“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 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” (I Peter 4:12-14).
For the fourth time in his letter Peter speaks to Christians about the reality of trials in their lives, specifically because of their testimony for Jesus Christ. Peter has acknowledged that trials may grieve the believer (I Peter 1:7), but he has also encouraged the faithful to look at the example of Jesus Christ and how He handled the trials and persecutions He encountered (I Peter 2:18-25; 3:13-17).
Some commentators believe that Peter wrote this letter shortly before, or after, the burning of Rome by the Emperor Nero in A.D. 64. Nero’s act of blaming Christians for a fire he was responsible for marked the beginning of 200 years of Christian persecution by Rome.
Peter says that there are four attitudes believers must have when experiencing trials. First, Christians should not be surprised when trials come into their lives. The phrase “do not be surprised (μή ξενίζω; me xenizo) is a commandment. We are never to be taken by surprise when trials come, unlike a person who answers the door and is surprised by a friend who has come to visit. The word surprise means to experience a sudden feeling of unexpected wonder. This is not a problem when opening presents on one’s birthday, but it should not be our response when difficulties occur in our walk with Christ.
Second, we are to rejoice in our trials. Let me repeat that; we are to rejoice in our trials. The word rejoice (χαίρω; chairo) means to be glad in your soul. We are to rejoice and be glad in how we think about our trials, along with how we feel about them and the decision to rejoice while in the midst of them. This is also a commandment which we are to continually obey.
Another reason we can rejoice in our trials is that God promises that He will bless us when we are insulted for the name of Christ. The word insulted (ὀνειδίζω; oneidizo) means in the context to be persistently reprimanded, reproached and reviled for one’s identification with the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Peter says that when this happens, you are blessed (μακάριος; makarios) or fortunate. Why? Because the Holy Spirit, who is called the Spirit of glory or praise and who is God, rests (ἀναπαύω; anapauo) or continues to abide upon you. This refers to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in all who are in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 6:19-20) and because of this they are therefore persecuted.
How do you view your trials? Are you surprised by suffering? Honestly, I think most of us are, in spite of the commandment in I Peter 4:12 to not be shocked and dismayed. Are you rejoicing in your trials? Again, I think many of us don’t in spite of the commandment in I Peter 4:13. We become anxious, fearful and despondent when tough times come. Rather, we should realize that God promises to bless us when we are in the midst of misery.
Make it a priority of your prayers that you will ask God to help you obey the commandments found in this text from I Peter. It may not be easy at first to not be taken by surprise or to rejoice when trials eventually come, but continue to ask, seek and knock (Luke 11:5-13) for God’s strength to be faithful to His Word. Do so boldly and shamelessly. God will answer your persistent prayer.
Soli deo Gloria!