Theme of the Week: Bible Reading
Bible Verse: “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” 1 Peter 4:16
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19
I was talking with a Christian woman whose husband had recently lost his job. She wasn’t working either. They had four children, so there was definitely financial concern. Despite that, I remember admiring how she was staying relatively positive and her referring to the letter of 1 Peter saying that we shouldn’t be surprised that we’re experiencing trials in this world.
I later looked up the passage, 4:12-19, and realized that the passage doesn’t refer to trials in general, such as unemployment. Instead, it talks about:
- “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ” (v. 14)
- “if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed” (v. 16)
But the woman’s point is well taken in light of what else the Bible says about trials. 1 Peter, however, addresses the suffering believers face because of their affiliation with Jesus. The words of Christ in John 15:20 come to mind, where He told his disciples that no servant is greater than his master, that if people persecuted Him, they’ll persecute the disciples as well.
1 Peter was written to believers undergoing various degrees of persecution. Suffering for the faith is a major theme of the letter, with references also made in several places in the letter:
- “you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1:6)
- “it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (3:17)
- “ the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (5:9)
Peter and the other disciples knew what it was like to be beaten for their faith (Acts 5:40). Yet they rejoiced “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (v. 41).
Persecution existed then, throughout history, and it exists today. I really feel for the 360 million Christians living in countries where persecution against them is described as significant. Your hardship may be negligible in comparison, where the challenge ranges from feeling bold enough to say grace in a restaurant to churches unable to access certain grants to some Christian universities being challenged in court. Of course, this doesn’t minimize what you may be going through. Perhaps your boss or coworkers mistreat you because of your faith. Maybe even your siblings and parents do.
Earlier this week, we explored “low level” suffering in terms of not being accepted by others because of your faith. Today’s focus is on higher level of suffering. Whatever situation you are in today, regarding Christian suffering 1 Peter teaches:
- it shows whether your faith is genuine or not, resulting “in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1:7)
- not to be frightened; set apart Christ as Lord; and to explain yourself with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience (3:14-16)
- don’t be surprised by it; rejoice that you’re following in the footsteps of Jesus; do not be ashamed but rejoice that you bear the name of a Christ-follower; commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good (4:12-19)
- stand in solidarity with God’s people who are suffering around the world (5:9)
You may not remember all the action points listed above when persecution comes banging on your door. But perhaps it would be helpful to note what all the above points have in common—an unwavering devotion to the Lord.
The apostle Peter was so steadfast in his devotion to Christ, tradition records that at his execution, he didn’t consider himself worthy to die the way Jesus did and asked instead to be crucified upside down. That’s not likely our fate, but Peter’s exemplary devotion is something for us to emulate.
Prayer: Lord, I’m not looking for suffering in Jesus’ name. But should it come my way, enable me to be faithful to You, to commit to You, and continue to do what is good.
Reflection: What is my “level” of Christian suffering today? Am I handling it according to what 1 Peter teaches?
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