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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary

1 Peter 4

Verses 12-19

Sunshine and Shadows

1 Peter 4:12-19

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

There are several things about suffering for Christ which need to be emphasized.

1. Christians are not exempt from suffering. Asaph said, "I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." "They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men." This was all too painful unto Asaph until he went into the sanctuary of God; then he understood the end of the wicked, and how they were brought into desolation in a moment and utterly consumed with terrors.

The opening verse of our Scripture lesson plainly states: "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you." Paul tells us that it is given unto us to suffer. Jesus said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." Peter said, "If ye be reproached for the Name of Christ, happy are ye."

If the Master of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more shall the members of the household be so called. If they hated Him, they will also hate us.

2. Christians should never suffer because of their own sins. Verse sixteen says: "If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed." If, however, any one suffer because of his misdeeds he needs to be ashamed. Paul was in jail, and yet his incarceration was an honor and not a shame. When we think of "jailbirds" we think of men who have broken the law, and who are suffering the due reward of their deeds. For this cause the jail garb carries with it a sense of ignominy.

To be jailed for Christ does not, however, carry dishonor; it affords more abundant glory. It is there that the spirit of glory and of God rests upon us. On the part of men we may be evil spoken of, but on the part of God, we are praised.

The Lord Himself is accorded praise and honor, might and power, glory and adoration, because He died outside the gate bearing the sins of many. The shame which fell upon the two thieves who suffered the due reward of their deeds, did not fall upon Christ.

Thus, to suffer for His sake brings to us the benedictions of Heaven and of God. Nevertheless Christians should never glory either in self-produced or in self-deserved sufferings.

3. Christians who suffer for Christ may safely commit the keeping of their souls unto God. Verse nineteen does not assure immunity against the "death of the body," it does insure the safe-keeping of the souls of those who suffer. As the Lord Jesus died, He said, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit."

There have been millions of martyrs who have gladly died for the Faith. However, in all the fires flamed by the fagots of their foes, and in all the wild beasts that raved and raged against martyrs, nothing has ever been able to touch the spirit.

Nothing has ever been invented against the child of God that could touch his spirit. Satan and his hordes may be able to slay the body, but they cannot endanger the soul.

Fear not though foes engage

Thy body to destroy;

Thy God above will guard thy soul,

And every grace employ

To lead thee to His Heavenly rest,

And to the shelter of His breast.

I. THE BENEFACTIONS OF SUFFERING (1 Peter 1:7 , f.c)

Peter was called of God to strengthen his brethren. Jesus said to Peter, "Satan hath desired thee, that he might sift thee as wheat." Perhaps it was for this very cause that the Lord gave Satan permission to proceed with his sifting that Peter might become a minister to other tested and suffering saints.

How is the grain of wheat

For the garner made replete?

How is it multiplied,

The farmer satisfied?

The wheat must bend its head,

And lie within its bed;

In its cold, dark grave, alone,

It dies to all its own.

How shall thy life bear grain,

And reach its fullest gain?

Thou, too, in death must lie,

To all of self, must die.

Our text says, "That the trial of your faith * * [is] more precious than of gold that perisheth."

Many of God's choicest blessings lie in the lowlands. We must enter into the valley of sorrows and of sighs, if we would gather these gems. Down in the lower depths of the ocean we discover the richest pearls. The choicest stars are seen only in the night. Thus, also, when the night of our darkness and tribulation falls upon us, are we permitted to get views of God's richest orbs of blessing.

It was when the disciples were rowing hard at the oars, and when the winds and waves had almost engulfed them, that Christ came to them walking upon the water. Had the dove found rest for its foot, it would never have returned to the ark. Thus, when there is anything left in our confidence of self, or in our trust in men, we will scarcely lean on Him.

II. SUFFERING THE STEPPING-STONE TO GOD'S REVEALING (Genesis 26:24 )

How the words sound forth: "And the Lord appeared unto [Isaac] the same night!" It is in the night that God delights to appear to us. You have read the illuminating words of Isaiah six: "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up."

It was the death of Uzziah that clouded the horizon of the young Prophet, Isaiah. In the collapse of Uzziah and his throne, Isaiah saw the collapse of Israel's hopes; then, however, the Lord appeared unto Isaiah.

