The Christian will not escape affliction in his life. For every Christian, there is a cross to bear. When Jesus died, He died next to two criminals. One of them became a Christian and was a Christian for a day or two before he died. Even he had a cross to bear for the short life that he lived as a Christian. The Christian must never assume that he will escape the cross. The Christian must never assume that he will escape affliction. Instead, the Christian must prepare himself for the inevitable.
Life in a fallen world will never bring what only eternity can bring. Man longs for eternity. The Bible tells us that God has placed eternity into the hearts of man. However, man so often looks for eternity here on earth. He is often surprised at the fiery trial. He is perplexed when Satan hurls his fiery darts. Man seeks to flee from the affliction; he seeks to flee from the cross, not knowing that his cross has been sovereignly ordained by God.
Even Christ hung upon a cross which came by way of lawless men; nevertheless, Christ hung upon a cross as the predetermined plan of God. Will the Christian escape a cross? He must never believe that he will, for the Bible makes it clear that those who do not have a cross do not have Christ. Scripture says, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (KJV, Luke 14:27). No cross, no Jesus!
The Scriptures are clear: those who seek after Christ will walk upon Golgotha’s hill. They will tread down Calvary’s road. Where the Savior is, there will His sheep be, as well. The church must recognize that the flock of Christ needs to be prepared for hardship. Unless preparation takes place, the church’s seed will be much like the seed that was cast upon the rocky ground. As you may know, the seed shot up quickly into a plant, but when times of testing came, the plant withered.
Peter gives us some helpful instruction in 1 Peter 4:14-19 on how to endure affliction for the glory of God. The Christian must take heed concerning what Peter has to say.
Peter says, “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified” (1 Pet. 4:14) . Peter tells us that the Christian who endures insults for the name of Christ is a blessed Christian. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke similar words. It is quite possible that Peter had Jesus’ sermon in mind as he instructed his readers.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us a number of beatitudes. One of the beatitudes tells us the blessed state of the one who is persecuted for the name of Jesus. The topic of persecution is the only topic within the beatitudes that gets touched upon twice. Jesus tells of the one who is persecuted for righteousness’ sake and of the one who endures insults for the name of Christ.
Peter speaks of the blessing that is seen in the glory of God resting upon His afflicted follower. Christ speaks of the persecuted one as inheriting the kingdom of God and receiving great reward in heaven.
Peter was greatly concerned with suffering for the right reasons. It must be recognized that suffering comes in many forms. One can suffer for breaking the law. One can suffer for doing wrong and breaking God’s commands. Peter says, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busy body in other men’s matters” (1 Pet. 4:15) . Prior to this point, Peter spoke of the Christian’s suffering for righteousness’ sake. However, in verse 15, we see that Peter desires to make a distinction. All suffering is not equal.
The Christian must walk with the Lord and recognize that, as he does, times of affliction will come. However, it is also true that when someone does not walk with the Lord, times of suffering will come, as well. Mankind cannot escape suffering in a fallen world. Those who break the law or take part in matters that they should not will experience times of suffering.
This is important for the Christian to understand and should not be bypassed as inapplicable. The Christian will be greatly tempted along the way to believe that his suffering could be pacified if he did not walk with Christ. The enemy will lie to the Christian in many ways, desiring that the believer forsake his Savior for a “better land” or return to Egypt. Suffering is inevitable. But for those who suffer while doing good, the glory of God will rest upon him, and great reward will await him.
The Christian must never be ashamed to suffer for the sake of Christ (1 Pet. 4:16). This is clearly easier said than done. But isn’t that true of the whole of Scripture? Is it not true that everything that is said in the Bible is much easier to say than it is to do? Why does this matter?
It matters because the Christian is living during a time in which great wickedness is prevailing in the land. The Christian must take his stand and be unashamed of the Gospel. He must recognize that he cannot do anything apart from Christ, and in each and every situation, he needs to rely on Jesus. He must look to Christ, of Whom it is said, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18) . Christ is here to help, and the Christian must develop a disposition toward Jesus that reflects a desperate need for Christ during each moment of his life.
The purging of the church
Peter goes on to tell us why affliction will come upon the church of God. Scripture says, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God…” (1 Pet. 4:17) . What is Peter telling us? Peter is telling us that the judgment of God will come upon the church of God. When the judgment of God comes upon the church of God, the church will be cleansed and purged. Affliction has a tendency to weed out those who are not Christ’s sheep.
Entrust yourself to God
Peter leaves us with some helpful instruction when he conveys to us the need to entrust ourselves to the Lord while doing good. Affliction will come; it is inevitable. However, there is a choice to make during times of tribulation. The Christian can either choose sin or choose God.
At the end of the book of Job, Elihu touched upon the option of choosing sin or choosing God during times of affliction when he said, “Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction” (Job 36:21) . The Christian must take care so that he does not choose sin during times of affliction; in essence, he must choose the affliction rather than sin.
But what does this look like? When affliction comes there is a fork in the road. Choose sin or choose the affliction (and God). The Christian must realize, as Peter has already said, that there will be suffering no matter which path he chooses. Either he will suffer for his sin or he will suffer as he bears the cross.
The Christian must turn to Christ as the One Who suffered while being tempted and as a result is here to help the Christian through his temptation and suffering. Finally, the Christian must entrust himself to the Lord. When Jesus hung upon the cross, He committed His spirit to the Father. He did not fight to save His life but gave it up. So must the Christian give up the fight that his flesh will seek to wage. He must trust the Lord and yield himself to the Lord’s will.
Father, I thank You for the grace that You give me to bow my knee to Your will and plan for my life. Help me to honor You this day and to do good in the midst of affliction. In Jesus’ name, Amen.