“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. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” 1 Peter 4:12-16
“The Son of God suffered unto death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like his” George MacDonald
Suffering has to do with enduring pain, sorrow, distress, grief, travail, misery and anguish. It is a tool God uses to get our attention and to accomplish His purposes in our lives in a way that would never occur without the trial or irritation. We may suffer persecution because of our faith, especially when we take a stand on biblical issues that is suffering for righteousness sake [2 Tim. 3:12]. It is through many tribulations that we shall enter into the kingdom [Acts 14:22]. Suffering is inevitable! “That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto” [1Thess. 3:3]. Peter says that our sufferings have two components:
First, we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Secondly, our suffering does not destroy us, but purifies us. It purges out the old leaven and make us pure and cleansed. Suffering transforms our inner man to become more like Jesus and conforms us to the standard of the scriptures. Godly suffering is purposeful, painful, purifier, perplexing, proves our faith in the ability of God to deliver us and it is a process that requires time and endurance [James 1:2-4]. Suffering provides opportunity for God’s glory, our transformation, testimony, better physical and spiritual abilities and even ministry.
SUFFERING, TRIALS, PERSECUTION, TEMPTATION AND TRYING OF OUR FAITH
Suffering requires the right response if it is to be successful in accomplishing God’s purposes. If you want the godly character and blessings that accrues, then you must first go through the suffering process. Trials simply give us the capacity to cooperate with the process, the proof of our faith is that despite all, we are still standing and fruit of the spirit like patience is developing in our inner man [James 1:4]. We must allow the process to work and experience inner peace and joy in the midst of the trials. Godly reward awaits those perfected through suffering. This make our continued dependence and walk to be on the grace, provision and the power of God, rather than on our own resources but unto His. [2 Cor. 11:24-32; 12:7-10]
“…comforts us in all afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4
We must bear each other burden when another brethren is going through the valley of the shadow of godly suffering, encouraging and helping them as deem necessary per time. We are graced to comfort brethren suffering especially when we ourselves have suffered such affliction and now in a wealthy place. When you have gone through your own fiery trials, and God has gone through to deliver you, you have real help to offer to those going through theirs.
You have firsthand experience of both his sustaining grace and his resolute scheme. God has kept you through pain and agony; He has reshaped you through transformation to look more like his image. Suffering in itself does not remove the impurities in our lives, but is a tool God uses to cause us to exercise faith in the provisions of God’s grace to deny all ungodliness and have a Christ like nature [Titus 2:12]. Then we can give godly comfort that we are experiencing with increasing measure to others that needs to be comforted. We are learning both the tenderness and the clarity necessary to help sanctify another person’s deepest distress.
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” Heb. 2:9-10
Trials, temptations and sufferings should be understood from a temporary action stand-point. It will soon fade away no matter how hard or how long it is. Jesus was perfected through the act of suffering so shall we can be like Him if we endure like a good soldier. Grace is available in God to die to the old carnal nature so that like Jesus we can be perfected.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” 1 Cor. 10:13
First of all, we recognize that in God’s will, Jesus suffered. His sufferings were totally unlike ours in that he suffered not for himself, but for the sins of others. But now we are invited to share in Christ’s sufferings. Now, while this is mainly focused on sharing in the persecution Christ suffered, it is not limited to that. There is a suffering “according to the will of God” [1 Peter 4:19]. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution [2 Tim. 3:12]. If we suffer as Christ suffered, we shall also reign with Christ [2 Tim. 2:12].
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you“. Matt. 5:10-12
In other words, we should never choose suffering for suffering sake, but commit ourselves to doing the will of God, even if it means we suffer. And there are times when doing the will of God means that we will suffer. “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” [2 Cor. 1:5]. We partake of his sufferings not by sharing in his atonement, but by following Him in a sinful world where we will suffer in this world bearing his shame. Suffering provides key opportunities to manifest and magnify the power of God through His servants in order to verify and confirm the messenger and his message. It provides opportunities to reveal our credentials as ambassadors of Christ [1 Kings. 17:17-24; John 11:1-45]. Those who have been trained by suffering learn to praise God more even in their adversity. We are hereby restored to fellowship and our sins are purged out if we erred. Our response in suffering must demonstrate faith, love for God and for others, Christ-like character, values, commitment, and godly priorities.
