What a change in Peter's attitude toward suffering.....if we compare his attitude in the Gospels, to his thoughts in Acts and in both his letters. During the years that he and the others followed Jesus, Peter resisted suffering and he even rebuked Jesus for talking about the trials He would endure. Then, in his letters, he selects trials and suffering as the main theme, and instructs us not to avoid them, but to rejoice in the middle of them, and to give the glory to God.
Peter's two letters to the early church are so encouraging to us today. They are a testimony to the fact that God is powerful and can change lives -- and He can change ours! We can see that it's not so much that Peter's personality changed, for he is just as intensely devoted to God and Christ, and the church, but his thinking and his actions were changed. Radically! It's because his understanding of God had changed.....
Jesus had told Peter after His transfiguration that his thinking was centered on man's way of thinking. And that his thinking was self-centered, as well. Peter didn't want to hear Jesus talking about suffering and death. Not only would it mean that Jesus would be absent from them, it could mean suffering and death for Peter and the rest. He didn't want Jesus to undergo these things, and he didn't want to undergo them himself. But what a difference when we get to I Peter and II Peter! Peter is no longer avoiding suffering and trials. He is even emphatic as he tells us that suffering for Christ's sake is the will of our Father....and the cause for us to rejoice.
Peter has been transformed from a man who sought prestige, power, even prosperity for Christ and himself, to a man who welcomes rejection and suffering for Jesus' sake. He counts these trials a privilege. Folks, if Peter could be changed, there is hope for all of us!
The people of Christ today need these lessons desperately.
I wonder if believers today are more like the Simon Peter of the Gospels? Do we look to Jesus for the relief of our pain? Do we view Him as a ticket to success in life?
I'm afraid that many of today's Christians may have been mis-informed by their leaders, and they may be "wimpy." Do we whine and fuss about conditions if our life, when many people in this world today would be over-joyed to live in our shoes? Does the smallest pain or set-back send us reeling? Or does it send us to our knees?
Can someone pass that box of band-aids? My toes got it, that time. (Grin)
The early church and the apostles had an altogether different view....
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all... (Acts 4:31, 33)Peter's letters address many things that today's Christians may desire. And they also address the self-indulgent, seductive words of many false teachers of today. His letters are needed just as much today, as they were in the first century!
When we hear someone talk of trials, or of suffering for Christ, do we respond like the "old" Peter? Do we listen and then let it go? As my grandma used to say, it may go in one ear and out the other.... but there are many passages that point to our trials being "par for the course."
As he sat in chains, Paul told his readers:
As believers, our trials only make sense when we look at them through our spiritual eyes. Those "transformed" eyes see the truth:
(Galatians 2:20)Jesus told us that when we are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, we are blessed. (Matthew 5:10-12) We must trust in the One Who died for us, just as Peter did. Our sufferings are nothing compared to the suffering of Christ!
Innocent suffering and the trials of believers will always be mysteries to those who look in from the outside of the body of Christ. Those who don't know our Lord will find trials to be avoided at all cost. Our trials for the sake of Christ can only be understood as a privilege when we are in a close relationship with Jesus, and continually ask for Him to teach us, as we grasp His hand and keep walking onward.
Then these verses will be the cornerstone of that faithful walk: