S194P6 – Voices of the martyrs: Peter

1 Pet. 5:8-11

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.  But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.  To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

He knew that he was in for a long hike, but the 15-mile distance was not his concern.  That mountain had a reputation for a relentless and unforgiving terrain, but he had been accustomed to steep yet easily navigable trails.  His guide laid out what was to come and told him that the Passage of Boulders would be only a short portion of their hike.  They encountered the behemoths early, and the rocks lived up to their reputation.  These were stones one had to climb one at a time on all fours.  After the first dozen, a view around the bend in the trail revealed dozens more ahead of them.  The young hiker turned to his guide in disbelief.  It turned out that the “short” bouldered portion of this trail was still more than a mile long.

My previous readings of this passage have misunderstood everything Peter meant when he spoke of a short time of suffering followed by strengthening and perfection.  The picture in my mind was of a person who had to endure weeks, months, or maybe even years of trial before being delivered and rewarded in this life.  The “while” of suffering seemed to me to be shorter than the span of life in this era.  I thought it must be a mere blip in the timeline of one’s existence.  Peter, however, would experience something much different.  His life would end in martyrdom, which means that his “while” of suffering would end with deliverance not just from the trial but from this world and this earthly existence altogether. 

One of the great truths of our faith is that God does not fulfill his promises the way we necessarily expect them to be fulfilled.  We might think of deliverance from persecution or suffering as one being saved from the pain and then going on to live a glorious life here.  For some, however, their deliverance from the trial only comes with death in this life.  This might not look like deliverance and might look like abandonment, but God never promised that the “while” of suffering would be short or would end in this order of things.  The heart of the martyr is to endure unto the end that He has ordained.  Father, thank You for deliverance and perfection as a result of our suffering, even if that comes only by deliverance from this earthly life.