By Gareth Bowley
If you jumped into the boxing ring with someone like Mike Tyson or Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao – don’t be surprised if they started throwing some punches! After all, they’re boxers, this a boxing ring…!
Or to put it another way, if you lived in Bhagdad or Jerusalem or Gaza and you heard air sirens wailing you wouldn’t think – “I wonder what that noise is?” You’d run for cover, grabbing loved ones and maybe prized possessions in the seconds before the expected air or rocket strike. After all these cities have been and to some extent are still war zones…!
Understanding clearly the context, the place, the time in which we live can dramatically affect how prepared or unprepared for are for what might happen next. If you were scheduled to get into the boxing ring with a famous heavy hitter you’d prepare, get some training or even cancel the appointment. If you live in a war zone you prepare yourself with a wartime mentality. And that mindset, that readiness could well save your life.
And yet as believers in a country like South Africa where it is acceptable to attend church, to read your bible and pray we can make the mistake of having a peace-time mentality, thinking that we live in peace-time and so being surprised by things that according to Scripture ought not to surprise us.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)
Don’t be surprised beloved Christ follower, don’t be shocked when trials, troubles, difficulty, opposition come even when ‘fiery trails’ come – don’t be surprised as if something strange, something out of the ordinary, something unexpected was happening!
The apostle Peter’s perspective is not a ‘peace-time mentality’. This life is a boxing ring, he knows that there is an opponent, an enemy who’s throwing punches, launching missiles at God, at the church and at God’s children… He knows that life is not like a war, life is not a metaphor, this life, this age is literally a war, the in between now and not yet age within which the devil is real, is ugly and is breathing out threats and opposition towards us as Christ followers. Seeking to discourage, to disrupt us from passionately being steadfast in our followership of Jesus and our serving of His purposes on His planet. He knows that the fiery trial comes to test our faith to prove its genuineness…
A wrong mind-set leaves us both unprepared for trials and also leaves us vulnerable to making wrong conclusions. As a church leader over and over again I have heard, watched Christ followers grappling, floundering in their faith in God even when they have undergone trials, tests & faced opposition. They have looked, sounded shocked, surprised that these things were happening, some have even had crises of faith wondering whether God is loving towards them, doubting whether God is good and sovereign, doubting their own faith because of the trials they’re up against.
We need a biblical theology of suffering that produces robust Christians who since Christ suffered, have as His followers also ‘armed themselves with the same way of thinking'(paraphrase of 1 Peter 4:1), Christ followers; ‘who rejoice in that they share in Christ’s sufferings so that they will rejoice when Christ’s glory is revealed’ (paraphrase of 1 Peter 4:13-14) and who have “entrusted their souls to a faithful creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19), Christ followers who know that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials” (2 Peter 2:9) and who are convinced that “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)!
Brother, sister, a right mind-set, a correct perspective on this life will prepare you for the trials that will come, will help you in the midst of them to not have a crisis of faith but to secure your faith in the one who will rescue us, will restore, establish and strengthen us in this life and into eternity. Life is a war! It’s not like one, it is one. But we know how this war ends, we know who wins… His name is Jesus, and we are His forever and ever, His beloved ones who will reign with Him forever and ever. Amen.