November 9, 2023

           Suffering is real.  Pain is real.  Bad things do happen.  We experience trials that we would just as soon not endure.  Not much has changed through the years of time and history.  Suffering is as commonplace today as it was in the days of the Bible characters about whom we read.  We remember that Jesus too suffered—though His suffering was unjustly deserved (Luke 23:46-47).  Jesus’ sufferings led to our salvation and the hope of eternal life in and through Him.  While our suffering and trials may vary by type or degree, one thing everyone shares is a certain amount of hardship.  In his own words, Peter spoke about the matter of suffering and trials.  He wrote, “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:19-21).  We find a few lessons about dealing with trials that can help us today as we read Peter’s words.
            First, Peter did acknowledge the reality of trials.  They will come and we need to prepare for them.  Trials usually do not announce their arrival in advance.  Generally, people are either going into a trial, in the middle of a trial or emerging from a trial.  God is present with us at any one of those three stages.  We have to recognize that God’s people are not immune to trials.  There is no automatic pass through a trial or waiver that releases us.  Matthew 5:45 reminds us, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
            Second, the way we handle trials can be commendable.  If we keep our walk with the Lord, lean into Him and trust Him, we are handling a trial in the right way.  The manner in which we navigate trials can be a witness or encouragement to others too.  We can draw people to Christ based on how they see us handle those hardships that we experience.  Perhaps you know individuals who have been examples or role models based on the way they have dealt with death, disease or disappointment.  It might even be a blessing if you let them know how much they have inspired or encouraged you in their trials.  Reach out to them and let them know just how they encouraged or uplifted you by their own behavior. 
            Third, Peter tells us to remain “conscious of God” as we “bear up under the pain of unjust suffering.”  In short, he teaches us to remember God.  We are not alone or isolated.  We are not forgotten or forsaken.  We are safe and secure in and with the Lord.  No trial can cut us off from the Lord and His grace.  When we face trials, we should increase our Bible reading, prayer and worship.  Look for reasons to rejoice and give thanks to God.  Praise your way through a trial—for surely there is some reason to rejoice and give thanks.  Paul reminded us to give thanks in all circumstances because this is God’s will for us (I Thessalonians 5:18).  When we give thanks, we are conscious of God.  And the more that we pray and read His Word, the more we sharpen our awareness of Him and dependence upon Him.
            Fourth, Peter warns us that we occasionally suffer for our own choices and actions.  We have done things that brought suffering upon us.  We can sin and disobey God and suffer the consequences for those actions.  There is no one else to blame.  We did this to ourselves.  The apostle wrote that we receive no credit or reward for suffering for something that we have done and rightfully deserve.  If we commit a crime and suffer in prison for it, then we have little reason to expect credit or reward.  We are simply suffering for what we intentionally and willfully did.
            Fifth, we can be commended for doing something right or good and suffering for it.  Serving the Lord and living as He wills are not always easy missions in life.  We will suffer.  We will face the snares and roadblocks of the enemy.  We will face scorn from an unbelieving world around us.  Doing good may bring wrath more than reward and criticism more than compliments.  But doing the right thing is its own reward.  We are not motivated to goodness or righteousness so we can be praised and feted by others.  We seek to honor God because it is right to do so.  We seek to live as Christ would have us because that is always the right thing to do.
            Sixth, we are directed by Peter to remember the example of Christ and to handle trials as He handled them.  We are told to “follow in His steps.”  Our ambition in anything is to walk in the steps of Christ—to move along the pathway that He has placed before us by His example and life.  Jesus is the standard for any kind of behavior.  He lived the life we have not lived and modeled righteousness for us to see.  Thankfully, through the cross, that righteousness is credited to us.  When we face trials, we can remember the Lord’s humility, grace and obedience to the Father’s plans.  Even as Jesus wrestled with the Father in prayer in Gethsemane (fervent prayer that resulted in Him sweating blood), His ultimate response was for the Father’s will to be done.  May we live through trials so that the Lord’s will is done and so that He is revealed in and through us.  Have a great Thursday!  Make plans to be with us on Sunday as we gather to worship and study the Bible together!

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