1 Peter 4:12-14
The Fiery Trial Should Be No Surprise
Peter has said from the beginning that Christians are sojourners and exiles living in a strange land. Perhaps sixty or more years ago, Christians in this nation did not feel this way. America was birthed a Christian nation from at least 1620 with the sailing of Pilgrims, and all of the founders were either Christian or maintained a view of the world informed by Christianity. America was a Christian nation. But that has changed. And when one considers the history of the world and the vastness of the planet, what the Church in America experienced for so much of her history was very much an anomaly. Throughout history God’s people have been persecuted far and wide. As the Apostle explained earlier, the world naturally hates the difference the Christian manifests in his life because of the emptiness and wickedness it proves in their own. Moreover, secular (which must eventually and do invariably become pagan) governments must at some point consider Christians seditious since they place Christ and his Kingdom above all worldly pretenders to such. It does not matter that Christians pray for and honor their leaders, obey the laws, and pay their taxes; pagan nations eventually demand heart and soul. They must do so because, as we are now seeing, they cannot tolerate those who preach a gospel and live an ethic that stands in direct contrast to their anti-morals which invariably boil down to pleasure-seeking, especially as that concerns sexual license, and self-worship. These they cloak with the exalted term of “civil rights.” In short, though God is sovereign over all, the world is still under the “price of the power of the air.”
For this reason, Christians should “not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” This is simply the way the world will respond to a godly life (2 Timothy 3:12). Indeed, we should look upon the insults and slurs, and even the blows and buffeting, as “tests,” that is, as opportunities to prove our love and faithfulness unto our Savior and Lord. In doing so, we “share Christ’s sufferings.” In an age when so many “identify” themselves as one thing or another—even things they can never hope to be—we should run to identify ourselves with Jesus Christ. Of course, that means living as he lived and receiving what he received—scorn, ridicule, false accusations, loss of friends, shunning, perhaps loss of job or promotion or income, and eventually beatings and death. “Rejoice and be glad,” our Lord said, “for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:12). He spoke of how they treated the prophets before, but now we have the privilege of imitating the One they did by anticipation. It’s a high calling. Let is prepare ourselves in the meantime.