Read 1 Peter 4
Focus on verse 12-13
I’m not a big fan of reading directions. Apparently my personality is wired to view directions as a resource to consult only after every other attempt has failed to produce the desired results. There are other personality types, like the one I married, who meticulously read and follow the directions on even the simplest projects because they do not want to take the chance of doing something wrong. In fairness, I will admit that there have been a few occasions where I have discovered – after it is too late – that the directions very clearly warned of irreparable damage if a certain procedure is not followed in assembly. I have as a result of these experiences attempted to learn from my mistakes and will choose to go against my natural bent and actually read the directions first when I encounter complicated or critical projects. I choose this route because I do not like the surprise and disappointment that follows when I discover that I could have saved myself some needless aggravation if I had just followed the directions.
In today’s reading Peter alerts us to one of the inevitable consequences of making the choice to follow Jesus.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (v. 12-13)
This is a part of the gospel that the church in America has not been very effective in communicating in the last half century. Admittedly, when numerical church growth is the goal, informing potential candidates that one of the benefits of following Jesus is suffering and trials is not often seen as the most effective recruitment tool. The mega church movement discovered that it is much more effective to recruit followers if we focus on the good stuff, like health, wealth and a trouble free life. The fact that we have to twist scripture around a bit to make that preach hasn’t deterred some multi-millionaire mega-church pastors from proclaiming it very convincingly.
Now this is not to suggest that every large and successful church in America is preaching false doctrine. This is not a case of “one or two bad apples spoil the whole barrel”. The point of this is that when we read and understand the scriptures as they were intended, we cannot separate suffering and trials from following Jesus. Peter’s point in today’s reading is that we should not be surprised when trial come upon us. We should expect this! And furthermore, we should rejoice when it occurs as it confirms that we are on the right path, apparently when we suffer with grace and patience the glory of Christ is revealed through us.