“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” – 1 Peter 4:12
“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” – 1 Peter 1:7
Peter knew what he was writing about. From the beginning of his ministry he was faced with persecution. Nor was he surprised when it came; for, after all, didn’t the Lord prepare the disciples for the furnace of persecution? “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The more we live like Jesus, the more we can expect to be treated the way He was treated. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
When the believer faces the furnace of persecution, it is actually a compliment. Woe unto the Christian who gets along with the world and wins the world’s praises! Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could have conformed to the king’s will and avoided the furnace, but they preferred to obey the Lord.
The Puritan, Henry Smith said, God examines with trials, the devil examines with temptations, the world examines with persecutions. The furnace of persecution is evidence that the believer is creating problems for the world, and the world cannot take it. “If the world hates you,” Jesus told his disciples, “you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
But Peter tells us that the furnace of persecution brings more benefits than it does burdens, no matter how difficult it may be to experience. For one thing we are suffering for the sake of the Lord Jesus, and that is a privilege. “For to you has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). It is a great and awesome thing to be identified with “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10)!
God does not always settle His accounts immediately. The world persecutes the church and often appears to be the victor in the battle; but one day, God will judge the world and glorify the church. In the life of the faithful Christian, God can transform suffering into glory and persecution into coronation!