Chapter XXVII

CHAPTER XXVII.

Suffering according to tfje Mill of ffioo.

"For SO is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. Because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow His steps."—1 Pet. ii. 15, 20, 21.

"It is better, if the will of God so will, that ye suffer for welldoing, than for evil-doing. Because Christ also suffered for sins once."—1 Pet. iii. 17, 18.

'' Inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice. Wherefore, let them also that suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator."—1 Pet. iv. 13, 19.

"DEFORE Peter had received the Holy Spirit, he could not understand that suffering had to be borne as God's will. When Christ spoke of His suffering, he reproved Him, and had to bear the rebuke: Get thee behind Me, Satan. "When his discipleship brought him into danger and suffering, he denied his Lord. He could not see that suffering was God's will. With Pentecost everything was changed. He knew no fear. He rejoiced that he was counted worthy to suffer for His name. In his Epistle he ever connects Christ's suffering for our sins with His example, calling us to suffer like Him. Through suffering to gloryis the keynote of his exhortation to the saints. Let us listen to what he teaches us of the will of God in suffering.

The first lesson is: To regard all suffering as the will of God for us. "If the will of God will, that ye suffer for well-doing." "They that suffer according to the will of God." He is speaking of the suffering of injustice at the hands of our fellow-men. Very many, who think they are ready to endure trial that comes direct from God, find it very hard to bear unkind, or hard, or unjust treatment from men. And yet it is just here that Christ's teaching and example, and all Scripture instruction, call upon us to accept and bow to the will of God. Whether it be in the most flagrant injustice, and the most terrible suffering — such as our Lord endured at the hands of Caiaphas and Pilate — or the smaller vexations that we meet with in daily life from enemies or friends, all suffering must be to us the will of God. Nothing can come to us without the will of God. What is done may be most contrary to the will of God, and the doer most guilty in His sight— that it is done to us, that we suffer by it, is God's will. And the first duty of the child of God is—not to look at the man who does it, to seek to be avenged of him, or delivered from his hands, but — to recognise and bow beneath it as the Father's will. That one thought — it is the Father's will — changes our feelings towards it, enables us to accept it as a blessing, changes it from an evil into a good. In all suffering let the first thought be, to see the Father's hand, and count on the Father's help. Then no circumstance whatever can for one moment take us out of the blessed will of God.

The second lesson is: Ever to suffer with welldoing. In all the three texts the word "welldoing" occurs. If we suffer when we do wrong, and take it patiently, this is no glory. The one thing we are to care for is that, if we suffer, it is not to be for wrong-doing, but for welldoing. For it is better, if the will of God so will, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evildoing. And also with well-doing, not allowing the suffering to call forth anything that is sinful. That must be our one desire in suffering. It is caused by sin, it is meant to take away sin— how terrible if I make it the occasion of more sin, and turn it to the very opposite of what God means it to be. But if we suffer when we do well, and take it patiently, this is acceptable with God — that so by well-doing we put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Men may learn from us what the power of Grace is, to soften and to strengthen; what the reality is of the heavenly life and joy that enables us to bear all loss; and what the blessing is of the service of the Divine Master, who can make His own path of suffering so attractive and so blessed to His followers. And it is in welldoing we can commit our souls unto a faithful Creator.

Here is the third lesson: In suffering to commit our souls to God's faithful keeping. What a precious privilege! Amid all the temptation suffering brings, God Himself offers to take charge of the keeping of our souls. Going down into the darkness of death, our Lord Jesus said: "Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit." Into every dark cloud of suffering into which we enter, we may say this too. From all the strife of tongues and the pride of man, from all that there is in ourselves of the tendency to impatience or anger, to quick judgments or unloving dispositions, the faithful Creator can keep the soul committed to Him. He who sends the suffering as His will, has beforehand provided a place of safety, where the blessing of the suffering will assuredly be given. Let us say: "I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him."

Then comes the last lesson: In all our suffering according to the will of God, Christ is our pattern and our strength. In all the three chapters Christ suffering for our sake is connected with our suffering for His sake. "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example — that ye should follow His steps" (ii. 2). "It is better that ye suffer for well-doing, because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous" (iii. 17, 18). "Forasmuch as Christ suffered in the flesh, arm ye yourselves with the same mind. Insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice ye . . . because the Spirit of Glory and the Spirit of God resteth on you " (iv. 1, 13, 14). The sufferings of believers are as indispensable as are those of Christ. They are to be borne in the same spirit. They are the means of fellowship with Him, and conformity to His image. Christ Jesus accepted and bore all suffering, of whatever nature, great or small, whether coming in the ordinary course of events or specially devised against Himself, as the will of God. He endured all, as the necessary result of sin, in submission to the will of the Father who sent it, as the school in which He was to prove that His will was one with the Father's, and that the Father's will was over all.

Christ is our pattern, because He is our life. In time of suffering proof is given that the Spirit of Glory and the Spirit of God rests upon us. Oh that all believers who desire to live wholly to the will of God might understand how much depends upon their recognisiDg God's will in all suffering, and bearing all according to the will of God! And might understand, too, how impossible it is to disconnect Christ's sufferings for us from our's for Him. He suffered for us as our Head, in whom we are made alive. We can only suffer for Him as He lives in us. The attempt to do or bear the will of God aright, as long as we are living on a different level from that on which Christ lived, must be failure. It is only where the whole-hearted surrender, to live and die for the will of God as He did, possesses the soul that the mighty power of His Love, and Grace, and Spirit can do their wonders in the life.