After Ye Have Suffered a While

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.”—I Peter 5:6-10

HUMILITY has various facets of meaning, but from the standpoint of the Bible, and particularly in our text, its meaning is “to make self low.” And, of course, this relates to the expression of our self-will. When we consecrated our lives to the Heavenly Father, the thought of our own wills being dead was a paramount condition, or requirement, for our consecration to be accepted. It follows, then, that our humility is one measure of how we are living up to our consecration vows and what the prospect of our reward will be.

The thought of being under the mighty hand of God implies a full submission and yielding of mind and body to the providences of God’s will for us. The word “mighty” (Greek, krataios) as used here has the meaning of power put forth with effect. We are said to be God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” (Eph. 2:10) His design, or will, for us is that by sacrifice and suffering, which he supervises, we, if rightly exercised by the experiences, are enabled to develop the fruits and graces of the Spirit. This is necessary and must precede our spiritual birth. This is expressed so beautifully by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present [yield] your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

When we consecrated, we gave up any hope or prospect of life here on earth, in exchange for a hope of life as a spirit being. Our bodies of flesh, then, are expendable, and the instructions are that we are to yield them in sacrifice. How do we do this? By spending our strength, energies, abilities, influence, in the service of the truth and the brethren.

The result of this activity is expressed in verse 2 of Romans 12: “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” In the subsequent verses of the chapter, the apostle gives a representative list of examples, showing how by experiences we are enabled to renew our minds.

Then, in verse 7 of our theme text, the apostle seems to want us to recognize that a life of submission, which leads to a life of sacrifice, may cause some to be fearful. And so he admonishes them to cast all their cares upon the Heavenly Father. The Diaglott translates “care” as “anxiety,” and this seems to describe the condition better. But here, as in other aspects of our Christian walk, if we have really accepted the Heavenly Father’s will for our own, realizing that God’s mighty hand is over us in everything that we do or that we experience in the way of trials permitted to come to us, we will have confidence in his overruling providence in our behalf. We have not—as new creatures—been given the spirit of fear.

We can never be successful in our Christian walk if we do not know from whom our opposition stems. The apostle tells us in verse 8 of our theme text that the source of our trials and difficulties is Satan. In Zechariah 3:1,2 we read a very interesting statement by the prophet concerning Satan: “And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”

The point of the text, of course, is to bring to our minds graphically the fact that Satan is a real personality and that he is dedicated to oppose God and his righteous arrangements. If he can cause the seed of blessing to fail, he can perhaps postpone his own demise. Or he may even have hope of winning the struggle between darkness and light. The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 6:11,12, admonishes us to “put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

The expression “principalities and powers” seems to denote different orders of spiritual beings, perhaps both good and evil. But in our text the Apostle Paul is referring to those very powerful spirit beings who are under Satan’s control. We are obviously no match for these beings when they oppose us, and the only effective defense that we have is the armor of God. The apostle proceeds to enumerate the various parts of this armor, which are the truth, righteousness (justification), the Gospel of peace, faith, the promise of salvation, and the Holy Spirit. All of these are gifts from the Heavenly Father. Our skill in using them is dependent upon the depth of our consecration and the extent to which we have learned to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.

These texts also indicate that Satan and his minions have enlisted earthly governments, institutions, and church systems as part of the forces of darkness. We believe, however, that most of these are aligned with the powers of darkness through ignorance. Nevertheless, they constitute a powerful force in opposition to the children of light.

In view of all these superior powers which are against us, the Apostle Peter, in verse 8 of our theme text, warns that we should be sober and vigilant because Satan, represented in all these powers of darkness, is stalking the children of light, seeking whom he may devour. Satan is pictured as a roaring lion. The lion of the Bible was singular because of its fierceness, cruelty, and cunning. It is said that its roar was so terrifying to its intended victim that the victim would freeze with terror and thus become easy prey to the attacker. And so it can be with us if we leave ourselves exposed, trusting in our own strength for a defense. We become an easy prey to a much more powerful and cunning foe. But on the other hand, if we are vigilant and alert, we will be watchful for his snares and will rely on the Lord’s superior power for deliverance.

The Apostle Paul, in telling of his experience with Alexander the coppersmith, who was a violent opposer to the truth, said that when he first countered the opposition all his friends left him, but “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” (II Tim. 4:17) And he will deliver us too.

The apostle then states (verse 9 of our theme text) that we are to resist Satan and his emissaries of darkness, standing firm in the faith. It is only because God has, through his Holy Spirit, enlightened our minds and revealed the truth to us that we are able to discern fully between good and evil (Hebrew, sin). This has not been true of any others of the human race, except Adam, and Jesus at his first advent. Because of this ability, we know that the church is on trial for life during the Gospel Age. The Apostle Peter states, in I Peter 4:17, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.”

To the true child of the Lord, who has been given the privilege of discerning the beauty of the Lord revealed through his Word, the divine law satisfies the innermost desires of the heart. The words of the psalmist seem to express the thought best: “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. … How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.”—Ps. 119:97,103,104

And again the Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 5:11-13, says: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” It is the light generated through the Holy Spirit that makes the reproved things of darkness manifest to the child of the Lord. Then, being fully aware, he should be moved to soberness and vigilance.

