The Christian's Duty Under Trials
William Nicholson, 1862
"So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." 1 Peter 4:19
Tribulation must be the lot of the human family. "Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward!" Job 5:7. "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!" John 16:33.
All this is the result of sin, which has rendered the heart depraved, and the body mortal. All trials may be traced to this fruitful source. Christians, though the chosen by God, redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Spirit — are not exempt. But they have this privilege: while the wicked in their distress have no refuge — no consolation, higher than this earth — they, the saints, have a Counselor and Friend in Heaven, who has promised to help and guide them safely to the end.
How wise to commit their cause into his hands! Hence the text.
I. That Christians must Expect to Suffer.They suffer,
1. They may suffer by adversity. Such as poverty — Christ so suffered; so did his apostles. Such as bodily affliction, etc., etc.
2. They may suffer in their reputation. Christ was despised, etc., called Beelzebub, etc. The wicked cannot bear the light. Holiness, zeal for God, "well-doing" — are detested by the carnal mind; and if they can do no more, they will traduce the character of the righteous. Matthew 11:18; Luke 7:33; Hebrews 11:25, 26.
3. They may suffer in their property. "You joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions!" Hebrews 10:34. In primitive times, and also the time of Catholic and Anglican persecutions — conscientious Christians were plundered of their substance. Though this has ceased to a great extent — yet a Christian cannot, by reason of his profession, mingle with the wicked; and non-association may injure his worldly interests. Eminent piety will be a bar to promotion.
4. They may suffer in their liberty and life. Though extreme suffering has passed away, the recollection may serve to make us thankful — and to endear the memory of those men who counted not their lives dear unto them. Ecclesiastical domination in some measure still exists, and is visible in the exaction of money for upholding the church of the aristocracy, which the truly enlightened cannot conscientiously pay.
II. That Christians Suffer According to the Will of God."Let those who suffer according to the will of God," etc.
God has been pleased to permit it. "The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths!" Psalm 135:6
1. It is the will of God that his cause be carried on, and to carry it on there must be soldiers, conflict and battle with all spiritual foes.
And even by ordinary trials, it is the will of God that Christians should suffer. Toil, poverty, affliction, and death are the result of sin, and must be endured.
2. These sufferings are for the trial of faith, "These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." 1 Peter 1:7.
It is the day of battle, that tests the love and valor of a soldier; and it is the hour of spiritual conflict, that shows the amount of faith. Then the believer feels himself helpless in a conflict so mighty, and confides in God alone; so it was with Paul "None of these things move me," etc. "I count all things but loss," etc. So it was with the Church at Thessalonica; see 1 Thessalonians 1:3,6.
3. These sufferings promote spiritual prosperity and happiness. The graces of the Spirit generally languish under worldly prosperity. But under trials, God gives "more grace," and then these graces manifest their beauty and strength. 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10. The Christian comes out of the conflict refined, more heavenly, and more conformed to Christ. The furnace, though fiery and painful, has matured his graces, and made him a veteran. Romans 5:3-5. Even Christ himself was "made perfect through sufferings," etc.
4. These sufferings promote the glory of God. They show what his grace can do in supporting the mind of the sufferer, and in filling their hearts with gratitude to God. Their piety is greatly advanced, and they become more efficient servants of the cross; therefore God must be glorified.
Oh, what triumphant praise will resound from the myriads of the redeemed, when all the wonders of his love shall be universally and completely known! When God comes forth from his pavilion of light, and explains to his people all the now mysterious procedure of his providence and grace, the saints will exclaim, "You have done all things well!"
III. The Conduct of Christians under Sufferings.
1. They should be characterized by well-doing. "Well-doing" refers to a state of holy obedience — the result of faith, and the evidence of love to God. "Well-doing" also implies patience and submission under trials — in opposition to resistance, fretfulness, etc., or resentment against those who may persecute. Well doing is following Christ, who "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." 1 Peter 2:23. The more we are persecuted, the stronger must be our attachment to Christ. Job 5:19, 22.
2. In every situation, the soul is more to be valued than the body. The soul is the Jewel, and its security must be promoted; and who can keep that Jewel but God.
3. Enlarged views of the love and care of Almighty God, especially as "a faithful Creator" of all the souls of his people committed to his care in the time of peril or death.
4. The actual surrender of the soul to "his keeping." Delightful act! a glorious privilege and sure defense! If God keeps it, who can destroy it? "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!" Romans 8:38-39
1. See the dignity, wealth, and happiness of God's people. He loves and protects them, and is their portion. Psalm 44:15.
2. Learn the folly of trusting in human resources amid the sufferings of life.
3. See the madness of those who persecute the Church of Christ. Isaiah 54:17