“In the day of prosperity be happy, But in the day of adversity consider—God has made the one as well as the other so that man may not discover anything that will be after him” Eccl. 7:14
COMPLEXITY OF SUFFERING
Suffering are multifaceted as Apostle Paul wrote “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not destroyed”[2 Cor. 4:8-9]. There are many types of suffering including mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. Suffering is an instrument that God uses to get our attention and to achieve His purposes in our lives. It is intended to build our trust in the Almighty, but suffering requires the right response if it is to be successful in accomplishing God’s purposes. Suffering forces us to turn from trust in our own resources to living by faith in God’s resources.
The Apostle Paul saw his thorn in the flesh as an instrument allowed by God to help him maintain a spirit of humility and dependence on the Lord because of the special revelations he had seen as one who had been caught up to the third heaven. We often suffer to keep down or annihilate pride like Paul [2 Cor. 12:7]
There are plenty of examples: A Christian on break at work prays over his lunch and he was jested over by unbelievers. A school teacher is mocked and laughed at while at School because of his Christian stand and principles, a Christian football player prays before a game and all the guys are laughing and telling crude jokes about him. A young lady in college is mocked for her virginity. A young Muslim woman is threatened by her father that he will kill her if she doesn’t renounce her new found Christian faith.
“And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and BEATEN THEM, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were COUNTED WORTHY TO SUFFER SHAME for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” Act 5:40-42 emphasis mine [also Matt. 23:34]
The God pleasing courage and faithfulness of the apostles in the midst of all these injuries and humiliations done to them is commendable. When they were dismissed, the Apostles departed from the council rejoicing counting themselves worthy to suffer for the cause of the Lord Jesus, and we do not find one word they said by way of the unjust treatment given to them. When they were reviled they reviled not again; and when they suffered they threatened not; but committed their cause to God who Gamaliel referred to, even to a God who judges righteously. All their heartbeat was to serve God in truth and in spirit, and to make full proof of their ministry, notwithstanding the opposition or cruelty meted to them; and both these they did to admiration and very commendable.
Christian persecutions is for our purification [1 Pet. 4:13]. These things are not limited to times we are persecuted, but include trials of many kinds. Peter uses a Greek word for burning “purosis” translated as the English word “fiery” trials, from which the word “purify” is derived. Peter is saying that God is using difficult and different trials for our purification. Peter says these things are coming upon us to “test us” or apply pressure to our Christian stand.
COUNT IT ALL JOY
James agreed with Peter: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” [James 1:2].
Paul also agreed with Peter:
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” Romans 5:3-4.
Both of them said we must know something about our trials; God is using them to purify us, to change us, and to conform us to his holy image. Suffering acts as a pruning tool to eradicate dead branches from our lives (weaknesses, sins of ignorance, weight and sin, immature attitudes and values, sexual vices.) God wants to break that outer shell, the flesh that prevents Him from being all He wants to be in and through us through the process called brokenness. He wants to break off things like pride, rebellion, selfishness and independence. God wants us to be totally dependent on Him, and suffering seems to bring us to that point. Our loyalty to the Lord is often tested in the fire of affliction. The desired goal is increased fruitfulness (John 15:1-7). Trials may become mirrors of reproof to reveal hidden areas of sin and weakness (Ps. 16:7; 119:67, 71). God can only enlarge us and make me grow wide by distresses we go through and the word of the Lord that we imbibe in order to be free from these trials. Trials test our faith and causes us to use the promises and principles of the Word, quickening of the Spirit and intense agonizing prayers to produce faith and mature Christian man and womanhood [Psalms 119:71, 92; Psalms 4:1].
That’s why Peter can tell us along with Paul and James that far from being brooding and disheartened about our trials, we should rejoice in them and thank God for them. First of all, they are evidence that we really belong to Jesus in that we are given to share in his very own sufferings. It’s not that He has his sufferings and we have ours; we are sharing in his very own sufferings. There is another reason we can and should rejoice in these things: they are preparing us for a far greater weight of glory to come, so said Apostle Paul.
SUFFERING AND GLORY
“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” 2 Cor. 4:17.
Paul says it another way in the book to the Romans
”The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time and life are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us!”” Romans 8:17-18.
