Merciful gift

1 Peter 4:12-19

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Today we are going to talk about Suffering. I know what this may not be your favourite topic, but let’s be honest. Every day in our lives, whatever season we are in, everybody face some kind of suffering, small or big, from a matter of being misunderstood to a matter of life and death. Often, suffering comes unexpectedly. E.g accident, job loss, death of our loved one, or even this COVID19 pandemic. Who would expect? In a matter of seconds, our lives could turn upside down. I was so heartbroken to find out that one of my all-time Preacher, Tim Keller, was diagnosed with cancer recently. Right after the death of Ravi Zacharias, one of the world’s most gifted Christian apologist. Ravi too was diagnosed with cancer. Within less than 2 months, he went home to the Heaven. It was so unexpected. Don’t you agree? Suffering doesn’t look at who you are, what you do, it just comes without discrimination. We often are caught ‘off guard’ when suffering comes because our human nature always seek comfort. We avoid pain and suffering at all cost.

This letter was written from Peter to the churches in Middle East, where Christians were persecuted because of their faith. Edrick told you before about King Nero who used to take the Christians, lit them on fire and used them as human torches at his garden and many other example. It’s brutal. So Peter wrote this book for those Christians. 1 Peter focuses on Christian’s hope in the midst of suffering. Look at how Peter opened the letter 1Pet1:3-7, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.. What an opening! There Peter gave it away, “You have this hope”. That sets the tone of the entire book. God’s people will experience persecution and suffering, but they should not be surprised. In fact, Peter is trying to say that persecution can strangely become a merciful gift to Christians.

In this passage, Peter is picturing us HOW the gospel change the way we see suffering. Enduring suffering says one thing, but HOW do we endure it as Christians, it says another thing. He is very practical so I’m just going to jump to applications and as we go through each one, we will also unveil the theology behind it. There are 4 main applications for us to learn when we face suffering:



12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. Peter knew the kind of persecution the churches were facing, Peter still wrote to them ‘Do not be surprised at that’. Jesus Himself also told us in John 15: 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If I am the Master and you are my servant and they did this to Me, what do you think they are going to do to you? don’t be surprised, remember what I said.


Suffering will come. You can’t avoid it. Yet, for us Christian, it comes with a purpose – to test us. Not in a way for us to earn something but to reveal something for us. It’s a good kinda test.


Peter specifically used the word fiery trials here. What’s the first thing comes to mind when you think of fire? Australia’s bush fire last December. It was horrible. Fire is a serious thing. Mum always tell us ‘Don’t play with fire’. A small fire is enough to light the whole house, wipe the entire forest and destroy the entire village. It consumes everything. But in this context, when Peter used the word ‘FIRE’, it refers to a refiner’s fire, the one you use to purify silver or gold. So instead of burning and destroying everything, it burns off the impurities, leaving the silver and gold intact. It purifies the silver and gold. In the same way, fiery trials for Christians are always to purify, not for destroy or punish. What does it purify?  The genuineness of your faith. Suffering has the ability to reveal what’s in our heart, what we truly hold on to. One thing is to say that we believe in God with our lips, it is another thing to actually show if you really do believe in God. The only time we can find that out is when we go through suffering. Even small suffering..


August 2019 I was sent interstate for work. It was a 3 days solo trip. If you know me, I am scared of flying. So I thought it was my biggest challenge during this trip, until I saw the place where I was staying in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that my company sent me for training, I just wish they could have chosen a better place. It was very old place, pretty scary and dodgy. Basically every room have a shared balcony to the room next door. So anybody staying next to you can just look to your room. I noticed that there was this one creepy guy with a long hair, every 3 o’clock in the afternoon, he waits on a balcony. Thankfully, it was not my balcony! At night when I tried to turn on the AC it made a creepy sound. I could hear every footsteps outside and I was so cautious that someone could barge into my room. Like my mind goes wild if you know what I mean. But you can imagine right, I was constantly on edge. I kept waking up at night, I was scared, I worried about my safety. And I talked to myself ‘pff, Ellis, you said you trust God. Do you really trust in Him for your protection right at this moment?’ then I realised all these times I have been living a life too comfortable, I never have concerns for my safety and protection until that time. And I had no idea all these times I had yet to trust God completely on that area of my life. I never knew that before, I wasn’t aware of that.


We can be the healthiest athlete, exercise regularly, eat clean and the next day diagnosed with cancer. Only to find out that all these times we have been putting our trust in our health and ability, not in God. We won’t realise that when we are happy and healthy. We only discover when the cancer comes. Suffering reveals what we actually believe in. Just like gold can only be refined by fire, our faith can only be purified through suffering.

