Suffering According to the Will of God--Part 3 of 3

"Do Not Be Surprised"

Text: "For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God. Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good" (1 Pet. 4:17-19)

Thought: Peter concludes his instruction and exhortation in this section of his Epistle dealing directly with persecution and suffering. He began by telling his readers that they should not be surprised by such fiery testing trials (4:12). Now, as we view 1 Peter 4:17-18, I admit that these verses are the most difficult verses for me to grasp fully in this passage.

Peter uses the Old Testament (4:18) to back up the truth he is presenting here. One implication of Peter's words here is that God is just, and judgment is a necessary reality in light of the character of God. This text affirms God's right to judge, and this relates to the Christian and to those outside of Christ. I do not claim to understand this text completely, but let me suggest two aspects to this truth about God's justice and judgment, a judgment that begins at the "household of God."

I. The Testing Trials of Followers of Christ Are a Foretaste and Guarantee of God's Righteous Future Judgment
God's righteous judgment in a sense begins with God's people as the judgment of those outside of Christ approaches. This may seem a strange encouragement, but in the midst of fiery persecution, knowing that God will judge the ungodly and sinners of this world means that God is still just. When Christians suffer for their faith, they need to know that God is just and that judgment for injustices will come. There is, though, another aspect of this text in context.

II. The Testing Trials of Followers of Christ Are Disciplinary Judgments That End in Salvation
There is no indication here that the judgment that begins "at the household of God" will result in anything else but salvation. Even though the quotation speaks of the righteous being "scarcely saved," they are still saved, praise God! This is a reminder to us that we should not flippantly assume that God owes us salvation. If God was to do with us as we deserve, where would we end up? God has every right to judge us, and to judge the world.

Furthermore, we need to take comfort in the fact that we are the "beloved" addressed at the beginning of this text (4:12). We are special to God, even though strangers, aliens, exiles in this world. So, we need to read Peter's words concerning this God of Judgment who is also the God of all grace (5:10): "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you" (5:10).

God is just, suffering is temporary, and by His grace He keeps and saves His people who are actually worthy of final judgment. It is better by His grace to endure the "beginnings" of judgment in this life. These testing trials will purify our faith according to God's purpose, bless us with an experience of His Holy Spirit's presence, and ultimately will lead us to salvation as we share in Christ's sufferings before we share in His glory.

Thrust: What do we do when persecution comes? What do we do when we suffer according to God's Will? We entrust ourselves to our faithful Creator God-the God who uses suffering for our ultimate good and His glory, a God who is present and affirming in the midst of suffering, and a God committed to keeping His people and strengthening them. He is a God of salvation as well as judgment. Trust Him. Commit yourself to Him. Entrust your life to Him.

Do good. In other words, do what Christ has called you to do. Don't react negatively, keep on doing good and leave the results in God's hands. In this way, you will glorify God and be a witness to the Christ you follow. So, if you are struggling to trust God right now with your present difficult circumstances, even if they are not specific persecution, say to your own soul today, "I will trust God with this, because He is faithful, He is purposeful, He is present, He is committed to seeing me through. I can and I will trust Him." At the same time, choose by God's grace to stay faithful to do good.

Lastly, remember those who are going through suffering and persecution. Pray that they will be faithful, stay obedient, and be witnesses to the faithful God of all grace who will be with them during these dark days. "Do not be surprised."

David L. Olford teaches expository preaching at Union University's Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee.

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