There is a glory to be revealed in those who have suffered with Christ in this life. We are destined to bring glory to God (1 Peter 4.14-16). Peter tells us the ultimate reason we suffer; so that we can bring glory to God. Peter reminds us of what Jesus told us, that we are blessed when we are reviled for the name of Christ. Insults or abuses cannot drive the blessing of the Spirit from Christ’s disciples. Peter says when believers suffer because they are Christians, God is glorified.
Peter tells us that suffering not only leads to glory one day, it tastes of glory now as the Spirit and glory of God is on us. Of course, the suffering that brings glory to God is never suffering due to crimes that we commit. “Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler” (1 Peter 4:15). Suffering due to our own wrongdoing is not to be tolerated or permitted. But we may suffer as a Christian. Peter says rejoice because you glorify God in that name when you are being treated the way this world treated our Lord derogatorily.
PURIFICATION AND PURGING
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Malachi 3:1-3
When God purifies he sends his fire. It starts with those in his own house. At new birth, we are like raw gold gotten from deep underneath the earth that must be heated up and purified with high intensity fire. These are the fiery trials that we must presently endure. You should thank God for these fiery trials; they will spare us the judgment to come. Paul says it this way: “When we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” 1 Corinthians 11:32.
The fiery trials the Christian endures are the refining fire of the Lord who has come to His temple who we are. If we, the righteous, barely survive these trials, what will happen to this world when God’s fire comes? Peter is not calling into question our security in Christ. The word translated “scarcely” is best rendered by the word “difficulty”. It does not imply uncertainty of the outcome, but the difficulty of the road that leads to it. One author responded that: “God’s purging of his people is not a process that takes place in purgatory after death, nor is it a punishment that atones for sin. Rather, his purging is the discipline of suffering and trials by which the faith of his people is purified, as gold in the furnace.”
There is only one thing left for us to do. It is to keep entrusting our souls to God knowing that he is faithful, and continue to do good without growing weary. That means you actively keep turning over your life and your life circumstances to God, knowing that if you are doing his will, then you can bear anything. And you view it all as an opportunity to bear your cross daily.
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” 1 Pet. 1:6-7
You are not meant to fail but to grow by the trials and be purified by it, trials that you go through in life will help you also to run your Christian race better.
DESPISE NOT CHASTENING
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speak unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord love he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receive. If ye endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” Hebrews 12:2-8 [Check also Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 3:18, Heb. 10:33, 1 Peter 2:22, 4:14-16]
If Christ suffered we also should have the mind to suffer. The reward of Christ’s suffering was that he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, He was exalted to a position of the highest honor, of the greatest power and influence; he is at the right hand of the Father. Nothing passes between heaven and earth but by him; he does all that is done; he ever lives to make intercession for his people.
We must aim high for the same kind of glory! We must continue to look at His works and live like He did, despising any shame or reproach. All Christians must set him continually before us as our example, and our great encouragement and reassurance; we must look to him for help, direction, assistance, and for acceptance, in all our sufferings. We must consider him, meditate much upon him, and reason with ourselves from his case to our own.
If we dare compare Christ’s sufferings and ours; we shall find out that His sufferings far exceeded ours, in the nature and measure of them, so his patience far excels ours, and is a perfect pattern for us to imitate. It is called becoming like Jesus in all things. Focusing on Christ will be a means to prevent our weariness, exhaustion and fainting [Heb. 12:3]. If we don’t, we will be weary and faint in your minds under these trials and afflictions, especially when they prove heavy and of long continuance.
Faith in God and meditation in the scriptures will procure fresh supplies of strength, boldness, confidence, comfort, and courage; for Christ has assured us, if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him: and this hope will be our cover against the onslaught of our adversaries.
Suffering establishes us in the truth [II Peter 1:12], establishes us in our faith [Thess. 3:2-6], establishes our hearts in good words [II Thess. 2:16-17], establishes our hearts un-blamable in holiness [I Thess. 3:13], and establishes our hearts in patient waiting for the return of Christ [James 5:7-11].
“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.” I Peter 5:10
Through suffering, God perfects, establishes, strengthens, and settles believers. Perfection in the above scripture means to complete thoroughly, to render fit, complete, to put a thing in its appropriate condition, or to mend aright. All brethren can only be perfected through suffering to become like Master Jesus
“The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” Luke 6:40.