1 Peter 4:12-5:14
Suffering for a Little While
Boy, First Peter sure talks a lot about suffering! I don’t think I noticed it so much before. Again, we are told not to be surprised by the “fiery trials” that may come our way, but instead to rejoice. I seem to remember our Lord saying as much in his Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” No doubt, the Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor were experiencing terrible persecution when Peter wrote this letter. But Peter tells them to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings,” for it is in sharing Christ’s sufferings that we are conformed to Christ’s image, which is the goal of the Christian’s life, to stand before God not having one’s own righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ, and not looking like ourselves, but having been conformed more and more to the image of the One sitting on the throne. This is our glory – to be like him. Suffering does this to us, if we will let it; otherwise, it is a waste, and we will have suffered for nothing.
Therefore, we are told to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. His will is supreme, and we may rest assured that nothing can touch us without the nod of his omnipotent brow. Even if He gives us over to the fiery trial, we know that “he cares for us,” and does nothing but for our salvation and His glory. As we humble ourselves before His will and cast our cares upon Him, we know that He will exalt us in due time, which might be here or might be in heaven. Our sufferings are but for a “little while,” and then the reward is promised: “God … will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you,” for unto Him is all dominion, that is, the sovereignty. Our sufferings are so short compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.
In the meantime, we are called to faithfulness to the only One who can deliver. Pastors and elders are called to care for the flock, for the flock needs them. And as they lead, they are called to be examples of humility and service. The sheep have enough of those who would dominate them through the week, enough of the fiery darts of the devil to dent their armor. What they need now is wisdom, patience, and above all, love. This is the pastor’s calling in this passage. He is to love the church with the same kind of love with which Christ loved her: unconditional, sacrificial love. But no pastor or elder can lead sheep who will not follow, nor love sheep who will not be loved. So each of us submits to the other “with humility toward one another,” while entrusting our souls to our faithful Creator.