As I wrapped up our eighteen-month study of Mark earlier this year I thought, “This is the perfect opportunity to teach First Peter!”
Mark drips with the thinking and words of the Apostle Peter. With all of these “Petrine” thoughts in our minds, moving toward the actual letter that he wrote seemed logical. I had never studied First Peter in depth, so it just seemed like a good decision.
I have to admit I had no idea what the study of First Peter would mean to our church.
This is the most difficult year financially we’ve faced since I’ve been pastor. We’ve cut our budget severely and our staff and missionaries have been living on reduced pay since January.
I can’t remember a time in the decades I’ve been leading churches that so many Christians have been persevering through tough times. Foreclosures, loss of jobs, cutbacks, business failings. It’s a tough economy and God’s people are right in the middle of the mess.
Add to that the weekly reports of struggling marriages, diagnoses of dread diseases, prodigal children, and the usual array of relational hurts and scars in a local church.
These are tough times. God’s people are suffering.
Then I hear from Christians in churches all over America that they’re studying First Peter too. And I’m noticing an inordinate number of Bible study resources concentrating on First Peter.
From God’s Heart to Ours
I think God is preparing His church for troubled times. Sure, we’re suffering economically right now. But this is nothing compared to what could happen in this world out of control and so antagonistic toward Christ and His people.
These truths hit our hearts pretty hard, don’t they? I believe God is shifting the focus of His people from understanding the Christian life as a sure-fire way to live the “happy life”—have a perfect marriage, perfect family, perfect community, and perfect nation. I believe He’s turning us toward the more biblical priority of living a life that really counts—counting the cost for following Christ as His devoted disciple and paying it!
When this reality hits our hearts—that if you want to live for Christ in this alien and hurtful world, you’re going to suffer—it scares us…it brings fear to our hearts because it should. 1 Peter 4:12-19 is the paragraph you need to read and meditate on. It’s written to Christians who, like you, were realizing that serving Christ and suffering for Christ go together.
The fiery trial speaks of the purifying or refining power of suffering in the life of a believer. For Peter and his readers, it was also a reality. Nero blamed Christians for burning Rome. The evil emperor retaliated by rounding up Christian leaders, covering them with pitch, and using them as living torches to light the imperial gardens at night.
1 Peter 4:12-19 is God’s Word to Christians who admit that the prospect of suffering for Christ scares them. Peter makes three points: In verses 12-14 he connects our suffering for Christ to the glory of God. Verse 15 warns us against using our suffering as an excuse to sin. And verses 16-19 encourage us to entrust our lives to our Faithful Creator.
The entire paragraph insists on viewing suffering for Christ as initiated by God Himself to bring glory to His name and guided by the One who is our Faithful Creator.
From a Fellow-Sufferer
This is the only place in all of Scripture that God uses that title to describe Himself. Faithful Creator—the same One who brought the world into being is caring for you during your darkest days.
As a cancer survivor, this touches me deeply. My God has one name that He uses only when relating to His suffering children—Faithful Creator.
I don’t know the suffering of your life, but I know Someone who does. His name? Faithful Creator!
Let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19).