One of the areas I am always looking to grow in is my witness for the Lord. I know I need to be intentional in sharing the gospel with those who need to hear it. I pray for God to give me opportunities to share my faith. I speculate I am not the only who is like this. However, I do wonder how many of us consider the question, “How do we respond to suffering?” when it comes to our witnessing and evangelism. The reality is we should be considering how our suffering can be a witness and a tool to show others Christ. When we do that, we honor Christ. But how do we honor Christ, especially in the midst of our suffering? It begins by identifying the reason why we might be suffering and then by observing our response to the suffering. In other words, the suffering described here is not just any type of suffering. Suffering for one’s own sin is not honorable to Christ; it is a consequence for our rebellion against Him. Rather, the suffering that does honor Christ is the suffering the Apostle Peter describes, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed” (3:13–14a). Suffering while doing good for righteousness’ sake is what honors God. As we saw in the previous section, 1 Peter 3:8-12, it is living rightly even when we are wronged. So, the first step for honoring in suffering is to make sure the reason for our suffering is not because of our sin but because of our doing good for the glory of God. We must not stop at only identifying the reason for our suffering, though. We need to observe our response to the suffering we endure. The temptation here is to be fearful toward those who are causing this pain and suffering. Moreover, we may be tempted to look at God and begin to waver on trusting His goodness. As those in Christ, there is a more honorable way. Peter continues, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (3:14b–15a). The response to suffering that opens up the door for sharing the gospel and pointing people toward hope in God is the response that does not fear man but honors and trusts in God. We can respond this way because Jesus Christ suffered and died for our sins and, as we repent of our sins and trust in Him as our Savior and Lord, we receive the Holy Spirit. Knowing the Lord is using this suffering for our good by growing us in holiness, we can respond, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in counter-cultural way that will turn heads. A peculiar response will cause unbelievers to ask why it is that someone who professes to be a Christian is not seeking revenge or fretting about the suffering. Simply put, use your suffering to share your faith. Seek to honor God in your suffering. When God does give those opportunities to answer such a question, do it in a way that is gentle and respectful (3:15b). Even if unbelievers see and hear you but still choose to mock and persecute you, you can be sure an honorable response on your end will result in their own shame (3:16). The truth of this point is summed up well in 1 Peter 3:17, “For it is better to suffering for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” Do good for the glory of God, even if it means you will suffer. Because to suffer while doing good, if it is God’s will, is what honors God.
- How do you typically respond to suffering in your life? What does this show unbelievers about your trust in Christ?
- How can we use our suffering as a means and a tool to sharing the hope of the gospel?