Paying a price in suffering for belonging to Jesus is to be expected, and it’s well worth it, for multiple reasons.
So how do we proceed? How do we prepare for the hardships that will likely come along the way?
There are two sections of this passage that address this question. The first is in verses 13 through 17; the second is in verse 22. This is where the passage becomes largely imperative. How does Peter command us to prepare for the opposition and suffering that so often come to God’s people?
- Get serious (1P 1.13a). Peter’s metaphor, “gird up the loins of your mind,” means simply to get ready to get to work. And with that comes the command to “be sober,” or serious. This is serious business; we don’t approach it as something trivial or a sideline issue. This is focused on the coming “revelation” of Jesus Christ himself. The New Bible Commentary comments, “This phrase pictures not so much the return of one who is absent as the unveiling of one who has been with us all the time” (p 1375). As Daniel’s three friends can testify, God is with us in the fire. We face it with serious determination.
- Take the long view (1P 1.13b). To “hope to the end” is to be focused on a confident expectation of a positive outcome, and an endurance until it comes. This means, of course, that you focus not on the trial, but on Christ, who has sent the trial and who is using it to accomplish his good purposes. As they say, keep your eyes on the prize.
- Reject the past (1P 1.14). You’ve already turned away from the sins that defined your life before salvation; now don’t go back. Remember Lot’s wife.
- Cross the line (1P 1.15-16). You’ve left those old ways to join a new team—or to put it more bluntly and biblically, to become God’s servant and son or daughter. You’ve changed sides; you’re over here now, and you’re not going back; so identify clearly and publicly with your new Master, and take whatever hardship comes.
- Stay serious (1P 1.17). This is a new life, and a lifelong commitment. You’re in for the long haul. So plan to stay on this path, in this relationship, committed to the lifestyle, all the way to the end. Peter says to pass the time “in fear.” Not cowering, defensive, expecting blows and punishment from a master who despises and abuses you—that was the old master, not this one. But rather reverently, delighted with God’s awesomeness, and determined not to think, do, or say anything that that would disappoint or misrepresent him.
- Live out love (1P 1.22). Your new relationship involves more than just God—though he would be more than enough. He has placed you into the body of Christ, the church. And bodies have multiple parts, useful for different purposes, which all work together to accomplish the goals of the head. We’re teammates in the largest project ever conceived. So we cherish one another, help one another, encourage one another, support one another. Peter will develop this concept more in the next paragraph, which is also the next chapter and thus a different series. Which you can read here.
Maybe we’ll face persecution like that faced by the ancient saints, and by our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. Maybe we won’t. But we’re not promised immunity, and we should be prepared should it come. We make that preparation now, before the time. And as we prepare we determine, with absolute certainty, that whatever hardships may come, the cause is Worth It.