Suffering Well for Righteousness’ Sake

Suffering is part of living in a fallen world. Sickness and death are the lot of every human being. For the Christian, however, there is an additional suffering that comes in identification with Christ. Paul tells the Philippians (Phil 1:29): “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” He is saying that just as faith is a gift from God, so is suffering for Christ; hence the disciples rejoiced and counted it an honor to be beaten for preaching Christ (Acts 5:41). The epistle of First Peter was written to encourage believers in the first century, who were living in a pagan culture that was hostile to their Christian faith. He wanted them to know that their suffering is ordained of God for the strengthening of their faith and sanctification (1:6-7), and that bearing patiently under trials is a testimony to the power of the gospel in their lives, which can be used of God to save their persecutors (2:12). In verse 13 of chapter 2, he gives a general principle that if they are zealous for doing good, it can spare them persecution; but he is quick to say in the next verse that if they should suffer for righteousness’ sake, they are blessed; God’s favor rests on them, and they have a great reward in heaven. Then he says they are not to fear as those who have no hope; but rather, they are to honor Christ and fear Him instead; they are to be ready to give a defense of the hope within them; all the while, they must be careful to maintain a good conscience, so that when they suffer, it would be obvious to all that their suffering is for Christ’s sake and not for their bad behavior.