In our study of the General Epistles thus far, we have noted that God uses the trials of life to purify and strengthen our faith. James 1:2–4, for example, tells us that we must rejoice in our trials because God uses them to produce steadfastness and perseverance in us. First Peter 1:6–7 tells us that we must rejoice in our living hope even while enduring trials since these trials prove the genuineness of our faith.
In keeping with his concern to show us how to stand firm in the midst of such trials, Peter picks up this theme again in today’s passage. He tells us in 4:12 that we should not be surprised when fiery trials come upon us. Commentators agree that the term “fiery trials” refers not so much to the intensity of the Christian’s sufferings (though some do suffer more harshly than others) but to the fact that these sufferings purify faith just like fire purifies precious metals. Again Peter reminds us that the difficulties we experience for being servants of Christ serve to purge us of self-reliance and move us towards wholehearted trust in Jesus.
Verses 12 and 13 tell us that instead of being surprised at trials, we should rejoice in them. We should not think that something strange is happening when we suffer; after all, Jesus does tell us that we must take up our cross if we want to follow Him (Mark 8:34–35). Furthermore, our union with Christ means that, in some small way, we will have to experience tangibly some of the things He experienced. If our life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3), and if even Jesus, the very Lord of the universe was perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10), then certainly we will become like Him only by enduring, however imperfectly, some of what He also endured.
We should then rejoice that we have been counted worthy to suffer for Jesus (1 Peter 4:13). This does not mean we should seek persecution or take joy in the pain itself. Rather, we must remember that our sufferings for His name, no matter how small or large they might be, prove that we have been truly united to Christ. And as verse 13 tells us, our union with Christ, which enables us to rejoice in His sufferings, will enable us to rejoice one day in His glory.
Though our sin may bring suffering, the suffering Peter has in mind here is the suffering we endure from the hands of ungodly men because of our profession of Christ. When we stand for Jesus in our schools, homes, or workplaces we will, at least from time to time, experience troubles of various kinds. Yet at these times we must rejoice, knowing that we have been counted worthy to be treated just as the Son of God was. Ask God to help you rejoice in your trials.