Literally, Peter wrote, “Be constantly rejoicing!” In fact, he mentioned joy in one form or another four times in these two verses (1 Peter 4:12–13)!
“Rejoice … be glad also with exceeding joy … Happy are you!” The world cannot understand how difficult circumstances can produce exceeding joy, because the world has never experienced the grace of God (see 2 Cor. 8:1–5). Peter named several privileges that we share that encourage us to rejoice during the fiery trial.
Our suffering means fellowship with the Messiah It is an honor and a privilege to suffer with Jesus and be treated by the world the way it treated Him. “The fellowship of His sufferings” is a gift from God (Phil. 1:29; 3:10). Not every believer grows to the point where God can trust him with this kind of experience, so we ought to rejoice when the privilege comes to us. “And they [the Apostles] departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).
Jesus is with us in the furnace of persecution When the three Hebrew children were cast into the fiery furnace, they discovered they were not alone. The Master was with Paul in all of his trials, and He promises to be with us “to the end of the age”. In fact, when sinners persecute us, they are really persecuting Jesus the Messiah.
Our suffering means glory in the future “Suffering” and “glory” are twin truths that are woven into the fabric of Peter’s letter. The world believes that the absence of suffering means glory, but a disciple’s outlook is different. The trial of our faith today is the assurance of glory when Jesus returns. This was the experience of our Master, and it shall also be our experience.
But it is necessary to understand that God is not going to replace suffering with glory; rather He will transform suffering into glory. Jesus used the illustration of a woman giving birth. The same baby that gave her pain also gave her joy. The pain was transformed into joy by the birth of the baby. The thorn in the flesh that gave Paul difficulty also gave him power and glory. The cross that gave Jesus shame and pain also brought power and glory.
Mature people know that life includes some “postponed pleasures.” We pay a price today to have enjoyments in the future. The piano student may not enjoy practicing scales by the hour, but he looks forward to the pleasure of playing beautiful music one day. The athlete may not enjoy exercising and practicing his skills, but he looks forward to winning the game by doing his best. Disciples have something even better: our very sufferings will one day be transformed into glory, and we will be “glad also with exceeding joy”.
- 1 Peter 4:12–13 —Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of the Messiah, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
- Acts 5:41 — 41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
- Matthew 5:11–12 — 11 “Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
- 2 Corinthians 7:4 — 4 Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.
- 2 Corinthians 8:1–2 — 1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.
- 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 — 7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Master three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of the Messiah may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for the Messiah’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
- 2 Corinthians 13:9 — 9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak, but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.
- Philippians 2:17–18 — 17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.
- Colossians 1:24 — 24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in the Messiah’s afflictions.
- 1 Thessalonians 1:6 — 6 You also became imitators of us and of the Master, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
- Hebrews 10:34 — 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.
- James 1:2–3 — 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
- 1 Peter 1:3–6 — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Master Jesus the Messiah, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.