Good Morning Brothers…
I got out of the truck the other morning at first light to check my coyote traps. Once I stepped around the front of the truck the north wind hit with me its full force. Despite my coveralls and coat, it was cold. A biting cold. The kind of cold that pierces your defenses and tests your desire to carry on. As I lowered my head against the onslaught I pressed onward to do what I came to do. It was a struggle. My fingers didn’t work like normal and my face was starting to numb against the biting wind. What usually takes 10 minutes to do suddenly takes longer. Physically, when faced with sub-freezing temperatures and high wind, are bodies slow down, making it harder to continue the tasks that lie before us.
I was reading 1 Peter the other day and got caught in Chapter 4, specifically verses 12 through 19:
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.
Verse 12 tells us to not be surprised when our life becomes full of chaos and strife, because God is testing our mettle, our commitment, our ‘will we serve Him no matter what’.
Verse 13 tells us to rejoice when we share in the sufferings of Christ. This got me thinking, “What were the sufferings of Christ?” My mind thinks of the cross right away, but then it starts to sift through the life of Jesus and I realize there is a lot more than the cross. Jesus was persecuted by the Pharisees and Sadducee, which translates to ‘church people’. Jesus was betrayed by His friends. Jesus was labeled a blasphemer, which translates to ‘false prophet’. Jesus suffered the most at the hands of the people He was trying to reach with a message of love.
Verse 14 tells us that if the Spirit of glory and God rests on us then we will be both reviled and blessed because of it.
Verse 15 tells us to insure that our ‘bad name’ is not because of anything else but Christ’s name magnified.
Verse 16 tells us to not feel ashamed because of our ‘bad name’, but to glorify God that we have a ‘bad name’ because His (as verse 14 says) glory and Spirit is upon us.
Verse 17 tells us that the judgement, the sifting, has to begin with ‘church people’ first. This testing by fire will eliminate any hypocrisy that can taint the message of the gospel.
Verse 18 tells us that salvation will be difficult for the righteous man. This causes me to ponder and think about ‘what’ exactly is Peter saying? I believe Peter is saying that ‘church people’ can get warped and twisted in their thinking as well, and often, it is difficult for us to see through our religious traditions and doctrines to our risen Lord. If it is difficult for us, how will the godless man ever see through their cultural traditions and doctrines to see Jesus?
Verse 19 tells us to endure the sufferings we share with Christ and to trust our faithful God and Creator, for it is His will that we share in Christ’s suffering.
This passage gives me hope that the Church can come through its suffering to become a better witness to the lost and fallen in the world. If with great difficulty, we are able to save the righteous, then, with a united front, we can save the godless. We should not be ashamed when persecution finds us because of our devotion to Christ, His Church, or our Faith. If you happen to find yourself this morning, embroiled in persecution by ‘church people’…take heart, it is God’s will to test you this way…and them. If you happen to find yourself this morning betrayed by your friends…take heart, it is God’s will to test you this way…and them. If you happen to find yourself this morning labeled as a ‘false prophet’…take heart, it is God’s will to test you this way…and them. As long as these sufferings find you because you are bearing Christ’s name…take heart. God’s will in this is that the testing will result in both ‘sides’ seeing through the screens to our risen Lord.
This type of testing is cold, a biting cold. The kind of cold that pierces your defenses and tests your desire to carry on. We must lower our head against the onslaught and press onward to do what we came to do…magnify the name of Jesus.