(1 Peter 4.1-6)
Up long before dawn, bruises and aches, lonely hours on the track, working out instead of laying out, the gym rather than the club, listening to the coach pushing and challenging not friends laughing and partying. Discipline, deprivation, and sacrifice. For what, why the hours of the excruciating? It’s all for that one moment of glory when you cross the finish line first, receive the perfect score, knockout your opponent and step up on the platform to receive your gold medal and hear your country’s song. This is the life of an Olympian. When Michael Phelps, the most awarded swimmer in Olympic history, was asked what he was looking most forward to about retirement, he responded, “Being dry.” He spent hours every day in the water to prepare for races that lasted only minutes.
What are you willing to do to be what it is you want to be? In 1 Peter 4:1-6, the apostle continues to challenge Christians to do whatever it takes to be what it is that Christians are meant to be. Peter was both challenging and encouraging the Christians of his day to hold up under the heavy persecution Emperor Nero was bringing against the Church. In the closing verses of 1 Peter 3, he reminded believers that Jesus was willing to suffer and die for humanity. It a passage of extremes he wrote, “Christ died once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (v.18)
In chapter four, Peter then turns the focus back on the Christian. Take a moment and read the passage. As you do, ask yourself what you are willing to do to be what God wants you to be. Jesus was willing suffer terribly and die to be Savior. The question now is what are you willing to take to be the Christian Christ calls you to be?
For the third time in his letter Peter uses the word “therefore” (1:13; 2:1; 4:1) and it will not be the last; altogether he will use the word five times. As a matter of fact, the word is used 447 times in the Bible and each use calls for the same action on the part of the reader. It tells the reader, “Because of what was just said this will happen (must be done, understood, will result in…).” Here Peter writes, “Because of Christ willingness to suffer to accomplish God’s will, you too must be willing to do the same.” (4:1) The Christian must take on the same mindset as Christ. Paul said it this way, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
What was Jesus willing to do? Suffer (v.1). His suffering accomplished salvation, putting an end to the power of sin. Could Peter be saying to the Christian that he or she must rather suffer than fall back into the sin from which they were saved? Perhaps. Perhaps the apostle is calling on the Christians facing persecution to not give in to the temptation to walk away from living the Christian life in order to relieve themselves of any suffering that might be caused by standing for Christ. Maybe Peter is reminding them of the suffering that sin brought into their lives and in so doing reminding them to “be done with sin.” In other words, they will want nothing to do with that which brings them pain. Peter may be leaning that way when he writes, “because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do…” (vv.1b-3a).
How did these folks live when they were living for their own desired end rather than Gods? They lived “doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” (v.3b) Not an appealing list wouldn’t you say? It was these things that marked them as pagans and when their pagan friends see them now “they are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.” (v.4)
Peter tells Christians to welcome such abuse for it is better to be maligned by pagans than judged and condemned by God. “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” (vv.5-6)
It would seem that Peter is telling us that it is better to suffer for being a Christian than suffering by following the crowd. God expects His people to act like His people no matter the earthbound cost. He also reminds us that the earthbound will pass away and someday His followers will live in a place where suffering will be no more.
So, hang in there suffering Christian. Take the ridicule, rejection, alienation, even the physical abuse that might be…will be…yours as you stand steadfast in your faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ. He told us it would be this way. But He also told us of the reward awaiting all who are His. And that’s not just Heaven. It is peace with God now, peace in the midst of the present chaos of this world; peace in the midst of the personal chaos that comes and goes in life. Peace that the world will not give and cannot take away.
Most of all do whatever it takes to be what you are to be – a witness. Some may laugh at you but others may ask how they can be like you.