“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” I Peter 1:6-7
In “The Joy of Divine Testing,1/ Ruvolo quotes Scot McKnight:
“Scripture affirms that suffering in the form of persecution is a natural result of Christian living.”3/
Thus, it is as sure as God’s Word and there is not one child of God that will not suffer it but thanks be to God, He has given us “everything for life and godliness” so that we can bear it, stand up to it, and rejoice during it.
With this promise in mind that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution,” Ruvolo takes us into various kinds of persecution and helps us make distinctions regarding it including whether some of the trials, testings, sufferings that come upon us are of our own making by our own actions or whether they are the result of godly faithful living. She further counsels us to be sure that we are living a life of obedience and that the persecution suffered is because of an obedient life and not an obnoxious witness or a failure to be biblical Christians.
“The message of 1 Peter is one of hope and encouragement for Christians who are doing their jobs.”4/
In other words, Peter is saying, if you are living a life that is obedient to Christ, trusting Him, being His ambassador for the gospel, being distinctly different from the world, having a Christian world and life view, following Jesus in all things, not the world, taking on His characteristics and walking in His paths, you will suffer persecution and that persecution will cost you something. It may be your own desires, your family, your children, your church, your health, your wealth and even maybe your life but it will cost you something. Jesus says that “in the world you will have tribulation” and that we will “suffer” as He suffered. We will suffer loss, we will be forsaken by others, we will suffer the sinful acts of others, we will be delivered up to councils, we will walk in the narrow path that He walked, taking up our cross and following Him. This is the life that He has called us to. A life of giving of ourselves for others, suffering all of those things that He and our brethren saints have suffered but, as we suffer, we are to be “of good cheer” because He has overcome the world, the flesh and the devil for us so that we have an inheritance, immovable, eternal in the heavens, forever, which cannot be shaken or taken away. We are promised persecution but we are also promised everything to help us in that persecution that we might glorify God as His afflicted offspring. Our God is a faithful God, ordaining from eternity past all things for our good and His glory so that we triumph in all of our sufferings. As our brother the Apostle Paul said in Romans 5:1-5:
“1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
Isn’t this just glorious? Here is what Christ is doing with us in these tribulations, persecutions, trials and suffering. He is working patience, experience, hope, strengthening our faith and resting our lives in His hands. We glory in them because we are “suffering for His sake.” We should be “turning the world upside down for Christ.” As Ruvolo says, when we “stand firm in God’s grace” the “sparks are flying.” Can we say we are “not set on simmer” but our witness is “boiling” and the “sparks are flying” for Christ? Ruvolo exhorts us and asks, “Are you part of the group to whom Peter is speaking? Are you generating a few sparks because your Christian witness is boiling?”5/ Or, are we like the unbelievers who have no hope or a Christian who compromises with the world so that we do not suffer and our sparks have been snuffed out by our conformity with the world and its practices? We must examine ourselves and our lives to be sure that we are “being conformed to the image of Christ” and not conforming to the world. The sparks surely must be flying if we are obedient disciples of Christ.
Ruvolo encourages us, as does Peter in these verses, that we rejoice in the midst of our suffering, trials, and persecutions because they are but for a moment in time and not be compared to the glory that awaits us. Ruvolo says,
“In the light of eternity, they can indeed be perceived as “momentary, light affliction (2 Corinthians 4:17). And in the light of God’s sovereignty, they can be received as integral elements in the outworking of God’s ultimate purpose.”6/
As I read and studied this chapter, I was reminded time and time again of the saints in “Foxes Book of Martyrs” and how they truly went through suffering of body, mind and spirit and even horrific death but the encouragement of their witness, their testimony of faith and God’s provision of grace and perseverance in the face of incredible trials and sufferings cause us to rejoice. We have not in our 21st Century lifestyle suffered as these have or as Christ and His disciples did, but we will surely suffer persecution as promised. It may be subtle persecution that tears at the heart and mind; it may be painful suffering of body that is for a lifetime; it may be the suffering of loneliness and abandonment; it may be the suffering of loss of children, family or friends; it may be the suffering of not being wanted or needed by the body of Christ; it may be suffering for standing for biblical truth, and it may be the suffering of wrongdoing in the past that cannot be righted; but we will suffer and we will be refined as gold, and we will survive it by the power and almighty providence of God and we will, because of His glorious grace, reach the glory that awaits us in His presence forevermore. The suffering of this life is nothing, a breath, a vapor, compared to an eternity of perfection and perfect love and contentment with Him. Be encouraged as you read this that your God who loves you so, will equip you to stand firm and strong in the face of persecution and bring you safety through it for His glory and your good.
1/ Lesson#2, “Grace to Stand Firm, Grace to Grow, Carol J. Ruvolo, P&R Publishing Co. p. 27.