For Peter and for us, suffering as exiles and obeying God—which is an outward expression of faith—are inseparably linked. And Peter proves they are correlated: where real faith and obedience exist, suffering is also.
Without the fiery trial to test our faith, there’s no way to discern whether or not it’s real and lasting, and whether or not we are really children of God. Our study of 1 Peter has laid a foundation for the necessity of holding onto faith and persevering in obedience during periods of suffering. But what about when our obedience leads to more suffering?
Like cause and effect, when we’re obedient to God in being faithful ambassadors, our obedience often leads to greater suffering. Obedience could mean we’re considered foolish in the eyes of the world, and it could mean the world hates us—two things that exiles feel. The more we obey God, the more we will feel like exiles, and the more we will suffer. But does that mean we shouldn’t obey?
Quite the opposite. Peter, over and over, writes about the glory that is to be revealed when our faith is proven genuine through the fiery furnace of suffering: deeper intimacy with God, deeper knowledge of Christ, deeper love for God, glory when Christ returns.
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
(1 Peter 4:13-14 ESV)
We obey because Christ Himself, and the riches He offers us in Him, are worth it. We don’t obey so that we’ll suffer. That’s like going to the scene of a natural disaster so that we’ll catch a water born disease. No, we obey, we go to the scene of disaster, because in doing so we share in Christ’s suffering and so that we may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. When we obey and suffer as ambassadors of reconciliation, the truth is we are blessed. We are blessed because the Spirit of glory and of God rest upon us! We obey in the suffering, and we obey even when our obedience leads to more suffering, because obedience in suffering leads to glory.
The presence of suffering in our lives is an indicator of whether or not we’re obeying. Ask yourself:
- How often do people think I’m foolish because of my faith?
- How often am I misunderstood or hated because of my faith?
- How often do I suffer because of my obedience?
If the answer is almost never, is that because you’re not actually living out your faith? If you’re not suffering, if you never feel like an exile, it might be worth considering whether or not you’re actually obeying God, and even if you really know Him.
I’ll be honest. This has been convicting for me these past two weeks. If you, like me, don’t feel like an exile very often, if you’re not taking initiative or living out your faith, the good news for us as believers today is that the cost for all of our failures and all of our shortcomings has been paid.
And as reconciled people, as recipients of forgiveness and eternal life, this good news is worth looking like a fool, being misunderstood, or even hated. This is what it’s like counting the cost of being an exile. When we do this, when we find ourselves exiled ambassadors, that’s when our faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7, ESV, emphasis added)