren’t worth the energy expended on them. Christians need to know God is present and will comfort those who’ve been afflicted. Not only is God is aware of suffering, but He will also bring justice and salvation in His perfect timing.
Peter emphasized that new birth came through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Because of His victory over death, Jesus offered a living hope to those who endured persecution. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, death was nothing to be feared.
We need this same message today. Oppression isn’t the end. Because of the eternal hope we have in Christ, we can look beyond our current troubles and rest in God’s power.
Excerpted from Explore the Bible: 1–2 Peter. © 2016 Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.