Over the past 6 weeks we have talked a lot about suffering. Suffering is a normal part of life that is not contrary, but indicative of a life submitted to Jesus. But is all suffering good and appropriate? Peter today reminds us that suffering is normal and even helpful to our own formation; however, suffering at our own hands is not what God has in mind.
Life in Ministry has been quite a journey. Before I began my first official role as a Pastor, I worked in IT (information technology). At a large company in Central Oregon, I worked as a Computer/Network Technician making good money with plenty of room for financial advancement. Choosing to follow Jesus led to a sizable decrease in pay, as well as to the uncertainty of financial security. No 401K, health insurance, or disability. We had to make some changes to our lifestyle that in some ways were painful. The suffering we incurred (low compared to a lot of suffering around the world) was difficult, but it was right. We were making a choice to follow Jesus that had consequences for the rest of our lives.
When I was 18, I experienced some different financial suffering. I had to learn the hard way that keeping a check register was not idealistic, but an essential responsibility of an account holder. A few overdrafts and insufficient fund fees later, I found myself with $300 to pay. Graduation is typically a time of celebration (and money). All of my graduation gifts were used to pay for my own irresponsibility.
These two examples of suffering are not equal. Suffering a loss of income to serve Jesus is a worthwhile sacrifice in order to engage in full-time ministry, while suffering the cost of overdraft charges because of my lack of responsibility in the past represents suffering that was foolish and unnecessary. Peter today invites us to consider the suffering that comes at our own hands, and invites us into change. Our actions have consequences. As you read today, is God identifying some suffering in your own life that is from your own decisions? As you consider, I have a couple of thoughts:
- God’s grace is for us. ALL of humanity misses the mark, makes bad decisions, and pays for the consequences. God is compassionate for us now, not when we make perfect decisions 100% of the time.
- God’s grace and understanding are not to provide confirmation of our choices, or an excuse to continue. God’s grace for us is to give us the ability to choose a different way!
Suffering continues to do its good work. The undeserved suffering of this world hones and chisels away until we more resemble the image and likeness of Jesus. The suffering that comes at our own hands is a natural reminder that our ways are broken and our wisdom falls short. It reminds us that we are subjects and not Kings: He is God and we are not!
As a reminder, here are our steps for S.O.A.P.:
- Find a quiet place and read the SCRIPTURE of the day. Read it again. Read it slowly. Read it out loud!
- What OBSERVATIONS did you make? What does this passage teach you about God or yourself? Are there any calls to action? Do you have any questions?
- How will you make APPLICATION of this scripture and live your life differently today in light of what you just read? Be specific!
- Let it marinate. Take some time for PRAYER – thank God, confess any shortcomings, and ask to be empowered. Sit for a few moments and see if God has anything else for you.
Here is our passage for the day:
15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs.1 Peter 4:15 (NLT)