PART 3: THE SUFFERING OF THE BELIEVER
(a) Conduct In Suffering
Again we are encouraged to do good, and such good is what Christ desires, not what we see as good; good deeds come from a heart that is right with God for only God is considered to be “Good” and His goodness will emanate from us as we follow His commands. Therefore, as we endure suffering, whatever kind, we are reminded; “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.”Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” , if we suffer for what is right then we should not be concerned or frightened , they are frightened and concerned about the sin they have committed, and this should not be our concern.
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” ; in every affliction that we endure for the sake of Christ there most likely will be some question as to why we do not strike back, and we are cautioned here to be ready to give a reason with gentleness and respect, that is, we should not condemn but leave the consequences to God.
(b) Christ’s Example Of Suffering
We are here reminded again the reason for Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, that it was the final sacrifice for all times, and it leads us to God; so then, we are to equip ourselves with the mind-set of Christ: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit”. “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”; sin then should not be the “controller”of our life ; “As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” . He continues to say that we have spent enough of our years “doing what pagans choose to do”, so when we respond in the mind-set of Christ they will consider it a strange behaviour on our part. They, however, “will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” for we are also reminded that we shall all give an account of our life to God .
It should be noted here that although this does not refer to our example to suffering, God will not condemn sinners to eternal judgment without offering to them some means of escape, and Peter makes reference to this fact: “through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”, and the following commentary is given for our understanding of the passage: “[He went and preached] By the ministry of Noah, one hundred and twenty years. [Unto the spirits in prison] The inhabitants of the antediluvian world, who, having been disobedient, and convicted of the most flagrant transgressions against God, were sentenced by his just law to destruction. But their punishment was delayed to see if they would repent; and the long-suffering of God waited one hundred and twenty years, which were granted to them for this purpose; during which time, as criminals tried and convicted, they are represented as being in prison-detained under the arrest of Divine justice, which waited either for their repentance or the expiration of the respite, that the punishment pronounced might be inflicted. This I have long believed to be the sense of this difficult passage, and no other that I have seen is so consistent with the whole scope of the place. That the Spirit of God did strive with, convict, and reprove the antediluvians, is evident from Gen 6:3: My Spirit shall not always strive with man, forasmuch as he is flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years. And it was by this Spirit that Noah became a preacher of righteousness, and condemned that ungodly world, Heb 11:7, who would not believe until wrath-divine punishment, came upon them to the uttermost. The word pneumasi, spirits, is supposed to render this view of the subject improbable, because this must mean disembodied spirits; but this certainly does not follow, for the spirits of just men made perfect, Heb 12:23, certainly means righteous men, and men still in the church militant; and the Father of spirits, Heb 12:9, means men still in the body; and the God of the spirits of all flesh, Num 16:22, and 27:16, means men not in a disembodied state.” (from Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
(c) Commands In Suffering
- “be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray”
- “love each other deeply” because a multitude of sins can be covered by love
- “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
- “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
- “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides”
We are instructed that we should not be surprised at the trials we suffer, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ”; and that we are blessed when we are insulted because of the name of Christ “for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” ; and this is the identity that we display to all the world in the same way that the ancient Israelites were identified as God’s glory rested over the Tabernacle and led them all the way across the desert. Our distress then should be because we bear His identity and should not be for any other reason. We also need to rejoice because the time of God’s judgment is near when we will be rewarded for our suffering and our enemies will be dealt with by God; “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” ; we should never forget that God leads us through all kinds of circumstances to prove our love and faithfulness as we shall give an account to Him, but what of those who do not believe; “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” .