A fisherman arrived at his pier one night only to be met by his sobbing wife.
“Our home has been burned in a fire! We could save nothing!” Hearing the news he burst out laughing.
Most of us are probably thinking his response was inappropriate. We expect a reaction of tears or at least sorrow. But let me finish the story. While out fishing the man was caught in a fierce storm. Although it seemed certain the sea would overwhelm him, the vessel stayed afloat. In the midst of the storm he could see a light and managed to steer toward it and make it back to safety.
Upon hearing his wife’s news the man said, “I was lost and had given up on my life when I saw what looked like a dim light. I made for that light and was saved. Now I know the light was our flaming house.”
When we have a different perspective on our trouble we can respond to it differently. By seeing our problems from God’s viewpoint, we gain the perspective to face trouble His way. From 1 Peter 4:12-19 we see three ways to respond when trouble knocks on the door of our life.
First, respond with realism. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (v. 12 NIV). Some people believe because they are Christians nothing adverse will happen to them. But according this verse just the opposite is true. Why is that?
For one thing our home is in heaven. We’re resident aliens and pilgrims here travelling through hostile territory. We shouldn’t have an expectation of easy living.
Another thing is although we’re believers, we’re also finite creatures with a sin nature, living in a fallen world. So it shouldn’t be a surprise when trouble strikes. However, just because hard times come it doesn’t mean God has forgotten us or doesn’t love us. He is too good to do us wrong.
Peter uses the phrase “fiery ordeal.” It’s from a word referring to a furnace where gold is refined. In other words, our troubles are a smelting furnace where God is turning them into triumphs by refining our character to be more like His own. Thinking about trouble this way is being realistic.
Second, once we understand realism we can then respond with rejoicing. Wait, rejoice in suffering? That doesn’t seem realistic! I can see where I shouldn’t be surprised at trouble, but to rejoice in it?
While we may not be happy about our troubles Peter tells us we can express joy about them for several reasons.
- Faithfulness in the midst of suffering will result in additional reward in heaven (v. 13)
- When we hurt because we are Christians it indicates God’s Spirit is with us (vv. 14-16)
- God, in love, is exercising discipline on us as His children to correct and purify us (vv. 17-18). As someone once said, “Some people just can’t bend until some misfortune has taken the starch out of them.” Even with that, God’s discipline is nowhere near as bad as the judgment that will come on those who have rejected Christ (v. 18).
Third, when trouble comes knocking respond with recommitment. “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (v. 19).
We are to commit ourselves to God our Creator. This is the only place in the New Testament where the word “creator” is used of God. In the context of trouble it reminds us of His love and power. He can bring the same power that created with a word to bear on our situation. Knowing this, we are to commit ourselves to Him. We are to entrust ourselves to His care in much the same way we do when we deposit money in our bank entrusting them to keep it safe. God has not promised to keep us from trouble but He does promise to keep us in trouble.
We are also to commit ourselves to doing good in spite of our trouble. While we cannot often change the troubles we face, we can change our response to them. Continuing to do good in hard times isn’t easy, but we can cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Sooner or later trouble will come to all of us. By viewing it from God’s perspective we can respond with realism, rejoicing, and recommitment. When trouble comes knocking we can answer it God’s way.