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Enjoying God Blog

We’ve been exhorted by the apostle not to be surprised when we suffer, but to rejoice in it. Now he goes even further and tells us that when we suffer we are, in fact, blessed! Continue reading . . .

We’ve been exhorted by the apostle not to be surprised when we suffer, but to rejoice in it. Now he goes even further and tells us that when we suffer we are, in fact, blessed! What?

“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).

If you wish to avoid persecution in the world, here is what you must do: mimic the world’s standards, never criticize its values, keep quiet about the gospel, laugh at its sordid humor, smile and keep silent when God’s name is mocked and reviled, and be ashamed of Jesus Christ.

This passage seems to suggest that there is a dimension of the Spirit’s presence available to us that goes beyond what we experience when we come to Christ. He’s not talking about what many call “baptism in the Spirit” but clearly he has in view an experience of the Spirit, an anointing, an additional empowering presence of the Spirit that only comes when we respond humbly and faithfully to the suffering that following Christ incurs.

The “Spirit of glory” is probably a reference to the “glory” that will be revealed fully when Christ returns. Note that it is “the Spirit of THE glory.” In other words, Peter is telling us that when we are asked by God to humbly endure unjust suffering for Christ’s sake that the glory that has yet to be revealed in its consummate and final expression at the end of history has already entered into our experience in advance of that day. When we suffer we are promised a foretaste, as it were, of that glory of Christ that will one day be put on display in unqualified fullness.

But what is the point or purpose of the Spirit’s unique, abiding presence when we suffer? To help us endure! To keep us from turning from Christ! You wonder: “If I’m persecuted and imprisoned and tortured and made to suffer because I’m a Christian, will I be faithful? Will I deny my Lord? Will I keep my heart focused on Jesus and my mouth loudly proclaiming his glory? How can I be sure that I won’t fail in that moment of crisis?” God has promised his Spirit precisely so that what you may not be capable of now, you will be empowered to do then. The Spirit of the glory of the coming Christ will come to you and abide with you and rest upon you and he will sustain you!

Corrie ten Boom tells how she worried as a girl whether she would be able to stand against the Germans if she was threatened. She felt so weak when she thought about what might happen. Her father, I think it was, gave her a great illustration. He said, "When you are going to take a journey on the train, do I give you your ticket three weeks early or just as you get on the train?" She answered, "As I get on the train." "So God will give you the special strength you need to be strong in the face of death just when you need it, not before."

If Paul were present he would echo Peter’s promise and would point to his own experience of this truth. You may recall what Paul said as he languished in prison in Rome, facing the incessant death threats of Nero. He was exhausted, at the end of life, having been abandoned by his friends. Yet he writes:

“At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth” (2 Tim. 4:16-17).

Paul’s own testimony is a reminder to us all that when there is intense suffering on earth we can expect to receive great support from heaven.

But be certain that it is “for the name of Christ” that you are insulted and not for your own silly sins (v. 15). After all, not all suffering qualifies one for God’s blessing or the anointed of the Spirit.

“I was passed over for that promotion at work. I guess I’m just destined to suffer for Jesus.” Possibly. But you may have been passed over because you’re a lazy, incompetent jerk! Your lack of success at your job may have nothing to do with your Christian faith but rather with the fact that you’re consistently late to work, less efficient than your co-workers, or simply obnoxious. There’s a difference between being anointed and annoying.

To be continued . . .

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