Summary: ‘Fiery Trials’ 1 Peter chapter 4 verses 12-19 – sermon by Gordon Curley (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email:


Expect ordeals (vs 12)

Rejoice in suffering (vs 13-14)

Examine your life (vs 15-18)

Commit yourself to God (vs 19)



• Persecution of Christians around the world has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic,

• With many Christians being refused help and aid in many countries.

• More than 340 million Christians – one in eight,

• Face high levels of persecution and discrimination because of their faith,

• According to the 2021 World Watch List compiled by Open Doors.

• It says there was a 60% increase over the previous year,

• In the number of Christians killed for their faith.

• More than nine out of 10 of the global totals of 4,761 deaths were in Africa.


• Well ever since Stephen (Acts chapter 7) became the first Christian martyr,

• Persecution and Christianity have gone hand in glove.

• And for many, maybe even the majority of believers around the world,

• Persecution is the norm; it is not unusual.

Here in our country, we tend to see suffering as something to be avoided at all costs.

• I would guess not a single person here wants to suffer!

• But as a Christian expect it! sooner or later it will come your way.

• Especially as Christianity is being more and more marginalised in the UK.

• And if you get updates from the organisation, ‘Christian Concern’,

• Then you know persecution and discrimination is openly going on today in the UK,

• And if you work in certain sectors of society

• i.e., Health, education, journalism and media, and government,

• Then you have no freedom of speech,

• Because if you use it to speak out, then you may well lose your job.

• And struggle to be employed again in that type of work.

Now when it comes to persecution, surprisingly the apostle Peter says, welcome it.

• Earlier on in this letter the apostle Peter has already dealt with "normal persecution,"

• If we can call it that!

• Like the saying, “Can you be a little bit pregnant!” - you either are or you're not

• In one way, you are persecuted or you or not, yet Peter here goes to a deeper level.

• In our section today,

• The apostle Peter talks about a special kind of persecution that Christians face,

• He calls it a “fiery ordeal” or a "fiery trial".

• This type of trial,

• Would not be the occasional personal persecution from people living around them,

• But rather it is official persecution from those in authority above them.

Note: Up to this point in Church history:

• Christianity had been tolerated by Rome;

• Because they considered it a sort of ‘sect’ of Judaism,

• And the Jews were permitted to practice their faith freely.

• But, that attitude was about to change;

• And the fires of persecution would soon be ignited,

• First by Nero, and then by other emperors that would follow him.

• In response to this fast approaching "fiery ordeal.",

• The apostle Peter gives to his readers four instructions.

(1). Expect ordeals (vs 12)

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

• We should not be surprised because we live in a fallen world,

• A world that is in rebellion to God,

• So, if the world rebels against God it will rebel against us.

• As Christians we are swimming against the tide, so expect bumps and collisions!

Remember also that God does not view persecution as we do.

• We see trials through our human understanding,

• God sees it through another perspective,

• He knows that trials can often produce in his Church a deeper faith and hope.


• Monarch butterfly emerging time lapse (1.30)

• YouTube:

• TRANSITION: One day A man found a cocoon of a butterfly like in the video.

• He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours,

• As it struggled to force its body through a tiny opening.

• Then it seemed to appear exhausted, making little progress.

• So, the man decided to help the butterfly.

• He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon.

• The butterfly emerged easily but there was a problem,

• It had a swollen body and small, shrivelled wings.

• The wings were unable to expand and support the body.

• Sadly, this butterfly would have to spend the rest of its life.

• Crawling around with a swollen body and shrivelled wings.

• It would never be able to fly.

• Note: The man who tried to help the butterfly had actually hindered it.

• The restricting cocoon and the struggle to escape,

• The struggle was nature’s way,

• Of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into the wings,

• So that it would be strong enough to survive,

• Ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

• TRANSITION: As a Church and as individuals,

• We forget that sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives.

• If God allowed us to go through life without any obstacles,

• Like that butterfly it would cripple us and we would never be able to fly.

• At times God allows ‘Fiery trials’ to come upon us;

• To make our faith strong & to make our light shine brightly in this world of darkness!


• It is important to note that not all of the difficulties of life are necessarily fiery trials.

