A REFINING PROCESS
Sometimes we are well aware of our shortcomings and we desire to change for the better as well as to conduct ourselves appropriately before God and man. However, as much as we have this determination, we often do what we actually abhor and fail miserably to control ourselves. Initially, this may prove to be very tormenting to our sense of justice and moral conscience. However, as time goes by and through repeated action, we end up feeling numb to our wrongdoings and eventually accept our behavior as ‘normal’.
In all honesty, this is an ongoing battle that we will have to fight until we reach perfection. In order to overcome such dilemmas and to rid ourselves of sin, suffering must play its part. This is a painful process. Yet, no matter how difficult it may be, drastic action must be taken to stop stubbornly repeating the same sin. Otherwise, this kind of stubbornness will always remain a stumbling block that stifles personal spiritual growth and hinders the progress of the church. In the worst-case scenario, it may cause others to fall and drive truth-seeking friends away from believing in Christ.
Isaiah vividly describes the refinement of the house of God; his description shows that Israel was purged quite radically. Since the severity of their sins was such that they could not be cleansed through mere warnings from the prophets, the children of Zion had to be delivered into the hands of their enemy, which is likened to passing through fire (Isa 4:3–5). This was the only way to create willingness in them to return to God in repentance and to transform their sinful nature.
Peter picks up the same theme as he reminds the scattered believers about the benefits of suffering. His teaching clearly shows that it is always hard for us, in the flesh, to respond positively to God’s word without fail. Yet, if Christ learned to obey the Father through His suffering (Heb 5:7–9), shouldn’t we also prepare ourselves to suffer? In fact, if we want to stop sinning, our flesh has to suffer. We have to curb and put to death its desire, stopping it from enticing us (1 Pet 4:1). In this way, suffering helps us to do what our strength alone cannot do: it turns us away from sin.
Living the rest of our lives for the will of God is definitely impossible without the aid of suffering (1 Pet 4:2). Therefore, we have to arm ourselves with the mind to suffer—otherwise we will be fighting a losing battle, in danger of forfeiting even our spiritual lives. A notable example is Paul’s confession of the wearing-away of his body, which served to renew his inner man (2 Cor 4:16).
Once we have equipped ourselves with this mindset, it will lead us to perfection.
[To be continued...]