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Don't be Surprised by Suffering


The first thing Peter tells us is that we shouldn’t be “surprised” by suffering. Continue reading . . .

The first thing Peter tells us is that we shouldn’t be “surprised” by suffering. Here is how he put it in 1 Peter 4:12-19.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:12-19).

In other words, if you are going to respond properly to suffering and even learn to grow from it and deepen in your relationship with Christ, you have to develop a solid and Scriptural theology of what suffering is all about. Suffering, says Peter, is normal! It is standard fare for the believer. It is to be expected.

Remember: Peter is writing to a predominantly Gentile audience who would have experienced little if any suffering prior to coming to faith in Christ. Unlike a Jewish believer who knew a lot about suffering and oppression, Gentile Christians would have regarded suffering as a strange and inexplicable misfortune, wholly out of place and inconsistent with the promises and blessings of the gospel.

But if that is true, what is the point of it all? Why does God orchestrate my life in such a way that I have to endure the insults and abuse of unbelievers? It is, says Peter, “to test” us (v. 2b; see 1 Peter 1:6-7. See Psalm 66:10; Mal. 3:1-4).

Here is the NIV rendering of v. 12 – “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” The purpose clause “to test you” is completely left out and thus fails to communicate why Christians should not be astonished or embittered with suffering.

Suffering is “not a sign of God’s absence, but of his purifying presence” (Tom Schreiner, 219)! Suffering for Christ in some form or degree is essential to the formation of Christian character.

Suffering is not an imperative. It is an indicative. We are not told to seek it or pursue it. We are simply told that it is a given.

It’s critically important that you not react with surprise when either you suffer or you hear of someone else who has. If you do not grasp this truth, your instinctive response will be to shake an angry fist in God’s face and scream out: “Where were you when that missionary in Liberia died of Ebola trying to help those who are afflicted with it? Where were you when that godly Christian man lost his job because he refused his employer’s order to cover up an illegal transaction? Don’t you care? Didn’t you see this coming?”

By all means weep with those who weep. By all means experience righteous anger at those who unjustly oppress Christian men and women. But don’t let the onset of suffering, no matter how intense or prolonged it may be, throw you into confusion or doubt or shock or uncertainty about the goodness of God.

People often ask me what practical benefit there is in affirming and believing in the absolute sovereignty of God over all of life. That’s it!

To be continued . . .


"Why does God orchestrate my life in such a way that I have to endure the insults and abuse of unbelievers? "
and love too 2 Thess1 3 -12.. always give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When life seems to be spinning out of control, the biblical truths of God's kind intent in our suffering and his provision of his strength to persevere become real and his beauty and glory are seen. Not to us O Lord, not to us, but to thy name be the glory!

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