A Purpose To The Suffering- 1 Peter 5:9-11
As we conclude our study in 1 Peter 5, we now come to Peter’s final imperative in his letter, his parting command to his readers. This command is to “resist him”, with him here referring to the devil. The Greek word resist here is anisthemi, which literally means to stand against, or to resist, which is defined here by the Greek phrase stereoi te pistei, or more precisely, “solid in the faith”. What all of this adds up to is the command to remain steadfast in our walk of faith in spite of the attempts of the devil to either get us off the path God has for us, or to get us to give up and quit, missing out on what God has for us. We are then told what the primary weapon of the devil is, what his favorite weapon is by which to “devour” us, and that weapon is here referred to as “sufferings”. The Greek word suffering is pathema, and what must be noted here is that it is from the same root as pathos, which is the Greek word referring to emotions. The suffering referred to here, which the devil uses to get believers to give up and quit, is then primarily emotional rather than physical. The devil knows full well that many believers will continue on firm in the faith in spite of tremendous physical suffering, while others will give up at the first hint of physical discomfort. The factor which makes some go on and others give up is not a function of the body, but of the soul, and so the devil uses the inevitable physical discomforts of life in a fallen world in order to try to bring suffering in the emotions, which lead to a decision in the mind to give up and quit, and miss out on God’s purpose for each of us. We can see here that this is the case because Peter then reminds us that our “brothers (not some of our brothers) throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings”, that these sufferings are universal and common to all believers. What is rather unexpected in this expression is that the Greek word translated as “undergoing” in the NIV is epiteleo, which is the Greek word teleo with the intensifier epi added to it. If you will recall from previous posts, the word teleo refers to the accomplishing of a purpose, the achieving of a goal. The intensifier here serves to strengthen the concept of a goal or purpose here, and what all of this actually means is that God is using the very “sufferings” through which the devil tries to destroy us to allow us to accomplish or purpose and achieve our goal. God is using these sufferings to accomplish His purpose in our lives, and the devil can keep us from our purpose if we allow the sufferings to get us to give up on God and remain where we are, rather than “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us” (Philippians 3:12). All of this is further reinforced in verse 10, in which Peter tells us that “The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast”. We must note first that God is referred to here as the “God of all grace”, which means that the sufferings are part of God’s grace, His “gift” to us. The reason they are a gift is because God has “called us to His eternal glory”. God has a “call” on each of us, a purpose for our lives, and our accomplishing of this purpose will bring glory to God (and fulfillment for us) for all eternity. This is why the devil wants us to quit, not wanting either glory for God or fulfillment for us. We are then encouraged with the fact that this suffering will only be for a little while, that the temporal sufferings of this fallen world are not worth comparing to the “glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18), and that God will “Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast”. The Greek word restore here is katartizo- to knit together or complete. The idea here is of a craftsmen finishing a project or a tailor finishing a garment. So what we ultimately find here is that God is using the “sufferings” of this life to make something beautiful of each believer, but that He needs our “cooperation” in order to complete the masterpiece He intends each of us to be. The devil’s goal then, is to use the “sufferings” which are part of life in this fallen world to thwart God’s purpose for each of us by getting us to give up, while God uses those same circumstances to make us into what He intends us to be, and that whether or not we achieve our purpose and accomplish our goal is really in our own hands. Those who get discouraged and give up may still go to heaven when they die, but will miss out on all God wants them to be in this world, while those who continue on in spite of the sufferings will say, along with the Apostle Paul, that “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).