Not all suffering is godly suffering. Some of the hardship in our lives is the result of our own sin. If you don’t work hard on an assignment and then get a bad grade or if you don’t listen in class and then you do poorly on a test, that is your bad. If I don’t prepare well for a lesson and the students misbehave and don’t do what I want, that is my bad. We suffer, but it is not godly suffering; the Lord is not glorified by our laziness. If you talk back to your parents and they take away your phone or if you disobey a school rule and you get a pink slip, that is on you – you can’t blame God for those consequences. When we use mean words with our families and friends and it hurts our relationships, it is our own fault. When we spend the entire weekend running around chasing entertainment and fun and skip church and spend no time resting in the Lord, we cannot blame God that we are physically exhausted and spiritually dead on Monday morning. We are experiencing the natural consequences of our actions. This is the biblical principle of reaping what we sow.
Godly suffering happens when we follow Christ until it hurts. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” If you graciously talk with someone about the Lord and they push you away because of your faith in Christ, you are experiencing godly suffering. If you refuse to participate in gossip with a group of students and they start gossiping about you, too, then you are experiencing godly suffering. If you refuse to watch a movie that all of your friends are watching because it does not honor the Lord and then they stop inviting you to do stuff afterwards, you are experiencing godly suffering. If you skip a ball game to go to church instead of vice versa, and then you lose some playing time in the next game and get made fun of by your teammates, then you are experiencing godly suffering. Basically, when you live and act and talk like Jesus and you get treated harshly and unfairly, then you are experiencing godly suffering. And that kind of suffering is highly honored in God’s sight. Your life will please God and your rewards in heaven will be great. As Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:10-12).
The Text (1 Peter 2:18-23)
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
22 “Who committed no sin,Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;
Background and Observations
• As with yesterday’s passage, the call to submit to authority is truly tested when that authority is evil and unfair. Just as the Roman government that these believers lived under could be ungodly and cruel, so could their masters and bosses. But when we endure harsh, unfair treatment that is not the result of our sin, we are showing a type of godly submission that the world cannot understand. Only our love for Christ can give us the patience to endure such suffering with humility and joy.
• Jesus Christ was the ultimate example of godly suffering. Peter walked with Jesus as His disciple for three years. He saw the perfect righteousness and love of Christ with his own eyes. Peter watched Jesus live a life without sin, a life of perfect obedience to the Father that ultimately led Him to die on the cross for us. He saw Jesus, who had all the right in the world to speak up in His Own defense, refuse to complain about His unjust beatings, trial, and crucifixion. Jesus put His life in the Father’s hands, and so should we.
Questions to Think About
1. Is there any suffering in your life right now that might be the result of your own sinful or poor decisions? How could you turn away from that sin or make better decisions and possibly remove that suffering from your life in the future?
2. Are there any areas in your life where God might be calling you to take a stand for Him even though it could cause you to suffer?
3. How do you think that experiencing godly suffering has helped or can help you in your walk with Christ?