June 28, 2015

1 Peter 3:17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

This is a very interesting statement, because it accepts, very calmly and without making a fuss about it, that we are going to suffer. It brings to mind Jesus’ statement in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble, but rejoice! For I have overcome the world.” Peter was present at the time Jesus said that, and I’m sure his life in the interval had confirmed the reality of it. Today we seem focused on avoiding suffering to the point of absurdity, and doubtless miss a lot of joy, satisfaction, and accomplishment in the process. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that suffering is supposed to be fun, but in many places we are assured that suffering can bring results that are worth the trouble. Two come immediately to mind: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11) “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71) What we’ve got to remember is that God isn’t mean; He doesn’t pick on us. The devil frequently tries to make us think that is how God is, but the devil’s certainly a liar. From our perspective we often may not see the purpose in whatever suffering we are experiencing, but as the old Southern Gospel song says, “We will understand it better by and by.” What Peter is saying, phrased in modern terms, is, “Get over it! Life includes suffering, so don’t use it as an excuse to do evil.” This certainly isn’t an excuse to seek out suffering. An American going to a Muslim country and then denouncing Mohammed in public is almost certainly not being obedient to God. However, such a person actively demonstrating the love of Christ might still be at high risk of suffering, but would be much more likely to be in the will of God.

There have been Christians down through the centuries who have actively sought martyrdom, but I think that is a sad, self-centered aberration. However, seeking to avoid suffering at all cost is even worse! I have known both types of Christians, and the zeal of the former is easier to channel and correct than the spiritual lethargy of the latter. Spiritual courage is following God regardless of the immediate consequences, knowing that the long-term rewards will be more than worth it. That is what I am to aspire to. America has just entered a time of much greater risk for true believers than at any point since its founding, with the supreme court “discovering” a “right” that is in direct violation of God’s Word, not to mention common sense and even biology. It is sad to feel blessed not to live in America! I am to pray for God’s plans to be fulfilled, even if they involve suffering for His children – and mine! I am to pray that God’s family would stand strong in the face of evil and proclaim the truth in love, just as Franklin Graham is doing with great faithfulness. And certainly I am not to despair, but remember that God is still God, even when the road ahead seems dark.

Father, thank You for this reminder. I wasn’t thinking of the Supreme Court decision when I started writing, so thank You for pointing it out. Help me lead this congregation well, not in conflict avoidance but in bold obedience to You, regardless of circumstances or risk of any sort, so that all of Your plans for us may be fulfilled, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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