Therefore, Fiery trials are not strange. It is necessary and purposeful. It teaches us HOW to trust God. Your suffering is not a surprise. There is a plan, it’s just not your plan. and Peter continues.


13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 

Christians rejoice not because we are in pain and suffering, No! Nobody wants to suffer. We rejoice because we are followers of Christ. If in the beginning Jesus said they’re going to persecute you because you are my followers, what happened to Him will also happen to us. The same rule applies! Just as Christ’s sufferings led him to God’s glory, so our sufferings will be. You are supposed to rejoice that you are sharing the same path. What does it mean by sharing Christ suffering? It means that we get to participate what Jesus experienced. We get to feel a glimpse of how Jesus felt in His suffering. In that process, we get to know more of Christ and get to be more like Him. Peter says that’s the reason for your joy.

Not only that, Peter says that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. For Christians, suffering and glory are always best friend. They cannot be separated.  How can it be? Look at the person of Jesus. Look at His experience. When it was close to crucifixion, Jesus wept in the garden of Gethsemane. “My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death”. He wept, He was overwhelmed, but He was not surprised. He knew what was coming. He says nevertheless, not my will but your will be done. He knows that God had a glorious plan. He endured the cross, trusting God in every step, and we all know how it ended in the bible. In fact it is the very hope that we hold on today. Jesus is our Pioneer in suffering, if His sufferings led him to God’s glory, so we can rest assured that ours will be also. Therefore, REJOICE to the fact that you suffer not as nobody, you suffer as Christ’s followers! Now, the third application.


14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. . 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 

There are sufferings that comes in our life as the consequences of our sins. We are not talking about that. What we are talking here is when you do a right thing / good thing, yet you suffer because of it. Peter reminds us to obey God because it is so easy to disobey during suffering, especially one which we think we do not deserve. We have tendency to think that when I obey God and do good, then God will bless my life (my life will be safe). We expect some kind of rewards from our obedience. Even though we don’t say it, but at the back of our mind that’s how we operate in our sinful nature.

  • Maybe you have been working faithfully in your job yet you were in trouble for reporting the right thing.
  • Or maybe you’ve been praying for your disciples / MC, pouring out your heart, caring for them but instead of seeing growth in their love for Christ, they ran away from their faith, they never reply to your message anymore let alone coming to church / MC.
  • Or maybe you have been praying and faithfully waiting on God for something to happen for years, yet you don’t even see it getting closer. In fact, things are getting worst and worst.

During those times, it is so easy to stop praying, stop coming to church, stop serving others because we thought ‘what have I done to deserve this!? What did I do wrong?’. We have every tendency to fall in selfpity and turn our back on God. I have been through this. Many times we know these things are wrong but we still choose to do it because we know they give us a temporary comfort to forget how miserable we are. Peter is urging us, don’t do that. Stay put, obey!

In fact, Peter calls us blessed. Why? ‘because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you’ as you suffer. God has blessed us with Holy Spirit. God promises us in John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.”

  • When you were being misunderstood or unjustly treated, it hurts, but then you realised “it’s okay, even if they rejected me, my acceptance and my identity is in Christ, not in my job, certainly not in my boss. God is my ultimate Boss and He is provision.
  • In MC, you eventually learn that ‘my ministry is not measured by what eyes can see, by the number of people in MC. And my efforts certainly cannot save that person’s life, God’s work alone can save. Just because I can’t see progress, it does not mean that God is not working.
  • You know what, I have been praying for that thing for years, but as I wait I get to experience what it means to say Christ is enough for me. And even if I don’t have that thing, that’s okay. My joy is not based on whether or not I have that thing, but I know now Christ is the source of my joy.

The fact that you are able to see such things in the midst of your suffering is the work of the Spirit in your heart, not because of our own strength and good morale. That’s the ministry of Holy Spirit in our suffering. He opens our eyes, changes the way we see our suffering.

1 Peter 2: 19-23 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.  For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

You know what? It’s normal to suffer as the consequences of our mistakes. Even the world knows it works that way. But when you do good and suffer for it yet you endure and still obey God. God looks good when you do that because that’s not how the world operates.

John Piper says, “You are not glorifying God by singing about the glory of God or saying that God is glorious. You glorify God by being so satisfied in God in all His ways, in all His works, all His words and His promises, all that He is for us in Jesus. You are so satisfied in God that when other things are stripped away, God hasn’t been!” You make Him look good! Your obedience during suffering has a gift. It becomes the chance to show the realness of joy and hope we have in Christ. It is REAL. This hope is real. This joy is real and it is surprising! Funny how Peter used this to counteract, we should not be surprised by our suffering, instead, we are called to surprise the world with how we endure suffering as Christians. Do you get it?! And lastly…Peter says, as you obey and glorify God, entrust yourself to God like Jesus did.


