World English Bible translation
2:18Servants, be in subjection to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the wicked. 2:19 For it is commendable if someone endures pain, suffering unjustly, because of conscience toward God. 2:20 For what glory is it, if, when you sin, you patiently endure beating? But if, when you do well, you patiently endure suffering, this is commendable with God.
In yesterday's lesson we spoke about how difficult it is for us to understand that Peter is telling people who were enduring persecution to obey the government. Peter was telling them that even when we disagree with what the government is doing we should consider that God is the one who makes governments rise and fall. We must obey the king because God ultimately establishes the king.
If yesterday's lesson was difficult on our modern sensibilities, today's lesson is even worse. Peter tells those living in slavery to be under subjection to their masters. That in itself is not shocking. But Peter goes on to say to subject yourself to your masters even when they are wicked. Subject yourself to your master even when the master is evil. Peter tells these servants that patiently enduring suffering is commendable to God.
I'm afraid that Peter would not do too well in most churches today with that kind of a lesson. I'm not even sure that I would want him for my pastor if that were the sort of lesson that would be coming from the pulpit. We want lessons that tell us about the gentle side of God and how much God has done for us. We want to search for a purpose and a meaning to our lives that make us feel more fulfilled as human beings.
But are we willing to be told that fulfillment may come through patiently enduring suffering? Are we willing to be told that we should stay in a place even if the people that have authority over us are wicked? Peter's purpose throughout this epistle is to give people in difficult circumstances the will and the hope to endure trials and not lose faith. We may rationalize that because we do not have circumstances that are as dire as these believers we are free to escape suffering whenever we choose. Surely God would not want someone to stay in a difficult circumstance if they did not have to do so?
All too often, when we are ready to run out on a difficult situation, that is exactly what God wants us to do, stay and patiently endure. It will never make sense to us until we try to see the world through God's eyes. The single most important thing in the world is faith. God is willing to do whatever it takes to develop faith in His people. That means that God is even willing to turn up the heat in the pressure cooker of life sometimes in order to develop your faith. God may very well place you under very difficult circumstances just to develop your faith more. If we turn and run when the going gets tough, we will miss the blessing of knowing that our faith has withstood the test. We will miss growing in the knowledge that God is attempting to impart to us.
How do we know when we should stand and when God wants us to retreat? Only the leading of the Spirit of God can guide us. But before we will listen to the Spirit we have to believe that we do have a choice. We will never ask for God's guidance if we believe that God wants us to run away from trials every time. We have to believe in our hearts that there are some trials that God wants us to patiently endure.
If we know that, then we can pray and trust God to tell us when a situation becomes unbearable. We will know when God wants us to continue to endure and when He wants us to leave. Peter goes on in tomorrow's scripture to cite the example of Jesus in these matters. There were times when the people turned against Jesus that He left without a confrontation. There were other times when He stayed. The Spirit of God instructed him when to stay and when to go. By learning more about the life of Christ and how He lived, we can learn judgment in such matters as well.
Have the courage to depend on God, even under difficult circumstances. Know that there are times that God may want you to patiently endure, even to the point of death. You are not alone. God endures with you. If you hold to your faith, you have not endured in vain.
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