Surprised, When We Shouldn’t Be
Simon Kistemaker remarks* concerning 1 Peter 3:16 saying, “To opponents of the Christian faith, a Christian who professes his faith in Christ has already provided sufficient evidence of wrongdoing.” This is something that we need to be reminded of often. To be reminded that there is a war going on and that those who are not for Christ are against Him and those that are His.
Our opponents are not just those with tattoos saying “Love that Antichrist”. We are at war with the Devil and his darkness and those who live in that darkness are part of the darkness. Though many will continue to live lives with a good dose of religion and morality and they will continue to be good neighbors and good co-workers, we recognize that it is common grace that restrains them from greater evil and not their own virtue. We are grateful for such common grace. But we do need to remember that we are at war. And while the weapons of our warfare are good and godly tools that often are used to extend the gospel to the servants of the enemy, the tools of darkness have not good intentions.
This is not a call to some kind of martyr-complex paranoia but a reminder of the nature of our enemy—so we will not be caught off guard. We need to be prepared so that we know how to respond to attacks and that we know how to think about those attacks. It is part of the way we are wired, being wired to crave the acceptance and approval of others, which often stirs up doubt in our minds when disapproval, disappointment, and attacks are ours. But if we are really in a great war, we should not be surprised that attacks come. In fact, the presence of such attacks often evidence that you have made yourself a target by holiness and ministry. Jesus says persecution for righteous sake is a sign of being blessed, Paul says all who live godly in Christ will suffer persecution, and here in 1 Peter, Peter points to this truth also. The soldiers in the field get fired on. Good behavior attracts slander. Righteousness draws attacks. When the banner of Christ is raised, that is enough reason for the enemy to rally his forces. Sometimes, in fact, troubles are evidence that, from God’s prospective, things are going well.
Yet in our day when most of American evangelicalism has been infected to some degree with the prosperity gospel’s definition of blessings, this truth is hard to see. The idea that struggles and difficulties in our lives or churches must indicate we are doing something wrong is just wrong. Being blessed is not about me getting things the way I want them. Blessing is not the presence of nickels and noses any more than it is the absence of people and their gifts. The Word preached, heard, believed, and lived…that is blessing. The Saints living holy and godly lives, living together in love while reaching out to the unsaved with the gospel of Christ…that is blessing. Living lives, as Peter says, zealous for good works…that is the mark of a blessed people. The blessed church is the church where the saints are being discipled out of the sleepy and dull cultural Christianity and are laying hold of their calling to know God and to make Him known. Loving, knowing, and doing good theology—this is BLESSING.
Don’t be surprised.
Don’t be surprised. While it is foolish to go looking for a battle it should not surprise us when one finds us. If we are serious about preaching, praying, sacraments, and a church life that puts its hope in God’s use of these tools, we are begging the enemy to attack. If we make holiness our passion, give ourselves to live in ways that seem odd to the world, and continue to labor for the conversion of the lost through this one and only means, the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will find our opponent at hand. But to this Peter also has something to say…Fear not since God is with you. In Christ is all our comfort and hope. Trust him and don’t be surprised at the efforts of the enemy that may for a season give you trouble. God has promised a final victory and a final home. Be faithful. Stand fast. Hope in Christ.
*New Testament Commentary, Peter and Jude by Simon Kistemaker, p.135