‘The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.’ so said Martin Luther King Jnr, the great American Black Civil Rights Leader and Preacher at a Nobel Peace Prize Recognition Dinner on 27th January 1965.
It is a profound statement and one which many Christians should be able to relate too. Christians can say what they believe, but that belief is most clearly tested, most obvious, when Christians have to stand firm through challenge, conflict or persecution.
Suffering may not be a particular popular notion or even a feature that Christians would want to add into a list of essential elements of what goes hand in hand with being a person of faith.
That said, according to the Bible and according to historical experience, the plain fact is that Christians have and will suffer for their faith in Jesus. Rather than dismiss or ignore the notion, this series of articles aims to acknowledge suffering so that when it is experienced the Christian will be ready to stand firm, resilient in that moment of challenge or controversy.
A Christ-Centred Hope
The letter of 1 Peter effectively asks the question; ‘If you are going to live for Christ, are you willing to make a stand? It is a rubber hits the road kind of letter.
In the first third of the letter Peter speaks about a Christ-centred hope (1:3-2:10). He wants his readers to be grounded in what God has done to save them and make them his chosen ones. He says:
‘In his great mercy [God] has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3)
And then he finishes the section by describing the outcome of that Christ-centred hope:
‘You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his wonderful light’ (1 Peter 2:9)
Before we consider anything of the trial that suffering may cause, it is important to remember that Christians have a living hope, as a chosen one, for an eternal birth – that is a hope that even suffering or death cannot take away.
Peter continues, and in the middle section of the letter he helps his readers to understand how to live with a Christ-centred hope (2:11-4:11). He says:
‘Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us’. (1 Peter 2:12)
Peter recognises the reality that Christians are living in a world that is not particularly favourable towards believers. Christians live under the rule of non-believing world authorities, they work for non-believing masters (bosses), some are married to an unbelieving spouse, and they are called to live under the watchful eye of non-believing communities who will often mock or ridicule them. His point – living like Christ should look very different to living for the World.
 Martin Luther King Jnr., The Struggle for Racial Justice, Address delivered at Nobel Peace Prize Recognition Dinner, 27 January 1965. The quote was adapted from a sermon King had published in Strength to Love, Augsburg Fortress, 1963.
For more in this Series:
Resilient in Suffering
If you are going to live for Christ, are you willing to make a stand?
Living for Christ will involve Suffering!
Strategies for Resilience in Suffering
Suffering and Judgement
How does a Christian become more resilient in suffering?