Do you have a boss or co-worker who doesn’t know the Lord who tries to make your life miserable because they know you believe? Is your home divided on matters of faith and so you pay the price for your faith daily? Do the pagans pick on you at school because you’re a Christian?
What can you do when you suffer because you believe? What can you do when you suffer evil for doing good?
Though it’s natural to feel helpless, you’re anything but defenseless. Peter, an apostle of God and no stranger to suffering for faith himself, tells us it’s an inside job.
1. You can deliberately project beauty, not ugliness, in response to whatever you receive. “… make yourselves beautiful on the inside, in your hearts, with the enduring quality of a gentle, peaceful spirit.” (3:4)
2. You can decide ahead of time not to return in kind, but to be kind in return. “Don’t pay back evil for evil or insult for insult. Instead, give blessing in return. You were called to do this so that you might inherit a blessing.” (3:9)
3. You can refuse to let your fears get the upper hand on you. ” Don’t be terrified or upset by them.” (3:14)
4. You can diligently determine deep down that Jesus rules. “… regard Christ as holy in your hearts.” (3:15)
5. You can do the smart work of preparedness so that when you open your mouth, the best of things come out. “Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it. Yet do this with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience.” (3:15-16a)
6. You can be consistent in your witness and responses each day so that you can keep a clear conscience about what you’re doing in the Lord’s name and toward others. “… [respond] with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience. … so that those who malign your good lifestyle in Christ may be ashamed when they slander you.” (3:16)
7. You can construct real conviction about not compromising your convictions to try and avoid pain. “… since Christ suffered as a human, you should also arm yourselves with his way of thinking. For whoever suffers is finished with sin.” (4:1)
8. You can dig in your heels and not retreat into living in ways that contradict your faith in Christ, no matter how seriously you are tempted and even if it holds promise of deflecting some of your suffering because of their slander. “You have wasted enough time doing what unbelievers desire … They think it’s strange that you don’t join in these activities with the same flood of unrestrained wickedness. So they slander you.” (4:3-4)
9. You can “… be self-controlled and clearheaded so you can pray.”(4:7b)
10. You can remind yourself again and again not to be surprised that this has come to be your lot in life for you are following the way of Christ, your Lord who suffered for you. “… don’t be surprised about the fiery trials that have come among you to test you. These are not strange happenings. Instead, rejoice as you share Christ’s suffering. (4:12-13a)
My Father in heaven, this is my prayer: that you would strengthen me to give only good witness of you each day, come what may. In the name of Him who suffered in my place, I pray. Amen.
If the central fact of the newer Testament’s witness is the passion and death of Jesus, the Christ, then this fact must not become a mere addendum to an a priori theism in which God is defined by a power and glory that precludes any kind of qualification. If the crucified one is truly representative of the God by whom faith believes him to have been sent, then, however ponderous the transcendent power that reason and religion have attributed to deity, the Christian God must be seen as a suffering God. (Douglas John Hall, The Cross in Our Context, p.85)