Nobody likes to suffer. No sane person prefers feeling pressure and pain. But some amount of suffering is inevitable for followers of Christ, for the direction of our life is opposite that of the world. I may never experience the severity of persecution that some of my brothers and sisters around the world endure, but living a godly life in an ungodly world will undoubtably cost me something. Peter has already mentioned that the sin in the world is “waging war against my soul” (2:11) and he has written about being prepared to “suffer for righteousness’ sake” (3:14-15). Nobody enjoys suffering, but Peter offers some encouraging words about the benefits of it (yes, benefits!).
When we suffer, we identify with Jesus in a new way (v.1). He suffered on the cross for our sins (none of us will ever suffer to that extent) and did so in a way that glorified His Father. We can have the same attitude, the mind of Christ, and bring glory to God through our suffering.
Suffering also brings clarity (v.1). When we endure suffering because we take a stand for Christ, it is clear that we have chosen His will over our own; we submit to God and not to our fleshly desires (v.2). Your new priorities and standards may cause you to seem judgmental to your lost friends, and they may mock you for it, but it will make your testimony clear — and it may cause them to think about the direction of their lives (v.3-6). Instead of living for pleasure and being swept along with the rest of the world in the “flood” of sin (v.4), we fight the tide by loving others deeply, sharing hospitality freely, and serving others unselfishly (v.7-10). Swimming against the current of the world takes extraordinary energy, but God will give strength in endless supply (v.11).
Suffering brings a particular kind of joy into our lives, a joy that comes from “sharing the sufferings of Christ” (v.13). There is a special ministry of the Holy Spirit that is only experienced when we suffer for obeying Christ (v.14) — a spiritual blessing that rests on us as we endure, turning pain into joy. (Note: There is another ministry of the Holy Spirit that is active when we suffer for doing something sinful. Our self-inflicted suffering invites the Spirit’s conviction and a sense of shame; see v.15-16.)
God is faithful. The One who created the world is able to see you through any amount of suffering (v.19). So just go for it today — don’t hold back in doing His will, no matter what opposition you face!