Surprising Trials and Strange Tests (verse 12)
When Peter addresses the recipients of the letter as “Beloved,” he is referring to them as dear friends that he loves. He has hard things to say to them, and he knows the importance of the ingredient of love in combination with the truth. As he exhorts them to “not be surprised at the fiery ordeal” they’re experiencing, really he is simply exhorting them not to be surprised that God’s word is true. Jesus has promised that we will have tribulation in this world and even that the world will hate us because we are His disciples (John 16:33; 15:18-19). Because we believe what He has said, we should not be surprised when hardships come.
We rejoice in the promise of Philippians 1:6, that God will perfect in us the work He began, but we must also recognize that the fiery ordeal is part of that wonderful promise. Rather than asking, “Why me? Why now? Why in this manner?”, we should strive to live in the reality that our trials are part of Him perfecting us. The church is the bride of Christ and she will be presented spotless without any wrinkle—but oh how far she has to come! To rid the dross from our life God designs the furnace (i.e. “fiery ordeal) for us. Our trials are not without purpose. They are not for our destruction but our redemption. Sufferings for the Christian are not a sign of God’s absence, but evidence of His purifying presence (cf. Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).
Sharing with Christ (verse 13)
The fiery ordeal that Peter speaks of is the sharing of Christ’s sufferings. Of course, our part in sharing His sufferings is not a contribution to the atoning work; rather, we share in His sufferings by following in His steps. Christ’s blood is sufficient for everything; we add nothing to it. But in this glorious gospel of our God, He has so kindly ordained that we as refashioned dust may share in the sufferings of Christ by living upon the gospel and proclaiming it with our lips and lives. The only part of our sufferings that should seem strange to us is that God would design and desire to use us through it, giving us the privilege of participating in the proclamation of Christ’s sufferings!
God has decreed that He will glorify Himself through His church, and that is why we can “rejoice with exultation.” The trial itself is not what causes the joy, but God in His infinite wisdom working all things for our eternal good. We can rejoice as the beauty of Christ is seen more clearly in our lives through our suffering. Not only do we rejoice now, but we will also rejoice “at the revelation of His glory.” If you find yourself on the road of sharing in suffering with Him here, you will undoubtedly find yourself sharing in His glory later.
Spirit Rests on You (verse 14)
We should not miss the conditionality of Peter’s statement in this verse. If you are insulted because of your allegiance to Christ (i.e. “for the name of Christ”), you are blessed by God (cf. Matthew 5:11-12). We must be sure that our suffering is not the result of our own sin, but that it is in the context of gospel obedience. Some of our trials and circumstances are similar to those of the world, yet as believers, all our suffering, no matter the nature, mustbe for Christ. In other words, our response to suffering of all sorts is crucial, recognizing that the reputation of Christ is on the line.
Suffering for the Christian is not a threat, but a promise. It serves as a pledge, a guarantee, of our belonging to Him. Our suffering for Christ gives evidence that the Spirit of God dwells within and among us. The blessing of suffering is not because of the self-improvement opportunity, but because of the presence of God.
Suffering Rightly (verses 15-16)
All suffering is not equal. Murderers, thieves, evildoers, and troublesome meddlers deserve to suffer, and their suffering does not produce righteousness or glory. While murderers, thieves, and evildoers are a bit more obvious, we shouldn’t be surprised to find “meddlers” in the list as well. A troublesome meddler disrupts the peace and harmony of the church, which warrants suffering. We must be certain that we suffer only as “Christians,” and therefore have no reason to be ashamed.
- The goal of Peter is not to help us simply accept suffering, but to normalize it and rejoice in it. The key to understanding suffering and trials is found in the mystery of Christ’s sufferings. Peter is writing so that we might celebrate suffering for Christ, rather than be surprised by it. How have you responded to difficulties and trials? What is the difference between “enjoying” trials and “rejoicing” in trials? Why can you rejoice in your fiery ordeal? What current trials are you experiencing, and how can you respond in a way that glorifies Christ?