Peter’s first epistle is designed to coach believers so that they will be able to withstand the oncoming storm of persecution and tragedy. For Peter’s audience at least, this oncoming storm was an inevitability: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when [not if!] it comes upon you to test you, as thought something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet. 4:12, ESV). And a good case can be made that, to one degree or another, trials and persecutions are likewise inevitable for every faithful Christian: “In the world you will have tribulation,” Jesus said (John 16:33). The pressing issue, then, is less a question of whether or not trials are coming, and more a question of how believers will respond when they do.
Tim Jordan sees two major injunctions emerging from the text of 1 Peter 4. First, we need to learn to think like Christ (1 Pet. 4:1–11). “We need to be arming ourselves with a way of thinking that is characterized by the way Christ thought, thinks, and operates in the world,” Jordan insists. “And the most important thing to the Son is the Father’s pleasure.” This is aptly illustrated by Christ’s words to the disciples in John 4:34: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” In other words, Jordan says, “‘Pleasing my Father is my food! It’s my drink! It’s my oxygen! It’s my life!’ So when it came to the cross, Christ was ready. Because it was the Father’s will.”
Second, “there is a source of joy that we can (and must) experience while suffering” (1 Pet 4:12–19). That’s not to say that we should be happy about our suffering, but that we can be happy in our suffering. Jordan recalls the returnees from the Babylonian Captivity. Before them stood Ezra, the scroll of the Law of God clutched in his hands, the words of the Lord spilling forth from his lips. And as the people of Israel came face to face with the righteous standards of their theocratic charter, the depths of their depravity dawned on them. They were pierced to the heart. With one voice, the company issued forth a plaintive cry of profound contrition. The air was filled with the sound of weeping and lamentation. Yet Ezra rebuked the people: “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep. . . . Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Ezra 8:9, 10).
“In the middle of our suffering, there really is a joy that no one can touch,” Jordan explains. It’s a joy centered on the person of God Himself, and stemming from the realization that suffering purifies one’s faith, deepens one’s relationship with Christ, heightens one’s joy at His coming, intensifies His presence for the believer, and transforms shallow believers into committed disciples of Jesus.
“The concluding thought is this,” Jordan says as he brings his series to a close. “How do we find joy in the experience of things getting harder? We pick up the right tool, the mind of Christ, and remember this is about the Father’s will, not us. We find the source of joy, not in the world but in Christ. And we entrust our soul to Him.”
Hear the sermon audio below: