The title is a quotation from the New Testament. It may provoke the thoughtful to begin counting their blessings: many would mention health, a happy family, ability to meet financial obligations, a successful career, and opportunities to enjoy some of the many wholesome pleasures of this life. Some more thoughtful might include salvation, opportunities to serve the Lord, and fellowship with the Lord. But few would wish or even think to include the very thing of which Peter speaks when he writes that “you are blessed,” namely, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ . . .” (I Pet. 4:14).
The history of the United States has been a hiccup in religious history, a rare exception in the experience of the people of God. The peace and approbation which believers have enjoyed within the confines of our fifty states has been unique in the world. Throughout time, whether Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, the Jews under Rome, the apostles and early church, the Dark Ages and Spanish Inquisition, believers in communist Russia or communist China, right up to the present in India and elsewhere, saints have endured persecution for the sake of righteousness. Though Western European believers have enjoyed a measure of liberty, the United States of America had remained the shining exception regarding persecution of believers. But those days appear to be drawing to a close. It is for such a time—a time of trying—that Peter provides his accurate and God-breathed perspective: “you are blessed.”
“Beloved,” Peter writes, “do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (I Pet. 4:12). Note the salient points Peter makes here. (1) “Fiery ordeal[s]” should not surprise the believer. (2) Trials should not be viewed as strange because they are as guaranteed a part of the believer’s life as are the many kindnesses of God. (3) These trials, though administered at the hands of the ungodly, are good, God-ordained tests of a believer’s faith and faithfulness.
Peter continues: “but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (v. 13). (1) Peter is speaking of righteous suffering, not that which befalls “a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler” (v. 15). (2) Righteous suffering unites believers in fellowship with that which Christ endured. (3) Righteous suffering, so far from being something to be avoided at all costs or feared, is grounds for rejoicing right now. (4) Faithfully enduring such suffering will result in exceeding joy for eternity.
Then Peter remarks that “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (v. 14). (1) Peter continues to emphasize that the trials of which he speaks are those resulting from being faithful to the Lord. (2) Such trials are an evident and absolute token of God’s blessing upon a faithful saint. (3) Such suffering both evidences the reality of the indwelling Presence of God in a believer and provokes the glory of His strength, peace, and comfort.
What lies ahead for faithful saints here as the Lord tarries, remains to be seen. But no faithful saint should think it strange to endure persecution but consider it the blessing of God and cause for rejoicing. Peter, of course, does not advocate a martyr complex; rather, he expresses the genuine view and response of those who, serving the Lord, live in the power of His Spirit.
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