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Enjoying God Blog

It’s one thing for Peter to tell us not to be surprised by suffering, but to insist that we “rejoice” in it is another thing altogether. But this is precisely what he says. Continue reading . . .

It’s one thing for Peter to tell us not to be surprised by suffering, but to insist that we “rejoice” in it is another thing altogether. But this is precisely what he says.

“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).

Note first of all that your ability to rejoice in the midst of your suffering is related to your recognition that you are united with Christ. You are one with him. You are sharing in the suffering he experienced when an unbelieving world vented its hatred and venomous contempt on him. If you claim exemption from suffering, you have essentially renounced your union with Christ!

We find similar language to this in Acts 5:41 where the apostles were beaten for having borne witness to Christ and the gospel: “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” of Christ.

This is the evidence of genuine, saving faith and a true love for Christ, when you experience greater joy in suffering with him and being persecuted for his name’s sake than you do from being honored by men and praised according to their standards of judgment.

Jesus told his disciples: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

Observe carefully how he says we are to respond to such persecution: “Rejoice and be glad!” We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever would. We are not to sulk like a child. We are not to lick our wounds in self-pity like a beaten dog. We are not simply to grin and bear it like a Stoic. Still less are we to pretend that pain feels good. But even more: we are not only not to retaliate, we must not even resent it. Rather, we are to rejoice and be glad!

So keep on rejoicing. Rejoice when you are slandered for your faith. Rejoice when you are ignored at the office party. Rejoice when you are passed over for someone less competent. Rejoice when you are cut off from the “in crowd” because your mere presence makes them nervous.

This is not the power of positive thinking where you are straining to think good thoughts when life is bad. “This is an utterly radical, abnormal, supernatural way to respond to suffering. It is not in our power. It is not for the sake of our honor. It is the way spiritual aliens and exiles live on the earth for the glory of the great King” (Piper).

Joseph Tson, a Romanian pastor who stood up to Ceausescu’s repressions of Christianity, wrote,

“This union with Christ is the most beautiful subject in the Christian life. It means that I am not a lone fighter here: I am an extension of Jesus Christ. When I was beaten in Romania, He suffered in my body. It is not my suffering: I only had the honor to share His sufferings” (undated paper: "A Theology of Martyrdom").

To be continued . . .

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