Sunday, 24 November 2019
For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:17
Peter has been speaking of the Christian maintaining proper conduct and a proper witness and testimony, even if it involves suffering wrongly in the process, such as being defamed as an evildoer, even if such is not the case. He now expands on that by saying, “For it is better, if it is the will of God.” The Greek actually has a play on the word “will” in it, literally reading, “if the will of God should will it.”
The idea here is an emphatic one. If it is the will of God that wills something, regardless as to how we perceive it from our finite ability to grasp all that is involved, it is the preferable thing to occur. In the case of suffering, Peter continues with, “to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
One can see that suffering for doing evil is to be the expectation that is in accord with the will of God. Peter is conveying that as a certainty. However, there are times that suffering is God’s will for those who do good.
The two are set in contrast. For doing evil, suffering is an appropriate thing to occur, and it is expressed by the will of God. However, for doing good and suffering, it is a higher expression when it occurs because of the will of God. Hence, Peter says that is “better.” HELPS Word Studies says that it is “‘better’ after exerting the power needed to ‘plant down God’s flag of victory.’”
God has a plan, and suffering is a part of that plan, even when the person who is suffering did good and not evil. There are examples of this throughout Scripture. Abel suffered after doing good. Joseph suffered without having done any wrong. He followed his father’s words, did what was proper, and suffered for it. In 2 Chronicles 24, Zechariah the priest suffered for doing what is right.
Such instances started at the very beginning, and they continued right up until the coming of Christ, who only did what was good, right and proper. And yet, He suffered. But it was the will of God that He did so (Isaiah 53:10), and it served God’s will for it to come about. But such things also served God’s purposes within the stream of redemptive history.
After the coming of Christ, these things did not cease. Stephen, the first martyr, found this out. The apostles each suffered for doing good. And since then, God’s people have suffered greatly for doing good, but these instances serve their proper purpose within God’s will for a greater cause.
Life application: No one in his right mind wants to suffer. There are times in the history of the church, however, that people have actively gone out looking for martyrdom thinking that they will receive a greater reward for it. This kind of thinking may reflect a lack of vitamins in the diet, but it doesn’t represent anything the Bible teaches.
Having said that, if suffering, reviling, or even martyrdom comes, we can expect a blessing from God. This is confirmed by Jesus’ words, as well as elsewhere in the New Testament. The only hindrance to receiving such treatment is timidity on our part. We can’t expect to suffer for doing what is right if we don’t put ourselves in the position where we could possibly face the suffering.
How easy it is to stay in our comfort zone and live in ease and security, but how much more notable it is to pursue and excel in that which is difficult. Do you ever take time to consider the faithful Christians in every country of the world, sent from their homes and families in order to teach, preach, and translate the word of God? Some of them will never return home, but they have found a greater calling in this life than Sunday afternoon football followed by a week of work that anticipates more Sunday afternoon football.
And one doesn’t have to travel to distant lands to step into places of difficulty. Most towns and cities have places that need to hear the gospel and where one can also expect reviling and possibly suffering. But this is where the gospel meets the heart, and this is where miracles can still happen. Don’t be afraid to step out and proclaim Christ. Your eternity is secure, so fear not – what can man do to you?
Lord, give us hearts and desires to see Your message spread – in whatever place it needs to be proclaimed. Let us not be timid or fearful of the reviling of man, but rather let us proudly stand in defense of Your word. May our lives be a testament to Your faithfulness in this world. Amen.