OK, first of all, the Good News is still good news. Nothing can can take away from the glory of knowing the joy of our salvation!
When some people talk about the Good News, they do so in a way as to make it seem like once a person embraces the Good News, nothing bad will ever happen to them again. I wish that were the case. I wish being a Christian caused people to be exempt from suffering, pain, disappointment, loss, depression and ultimately death.
But it doesn’t.
We are not exempt. In fact, we were told plainly by Jesus himself we should expect some hardships, merely for the sake of being his followers.
We’ve been studying Peter’s letters recently on Sunday mornings. Peter, of course, was a leader among Jesus’ first disciples. Peter enjoyed a special relationship with Jesus. He was even told, by Jesus, that his life would end tragically because of his faith in who Jesus was.
I’d say being told your life is going to come to a tragic end is Bad News.
For Peter, living for the Good New outweighed the heartache of the Bad News.
Part of the occasion for Peter’s first letter was, as he describes it, was a “fiery ordeal.” The believers scattered throughout what is now mostly the country of Turkey, were enduring an unspecified kind of suffering. We do not know the exact nature of their suffering, but we can suppose that Peter was addressing suffering that stemmed from some form of hostility toward Christians. The believers were being persecuted for their faith.
So what does Peter tell them to do? Run away? Strike back at their attackers?
By no means. He tells them:
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. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4:12-14 NIV)
Peter’s words echo the same sentiment the Apostle Paul expressed in his letter to the church in Philippi.
I want to know Christ– yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:10-11 NIV)
Peter and Paul were both familiar with suffering, and both were unwavering in their faith in Christ. They saw their suffering amidst a much larger picture of all the good that God was doing. The suffering they endured for the sake of Christ was miniscule compared to the greatness of what they were looking forward to.
Peter goes so far as to tell his readers to “rejoice” in their suffering. I know that’s kind of hard for us to imagine. There doesn’t seem to be anything particularly happy about the pain of suffering. But for the Christian, “rejoicing” doesn’t flow from our circumstances but from our salvation.
If the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was to purchase us comfort in this life, then every Christian would have reason to be disappointed in the Good News. Since Christ died, and rose again, so that we might have eternal life and a glorious future, the sufferings we endure while in the tent of this body become a little more bearable. We can rejoice that we have a home in Heaven in spite of the pain we experience on earth.
Pain, suffering, persecution, tragedy, loss, etc…, are all reminders that this world is not our home. When we lift up our eyes, and look forward to what God has promised us, we remember that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4:17 NIV)
Peter’s ultimate message to the believers in the 1st century, and to us in the 21st century, is to hold on. We are called to hold on to the One who is holding on to us. By faith we are firmly in the grasp of God.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:29 NIV)
Because our salvation in Christ is secure, Peter calls us also to carry on.
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Pet. 4:19 NIV)
God has called us, in Christ, to carry on the good work of discipleship, ministry, missions, and Kingdom building. We should not let the evil of this world dampen our enthusiasm for doing the good that God calls us to do.
Check out the first sermon in our lessons on Peter’s letters by clicking the link below:
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