Paul told Timothy that “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12, LSB). How can the faithful Christian overcome persecution for his faith? We will observe four attitudes to have to help us in overcoming persecution. First, it is to be expected. Second, we should rejoice through suffering. Third, we must evaluate its cause. Last, we must entrust ourselves to God. It is my goal to help us overcome any suffering we may have due to our faith.
We need to know that persecution is to be expected. Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12, LSB). Peter tells his readers that it should not come as a shock to them that they are put to trial for their faith. Likewise, it should not shock the Christian if he is put on trial as well. These trials are not easy to endure. Peter’s purpose for writing this letter is to encourage suffering Christians in their trials. We should be ready for these trials. In chapter three, Peter wrote “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15, LSB). May we be prepared for when our trials come.
We must rejoice through our suffering. “But to the degree you are sharing the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Peter 4:13-14, LSB). Peter says that we share in the sufferings of Christ. My mind goes back to Isaiah fifty-three. Christ indeed was the suffering servant. If we proclaim the Suffering Servant, then we will likewise suffer with the Servant. Peter encourages his readers to continue to rejoice even though they are going through a tough trial. We are to rejoice “with exultation”. MacArthur wrote, “A Christian who is persecuted for righteousness in this life will have overflowing joy in the future because of his reward. Such an awareness of future joy enables him also to "rejoice" at the present time” (MacArthur, E-Sword Commentary Module). This reminds me of what Paul wrote in Romans chapter eight. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we eagerly wait for it” (Romans 8:18-25, LSB). What an encouragement for the Christian! Also, consider the fact that if we suffer for Christ, it is approved by the Spirit of glory!
We must also evaluate the cause of our persecution. “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be put to shame, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER?” (1 Peter 4:15-18, LSB). There is a difference in suffering for being a Christian and suffering due to our own evil actions. Peter warns his readers that it should never be the case that a Christian should commit evil and think that God approves. Peter has already told his readers, “but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15, NET). Now, if anyone does suffer as a Christian, he is to glorify the name of God in his suffering. We must always think like Christ! “Have this way of thinking in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5, LSB). We must also be mindful of the fact that God will one day be our judge. What does he mean in verse eighteen? “The idea is that if sufferings and judgments (chastenings) come upon good people, what hope is there for the wicked?” (B.W. Johnson, E-Sword Commentary Module). “Peter quoted from the LXX of Pro. 11:31, and reinforced the point that if the justified sinner is saved only with great difficulty, suffering, pain, and loss—what will be the end of the ungodly?” (MacArthur, E-Sword Commentary Module). There is victory for the Christian (Romans 8:31-39)!
We must entrust ourselves to God our faithful Creator. “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God must entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing good” (1 Peter 4:19, LSB). When we face our trials, we must continue to place our hope and trust in God. “Commit is a banking term meaning "to deposit for safe keeping." (MacArthur, E-Sword Commentary Module). “Peter uses the word Creator to remind his readers that when they committed their lives to God, they were simply giving back to God what He had created. As Creator, God knows best the needs of His beloved creatures” (IBID). After all, it’s His breath in our lungs! He deserves our trust. He also trusts us to be faithful to Him. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justice?” (Genesis 18:25, LSB). God will always do what is right and He will take care of us!
It is my hope that we are encouraged to press forward through our persecution and remember how Christ suffered. We are not alone in our trials. We have noticed that we must expect persecution. We must rejoice in it. We must examine the cause of it. We must entrust ourselves to the faithful Creator. May your lives be enriched with joy whether you may be in a trial or not!