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.
Any true believer will eventually face unjust suffering. If we are genuinely following Christ, there will be seasons when we find ourselves on the receiving end of accusation, slander, or maligning. It may happen in our home, workplace, or school; it may even happen within a church.
These trials are a real challenge. When we objectively lay out the facts before us, we think, “You know what? He had no right to say that! She had no right to think that! They had no right to do that! And yet, here I am. It’s just not fair!”
When faced with suffering, our great temptation is to regard it as a strange misfortune—as totally out of step with whatever following Jesus is really about. Deep down, it is easy to think that everything should be easy when we’re following Jesus. For a while, in some areas of the world (including much of the West today), we can happily go along with that assumption. But then we face a “fiery trial,” and suddenly our life experience proves that being a Christian is not, in fact, easy.
Shepherding the church in his day, Peter encouraged them not to be surprised by difficult trials. Like a parent sitting down to talk with a child before she makes her way in the world, Peter urged believers to anticipate suffering. It wasn’t that at some point they would act wrongly and would therefore receive rightful justice. No, it was that they would suffer simply because of their commitment to Jesus Christ. This was, Peter told them, part of the life of the Christian. It should not be a surprise but an expectation.
After all, as Jesus Himself told His disciples on the night before the world’s hatred nailed Him to a cross, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Consider the way Jesus was treated in Pilate’s hall. During the interrogation, Pilate said of Jesus—for the first of three times!—“I find no guilt in him” (18:38; 19:4, 6). He was convinced that Jesus’ opponents were trying to manipulate circumstances, and he was confident that Jesus wasn’t guilty of the accusations. But instead of releasing Jesus, Pilate took Him and had Him flogged before handing Him over to be crucified. Every sorrow and every grief that Jesus experienced was unjust. And when we choose to follow after Christ, therefore, we’re called to be willing to suffer as He did.
Are you facing a fiery trial today or reeling from walking through one? Take heart! When the Christian walk is painful, we are suffering in the cause of the one who suffered far, far more for us. We are giving ourselves to the one who gave Himself to us. And we can look forward to the day when the trials are past, when justice is done, and we live in our Savior’s glory forever.
John 15:18-27, John 16:1-4
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,