Not all those who call themselves ‘Christians’ are genuine! Just like currency, sports memorabilia, and a variety of other things, there are lots of ‘knock-offs’ or ‘counterfeits. Historically, there were leaders who clearly distinguished between ‘professors’ of faith and ‘possessors’ of faith.
In 1 Peter 4:14-19 Peter offers counsel to those who are suffering. There are two types of ‘sufferers’ in Peter’s thinking
a) those who are being insulted because of the name of Christ, as genuine Christians, who are experiencing a hostile opposition from their families, communities, governments;
b) those who have brought on their own suffering because of sinful behaviour of various types.
A few thoughts ….
1) Don’t assume that all suffering is because of your clear, consistent testimony. We do ‘reap’ what we ‘sow’ and at times our ‘foolish’ conduct merits its own consequences.
2) The Holy Spirit (the Spirit of glory and of God) rests on those who genuinely suffer. Around the world each year there are those who pay a huge price for their testimony. Voice of the Martyrs and other organizations remind us to pray and partner with those who refuse to buckle and remain true to their Saviour despite great suffering.
3) Suffering should not be surprising, and those who suffer should not be ‘ashamed’ about their experience. Foolish preachers, who are following their own ‘ideas’ of what the ‘normal’ Christian life looks like, urge us to expect health and wealth. The truth is, Biblically and historically and experientially speaking, Christians may expect illness and poverty!
4) Suffering weeds out the genuine from the fake followers. It is ‘hard’ for the righteous to be saved. ‘Ungodly’ people will suffer….many times the consequences of their own sins. As I’ve often heard quoted – “You can’t sow your wild ‘oats’ on a Saturday night and pray for a crop failure on Sunday.” Life doesn’t work that way. One of God’s design ‘laws’ is that of ‘sowing’ and ‘reaping.’ Look up Galatians 6:7-10 and meditate on this principle!
5) Suffering saints should entrust their entire situation into the hands of their Creator, and not ‘react’ to their mistreatment but rather ‘continue to do good.’ This will be no easy task and will require the sustaining grace of God, something fully available to those who believe.
As the culture in North America changes rapidly and a toleration of ‘evil’ conduct increases and is advocated, let’s pray that God will use this moral turmoil in His divine plan of ‘weeding out.’