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Throughout much of my ministry, I had a number of WWII veterans in my congregations. Though often humble and reluctant to talk about themselves or their service and sacrifice, one always sensed a great pride in and loyalty to our nation—its values and freedoms and what the Allied victory meant for the future of their families and of America. When one is part of some higher cause, some noble goal beyond oneself, the motivation to serve, even to sacrifice and suffer, rises significantly. And it is rare when achieving such great goals does not require a life-altering commitment and sacrifice.

Earlier in this epistle Peter assured us that for sinners, the humanly unattainable goal of eternal life has been attained for us by superhuman divine mercy, by the heaven-sent Lamb’s substitutionary and redemptive sin-sacrifice and by His glorious resurrection victory. In all this both Jesus and the Father have been glorified and “the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” and all who believe, follow, and serve Christ.

Connected by faith to Christ and His salvation mission, we are now part of the most vital and impactful cause and calling in human history. As His workmanship, every step of our faith-journey becomes God-glorifying, from the humblest form of service to our Savior and to one another to the highest level of sacrifice or suffering for the Name of Christ.

Yet the Apostle also warns against self-imposed suffering as a consequence of our sins. Guilt feelings, earthly sin-consequences (and they are many—see Genesis 3) as well as the certainty of divine judgment all constitute “the just reward for our deeds.” (Luke 23:41) This, we pray, will lead us and all people to see the horror of sin, and in repentance and faith to look to the cross for forgiveness and hope.

Peter’s focus here is on those then and now who “suffer as a Christian” (verse 16), who “are reproached [face contempt] for the name of Christ” (verse 14). This suffering should seem neither strange nor unexpected nor a cause for shame or despair, but rather a source of joy, a blessing, a divine badge of honor by which God is glorified (verses 12-18).

An aged Christian bishop in the early church named Polycarp, when faced with the choice of renouncing Christ or being burned alive, replied, “For 86 years I have served Christ and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?” Pray God for similar strength to confess Christ to the end. For all God’s soldiers of the cross who feel inadequate as Christ-confessors, especially compared to Polycarp, take heart! God never fails to deliver on His promises and He never calls us to service without also supplying the wherewithal to fulfill that calling.

Polycarp of Smyrna

And for all called to serve, to sacrifice, to suffer for Christ, what does He promise? Nothing less than His abiding and protective presence (Isaiah 43:1-5), His powerful and unfailing Word (Isaiah 55:10-11), strength for each day and need (Deuteronomy 33:25), and eternal triumph for His cause and His Church (Matthew 16:18, Revelation). In short, His blessing, “for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

“If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” (1 Peter 4:14-16)

David Schierenbeck is a retired pastor and a member of the CLC Board of Doctrine. He lives in St. Paul Park, Minnesota.