12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
It almost seems as though Peter is repeating what he said when we talked about righteous suffering. While he explained earlier what kind of suffering we should strive for, here he is telling us not to be surprised that the world is turning against us. Jesus mentioned this in His sermon on the mount, “10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Later, His brother James tells us, “2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter varioustrials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith producesendurance.” There tends to be a lot of suffering and hardship depicted in the bible, doesn’t there?
Peter is the apostle who was sentenced to crucifixion when he was martyred, but he declared that he wasn’t worthy to be crucified like Jesus, so they hung him upside down. I heard a preacher once say that Peter must have died with a smile on his face because they killed him as a result of his faith. We also saw this in Paul’s final letter to Timothy when he knew his death was near. How would you face your death in relation to your faith?
I’ve been affected more and more lately about not only the gravity of sin in our lives and what Jesus really saved us from, but also of the gravity of what He means when He says, “Follow Me.” He doesn’t just mean on Sunday mornings, Wednesday evenings, or special church events; He means always. If we are then persecuted in the same manner He was, it will give us a little indication of how closely we are following Him, since His ways are ways not of this world. When I studied the referenced verses above from Matthew with my discipleship group, these were the verses that challenged me most because I wonder if the lack of persecution is a result of me not following Christ close enough. Certainly it can be viewed as a hypothetical thought, but really, how close are we following Him?
As Peter says, our trials and persecutions are for our own testing. The original text here is a word used to represent the refining of metals in fire. In other words, our trials and persecutions are so that we can become more refined spiritually. They are opportunities to grow, not a way for God to see if we really have what it takes. He already knows what we have or don’t have. Rather, we need to discover more and more about God, His faithfulness, and how much He really loves us. It is how we grow in our relationship with God; these are opportunities to trust Him more.
For this, we have to put ourselves in places of vulnerability. You cannot refine metal if you don’t put it under fire. You cannot learn to trust someone unless you put yourself in a position to trust them (where they can break your trust). It’s scary, it’s risky, and it is abnormal to this untrustworthy world. However, it’s how God works and how relationships work.
How are you holding back in your trust of God today?