Encouragement For Those Suffering
I would like to encourage us to devote a time of prayer for our members who may be suffering. Whether it is physical, emotional, financial or some other type of suffering, let us pray one for another, and encourage one another. We probably all know those who are, or were, an example of faithfully relying on God to see him through the hard times of life. And because we have seen others who have suffered long, be it via cancer, loneliness, anxiety, depression, or some terrible disease, it seems good to understand what scripture says about suffering as an encouragement to others. To do so, we’ll look at the book of First Peter.
The book was most likely written in the early 60's AD to address Christian suffering. It is clear from the emphasis that it was written for that purpose. The epistle is filled with encouragement to suffering Christians, exhorting us to endure suffering for the sake of righteousness and to rejoice as we share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 2:20; 3:17; 4:13). Many of the Christians that he was addressing were dealing with severe persecution for their faith. They needed to be built up so they could endure. I also believe that physical suffering requires the same understanding to endure it till the end. Let’s look at it together.
Peter does way more than tell us what to do with our suffering. He also gives us critical teaching that will make it possible to persevere faithfully in our suffering and to follow his admonitions. To see how he does this, let us consider this question: What must we understand if we are going to endure suffering and not give up in the face of pain? The answer is at least twofold. First, we need to know that what we will receive at the end of our suffering will make all of the hardship we experience worth it. Second, we need to know that the period of suffering that we face will be limited in duration.
1. Understanding what we will get for persevering through suffering enables us to continue pressing forward in the pain. This is not difficult to see on an earthly level. Why are mothers able to push through the pain of childbirth? Because they know that their children will be worth all the suffering it takes to birth them. Why do athletes put their bodies through grueling training sessions? Because they know that winning will be worth all the sacrifices they make to succeed. This same principle applies when the physical or emotional suffering is not a choice, but the result of disease, our genetics, or injury that we know may have no cure.
So, if this is true on an earthly level, how much truer is it when we take a heavenly perspective? Peter explains in today’s passage that we have an imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance that will be ours when we pass into glory (1 Peter 1:4). This inheritance involves our exaltation (5:6). As Scripture teaches us, we who bow in humble faith to the Lord Jesus Christ will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). We will reign with Him in the new heavens and new earth (2 Tim. 2:12). Though we suffer now, one day we will rule over creation alongside our Savior.
2. Knowing that suffering is of a limited duration also helps us endure. We can count down the days until suffering’s end, knowing that as bad as things might get, they will not be that way forever. We are not left hopeless. As such, Peter tells us that we are being guarded for a salvation that will be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5). There is an appointed time when we will receive the fullness of our reward, and that appointed time means our suffering will not continue forever.
So, today. let us pray together, inviting the Spirit of God to join us as we thank God that our brother’s and sister's suffering will one day be over, and they will be safe in the arms of Jesus. To God be the glory!