Hello everyone! Welcome again to Thursday’s foundations daily podcast. Our passage for today is 1 Peter 4: 12- 19. We are going to focus on verses 12-13: Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
We are going to reflect today on what it means to persevere. And I wonder when I say that word – what comes to mind for you? Can you think of an example? A person? A situation where you yourself or others have had to persevere?
My wife Jo is now 8 months pregnant with our third child. The Brennans are getting super excited about the arrival of Baby B. When I think of perseverance at the minute, I think of Jo. And I just want to take this opportunity to thank her for being a top mum. She’s tired, frustrated and uncomfortable (and that’s just through having to put up with me!) But seriously I want to just honour her for pressing on and getting out there walking round reservoirs with two children who have heaps of energy, getting loads of stuff ready for the arrival of this little one, doing all the Zoom calls with Defined, leading families and even taking the time to give me a COVID cut live on Instagram last Sunday night. Jo – I salute you this day.
I bet we can all think of people who have inspired us through their perseverance and willingness to press on often in the face of adversity. Who through perseverance have maybe go on to achieve things we never thought possible or discovered things about themselves that they never knew. Perhaps what inspires us the most is that through persevering, somehow, some way that person is different, changed as a result of their experience.
As we discussed already this week, this is a super challenging letter because it’s written into a super challenging context. Peter – the author – one of Jesus’ closest followers experienced first hand what it meant to suffer because he knew Him. He’s writing here to Christian believers who were themselves experiencing that also – who were being persecuted, verbally, perhaps even physically abused and discriminated against because of their faith in Jesus. And as we have seen already Peter’s primary reason for writing this letter was to encourage the believers there, the church, to persevere, to keep going and to remain faithful in the midst of all the challenges that they faced.
On Tuesday we reflected on how we too can identify with this in some way. Verse 12 describes their persecution as a ‘fiery ordeal’ and whilst it might not be that way for us – we too, in our way, have had to count the cost of being a follower of Jesus. And that suffering because of our faith should not be a ‘surprise to us’. We should be prepared for it.
But then in verse 13 Peter takes it that step further and writes that we are to rejoice because of it. Is it just me or does that sound a little crazy and, to be honest, a little offensive? How can we rejoice in suffering?
I’m going to give a shout here to Bryony Wells, a member of our church family, who I remember spoke about this idea in a passage from James 1 – a passage very similar to this. What I found really helpful through her words and a recent podcast I listened to by Mike Pilavachi is that there is a distinction for us to grab hold of here and it’s this – we don’t rejoice because of the suffering. Like, thank you God for all this pain and struggle. But we can rejoice in the suffering because as we read in verse 13 when we do so, we do so with Jesus. And specifically here Peter is saying that we experience this when our suffering is a result of our faith in Jesus.
Right now, we can’t meet together as we would like to as church. To be clear this isn’t a result of direct persecution like the people that Peter is writing to. But what we can identify with is the fact that it’s not easy being a believer right now. The external circumstances around us mean that we are having to learn how to be church in a totally different way. That we are having to learn again what it is to persevere. To keep pressing on with the blessed Zoom app because we don’t want to give up connecting. To keep pressing on with prayer through an email reminder. Pressing on with church through Facebook Premieres – although I do love a good emoji!
We can rejoice even in these strange days because God is teaching us again what it means to persevere. In the struggle for Him, we encounter the one who struggled for us. Who suffered on the cross in the most painful way imaginable so that we could be with Him. And in the act of persevering we can gain new perspective. We can see and know something more of God’s grace to us now – we grow bigger and maturer in our faith. And all the while we rejoice in the knowledge that there will come a day when his glory will be revealed, his kingdom will be fully established and what we know in part now, we see in full as we reign with Him.
Lord, thank you that in the midst of all the challenges we face right now we know that you are right here with us. Help us to see and know you more closely Jesus. That your joy might bring us strength as we learn what it is to persevere in these days ahead. Teach us to trust in you. Fill us with your hope. We look to you this day Lord. Amen.
BIBLE READING: 1 Peter 4:12-19 (NIV)
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,
‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.