Trial or Consequence?
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name—1 Peter 4:13-16.
Difficulties provoke questions. “Am I suffering in a trial, or is my pain a consequence of something I’ve done?” You need to identify the source of a hard thing in your life because your responsibility in the matter depends on the source of your hardship. Jesus’ disciple Peter will help you understand the difference.
First Peter 4:14 says, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” If you are suffering as a result of representing Christ, you are experiencing a trial. Realize you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings and it leads to blessing.
Continuing is this warning of consequence: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”
Peter has listed classic “choose to sin; choose to suffer” actions. Murderer describes anyone with a hateful action or thought—who disrespects life. Thief can refer to anyone who loses his or her job for stealing time; anyone who loses his or her marriage for stealing selfish interests; anyone who loses his or her friend by stealing too much attention. All of these actions involve taking what belongs to someone else. Evildoer is a general term for describing anyone who participates in sinful activity. Meddler describes anyone who, as one translation puts it, is “prying into other people’s affairs” (1 Peter 4:15 NLT). If any of these actions causes hardship for you, you’re suffering a consequence, not a trial.
Next, Peter returns to trials: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” In His kindness, God promises that trials will come. These hardships should never cause us to be ashamed, because God receives glory through the way His people respond to suffering.
When you are enduring a difficulty, decide whether it is a wake-up call to the reality of bad choices, or it has been allowed by God to train your character for His glory. Again, it’s important to ask God for wisdom in seeing the difference between trials and consequences. Many believers are experiencing very painful consequences to sin in their lives. They may call those consequences trials, but “do not be deceived,” Galatians 6:7 says. “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
Look at the following four situations. Which is a trial? Which is a consequence?
My marriage is in trouble after many years of neglect.
My husband lost his job because the automobile industry is suffering.
My husband lost his job because he was stealing materials from work.
My son has a serious illness and is in the hospital.
The answers: (1) consequence; (2) trial; (3) consequence; (4) trial for you, possible consequence for him.
When you are suffering consequences, repent immediately. Turn around and don’t walk—run back to God. When you are suffering for Christ, seek His grace to rejoice over your participation in events that will bring glory to God.
What are some instances in which you have had to learn the difference between trials and consequences?
How have both those causes for difficulty ended up being lessons for you?
Lord, today I ask You for wisdom to avoid labeling consequences as trials. Use Your Word and other people in my life to help me see what I can’t see on my own—sins that bring about unpleasant results. I need to develop a healthy attitude of readiness to repent when I’m made aware of sin. And when You show me that a hardship is simply a trial You have chosen for my life, help me to continually rejoice and rest in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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