Lessons from 1 Peter: Suffering

I am embarking on my journey into suffering and self care topically. Since I’ve started with a whole book, I’ll break down the book one application question at a time.  I’ll summarize my conclusions from all of the passages at the top, and examine each passage  individually below.    For now, if you haven’t read the book of 1 Peter, you might want to start there.  I’m using the NET version of the texts, which you can find on youversion or net.bible.org.

What do we learn about suffering and the Christian life? How does God view suffering? How should we view suffering?

So then let those who suffer according to the will of God
entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good. – 1 Peter 4:19

Summary: We have been chosen by God, and as his chosen people, we should not be astonished that we face trials. We are called to suffer according to the will of God. There will be times when our suffering is at the hand of others who sin against us. We are not to be terrified or sin against others when we suffer for doing right, and those who respond in a Godly way, which has been modeled for us by Christ,  will find favor with God. The trials we face show the genuineness of our faith.  We are to trust God, remembering that God will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish those who suffer.  Our temporary suffering will bring praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ returns.

…although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold – gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away – and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. – 1 Peter 1:6-7

  • Our trials, and our suffering, are temporary.  The book of 1 Peter reminds us throughout that this world is not our home.  We are foreigners and exiles, and we have an eternal home with God, and an eternal inheritance – salvation through Jesus Christ - that is perfect, imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
  • The trials we face show the genuineness of our faith.   Our trials show us, and those around us, how reliant we are on God.  Trials are an opportunity for others to see Christ in us, and for us to develop more Christ likeness in ourselves. Like fire purifies gold, trials help to purify our faith.  How patient are we as we wait for answers?  How much are we relying on God, or on our own strength to get us through? How often do we turn to him in prayer? How much do we trust that God is working for our best, even when things seem bleak?
  • Our temporary suffering will bring praise, glory, and honor, when Jesus Christ returns.

Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are perverse. For this finds God’s favor, if because of conscience toward God someone endures hardships in suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if you sin and are mistreated and endure it? But if you do good and suffer and so endure, this finds favor with God.  For to this you were called,   since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed.  - 1 Peter 2:19-24 
  • Even when  sin or unjust treatment by others causes our suffering, we should do our best to respond in a way that would please God. As we serve others, some we serve may be good and gentle, while others may be more perverse or harsh.  While most of us are not servants in the New Testament sense, we do serve employers and even those in our care both at home and in the workplace.  If we respond to being sinned against by sinning ourselves, that does not show the genuineness of our faith, or bring praise, honor, and glory to God.    In fact, we may ourselves become a stumbling block to those who see us call ourselves Christian, but not act in a very Christlike manner.
  • We are called to do good, to suffer and endure. This is probably not my favorite truth in the passage, if I’m honest. None of us looks forward to suffering. However, there is a cost to following Christ.  We are promised that in this world, we will face troubles, but to take heart, as Christ has overcome the world. (John 16:33)
  • Christ is our example of Godly suffering.  The example of Christ is not an easy one to live up to.  Christ did not sin, he did not do anything to bring suffering upon himself.  He did not deceive.  Christ did not answer back when verbally assaulted, when he suffered physically and emotionally at the hands of others, he threatened no retaliation. He would allow no retaliation on his behalf, either.Peter, who wrote this letter we are studying, got to see the example of Christ firsthand in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Christ knew that his suffering and death was part of God’s plan, though he prayed in the garden for the cup to be taken. When Judas came along with the servants and officials of the chief priest to arrest Jesus to take him to be tried, and later crucified,  Simon Peter fought back, and struck the high priest’s servant with his sword, cutting off of his ear. Jesus rebuked Peter, telling him to put his sword away, then touched the man’s ear and healed it, allowing himself to be led to be tried and crucified.

For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good?  But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken… For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil. Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh, but by being made alive in the spirit.  - 1 Peter 3:13-14; 1 Peter 3:17-18

  • It is not expected that we will always suffer for doing good – but it does happen. Those who suffer when they are doing what is right are blessed. The passage begins by asking who will harm you if you do good.  Peter, who had talked about suffering for doing good in the previous chapter, knew that some would be harmed for doing right.
  • We are not to be terrified of those who cause earthly suffering. (see Matthew 10:28)
  • Christ suffered once for sins, to bring us to God, through his death, and his resurrection, and the suffering he endured, we are granted new life. (see Hebrews 2:6-15)

Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in the degree that you have shared in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice and be glad.  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer or thief or criminal or as a troublemaker.  But if you suffer as a Christian,  do not be ashamed, but glorify  God that you bear such a name. - 1 Peter 4:12-16

  • We should not be astonished that we face trials.   Trials are an expected part of the Christian life (see John 16:33), and as we see in 1 Peter 1:6-7, facing trials helps to refine and ultimately strengthen our faith.  
  • We are told to rejoice that we have shared in the suffering of Chrst. Though it may be hard to rejoice in the midst of trial, we can have confidence in Christ and the ultimate joy we will share spending eternity in heaven, in a place with no more pain, tears, or crying. (see Rev 21:4)
  • Those who suffer not because of evil deeds, but because of their faith should not be ashamed.  Those who follow Christ will suffer, because they are blessed, because they have the Spirit of God in them, because they bear the name of Christ, because they look different from the world as they attempt to follow him.

So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good. – 1 Peter 4:19

And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. – 1 Peter 5:10

  • Those who suffer should trust their souls to God, knowing that he will be faithful to fulfill his promise of eternal life in heaven to those who know Him.  We submit ourselves to suffering according to the will of God, as Christ also submitted himself to God’s will,  suffering in order to save us.  (see Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42)
  • Ultimately, God will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish those who suffer.  Our suffering truly only lasts for a little while, we will be eternally restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established, rooted in the love of Christ, dwelling in our eternal home in the fullness of the presence of God.

How should these truths change your life? (James 1:22)