Today, our beatitude for prayer is . . . Blessed are those who pray to learn obedience in times of suffering.

For some students the learning process is more difficult than it is for other students. The circumstances in which learning takes place may have some bearing on the degree of difficulty. Students who enjoy an easy access to comfortable facilities and are encouraged by well-trained, personable instructors, will usually experience fewer complications in their learning process. On the other hand, students who face long distance commuting, unfamiliar cultures, language barriers, and impersonal instructors are challenged by hardships that can be daunting, making the learning process very stressful.

The apostle Peter wrote some very timely encouragement to Christians who experienced hardships in their efforts to remain obedient to the principles of faith they had learned. Peter wrote, “My friends, do not be surprised at the terrible trouble which now comes to test you. Do not think that something strange is happening to you. But be happy that you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings so that you will be happy when Christ comes again in glory” [1 Peter, chapter 4, verses 12 and 13].

Peter wanted the beleaguered new Christians to realize they were a special community of people, learning to live their faith in the midst of a hostile environment. The apostle said that their efforts to be obedient to the faith they were learning would suffer opposition because the object of their faith—Christ himself—had also been opposed.

We sympathize with an ancient generation of believers who had to endure times of suffering for their faith. But in these modern days we may not be as willing to accept hardships while we are learning and growing in our faith. We much prefer to be well thought of in our circles of social relationships. To believers long ago and to us who believe today, Peter’s words are important and will help us grasp who we are as people of faith and the nature of our commission in life. Listen to Peter as he adds these words in his letter: “ . . . you are a chosen people, royal priests, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. You were chosen to tell of the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light . . . Dear friends, you are like foreigners and strangers in this world. I beg you to avoid the evil things your bodies want to do that fight against your soul. People who do not believe are living all around you and might say that you are doing wrong. Live such good lives that they will see the good things you do and will give glory to God . . .” [1 Peter, chapter 2, verses 9-12].

Occasionally, elementary school children enjoy a special learning time when they are invited to “show and tell.” They regale their fellow students about a family vacation and show photographs or souvenirs collected along the way. In a similar manner, Christian faith also calls for demonstration. We want our faith to be honored by neighbors and all the people with whom we interact in our places of work and communities. Sometimes, our faith is honored. At other times, our faithfulness to principles and actions may be criticized and even rejected.

Despite what others may think or say about you, the Lord regards you as a precious possession in his spiritual family. Sin and suffering hardships is our human dilemma. But God’s grace and truth has come in the person of Jesus. Instead of grimly facing a Day of Judgment, grace comes to save us and teach us how to trust what Jesus himself trusted. The apostle Peter wrote: “Christ suffered but he did not threaten. He let God, the One who judges rightly, take care of him” [1 Peter, chapter 3, verse 23].

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