It was when Jacob was filled with fear and dread concerning his brother Esau, that the Lord appeared unto him, and He wrestled with Jacob until the breaking of the day. If we really want to know Christ we must meet Him in the valley.

As long as the glitter and the glare of the world's glory fills our eyes, it will stay God's revelation to us of the riches of His grace and glory.

David learned the truth of our theme. His trials and troubles were indeed the stepping-stone to God's gracious revealings. Through them all God came near to him, until he kept the Lord continually before his face.

It was when Paul was in the fourteenth day of his Euroclydon experience on the Mediterranean that the angel of the Lord stood by him by night, saying, "Fear not, Paul." It was when the disciples were tempest-tossed on Galilee that the Lord came to them on the waters.

When the troubled waves are wild and dashing high,

Christ is saying, "Do not fear, for it is I";

In the tossing boat I stand,

Hush, be still, ye waters grand,

I will bring this shin to land,

It is I, who gives command,

Yes, it is I."

III. TRIUMPHS THROUGH TESTING (2 Corinthians 4:17 )

Here is a marvelous lesson which all need to learn our trials are, in reality, no more than servants, working in our behalf. It was for this cause that the Holy Spirit, in James, said, "Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations."

How reassuring, then, are the words of our key verse, "Our light affliction * * worketh for us!" Our afflictions, seem they ever so heavy, are but light, inasmuch as they are but for a moment. They are light also in comparison with the far more exceeding, and eternal weight of glory, which they work out for us. What then?

We should center our eye, not on the present anguish, but on the glory which it is working out for us. We should dwell, not on the testings of our today, but on the triumphs of our eternal tomorrow.

We are weaving tapestries destined to decorate the Glory Land. Into the loom must be woven threads of somber hue, as well as threads of gold.

Oh face the waves, my brother,

Nor shrink though fierce the gale;

Thou soon shalt reach thy haven,

And fold thy storm-tossed sail:

In God's own great tomorrow,

On the shore of "over there,"

Instead of stress and sorrow.

Thou shalt His glory share.

IV. SINGING WHILE WE SUFFER (2 Corinthians 6:10 )

How the words ring out, "As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing!" The Apostle Paul had not only learned in whatsoever state he was, therewith to be content; but he had also learned to rejoice in tribulation. He could join with Silas in a duet of praise, in the most unlikely spot to produce human happiness.

What we need is to get the right slant on our sufferings. We need to grasp what we have already heard; that our afflictions are stepping-stones to God's revealing; that our testings are thoroughfares to triumph; that after our suffering, comes the glory then we can sing in tribulation.

We saw a beautiful white flower blooming in all its glory, in the midst of the murk and mire of damp and decay. Why then should never music burst forth and radiate its joy and gladness in the midst of pain and penury?

The rippling rivulet runs its way, leaping and laughing with frolic, as it winds along its downward course through crannied crags, and ragged, towering rocks. May we not shout and sing our praises mid the crannied crags and the ragged rocks of tribulations and testings? Can God not give us songs in the night? Can He not change our darkness into day? Shall we sing only in the sunshine? God forbid. We need to change the valley of our Achor (trouble), into a door of hope. We need the Spirit to hover over our darkened hours, and to hear our Lord saying, "Let there be light."

It is not enough for the child of God to say a languid "Amen"; his lips and his heart should burst forth with a hearty and soulful "Hallelujah."

V. TAKING PLEASURE IN PERSECUTIONS (2 Corinthians 12:10 )

Some one has said, "Sweet are the uses of adversity." 'Tis true. The Holy Spirit revealed this fact unto Paul. Therefore Paul could say, "I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake."

Victory in the life of the Christian causes him to triumph over all circumstances. He is not a menial to, but a master over his difficulties. He praises God when he is pinched and pressed by adversity; he delights in being cooped up in a cage with God; he takes pleasure in partaking of Christ's sufferings, counting insults and chaffing a benefaction; he is willing gladly to be chased about for Christ's sake.

A thorn, to Paul, proved a greater blessing than a rose. Sorrow is sweeter than song. The cross was welcomed because it was the harbinger of the crown. The path of pain became the ladder which lifted his longing soul to heights of happiness in Christ Jesus.

