Our pastor is preaching through 1 Peter right now. Rich stuff. Deep and challenging messages. The suffering of its recipients, woven throughout the book, reminds us of the blood spilt and persecution endured by our first century brothers and sisters; believers who were experiencing hostility to the gospel—similar to what the body of Christ is now enduring in several areas across the globe.
Suffering is the painful reality of the gospel. The gospel contains the story of the most horrific suffering ever endured—the sinless Son bearing the weight of sinful mankind while enduring the wrath of God. The cross is the apex of suffering, but also the fountain from which all suffering for the gospel’s sake flows.
Just as the cross is the origin of Christian suffering, it is also the provision for Christian suffering.
As I’ve been thinking about these believers, scattered throughout Asia Minor, who were reading Peter’s letters, it is comforting to me to realize that many of them had been impacted, either directly or indirectly, by the Apostle Paul’s ministry (during his missionary journeys) or letters. It is comforting because I’m imagining how the Father must’ve sent the same message of preparation to his beloved Church at a time when she was facing severe persecution during her infancy.
It comforts me to see how God prepares His beloved for the suffering that is coming.
Notice how Peter refers to Paul and legitimizes his letters as Scripture:
[box]And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15–16)[/box]
Paul had previously communicated with these same suffering believers who were reading Peter’s letters. Knowing that Paul relayed to them wisdom to equip them as they faced extreme opposition, while they longed for Christ’s return to set all things right, I keep wondering if these believers also received his letter to the Romans. Some scholars believe that when Peter makes reference to what “our beloved brother Paul also wrote” to them, that it was indeed the letter of Romans that he is speaking of. And even if that same letter was not passed onto them, I feel sure that the truths conveyed in that letter were in some sense relayed.
The reason I’m thinking about what Paul may’ve conveyed to them is that I’ve been considering how God prepares his beloved ones for suffering. And within the book of Romans, we find the supreme text for carrying the believer through painful seasons and the harsh realities of living in a fallen world. (I’ll share more on that tomorrow.) If indeed, these believers had received the wisdom from Paul’s word to the believers in Romans, what a gift from the Father to prepare them for the coming suffering.
I’m also thinking about friends who are walking through seasons of suffering today: abandonment by a husband, the threat of cancer, the loss of a job, the heartbreak of a prodigal child, the loss of a loved one through drug overdose, the unjust imprisonment of a husband because of his Christianity . . . so much pain, so many dark days . . . but the Holy Spirit (through Paul) provides real wisdom for navigating the dark night of suffering. What a gift to have solid wisdom from the heart of God when we are facing the unknowns of a pain-filled world. He does not leave us without a solid word of comfort.
Tomorrow, I’ll share what I believe to be the supreme word of comfort when facing suffering.
God does not leave us unprepared, but truly has given us the solid word of comfort that will carry us through our dark night of the soul.
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