May 29

Rejoice in Your Sufferings 

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:12,13

What makes you happy? The end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation? Seeing a beloved family member again after a long separation? Being able to spend some time on the golf course or in the wood shop or at the pool?

How about suffering? Does suffering make you happy? Would you consider it pure joy to actually suffer physical violence because you told other people about Jesus?

Jesus’ apostles really did consider it pure joy to suffer in that way. One time, after the Jewish ruling council had them flogged for preaching about Jesus, they “went out…rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name” of Jesus (Acts 5:41). In fact, they went right back to the temple and kept telling people about Jesus, despite the punishment they had just endured.

The apostle Peter tells us in today’s Bible passage that we, too, can “rejoice as [we] share in the sufferings of Christ.” When people ridicule us for being Christians, we can consider ourselves blessed because God’s Spirit rests on us. Such suffering doesn’t come to us because we’re doing something wrong. Rather it comes because we’re doing something right. We’re suffering for following Jesus. And that is nothing to be ashamed of.

But rejoicing in our sufferings is not something that comes naturally. When someone ridicules us, our first reaction is to strike back at them, not to rejoice. Yet, all that changes when we remember the one for whom we are suffering. We’re suffering because we belong to Jesus, who lived, died, and rose again for us and soon will return in glory to take us to the eternal joys of heaven. Because we belong to Jesus, we, like the apostles, have been counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of his name. What a reason to rejoice!

Lord Jesus, thank you for the privilege of being able to suffer for your name. Amen.

Finding Your Voice

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd.
Acts 2:14

On December 5, 1955, 26-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. received a shock. He and others had gathered to prepare for a first-of-its-kind mass meeting. The meeting was to address the overt racism that existed in their city’s policies. Dr. King had no interest in serving as a leader in this effort. He just wanted to attend. But less than an hour before the meeting began, the group, to his dismay, chose him to make a speech.

He had 20 minutes to prepare. He later said he wasted five of those twenty minutes having a panic attack. Then he had to fight traffic. Then he had to struggle through the crowd of thousands. Finally, at 7:30 P.M., with only a few notes, Martin Luther King, Jr. began to speak. The packed hall listened. The rest is history. Martin Luther King, Jr. had found his voice.

Ten days after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the apostle Peter stood up to address a crowd in Jerusalem. Up to this point, Peter’s reputation for courage under pressure was sketchy at best. But things had happened—extraordinary things. For one, the promised Holy Spirit had filled Peter with courage through the power of the gospel. For another, Peter’s crucified and buried Lord had risen from the dead. So when Peter stood up to speak, he spoke with real bravery. Thanks to the resurrection of Jesus and the sending of the Holy Spirit, Peter had found his voice.

In our sinful weaknesses, you and I can often wince and cower at the thought of speaking to someone else about Jesus. But things have happened—extraordinary things. For one, the promised Holy Spirit has come to fill us with courage through the power of the gospel. And for another, our crucified and buried Lord has risen from the dead.

You and I may never be a Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking to thousands in a single speech. You and I may never be a Peter, speaking boldly to people who had called for Jesus’ crucifixion. But the Lord can move you to speak to another soul about Jesus. In him, you can find your voice.

Lord Jesus, you’ve washed me clean. You’ve risen from death. Empower me to find my voice. Amen.