Did you ever say with Jacob, "All these things are against me"? Had it not been better to have said: "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose"? Did you ever weigh your woes, and forget to remember that woes are wings which waft you to the upper air of Heavenly rest and peace? Did you ever complain at your cross? The cross was Paul's glory. He said, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."

On the cross O sacred story

There, with Christ, I hung and died,

There, the world and all its glory,

Died to me, was crucified.

VI. OUR EXEMPLAR IN SUFFERING (1 Peter 2:21 )

There is much spoken and written about walking in Christ's steps. Many, however, have forgotten that it is in the steps of His sufferings that we are to walk. It was in them that He left us an example. If we have been crucified with Christ, in His substitutionary sufferings, should we not take our place beside Him, outside the camp, and bear His reproach? In all of His suffering and anguish He left us an example. We must take our cross and follow hard behind Him.

We may assure our hearts of one thing He will never ask us to walk where He has not been. Our sufferings are never more than His. What more can we expect?

We follow in His steps, because we are one with Him. His nature is ours; His love, His desires, His ideals, His choosings, all are ours. When we are made perfect in oneness with Him, we cannot but be subjected by the world to the same treatment that fell on Him.

It is inevitable like Lord, like servant. When we name His Name, we share His shame. Only when the world has a change of heart, and crowns Christ as Lord, will the true follower of the Lord find warm and soulful welcome at its hand.

If winds are wildly sweeping, madly leaping

Against my Lord the lover of my soul;

Shall I seek quiet ocean, no commotion,

All safely shelter'd in some quiet goal?

Not I I'll serve where tempest crieth, fierce winds flieth,

Where round me angry billows surge and roll;

I'll ever share His sorrow, burdens borrow,

His worthy Name forevermore extol.

VII. THE SUFFERINGS AND THE GLORY (Romans 8:18 )

Sorrows may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning. Now we have sorrow, but then, when He shall see us again, we shall rejoice. The present suffering is nothing comparable to the glory that shall be revealed. The shadows will flee away when the sun begins its shining.

Praise God, after the cross comes the crown, after the sorrow comes the singing, after the suffering comes the reigning.

God has called us unto His eternal glory, after that we have suffered a little while. When once we have passed through this vale of tears, and have reached the land of love, and light, and life, we will understand how the shadows of our earth-sojourning were not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed.

With wonder I gazed on a cocoon, where, hidden away in its closely-shut prison, a life sought freedom from its murky den. When the days of its probation were over, it came forth in glory, fluttering its beautifully bedecked wings in the balmy breeze. It had passed from prison to palace, from confinement to freedom, from darkness to light, from suffering to glory. So too shall we pass. "Made perfect through suffering."

AN ILLUSTRATION

SUNSHINE

"A little sunshine enliveneth the poor creatures, the birds fall a-singing that were melancholy and sad before in cloudy weather; all things are cheered and comforted when the sun shines." "Just so. How often have we seen the change which is wrought by dear shining after rain! It has seemed as though Heaven had come down in love to dry earth's tears and bedeck her with raiment of fair colors. Spiritually, the type is carried out in delightful fashion. The Lord's Appearing sheds a glory upon our infirmities, and transforms our trials into triumphs. His presence removes the dullness which else hangs like a cloud on the best of our conditions, and in this way lightens all our glooms. His countenance is to His saints as a morning without clouds, it brings with it a surprise of joy. Till Jesus communed with me I did not know that I could be so happy. I heard more birds singing in my soul than I had ever dreamed could have dwelt within me. Never had my sad soul imagined that human life was half as capable of Divine bliss, or earth within a thousand leagues so near to Heaven. Truly it is worth while to have lived, if for nothing more than to have had an hour's fellowship with the Well-beloved. Earthly joy is no more to be compared with it than a lamp in a coal mine can be likened to the sun in the heavens.

"Oh, my God, I thank Thee for having made me, because Thou hast made me able to walk in the light of Thy countenance. Now Thou dost shine upon me my summer-tide has come." C. H. Spurgeon.

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Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 1 Peter 4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lwc/1-peter-4.html.