Sign Me Up for Suffering

Many years ago I worked in a warehouse in North Carolina. The man who was the boss was a member of the church where I pastored and so I went into this job, as I have with every job I’ve held, with an understanding I would need to represent the Lord and my boss well in order to maintain my witness. What I soon discovered was rather amazing. Throughout the whole operation, there was an attitude by the workers that they would just do barely enough to get by. After all, what the boss didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

Subsequently, I observed activity like guys taking the company van into one of the warehouse spaces and parking in a hidden place in order to sleep. Others would gamble while playing cards in the back room always keeping a keen eye out for movement from the main office. Some spent their days flipping through the pages of filthy magazines, cursing like sailors, and telling dirty jokes. I didn’t take the approach of reporting all of this activity or even telling the guys that what they were doing was wrong. I just went to work and did my job. Eight hours work for 8 hours pay.

I didn’t expect what happened next. The guys pulled me aside and told me that I needed to stop working so hard. They accused me of trying to make them look bad and make myself look good in front of the boss. By the way, there was no opportunity for advancement in this company but that didn’t stop them from saying that I was trying to make that happen for myself. I carefully weighed my response and told them that it didn’t matter to me what they did, but that I was working for the Lord and not for man. They didn’t like that response and in fact did everything they could to try and mess with me or make me look bad in front of the boss. I wasn’t trying to get them to change their ways, but I certainly wasn’t going to allow them to change mine.

In 1 Peter 4, Peter refers to this reality and says that we who have been changed by God’s grace will suffer in similar ways as Jesus did. He was despised and rejected. A man of sorrows who was well acquainted with grief. Peter makes it clear here that a true believer in Christ will put aside the desires of the flesh and instead live for the will of God. He’s not preaching perfection here, but he is saying that we’ve been made brand new and if that is true than we will act accordingly. I believe Peter alludes to two types of suffering we face daily. The first is the suffering that we experience when we say “No” to our fleshly desires. This may in fact be the greatest form of suffering. The second type of suffering is the repercussions that we will face when we refuse to join in with the sin that is going on around us.

What is the prescription? What are we called to do in the face of such trouble? We are to rejoice in the fact that we are allowed to share in Christ’s suffering knowing that the glory that will be revealed will be far greater than we can imagine. Peter gives one final warning here. Don’t count trouble that comes as a result of your own sin to be true suffering. That’s called a consequence. His final word in Vs. 19 is this: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” I am happy to report that I was able to have meaningful conversations and times of prayer with many of the men that I worked with in that warehouse as time went on. You see, Jesus is always glorified when he gives us the ability to stand and live out what we believe.

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