Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you
1 Peter 4:7-5:11 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
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. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? 19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
5 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
In John 16:33 Jesus says: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Jesus had been speaking to the disciples about what was going to happen after His death. He told them plainly of both the difficulties they would face and of the promise of the Holy Spirit, who would come to be with them and guide them. Indeed Jesus has overcome the world. In Matthew 28:18, after the resurrection, Jesus says: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus taught us to pray saying: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” That is what overcoming the world is. It is bringing the realities of heaven to earth. It is bringing the perfection of heaven to the brokenness of earth. In today’s text it speaks of the challenge and the paradox of the Christian life, that although we have overcome with Christ, although we are redeemed from sin, reconciled to God and restored to the image and likeness of God, with all authority in heaven and on earth, we still need to walk that out in the reality of this broken world.
The text says: 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; 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. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 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 ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. There is a tendency for many of us as believers to think that we are lacking something, that our faith is not enough, because we struggle and we see outcomes in this world that do not seem right. We lose loved ones to sickness and disease, even though we stand in faith for their healing. We lose loved ones to sin and to the deceit of the world. We ourselves struggle. It seems the unrighteous advance while we lose ground. We know Jesus word From John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” We know the promise of God from Deuteronomy 28:13, which says: The Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully. Yet often that’s not what we experience. As the text says, we go through fiery ordeals. We are reviled for the name of Christ. We think that we must be lacking in something because we are not victorious in every area of our lives. We should not be surprised. In truth it is as Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” That is the struggle and the paradox of this Christian life, that even though Christ is victorious, and we are victorious with Him, the thief still comes.
The Christian walk is often characterized in terms of battle and warfare. There is value for us in understanding that we have an enemy, the devil, who comes to steal, kill and destroy. There is one major difference between wars that are fought in the natural realm and the battles and war we wage in the spiritual realm. In natural warfare there are many battles which are fought, some are won and some are lost, but in the end there is an overall victor. Once the victory has been secured, the individual defeats in the battles seem less significant. In the war we are engaged in spiritually, the final outcome is already determined. The victory has been won. Christ has overcome the world. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 says: Sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are already victorious, yet the thief still comes. We are still residents of this broken earthly realm. Jesus says: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17 and Mark 1:15) He says it is among us, in our midst, literally within us. (Luke 17:21) The daily battle we are engaged in is not to determine the final outcome. That has been determined. Christ has overcome and we have been given the victory. The battles we are engaged in, the tribulation and the fiery ordeal, is evidence that the thief still comes to steal, kill and destroy. As in natural warfare, we may lose some battles along the way. There may be some losses to sin and death. But we have confidence knowing that the final outcome is secure. We have victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The text says: Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You that even though I daily struggle and battle against the enemy, I know the outcome is secure, The victory is complete. Christ has overcome and in Him I am victorious. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.