• There are some difficulties that are simply a part of human life;

• And almost everybody (believer/non-believer) experiences them.

• Note: Unfortunately, there are some difficulties that we bring on ourselves

• Because of disobedience and sin.

• Peter has already mentioned these in chapter 2 verses 18-20 & chapter 3 verses 13-17.

• Notice the fiery trial he mentions in verse 12 comes,

• Because we are faithful to God and stand up for that which is right.

• It is because we bear the name of Christ that the lost world attacks us.

• It is our identification with Jesus that causes this sort of opposition.

(2). Rejoice in suffering (vs 13-14)

“But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”.

• It literally reads "Be constantly rejoicing!"

• In fact, he mentioned ‘joy’ in one form or another four times in these two verses!

• i.e. Three times in verse 13:

• "Rejoice” “... be overjoyed” & “you are blessed” (“happy")

• i.e. Once more in verse 14:

• “You are blessed” or “you are happy"

• To many people that would seem a contradiction an irony,

• Suffering and joy side by side.

• And the one that makes the difference is “Christ” and our relationship to him.


• Dr. Paul Wilson Brand, CBE, was a pioneer surgeon & Christian missionary to India.

• He wrote the incredible book, ‘Ten Fingers for God’.

• He also wrote, ‘The Gift of Pain’ and penned these words,

“I have come to see that pain and pleasure come to us not as opposites but as Siamese twins, strangely joined and intertwined. Nearly all my memories of acute happiness, in fact, involve some element of pain or struggle.”

• Have you noticed that,

• You never hear a great man or woman of God say something like:

“The deepest and rarest and most satisfying joys of my life have come in times of extended ease and earthly comfort.”

• No great man or woman of God seems to ever say that!

• But we often hear it from those believers who have suffered.

• Transition: In the Bible we have this strange contradiction or irony,

• Suffering and joy side by side.

• And the one that makes the difference is “Christ” and our relationship to him.

• In these verses the apostle Peter gives us several reasons.

• Why we can have that attitude to ‘fiery trials’.

• Three reasons that motivate us to rejoice in the midst of the ‘fiery ordeals’.


“But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ”.


• We sometimes sing the song ‘All I once held dear’.

• One line of that song goes: ‘and to know you in your suffering’.

• That line is a quote from Philippians chapter 3 verse 10:

• Where Paul talks about "The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings".

• To suffer for Christ this way is a gift from God,

• Not every believer grows to the point in their Christian life;

• Where God can trust them with this kind of experience,

• So says Peter we ought to rejoice when the privilege comes to us.

• It is an honour and a privilege to suffer with Christ.

• And be treated by the world the way it treated Him.

Quote: Joseph Tson. (undated paper: A Theology of Martyrdom):

• Joseph Tson, a Romanian pastor

• Who stood up to Nicolae Ceausescu's repressions of Christianity, wrote,

‘This union with Christ is the most beautiful subject in the Christian life.

It means that I am not a lone fighter here, I am an extension of Jesus Christ.

When I was beaten in Romania, He suffered in my body.

It is not my suffering: I only had the honour to share His sufferings’.

• It is an honour and a privilege to suffer with Christ;

• And be treated by the world the way it treated Christ.

• The apostles certainly believed that, and Peter practiced what he later preached!

• ill: Acts chapter 5 verse 41:

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing.

Because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name”.


“so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed”.

Peter reminds us here that in a future day God will transform suffering into glory:

• ill: John chapter 16 verses 20-22:

• Jesus used the illustration of a woman giving birth.

• The same baby that gave her pain also gave her joy.

• The pain did not disappear it was very much there!

• But it was transformed into joy by the birth of the baby.

• TRANSITION: Peter reminds us that our present-day sufferings are not in vain,

• But will one day be transformed into glory,

• And then we will be "glad also with exceeding joy."


“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”.

• Peter tells us that the Holy Spirit of glory;

• Has a special ministry to those who suffer for the glory of Jesus Christ.


• Samuel Rutherford (pastor, theologian and author) said:

• “The Great King keeps his finest wine in the cellar of affliction.”

• He doesn’t bring it out to the veranda on sunny days.

• He keeps it for extremities.

• He went on to say,

• “The Spirit will reveal enough of glory and enough of God to satisfy your soul,

• And carry you through.”


