I am being refined. No doubt about that. Life does present difficulties. Jesus said that in this world we would have trouble. I must be careful not to jump to conclusions that God doesn’t care.
There is glory around the corner. The fire, the difficulties are for a purpose. I am being refined. God is always on the job. He is always good.
God’s goal for us is that we trust Him and have faith. God wants us to know He is on the job. We must believe that glory is just right around the corner.
Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed Christian Standard Bible. (2020). (1 Pe 4:12–13). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Persecution is not something that is alien to a disciple’s life. Throughout history the people of God have suffered at the hands of the unbelieving world. Disciples of Jesus are different from unbelievers, and this different kind of life produces a different kind of lifestyle. Much of what goes on in the world depends on lies, pride, pleasure, and the desire to “get more.” A dedicated follower of Jesus builds his life on truth, humility, holiness, and the desire to glorify God.
This conflict is illustrated throughout the Bible. Cain was a religious man, yet he hated his brother and killed him. The world does not persecute “religious people,” but it does persecute righteous people. Why Cain killed Abel is explained in 1 John 3:12: “Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” The Pharisees and Jewish leaders were religious people, yet they crucified the Messiah and persecuted the early church. “But beware of men,” Jesus warned His disciples, “for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues” (Matt. 10:17). Imagine scourging the servants of God in the very house of God!
God declared war on Satan after the Fall of man, and Satan has been attacking God through His people ever since. Followers of Jesus are “strangers and pilgrims” in an alien world where Satan is the god and prince. Whatever glorifies God will anger the enemy, and he will attack. For believers, persecution is not a strange thing. The absence of satanic opposition would be strange!
Jesus explained to His disciples that they should expect opposition and persecution from the world. But He also gave them an encouraging promise:
“In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
It was through His death on the cross of Calvary, plus His resurrection, that He overcame sin and the world.
The image of “fire” is often applied to testing or persecution even in modern conversation. “He is really going through the fire,” is a typical statement to describe someone experiencing personal difficulties. In the Old Testament, fire was a symbol of the holiness of God and the presence of God. The fire on the altar consumed the sacrifice. But Peter saw in the image of fire a refining process rather than a divine judgment.
It is important to note that not all of the difficulties of life are necessarily fiery trials. There are some difficulties that are simply a part of human life and almost everybody experiences them. Unfortunately, there are some difficulties that we bring on ourselves because of disobedience and missing God’s goal (aka sin). Peter mentioned these in 1 Peter 2:18–20 and 3:13–17. The fiery trial he mentioned in 1 Peter 4:12 comes because we are faithful to God and stand up for that which is right. It is because we bear the name of the Messiah that the lost world attacks us. Jesus told His disciples that people would persecute them, as they had Him, because their persecutors did not know God.
The word “happened” is important; it means “to go together.” Persecution and trials do not just “happen,” in the sense of being accidents. They are a part of God’s plan, and He is in control. They will work out for good if we let God have His way.