Companions in Tribulation
Francis Bourdillon, 1881
"Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." 1 Peter 5:9
We are naturally inclined to think that our own trials and temptations are greater than those of others because, being our own, we know them better and feel them more deeply. Many a sufferer, thinks there are no sufferings like his — and many a person when tempted to sin, supposes that his case is quite peculiar. But this is not true. Whatever trials we may have, there are probably other people who are suffering much the same. The temptations which beset us, are felt by many besides us — and some are tempted far greater than us. Now this thought helps us to bear temptation. It is not, as we were inclined to suppose — some new and strange thing that has befallen us. We are not alone in what we suffer. We have many fellow-sufferers, fellow-travelers, fellow-soldiers. We do but form parts of one great whole. It is a cheering and helpful thought, and so it seems to be set before us in the text: "Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world."
The person meant by this word "him" is the devil, the enemy of souls, spoken of in the verse before, "Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." We are told to resist him. This is the way in which we are always to meet him. He makes his attacks in various ways: sometimes by open assault, sometimes by secret snare; now in the form of outward temptations, now in that of inward suggestions. He seeks occasion against us in our moments of weakness. He strives to lead into sin, unbelief, doubt, fear, self-confidence. He has a thousand different weapons against the soul. But all are to be met with resistance: "resist him." He is an enemy, a deadly enemy. We must not yield, but resist.
Yet not in our own strength, or we shall certainly fall. "Resist him, firm in your faith." Satan desired to have Peter and his brother apostles, that he might sift them as wheat. Jesus prayed for him that his faith might not fail. But Peter was self-confident and thought he could stand in his own strength. What was the consequence? He fell grievously and was restored by sovereign grace alone. Doubtless he was permitted to fall, that he might learn this lesson: "Resist him, firm in your faith." And now we find Him teaching the same lesson to us and to all.
"Let anyone who thinks that he stands — take heed lest he fall." "When I am weak — then I am strong." The first step toward strength — is to know our weakness. We are to be steadfast, not in self but in faith — confident in God; relying upon His promises, His wisdom, power, and love. We are to meet temptation in such a spirit as this — feeling sure that all temptation and Satan himself, the author of it, are completely subject to God, not doubting that He will help us in answer to prayer; holding fast by Him through all, even though there is no token of His presence; and still exercising faith in Him, though nothing seems to be near but difficulties and enemies.
This is not easy. No indeed. Our enemy is strong, and though our Friend is mightier than he — yet our faith is often weak. But we are not alone, even with regard to human companions. We have fellow-sufferers, though unknown by us. There are those whom the enemy is attacking as he is attacking us. There is a great brotherhood in Christ dispersed throughout the Christian world, and the same afflictions are being accomplished in them, as in us.
Take the case of a young man or woman wishing to serve God — yet placed by circumstances among ungodly companions and surrounded by temptations. It is not an uncommon case. Perhaps such a person may hear or read these words. You have none like-minded with yourself; you seem to stand alone. Yet you are not alone. God is near. And besides, in that great Christian brotherhood of which I spoke, there are numbers who are circumstanced as you are.
Not to speak of other kinds of temptations and trials, unlike your own and yet as hard to bear — there are in the world numbers of young persons like yourself exposed to the very same temptations as you are exposed to! They too are living among the careless and ungodly; they too have to face opposition, dislike, and ridicule. They too perhaps, have fears and apprehensions and feelings of loneliness and depression — such as you suffer from.
You do not see them or know them; it may happen perhaps that there is not one such person among your personal acquaintance. Yet there are such, living in the same world as you, fighting the same battle, suffering the same temptations, upheld by the same strength.
Many such have already finished their course and gone to their rest. Many others are still resisting, steadfast in the faith. They are your brethren, though you know them not. They are your fellow-travelers in the journey of life. They are your companions in tribulation. You may be with them in spirit. The thought of them may give you a feeling of companionship. You are not alone. The same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren who are in the world.
It is our comfort to know that over all, is the same gracious eye! If Christians form one brotherhood, it is because they are children of one Father. God is their reconciled Father in Christ Jesus, and they are His children by adoption and grace. They see not one another, but He sees them all. They are not acquainted with each other's temptations and trials; often each one toils on alone — but He knows all.
There is not one tried and tempted disciple — whom He does not see and know and care for. Their Friend is mightier than their foe. Every moment His eye is upon them for good. Even in the sharpest trial and in the most severe temptation — He is near.
The warfare will not be forever. Even here on earth, there will be seasons of rest. "Resist the devil — and he will flee from you." And at length there will be perfect and eternal rest and glory! "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ — will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."
Let none despond then, under temptation. Let none yield to the assaults of the evil one. It would be misery and ruin to yield; but in resisting — there is strength, comfort, victory, and peace. Temptation yielded to, is sin. Temptation resisted and overcome, is victory. It is God's command that we should resist — it is God's promise that we shall overcome. He will make us more than conquerors through Him that loved us. No cross — no crown! No battle — no victory! "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."
But look on beyond the tribulation, and see what will follow. "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!" (Revelation 7:14-17).
Those who are now companions in tribulation — will be companions in glory then!