It is interesting to note that the words “affliction” and “suffering” are translated from the same Greek word, pathema. And the apostle, in verse 9 of our theme text, is bringing to our attention that suffering on the part of the church is universal. Even though, when we as individuals are undergoing severe experiences, it may seem that we are the only ones who are suffering or that we have been singled out for especially severe trials, this, of course, is not true. The Apostle Paul states, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (II Tim. 3:12) Again, in II Timothy 2:11,12 he says: “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.” And then his wonderful statement in Romans 8:17: “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

To suffer, according to Bible usage, means to endure or experience. The thought is that the Christian is to be submissive to all the experiences that the Heavenly Father permits him to have. These can be experiences of being misunderstood, of derision, of mockings, and even of physical pain and death, if the Lord requires it.

But all these experiences must be the result of Christian activity. The Apostle Peter expresses the matter thus: “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you. … But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”—I Pet. 4:14-16

And again, in the 2nd chapter of I Peter we read: “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. … For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” (vss. 19-23) This is suffering, this is being submissive in the experiences brought about through efforts to serve the Lord, the truth, and the brethren.

The Apostle Paul, in Colossians 1:24, sets the example for all the footstep followers of Jesus down through the Gospel Age, saying, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” The apostle does not mean that Christ’s sacrifice was not efficacious and that it required additional sacrifices and suffering. But what he is saying is that the Christ, head and body, (I Cor. 12:12) must suffer, and since the Head, Christ Jesus, has already suffered, the suffering that is left behind is that of the church. Suffering must be experienced by every member for his testing and development.

The apostle’s suffering on behalf of the brethren is well documented in many places. But we think especially of the account in II Corinthians 11:24-30. In this account he tells of being beaten with rods, of being stoned, of suffering shipwreck, “In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, … in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. … If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.”

All these experiences were brought about only because of Paul’s activity in preaching the good news of the kingdom and endeavoring to serve the brethren and, in fact, to do good to all men as opportunity presented itself. Those who were opposing Paul in his ministry had been boasting of the great difficulties they had encountered and overcome. But Paul says that if boasting is necessary, he will boast of those things that demonstrated his complete submission to the Lord—the complete lack of reliance on his own strength or judgment—and how the Lord won the victory.

The Apostle Paul set us a wonderful example in these things. And while most of us will never be required to endure the things that he endured, the principle is exemplified. It is an axiom of our Christian walk that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”—II Tim. 3:12

Why is it necessary for a Christian to suffer? In Hebrews the 12th chapter the Apostle Paul says that we are “compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” And in this statement he is, of course, referring to all the wonderful examples of faith enumerated in the 11th chapter. These wonderful heroes of faith were witnesses for God in the sense that they spoke of the things that God requested they speak of, even though the message was unpopular.

The witness that they gave in some instances meant torture and even death. But in these trials they demonstrated their faith in God, not relying on their own strength, but “out of weakness were made strong.” Their attitude was best expressed by the three Hebrew children, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”—Dan. 3:17,18

Because of their faithfulness under testing and trials brought about as a result of their witnessing for God, telling forth the message that was for that time or season, they received the promise of a better resurrection. They were accounted as friends of God, and their faith was accounted to them for righteousness.

The apostle tells us that these faithful men of God are examples to us, for we too are witnesses for God. It is our mission to tell forth the message for this time and season, which is the good news of the kingdom. To the established forces of darkness, this is an unpopular message and will bring upon us testings and trials and persecution. But in these trials we are to look to Jesus, our Forerunner and example, who was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. “For consider Him that endured such contradiction (opposition) of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”—Heb. 12:3

The apostle then indicates that the opposition we will receive is not a temporary thing but will continue until our course is ended in death. “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” (Heb. 12:4) He then indicates that this should be no surprise to us, because the prophet foretold of these things, saying, “My son, despise not thou the chastening [tutorage, Strong’s] of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth [trains, Strong’s] and scourgeth [chastises] every son whom he receiveth.” The thought is that God does not himself bring these experiences upon us but that he permits the forces of darkness, the opposers, to bring the experiences to us as he sees we have need. These experiences are for the purpose of testing our loyalty and faith, and/or for helping us develop the fruits and graces of the spirit. In fact, the apostle continues, in verse 8, to tell us that if we are not having these experiences we are spurious and not sons.

In verse 11 of the 12th chapter of Hebrews, the apostle states, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” These experiences are the sufferings that were left behind for each member of the body of Christ to fill up, so that they could yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness in our characters. “Peaceable” in the text has the meaning of salutary, or of promoting health. The fruits of righteousness that we develop, then, have the effect of restoring our health in a spiritual sense, that is, making us mature, perfect, more Christlike.

In our theme text, I Peter 5, verse 10, the Apostle Peter summarizes our thoughts: “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” The word “suffer” here is the same word as used throughout this study, and it means to endure or experience. The apostle’s conclusion is that such experiences, if we are exercised by them, will have a salutary effect on our Christian character; and by proving faithful under trials and testings, we will be established—made more stable—and at the same time our faith will be strengthened and settled.

The Heavenly Father, during our Christian walk, is preparing our minds and our characters to be clothed upon with our house from heaven. This is accomplished by suffering, or experiencing, the trials and testings that he permits us to have while we are endeavoring to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. For even Jesus, our Forerunner, was so developed. “Son though he was, he learned obedience in the school of suffering, and, once perfected, became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”—Heb. 5:8,9 NEB

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