Peter’s Tribulation Manual

Peter’s Tribulation Manual
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The book of 1 Peter, I would argue, is Peter’s “manual” for how not to embarrass Christ amidst Tribulation (as Philippians is Paul’s). An interesting passage to consider in regard to Tribulation is 1 Peter 4:12. In it Peter exhorts us, “not to think it strange”.

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;

Do you think it strange when pain, persecution, suffering, testing, trials, temptation… tribulation enters into your life?

(although there are some slight differences in the meaning of the words above, for the purpose of these articles, I use these words essentially as synonyms)

Some irony with this verse is that earlier in his life, Peter thought it strange concerning Jesus:

If we look back in the Gospels in Matthew 16, Jesus is telling the Apostles His plans to go to Jerusalem, suffer many things and be killed. Peter responds and essentially says: “NO WAY, I WILL NOT LET THAT HAPPEN”. Thus he provokes Jesus’ rebuke in Matthew 16:23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Jesus understood something that Peter did not at that point in his life. Specifically, that tribulation is normal in the life of God’s children. Are you more like Peter or Jesus in this manner? Do you understand that tribulation is normal in your life, even GRACIOUS?

To the degree that you think tribulation is strange (to the degree you respond with surprise, anxiety, anger, bitterness, complaining, depression, or despair), you are seeing life according to “the things of men” rather than the “things of God”.

The Apostle Paul likens the spiritual life of faith to the temporal life of athletics (1 Cor 9:24-27, 2 Tim 2:5, Heb 12:1-2) Does an athlete, when he meets resistance in his training or competition, think it is strange? As he’s training or running a marathon, does he say “wow, that’s weird: my lungs are burning and my muscles are aching”. That’s foolishness, an athlete understands that pain/tribultion is a normal part of the process of achieving his goal. So why do we think it strange when the same thing is going on in a spiritual dimension with our soul?

As I’ve thought about that question, I believe that we and our surroundings deceive us into believing that Tribulation is abnormal. In essence, there are at least 4 hurdles which we have to overcome in order to think and behave biblically amidst Tribulation:

  1. Biology: The body has a “Fight or Flight response” that is hard wired into our nervous system and is meant to protect our physical body from harmful stimuli. We either withdraw or fight painful stimuli.

    • We must understand the difference between our physical bodies and our souls. Though the body is harmed by chronic inflammation, the soul is made better (Eccl 7:3, 1 Pet 4:1-2).

  1. Culture: Our culture has as its goal utopia, happiness and pleasure at all cost.

    • Our culture says that Pleasure = Good, and Pain = Evil

    • It is easy to see the lie in this: a vaccine or spanking is painful but good, yet fornication is pleasurable but evil.

    • The culture’s goal unfortunately has become most believers’ goal as well: Maximize pleasure/happiness on earth at all costs…even at the expense of the commandments and eternity

  1. Ignorance of our Depravity: We don’t understand how defiled we are as humans, and thus how great we need remodeling.

    • We are thoroughly corrupt and need to be remodeled from the ground up, & tribulation is a means to that end (Jam 1:2-4, Rom 5:3-4)

  1. Biblical Illiteracy: We are a Biblically illiterate body. From start to finish the Bible narrative relates that God’s people undergo hardship, extreme hardship and that Tribulation is normal in the economy of God. Some examples are listed:

        • Adam (Gen 3:17) “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.

        • Jacob (Gen 47:9) “Few and evil have been the days of the years or my life”

        • Hosea (Hos 1:2) God used his life to be a living parable to Israel…marry a harlot, have children of harlotry…all so God can show Israel their unfaithfulness.

        • Paul (Acts 9:5-6, 15-16) Paul called on the road to Damascus, he will preach Jesus to the Gentiles…oh, but God will show him all the things he will suffer for His sake…

        • End Times (Matthew 24:22 “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.)

        • Why would we think our lives would be any different? In fact, God tells us our lives will not be any different:

          2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

      Hebrews 12:6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”…

      Why should we expect our lives to be different than the lives of those in the Bible? We shouldn’t!

So in Review: We have this command of God. “Do not think it strange when Tribulation comes into our lives”. Are we obeying that command? Most likely not very well. Part of the reason is our biology, but most of the reason is because we think and behave more like the world than the Bible. This we can change: by being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2) so that we stop believing what the Culture says is Truth and start believing what our Lord says is Truth (John 17:17).

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