Christian Suffering

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Christian suffering and persecution. Since Jesus walked the earth, His followers around the globe have been ridiculed and persecuted for their faith. But we haven’t experienced much of it here in America.

But our culture is changing quickly and dramatically. Christianity is no longer respected in our country and news stories pop up almost every day as evidence. Outright persecution may not be far behind.

So how should we feel about this possibility? What should we do if it comes?

Peter’s Doctrine of Christian Suffering

In his first letter, the apostle Peter wrote a lot about Christian suffering. His original readers were believers who, due to persecution, had been scattered throughout what is now modern-day Turkey. They had suffered – and were still suffering – because of their commitment to Christ. (Note: The type of suffering Peter wrote about was a direct result of following Christ, but many of the spiritual principles in this post can also be applied to trials and difficulties that result from a fallen world.)

Peter wrote to help them see their sufferings in light of eternity and to encourage them to persevere. Peter also wrote that God has “called” believers to suffer as Jesus suffered for us (1 Peter 2:21). Sometimes suffering persecution because of our relationship with Jesus is God’s will for us (1 Peter 3:17).

What? That sounds so illogical. So wrong. Why would it ever be part of God’s pla for His children to suffer? Thankfully, Peter also elaborated on God’s plans and purposes for Christian suffering.

5 Benefits of Christian Suffering

God has called us to suffering, to follow Christ’s example. (2:21) Why? What benefits does it bring?

  1. Fosters spiritual growth and maturity(1:6-7) – The way we respond to suffering reveals the quality of our faith and as we endure, our faith is refined, increasingly forming us into the image of Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7). A commitment to endure suffering, also necessitates a commitment to turn away from sin and be totally submitted to God (1 Peter 4:1-2).
  2. Points the lost to Christ– God can use our suffering to bring others to Christ. God used Christ’s suffering to bring us to Himself (1 Peter 3:18). God uses the example of our faith in the midst of suffering as a testimony of Christ to those watching our lives (1 Peter 2:15, 3:16).
  3. Pleases God(1 Peter 2:19-20) – A believer’s willingness to suffer for Christ reveals a submission to God’s purposes and a dependence on Him. This brings Him glory and pleasure.
  4. Strengthens our trust in God– When Jesus suffered, He trusted His Father completely with the process and the outcome (1 Peter 2:23). The more we also trust God with our sufferings, the more we experience His faithfulness.
  5. Forms a unique bond with Christ– When people share difficult experiences it can forge deep relationships. Likewise, “sharing in Christ’s sufferings” builds a deeper level of intimacy with Him (1 Peter 4:13).

4 Tips for Standing Firm in Suffering

So, if and when suffering comes our way, how will we endure it? Peter’s letter also gives us practical advice for standing firm.

  1. Remember Christ’s example and His suffering for us (1 Peter 2:21-24, 4:1)
  2. Keep an eternal perspective and spiritual priorities (1 Peter 2:19, 4:1-2) – These trials are temporary and God is using them to work out His eternal purposes!
  3. Remember that God is faithful and purposefully trust Him (1 Peter 2:23, 4:19)
  4. Lean on the strength that will be given by the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 4:14)

How should we treat those who persecute us?

I want to touch on one last thing. Peter also clearly told his readers how they should respond to those who persecute them. These principles apply to us as well. Here’s a quick bullet list:

  • Bless them 1 Peter 3:9
  • Don’t retaliate 1 Peter 3:9, 1 Peter 2:23
  • If they are in authority over us, continue to obey them 1 Peter 2:18
  • Do not fear them or be anxious 1 Peter 3:14
  • Be ready to tell them about Jesus when given the opportunity 1 Peter 3:15
  • Speak to them with gentleness and respect 1 Peter 3:15

Peter says believers should consider persecution a blessing! We can find comfort and encouragement in the truth that God will use our suffering for His glory and for our good. And we can find unique joy in this shared experience with Christ.

How has God used Christian suffering in your own life? How have you endured?

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