“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (I Peter 4:15-19).
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 (I Peter 4:12). Second, we are to rejoice in our trials (I Peter 4:13). Thirdly, Christians are to evaluate their trials (I Peter 4:15-18). Fourthly, Christians are to trust God regarding His purpose(s) in their trials (I Peter 4:19).
I had a conversation once with a friend of mine who rejected the notion that God has anything to do with the trials in our lives. He didn’t deny that trials were real and that they do occur, but he vehemently argued that God in no way at all is responsible, or has a purpose, for our trials.
What my friend didn’t understand was that he was denying a fundamental truth found in the Scriptures regarding the person of God. That truth is that God is sovereignly providential. The word providence, meaning to see before, is the biblical doctrine that God not only knows what is going to occur in our lives before it happens, but also that He is in total control of what occurs in our lives before, during and after it happens. Acts 17:28 says, “In him we live and move and have our being.” See also Job 12:10; Daniel 5:23.
Genesis 50:20 records Joseph’s words to his brothers who years before had sold him into slavery. He said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Exodus 4:10-12 says, “10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
I Peter 4:19 supports the biblical doctrine of God’s providence when Peter writes, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will…” I Peter 4:19 reflects a sentence structure of cause and effect. For every cause, there is a corresponding effect or result because of the preceding cause. The statement, “Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will” is the causal statement of I Peter 4:19.
Peter is concluding this extended section on suffering in general, and evaluating our suffering in particular, by stating that behind, or underneath, our pain and suffering for Christ is the providential will (θέλημα; thelema), purpose and desire of God. God has a sovereign and providential plan for each believer. This plan includes not just the possibility, but the probability if not the certainty, of trials.
The effect of understanding this truth of God’s purpose in bringing trials into our lives, is that we will continually entrust, remain committed to, depend upon and worship God in our souls, or our entire being. To entrust (παρατίθημι; paratithemi) is God’s command that with one’s entire being the believer will commit themselves to the care of God. God is not the great clock watcher who created this world and then leaves it alone. Rather, He not only created the world, but He also sustains it. We therefore are to entrust our very lives to Him. Why should we? Because God loves us.
In writing of the love of God, Dr. J.I. Packer writes, “God’s love is stern, for it expresses holiness in the lover and seeks holiness for the beloved. Scripture does not allow us to suppose that because God is love we may look to him to confer happiness on people who will not seek holiness, or to shield his loved ones from trouble when he knows that they need trouble to further their sanctification.”
Dr. Don Carson writes, “We follow Christ’s example, by committing the out-come of our life into God’s hands. Commit, or entrust, is the word used by Jesus in Luke 23:46 (citing Psalm 31:5). Every faithful Jew used this as a final prayer at night and this may be the thought here. Paul used the noun derived from this root in 2 Tim. 1:12 to express his confidence in God’s safe keeping. Creator is used here probably to remind the readers of God’s power (cf. 1:5 and Paul’s thought in Philippians 1:6).”
The reason God commands us to trust Him in our trials, as we evaluate our behavior to ensure we have not done anything to warrant righteous punishment, is partly because God in no way is under obligation to explain His reasons for not only allowing trials, but also purposing trials in our lives. This truth is that we are the creation and God is the creator, not the other way around. He understands the value of the trials He brings into our lives, even when we do not.
Not only is God our creator and sustainer, He is a faithful (πιστός; pistos) creator and sustainer. This means that God is trustworthy, dependable, committable and worthy of worship. There is no shadow of turning with God.
While preparing for, while in the midst of, and even in the aftermath of trials, we must continue to do good. We seek to honor God in our lives in everything we do and what we do not do. We pursue holiness (I Peter 1:16) even while we are in the midst of pain.
The friend I spoke of earlier, at the time of the conversation I related, had recently lost a loved one to an unexpected death. My friend would not agree with me that God had a purpose in this pain and loss. I don’t know if my friend now accepts this biblical truth even though it has been several years after the incidence in question.
Are you expecting trials? You should! Are you praising God when you experience trials? You should! Are you evaluating the reasons for your trials? You should! Are you trusting God in your trials? You should!
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, to evaluate, or to trust God 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!