• This verse helps to explain how martyrs could sing praises to God;

• While being burnt at the stake or as they were being torn apart by wild beasts.

• It also explains how persecuted Christians (and there are many in today's world);

• How they can go to prison and to death without complaining or resisting their captors.

(3). Examine your life (vs 15-18)

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,

what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

The fiery trial is a refining process by which God removes the dross and purifies us.


• In the days when gold was purified by hand,

• They used a big vat.

• The refiner would keep stirring it over and over and over the fire;

• Until he could see his own face in it perfectly,

• When he could see his face clearly he would stop refining it.

• Job done!

• Peter tells us that our faith is tested in the fire for our own good!

• So that we become increasingly Christ-like.

In verse 17-18 Peter tells us that:

• One day, a fiery judgment will overtake the whole world;

• Peter talks about this in 2 Peter chapter 3 verses 7-16.

• And calls it ‘The Day of the Lord’.

• Meanwhile, God's judgment begins “with the family (or house) of God,"

• That is the church (1 Peter chapter 2 verse 5).

• Because judgement is coming;

• You and I ought to be motivated to be as obedient and pure as possible.

There are several questions we should ask ourselves as we examine our own lives.

• (a). WHY AM I SUFFERING? (vs 15).

• Is it the result of our own foolish actions?

• e.g. If a Christian commits a serious crime and is caught;

• Then obviously they will suffer the consequences for their actions.

• e.g. If a Christian is a meddler, and nuisance and an annoying person ;

• Again they should not be surprised when their actions result in repercussions.

• Examine you life says Peter;

• And be sure we are suffering because we are Christians;

• And not because of our own foolishness!


“…if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed,

but let him glorify God in this matter”.

This is one of only three occasions when the word Christian is used in the Bible.

• e.g. It was first used in Acts chapter 11 verse 26:

• It was a term of derision, a vulgar word.

• e.g. The second time it was used by Agrippa in Acts chapter 26 verse 28:

• He was scornful, derisive and mocking towards the apostle Paul when using it.

• e.g. In verse 16:

• This is the third and final time the word is used.

• Once again the context is not favourable;

• The suggestion is when people know you are a ‘Christian’ then expect trouble!

Peter’s advice here is twofold: "Not be ashamed" (negative); "Glorify God" (positive).

• If we are seeking to glorify God,

• Then we will not be ashamed of the name of Jesus Christ.

• (c). AM I SEEKING TO WIN THE LOST? (vs 17-18)

• “What will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

• The argument of this verse is clear:

• If God sends a "fiery trial" to His own children, and they are saved "with difficulty,"

• What will happen to lost sinners when God’s fiery judgement falls on them?

• Well we know the answer;

• So it is our task despite the persecution & trials to witness to them who cause us harm.

• Quote: There is a well known saying:

• ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’.


• The apostle Paul was proof of that;

• Before he was converted his one mission in life was to destroy Christians.

• And he played a leading role in the execution of Stephen the first Christian martyr.

• Quote: Augustine: “The Church owes Paul to the prayers of Stephen”.

• So it is our task despite the persecution & trials to witness to them who cause us harm.

(4). Commit yourself to God (vs 19)

“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

This is the only occasion in the New Testament where God is referred to in this way.

• He is our creator; he is the controller of life.

• He is the one who knows the purpose behind our suffering.

• When we are suffering in the will of God,

• We can commit ourselves into the care of God.

• He can be trusted!


• The word ‘commit’ or ‘entrust’ is a banking term;

• It means "to deposit for safe-keeping".

• In ancient days there were no banks;

• And few really safe places in which to deposit money;

• So before you went on a journey;

• You often left your money in the safe-keeping of a trusted friend.

• So, when a Christian deposit their lives into God's safekeeping,

• They are confident of his reliable and trustworthy character.


• Jesus himself used this same word when dying on the cross;

• We read (Luke chapter 23 verse 46):

• Jesus ‘committed’ or ‘entrusted’ his spirit to the Father’s care.

• So too when a Christian deposit their lives into God's safekeeping,

• They are confident of his reliable and trustworthy character.

• This picture reminds us that we are valuable to God.

• He made us, redeemed us, lives in us, guards, and protects us.