“But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:13).
We should rejoice in trials and persecutions, not for their own sake, but for the benefits that result.
The late D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his classic book Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, made the following careful distinction on what it means to rejoice in persecution: “The Christian is, in a sense, one who must feel his heart breaking at the effect of sin in others that makes them do this [persecute believers]. So he never rejoices in the fact of persecution as such.”
We can draw from this, then, that 1 Peter 4:13 and other verses (notably Matt. 5:11-12), while they encourage the positive attitude of rejoicing in trials, do not mean we should have a masochistic or elitist view of suffering. The joy we are to have should go beyond the pain and heartache of the suffering itself and focus on the ramifications of what God is doing in our life.
Peter begins our verse by asserting that one of those ramifications is enjoying the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. That means we can share, for His sake, in the same kind of suffering and rejection He endured. We should be ready for such persecution whenever we share the gospel or generally identify with Him. The apostles learned this lesson soon after Jesus departed— “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). We will increasingly embrace such suffering as a privilege if we heed Peter’s exhortation.
The apostle goes on to give us more motivation for rejoicing. “The revelation of His glory” is a reference to Jesus’ second coming, which in itself ought to bring tremendous joy to all believers. If we have faithfully endured all the persecutions, sufferings, trials, and problems of this life, when our Lord returns we will have genuine reason to rejoice all the more. And it will be with an intense and joyous outburst that exceeds any we’ve had before (see Luke 6:22-23).
Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to give you the right motivation to rejoice in the midst of suffering.
For Further Study
Matthew 5:11-12 contains some of the most challenging truth in all the Bible. Commit these verses to memory, and look for opportunities in which they can become real in your experience.
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.