I’m doing some work right now on the life of Peter. The more I learn, the more I like him and the more I’m impressed with his maturity in Christ. In John 21 when Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. Follow me,” (John 21:18-19) he was asking him to follow in suffering.
When we look at Peter’s life from Pentecost until his death, we see a change in his heart. Despite being arrested, being flogged, (that’s an easy word to write and perhaps read, but it was a brutal, evil practice,) and being threatened to stop talking about Jesus, Peter and the other Apostles rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer. Over and over in the scriptures we see Peter face the burdens of following Christ with a glad, loving heart.
Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share in the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” What is it to share in the fellowship of his sufferings? It is acknowledging the suffering while recognizing he is with you. It’s oneness with him in the midst of it. It’s walking in the dark with the acute awareness of his Presence.
Suffering for Christ moves us away from being self centered. It moves us from sinful and toward sinless. We seem to work at avoiding suffering, and while that is human nature, it robs us of opportunity to fellowship with Christ. I’m not saying we should go looking for misery. But in following Christ with a whole heart we will encounter the struggles and sufferings that God would use to bless us. Peter wrote, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin, (1 Peter 4:1).
What attitude? The attitude that accepts the blessings that come, with and through suffering for Christ. In verse 2 he says that suffering helps the disciple to “not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” Suffering for Christ is not simply persecution, it is joining Christ in the struggle to live as a believer in a world and culture that is set against the things of God. Arm yourselves with the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. It will change your heart.