Thursday, January 11, 2024

          There are some traditions that suggest Peter died as a martyr—crucified upside down on a cross.  His death was reportedly ordered by the Roman Emperor Nero.  And traditions suggest that his upside-down crucifixion was, at least in part, his own idea and preference.  He believed that he was unworthy to be crucified and to die in the same way that Jesus did.  So, this accommodation was made.  He experienced arrest, accusations, persecution and imprisonment.  He was not immune to the hostilities of Jewish religious leaders and Roman officials.  He was arraigned before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4 and 5.  Serving Christ was not always easy for him. In his own words, he might have given us some understanding into how he personally dealt with trials and the particular sufferings that he faced.  He wrote, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:19).  The apostle offered some perspectives on suffering that can provide us with some help and inspiration in such times.
            First, Peter used the expression “so then.”  He seemed to acknowledge the reality of suffering and trials if for no other reason than one’s faith in Christ.  Simply knowing and walking with the Lord will often put us in conflict with those who reject Christ or resist Him.  There is a stark alignment of much of the world against Christ and His ways.  The apostle seems to imply or conclude that we have to get used to suffering and trials for the name and cause of Christ.  Are we prepared to endure trials for no reason other than our faith in Christ alone?  Are we prepared to face scorn or opposition from those who really oppose Christ though they may come against us?  Jesus said, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). 
            Second, Peter seemed to draw an implied distinction or difference between suffering “according to God’s will” and suffering for reasons of our own choosing or making.  Sin can lead to suffering.  Bad choices and decisions can lead to bad consequences.  If we suffer because of sin, then confession, repentance and seeking forgiveness are necessary.  Aside from sin, there could be occasions where God calls us to endure trials and to walk through hardships.  And to do this for His glory.  Elisabeth Elliot was widowed as a young woman and left to raise a daughter alone because her husband Jim had been murdered and martyred by the people he had tried to reach with the gospel.  But this suffering that Elisabeth endured opened doorways and possibilities for salvation, evangelism, missions and the work of God to march forward in stunning and amazing ways.  God used the death of Jim Elliot as much as anything to raise up a generation of young people committed to take the gospel to the world.  We are often called to bear or carry a cross for the greater good of the gospel and the advancement of the Kingdom. 
            Third, when we suffer for God’s will or the gospel, we are to “commit” ourselves to the Lord.  We are to trust that He will supply what we need when we need it.  We can take comfort in two promises.  First, Paul wrote, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  And second, Paul wrote, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  God does not leave His people alone, empty and rudderless in times of sufferings.  His grace, power and riches are abundantly and always available to those who lean upon Him.  Indeed, we often experience the grace of God in astounding ways during times of trial and suffering—perhaps even in ways that we would never have experienced otherwise.  Our weaknesses become tablets upon which God writes and designs the masterpiece of His power and grace.  We can trust and rely on these promises.
            Fourth, in the face of suffering, we resolve and “continue to do good.”  We do not let trials sidetrack us or change our course.  We stay resolved to serve the Lord and His purposes.  When we drive a car, we often have to adjust to the road before us.  Often, the road is straight.  But then there are turns, bends and twists that require us to adapt and adjust.  A road in the mountains might require much more maneuvering than interstate driving.  Likewise, life can be the same way.  We always commit to doing what is good and right and to make the adjustments and adaptations to do so.  Honoring Christ is the one constant standard for believers.  But the ways we meet that standard often require us to adjust so that we can follow His steps.  Neither faith nor life is always a straight and unbroken line.  Many faithful Christians have suggested that the best way to move forward in faith is to stay true and obedient to the last thing that God has led us to do until He opens the doorway for us to do something new or different.  Much of the Christian life is about staying faithful and devoted to what God has already given us to do rather than seeking more and more of something else or something new. 
            Be ready for trials and suffering.  Prepare and strengthen your faith in advance.  Many people have a savings account to help with unexpected expenses and repairs.  They put aside some money weekly or monthly to prepare for the things that break or need attention.  If we know we are going to face trials and sufferings, it makes sense to prepare now.  Make some faith deposits.  Read the Bible and commit to memory the powerful promises that you find.  Worship and walk with other believers.  Pray for God’s grace to mold and shape you for His glory.  Have a great Thursday!  Join us for Bible study, worship and our communal lunch this Sunday!

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