I Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
Suddenly, it seems so clear. Why do we suffer? So that we might perform the grace and mercy of God to the world around us. We are to present Christ in all His sufferings, being like Him, opening not our mouth and giving our back to the smiter.
The saints are watching, needing an example so they can face whatever trials the Lord offers up to them with a willing and trusting heart.
The sinners are watching, wanting to see if our faith is real, even when the cost is great. They want to see the proof of our faith, knowing that their life is equally as difficult, but they have only blame, anger and sin to comfort them in these times. Can we rejoice in our suffering? Can we allow the Lord to work in us in ANY way He chooses, for His glory and honor? Will we be an encouragement to the saints and the light of salvation to the sinner?
This morning, it was almost an audible voice that spoke to my heart, a beam of understanding shining into my darkened, troubled heart, as I pondered my life of continuous struggles. The answer hit even closer to home than thinking about the world around me.
I am on stage for my children.
As I plead for their souls, their repentance, their zeal, their hunger for the Word, their desire to pull the lost from the flames of Hell, I know that my desperate prayers for their undivided devotion to the Lord are being answered. Answered in the form of suffering from false accusations, answered with cancer, answered by removing me from friends and family to a city and state where I do not belong and do not feel comfortable. I am being broken, and the pieces are lovingly offered as a witness to my children that I am my Beloveds and my Beloved is mine. My heart cries in agreement with Job, "Yet though He slay me, still I will trust Him."
The situations of our life are never really that important. Where we live, what house we live in, the condition of our body, they all pass from this earth in a blink of an eye. Not only that, they will be replaced with better and spiritual replacements, of a home in heaven and a spiritual body. Things of eternal value, like growing in our faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, have real importance. Only these things will affect souls while we minister on earth, and only these things will remain in heaven after our judgement, in the form of gold, silver and precious jewels. Only souls are brought with us. Souls we have won and souls we have encouraged. That is it.
Paul admonishes the saints, “DO NOT BE SURPRISED!” How dare we pray if we are not willing to surrender to the way the Lord answers? Do we think that those we weep over will just wake up one morning saved? Will they walk into our house and instantly be repentant? Will our children instantly decide to be soul-winners? Will we just wake up mature in the faith?
No! Anything worth having must be fought for, through tears, suffering, prayers and surrender to the One who is the Potter, the Master Gardener, the Great Shepherd. His hands are forming, pressing, pulling, pushing, trimming, working on us in answer to our prayers.
We ask the Lord to make us like Him. How can we be conformed into His glorious image without suffering? His life was one of suffering, why shouldn't ours be?
Do Not Be Surprised!