June 20, 2014
What Did You Expect?
By Skip Heitzig
In 64 AD, a fire broke out in Rome. Most of the people believed that Caesar Nero had started it, so he blamed the Christians, starting a persecution of believers throughout the Roman Empire that would last for 200 years. That is the backdrop of the epistle of 1 Peter. Peter was writing to Christians who were suffering for their faith and wondering what was God's plan for their lives.
A lot of believers think, “Suffering couldn't be God's plan for my life.” But you are not exempt from suffering. God does have a wonderful plan for your life, as it says in the Four Spiritual Laws, but that plan may include suffering.
We don’t need to look further than Jesus Himself: If Jesus Christ was not exempt from suffering, then why do we think we ought to be?
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who were persecuted for righteousness sake” (Matthew 5:10). You can be a model citizen and still be persecuted for righteousness sake. When that happens, know this: You are becoming a partner with Christ. It's what Paul called the “fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). If you are persecuted because you love Jesus Christ, you’re a partner with Him, and you enter into one of the deepest types of fellowship possible with God.
Jesus predicted that believers would be betrayed by family and friends, that they would be hated because of Him, that some would be put to death (see Luke 21:16). That's not underlined in a whole lot of Bibles as one of the great promises of God to lean on. But it is a promise and you can take it to the bank. In the 200 years of church history that followed 64 AD, the Christians suffered horrible things because they loved the Lord.
What do we expect when we give our lives to Jesus Christ? Some people expect everything to fall into place, that they will be healthy, wealthy, and happy. But you’ve given your life to God in a world that doesn't love God. So yes, you are God's child, you’re going to heaven, and all the blessings of heaven are at your disposal.
But you have also entered a battleground. You might say you’re getting a huge bull’s-eye painted right on you. Think of it from the viewpoint of spiritual warfare. When you gave your life to Jesus Christ, did you expect hell to give you a standing ovation, or that the devil would take that lying down? No, his reaction is more like, “You’ve defected from my camp? Just see what I can dish out!”
So Peter tells us not to think something strange has happened when we suffer, but to rejoice (see vv. 12-13). And he reminds us, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (v. 14), and “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (v. 19).
That’s the bottom line: God is faithful, and no matter our circumstances—ease or suffering, blessing or adversity—we need to hold onto that truth!
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