19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Who would you trust? Someone or something you can be sure of, right? Like parents choosing childcare for their kids, they want to see the place, the care takers, the curriculum, how they interact with kids, their systems, etc – until they can be sure of leaving their children there. Like young couple depositing their money for investment, they want to put their money in the bank that they can be sure of. The same way with our lives. God in His sovereignty, He ordains every part of our lives, including sufferings. The question is then, how can we trust Him with our lives?


I have been Christians for long time. And as I grow, I struggled with relating my suffering to Jesus’s suffering. Like I knew Jesus died on the cross for me. But, I was having hard time to understand how Jesus can relate to my struggle. Until I came across one of Tim Keller’s sermon. He said, all other religions in the world show us a powerful strong image of gods, but only Christianity has a God who actually suffered. JESUS suffered all kinds of sufferings.

  • First, socially, He experienced how it feels to be rejected, betrayed, mocked, falsely accused, he knows what it means to be lonely in your struggle, He knows what it feels to be down and overwhelmed.
  • Second, He suffered physically. He was beaten badly. He was hung on the cross, crucified. Some of us, we grumble just because our hands got burned by the toaster. Jesus was nailed to the cross!
  • Ultimately, He suffered spiritually. Edrick has mentioned this last time, that at the Cross, Jesus the Son of God, was completely being cut off from His Father. To be forgotten and disowned by someone whom He loves the most. ”My God My God why have you forsaken me?” That kind suffering none of us ever have experienced.

Jesus experienced all that! What Jesus went through was so much more than what we experience in this life. To put in perspective, it is like comparing the pain of a toddler’s teething with the pain of stage 4 cancer of an 80 years old man. Jesus suffered so much more. That’s why, when you go to Him and say ‘I am suffering’…He is THE ONLY GOD there is that can say ‘I know what you mean.’ He relates to you completely. Can you imagine the level of comfort, joy, peace and encouragement that you can have, having Him as your God?.

Just like when you share with someone that went through the same struggle that you do. I am not saying it is impossible for someone who doesn’t go through the same struggle with us, to encourage us. No! What I’m trying to say is, especially those who experienced the same struggles, there is some kind of shared-connection and trust when you tell your stories with them. Their encouragement becomes personal because you know, they feel what you feel. If you can trust your imperfect friends who have the same struggle with you, they are human with weaknesses…would you trust A GOD who has gone through every struggle that you face right now, even way worse than yours? Would you trust Him?

Christians like everyone else in this world, we experience suffering. We are no difference. Like everyone else too, we are troubled, we grieve. We are not someone who is always happy and never cast down. In fact, we experience more grief because we see the real sin and the real brokenness in this life, yet at the same time, we have enough hope to face the reality through the gospel. In fact, our hope overwhelms our grief. 2 Cor 4:8-9 Paul says ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed’.

The reason we can have such hope is because of Jesus. He had to leave all His glory and splendor to come to this sinful world. He is God but did not demand His right, but emptied Himself, taking a form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. He knew no sin yet made to be sin for our sake. Lived an obedient sinless life, yet died a death of worst of the worst sinner.  Christ has endured the greatest suffering for us, not so that we don’t experience suffering. But so that your suffering and my suffering has a purpose – not to destroy us, but to purify and make us more like Christ. Suffering is hard, but it makes us go back to the Gospel. It keeps us looking at what Jesus has done for us. Isn’t suffering a merciful gift from God? Entrust your soul to Him. He is the only One you can be sure of.  

I want to end with quote by Tim Keller paraphrased. Persecution of the church, sufferings and hardship of Christians can either make us very good Christian, or very very bad Christian. Some can come out of it bitter, angry and cynical, some come out more compassionate, stronger, more gracious. Suffering can either build you or destroy you – it’s all depending on how you respond.  The one who gets better is the only one who constantly look to Jesus.

See how he suffers for us.

See what He went through for us.

See the price He paid for us.

See how He endured the cross for us.

The question is not whether or not we are going to suffer. We are. We will.

The question is Who are you looking to?



Discussion questions:


1. How does the right expectation of suffering helps you in your suffering?

2. Why is it very hard for you to rejoice in suffering? Give specific examples from your life.

3. What does obedience in the midst of suffering looks like for you?

4. What does trusting God looks like for you today?

5. How does the gospel empowers us to suffer well?

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