GRACE WHILE UNDER ATTACK
September 11th reminds Americans that we were attacked nine years ago on our home soiled, where over 3,000 Americans died. Radical Islam is at war with our country, and Americans need to turn to the God of the Bible, who can give grace to help time in trial and can turn trials into triumph.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Peter 4:12-14).
Early Christians Attacked
Peter teaches God’s “grace” can bolster persecuted Christians in the increasingly hostile Roman Empire (1 Pet 2:9, 5:10, 12). Fire destroyed much of Rome, capital of the empire, in 64 A.D. Rumors started that Nero started it, allegedly to make room for his building projects.
In 100 A.D., Roman historian Tacitus wrote: “Therefore, to stop the rumor [that Nero had set Rome on fire], he falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition – repressed for a time, broke out yet again….Those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of `hating the human race” [by not attending social events involving idolatry]. In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and torn to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set on fire, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle….For this cause a feeling of pity arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but were victims of the ferocity of one man.” (Annals 15.44).
Peter counsels distressed brethren that they can, by trusting in God, exemplify “grace under fire.” Trials test the depth and quality of our faith in God. “A faith that hasn’t been tested cannot be trusted.” Do we wonder if we could rise to the occasion for Christ under the painful threat of torture and death? God being my helper, I hereby highly resolve that I can daily live faithfully. Christ did not let me down. I literally owe him my whole life (1 Pet 1:19).
For the faithful Christian, the power of God’s grace and the providence of His Spirit will give the strength to bear up under unjust sorrows (1 Pet 2:9, 4:14). God sees and knows our struggles. He can take care of us. Amid life’s injustices, we can keep rejoicing by looking to the wonderful eternal world to come. There God will right all wrongs (1 Pet 2:23). This world is not our home. We’re simply “aliens” passing through to a better place (1 Pet 1:1).
In the great conflict between good and evil, this world is a battleground for the souls of men. Suffering for the right, against the evil schemes of the devil, is inevitable before we enter glory on the other side. Neutrality is impossible. We must show to a dark and dying world which side we’re on. If there were no trials, there could be no triumphs.
This divine grace in them demonstrated that the gospel could survive and thrive, despite terrible persecution. In 150 A.D., Justin Martyr said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” The Roman Empire was filled with empty sinners, burned out and weary of sin’s futility, who saw the calm serenity and triumphant peace that Christians had in bravely facing persecution and death. They were attracted to this grace that supernaturally helped them rise above crushing opposition. They would ask, “What is this hope you have?” (1 Peter 3:15).
In this fallen world, the destiny of precious souls is at stake. By exhibiting Christ-like “grace under fire,” we can make a difference in the life of a lost soul by helping them discover the life-changing power of Christ and receive a “visitation” of salvation (1 Pet 2:21). The world is watching us. The lost might be more interested if we were more interesting in how we handled the problems of life. The “God of grace” has the power, if we will have the faith to accept it (1 Pet 1:5, 5:10).