1 Peter 1:6-7, Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
Last time, I talked about the second reason why we may suffer: God to prepare us for a greater task. Today, I wrap up this discussion on why we suffer with the last reason: because of sin. We live in a sinful world. Because of this reality, bad things are inevitable. People often ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Easy: because of sin. Also because no one is good (Luke 18:19). But for the sake of our puny human minds, let’s use these terms of “bad” and “good.” Bad things happen to “bad” people too, but we don’t focus on that. Rather, we focus on bad, evil people who are successful and/or get away with their wickedness. Jesus said God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). God’s love does not extend to His children alone. God loves both the righteous and the wicked, and we often forget this. God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked; instead, He desires that the wicked turn from their ways and live in Him (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11). So it is unchristian to think good things should only happen to good people because 1) God loves all people since we were all created in His image, and 2) not one person is good (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10; Luke 18:19). Because God loves both the righteous and the wicked, good things will occasionally happen to both of us.
However, we both still suffer. As I said earlier, the simple answer to why we suffer is: because of sin. Our own sin may cause our own suffering. For example, if you choose not to study for any exams or do any homework and your grades suffer and you become stressed out and endure the stressful trial of catching up, obviously that’s your fault because you were ignoring your vocation as student by being irresponsible and lazy. Or suppose you’re married, cheat on your wife/husband, it leads to divorce, and you suffer financially and possibly emotionally. Facing this trial would be a result of your adulterous sin. At other times, however, our suffering may not be our fault. The entire world lives in sin, and somehow we forget this. Why is ISIS seeking to destroy western civilisation and murder all those who refuse to subjugate to Islam? The short answer is because of sin. Why are school shootings rising? Because of sin. Why does your loved one have cancer? Because of sin (not because of his/her sin, but sin overall). Sin is causing the world to rot, and man is responsible for it, so we suffer its effects, which is death (Romans 6:23).
These terrible things continue to happen to us and we always act surprised when they do. Why should we be surprised? Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Tribulation is inevitable and should be expected; it should never come as a surprise. However, He continues, saying, “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Why is this significant for us? In the Greek, if this were to be translated literally, it would say, “I have Myself overcome the world,” which is a redundant statement (“I have myself”). When redundancy occurs in the Greek, it does so for a specific purpose—for emphasis. So He wasn’t just making a simple statement like, “Yes, I have overcome the world. Duh.” Rather, He was making a bold declaration, “I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD!” We read this so many times but I don’t think we stop to appreciate how extraordinarily exciting this is! Jesus Christ is the commander of our salvation, and victory has already been won. The verb for “overcome” is also used in a cousin verb in Romans 8:37, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Jesus overcame—or conquered—the world, and through Him we will also conquer the world. The enemies we fear and this world in which we have tribulation have already lost. Though we face them now, we have the assured joy and hope in Christ that as He has overcome the world, so in Him shall we overcome when He brings us home and returns to destroy the evil one and all iniquity.
Stay tuned for next time when I discuss the imagery Peter uses about our faith being tested with fire like gold.