Tonight as we continued to look at the subject of living according to God’s will, we looked at 1 Peter 4:1-19, where Peter makes it clear that the rest of our earthly lives should be lived not for earthly desires but for the will of God – even if this includes suffering (‘those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.’ 1 Pet 4:19) Commitment to Christ involves a radical reorientation of our lives (see Eph 4:1, 17) and this includes our attitude towards suffering for Christ’s sake.

The modern Western world seeks to avoid suffering at all costs; questions about the nature of suffering are often raised by unbelievers as barriers to faith. People feel that if God is all-powerful and all-loving, suffering should be eliminated now – and if it isn’t, that proves God is either not all-powerful or He does not love us. Unfortunately, when sin entered the world because of man’s disobedience to God, problems entered God’s perfect world, and although we know that God will one day eliminate suffering and sin and death and mourning and sorrow (Rev 21:4), this is not how it is at present. God is not a sadist, but trouble and suffering are part of our sin-tainted world (see Jn 16:33, Jn 15:4, Matt 10:21-23).

The Christian response to suffering for Christ’s sake is surprising: we are to count ourselves blessed and to rejoice (see Matt 5:11-12, Acts 5:41). Suffering as a Christian (and not simply as a result of our own sin and stupidity) is something that marks us out as belonging to Christ. We are citizens of both earth and heaven, and we need to see how the New Testament writers link suffering and glory to give us an eternal perspective. (2 Cor 4:18-19, 1 Pet 4:13-14)

When persecution, opposition, imprisonment, loss, bereavement and even death come our way because of our identification with Christ, we should commit ourselves to God, our faithful Creator, and continue to do good. The Voice translation of 1 Pet 4:19 says, ‘So even if you should suffer now for doing God’s will, continue doing good and trust your futures to the judgment and mercy of a faithful Creator.’ The Message version says, ‘So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.’ God wants us to keep on doing good and to keep on trusting Him. We have a Saviour who has tasted suffering Himself (Isaiah 53:3, Heb 2:18, Heb 12:2-3) and therefore we can be strengthened and helped by fixing our eyes on Him.

When we speak about God’s will, we prefer not to think about the cup of suffering. However, Jesus had to drink this cup and taste the wrath of God for all of us so that we can be saved. He prayed for God to take the cup from Him but ultimately surrendered to God’s will: ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ (Luke 22:42) We too now have the privilege of drinking from the cup of suffering. (Mark 10:39) We do not have to face God’s wrath, but if we want to know the power of His resurrection, we must also be willing to participate in His sufferings (Phil 3:10) so that we too can know the resurrection from the dead. Ultimately, we are to rejoice when we suffer for His name’s sake because we are then identified with our Saviour and marked as His. To live according to His will means we even embrace suffering for His sake and can commit ourselves to our faithful Creator and continue to do good, secure in our eternal reward won for us by His own suffering.