“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.” 1 Pet. 4:12
The scattered believers in Christ to whom the Apostle Peter wrote his First epistle, were undergoing tremendous persecution from the tyrannical empire of Rome. Since Peter was their shepherd, it was incumbent upon him to strengthen, comfort and give hope to them amid those turbulent times. The Lord Jesus Christ had commanded Peter to be strong and encourage his brethren: “but I [Jesus] have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32). After God allowed Satan to “sift Peter like wheat” (Luke 22:31), and thus denied Jesus three times (Luke 22:55-62); the merciful Jesus restored the fallen Peter (John 21:15-17). A revitalized Apostle Peter remembered the words of Jesus “strengthen your brothers” and “fed His sheep”, by writing two encouraging and instructive letters (1 and 2 Peter). In those letters the Peter knowing the power of Jesus’ restoration, encouraged the scattered, persecuted and downcast Christians to set their minds on things above, rather than earthly things (Col. 3:2)–especially the inevitable suffering they would endure (cf. 1 Pet. 1:6). In one of the most hopeful and powerful passages in all of Scripture, Peter reminds them of their secure salvation in Christ.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:1-9).
With the letters opening hope-filled encouragement, Peter instructs the scattered believers to prepare their minds for the challenges, hardships, and persecution, they would face for their faith: “Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:13). Peter pulls no punches as he elucidates the difficult trials they will endure– and that they must remain obedient to God regardless of the circumstances. Peter closes his letter in the same fashion as he opened it; by giving them the glorious hope of salvation: “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Pet. 5:10).
So, how can today’s Christians implement Peter’s instructions, living in such a dark and hostile world? One way they can: “… sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Pet. 3:15). The more antagonistic this culture becomes toward Christians, the more they ought to respond in a Christ-like manner: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Pet. 2:23).
The moment retreat or seclusion enters a fearful mind, it would behoove him to call to mind Scriptures exhortation: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7). Christians must realize that the Word of God, the Bible, is the only source of truth in a vast sea of media deception. Saturating the mind with Scripture is not only necessary, but indeed profitable in the lives of believers: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Amen!