Suffering Saints

Arthur Pink

"Therefore, let those who suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator" (1 Peter 4:19). As the nature of fallen man is very backward to do good, so likewise to suffer evil; and hence it is there are so many exhortations in the Word both to the one and to the other. There is much in this Epistle on the subject of "suffering" (which has prime reference to opposition from the world), and many are the inducements advanced for the bearing of it in a God-honoring way. Varied indeed are the grounds for patience mentioned, and the streams of comfort therein, opened to the persecuted people of God. Read through the Epistle with that particular thought in mind. Limiting ourselves to the more immediate context: the Christian is not to be unduly perplexed at his troublous lot (v. 12), rather is he to rejoice because it brings him into fellowship with Christ (vv. 13, 14). Yet we must carefully see to it, that our afflictions are not incurred through our own wickedness or folly (vv. 15, 16). Vastly different is the end of a Christian from that of the wicked (vv. 17, 18).

"Therefore—in view of all the reasons and encouragements given in the context—let those who suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator." In different ways and in various degrees, the Christian is bound to meet with trying opposition: "All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). No matter where they reside, the saints live among those who cannot but cause them suffering. And as Scripture makes abundantly clear—our worst afflictions are to be expected from those who profess to be our brethren and sisters in Christ. Moreover, there is much within the saint himself which cannot but be the cause and occasion of suffering: indwelling corruptions which ever resist the actings of grace, lusts which have to be mortified, a conscience which accuses us when we displease God.

But the grand thing in which we are here to take to heart, is the fact that the suffering of saints is "according to the will of God." Those oppositions he encounters, the injuries done to him are not accidental: they are not the result of blind chance or fickle fortune—but are according to Divine ordination and ordering. How inexpressibly blessed to be assured of that! Does it not at once remove the bitterest ingredient from our cup of trouble? The saint never suffers—except by the will of God. He who is too wise to err, and too loving to be unkind—is the One who mixes the medicine and hands it to us. If only we could always realize this, how many rebellious repinings would be silenced, and the rod meekly borne. True, we do not suffer all the time, for God tempers the wind according as our case requires, and graciously grants us brief respites.

Now in view of the fact that suffering is inevitable as long as we are on earth, and particularly because it is "according to the will of God," of our gracious Father—what is the Christian's duty in connection therewith? To commit the keeping of his soul to Him in well doing. The manner of this committal is "in well doing."

And this, first, before suffering comes upon us. When some worker of iniquity afflicts a child of God, what a comfort it is if he has the testimony of a good conscience that he is suffering for "well doing" —and not because he has wronged his persecutor. How watchful we should be in seeing to it, that none can justly speak evil of us, and that we do nothing to warrant our enemies hurting us. Then let us follow a course of "well doing" continually.

Second, in the suffering itself. No matter how unprovoked the opposition, we must carry ourselves rightly under persecution: so far from harboring a spirit of retaliation, we are required to do good unto those who do us evil.

Not only are we to be active in "well doing" unto those who cause us suffering—but our carriage is also to be good with respect to God: there must be a meek behavior under His afflicting hand, with no murmuring against Him. This is of vast importance in connection with the cause of God on earth: that we betray it not through fear or cowardice, and dishonor it not by base retaliation against our oppressors. When we display a Christ-like spirit under afflictions, conducting ourselves in the fear of God and make conscience of our duty—it will exert a strong influence on those who wrong us: touching the hearts of the indifferent, and closing the mouths of the obstinate. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal—but spiritual. Far more will be accomplished by prayer, than by taking things into our own hands and seeking to avenge ourselves.

We are not only to commit our souls unto God as to a faithful Creator—but this duty is to be performed "in well doing." In the suffering itself, we should have an eye to God, an eye on ourselves, and an eye to the cause in hand. We must not commit our souls to God in idleness: it is not sufficient that we abstain from evil doing, we are to be active in well doing. Nor may we resort to ungodly compromises in order to escape suffering, for that would be evil—and sin is far, far worse than to have suffering inflicted upon us. Whatever may be the present gain of pleasing men at the expense of displeasing God, the future loss will be immeasurably greater: prayerfully ponder Mark 8:38.

And what is it we are to "commit to God in well doing"? Our name, our estate, our bodies, our friends; but chiefly and above all, the keeping of our souls. The soul is our most excellent part. Though the body is burned at the stake, that is a trifle—if our soul be preserved unto everlasting glory. Though all our earthly goods are taken from us, what is that if the inestimably precious jewel of our soul is safe in the hands of God? The value of our souls is to be gauged by the price which Christ paid for their redemption. Therefore, whatever trouble or peril we are in at the hands of the wicked, let our first concern be our souls, that it may be well with them. When a man's house is on fire, he naturally seeks to rescue first, that on which he sets the most store; let it be so with the Christian when fiery trials are his portion.

And what is it that we should desire our souls to be kept from? Why, from sin, from doing evil, from not only failing to be profited from the suffering, but to be spiritually injured thereby. It is when we are slandered, ill treated, wronged, unjustly persecuted, that we most need God's preserving grace, for it is natural for us to want to "return evil for evil." But when we truly comply with the injunction of Christ's "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44), then has grace triumphed over the flesh and God is greatly glorified. Nor is it a difficult matter to commit our souls unto God—when our hearts are impressed with His faithfulness. If He unfailingly supplies the temporal needs of all His creatures, will He fail to minister to the spiritual needs of His children? No indeed!