“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” – 1 Peter 4:12-13 (ESV)
Suffering is no fun. But there is a suffering that comes to every faith believer. It’s an unjust kind of suffering. All who truly follow Christ, are recipients of accusations, slander, maligning, and unwarranted actions by others who do not know Jesus as Savior and Lord. As we factually consider the causes and actions and lay them out, our reaction typically is; “They have no right to think or say that. We’ve done nothing to deserve this treatment. Yet it happens. It’s just not fair!” Why do we react that way and cry out for fair dealing? We do so because it’s easy to expect that our life of following Christ to be free of such treatment – it should be easy. For a while in our western world we have happily gone along with that assumption. However, our promise in 1 Peter 4:12 is that fiery trials will come and we shouldn’t be surprised when they do. As the Apostle Peter wrote, we should not think “something strange” was happening to us. Instead, if our suffering is a response from the world to our boldly professing the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior, our reaction should be rejoicing.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” – James 1:12 (ESV)
We are promised blessings if we remain unfaltering under trial. This is a promise we all need because steadfastness is not easy to come by. And when we are depending upon ourselves, it becomes impossible to fend off the doubts and uncertainties that come with the trials and testing of our faith. Believers who successfully endure trials are truly happy. Nobody is saying that trials are easy to face and live through. Quite the opposite and that is why a passive, painful survival of a trial results in endurance and focuses on a victorious outcome. Through such endurance we do not relinquish our saving faith in God; we successfully have the victory over these trials which is evidence of our faith. The “crown of life” promised is best translated “the crown which is life.” Our ultimate reward is eternal life which God has promised to all who believe. It is granted in full at the time of our death or at the time of Christ’s coming again. This promise is given to those who love Him. By grace and through faith we declare our love for Jesus who secured our eternal life in his death and resurrection.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” – 1 John 4:1-3 (ESV)
The mention of the Holy Spirit in the previous chapter (1 John 3:24) motivates John to advise his readers that other spirits exist, such as demonic spirits, who produce false prophets and false teachers to spread their false doctrine. We are warned repeatedly through Scripture of the danger of apostasy, especially in later times. (1 Timothy 4:1-2). We are in later times as it is the period from the first coming of Christ until His return for his Church and judgment of the world. Do be on guard against falling prey to false teaching that tickles our ears and stirs our desire for the things of the world. Our promise is this, we can know and do know the Holy Spirit of God if we by faith given to us have believed in Jesus and His sacrifice on our behalf. We just might be in a time where the opposition is increasing and it is wise for us to cling to this instruction. We can test the spirits by discerning whether they confess Jesus as Lord and Savior. Those who do not so confess, but pretend to be preachers and teachers, are apostate.