“Lacey, R & R!” I can remember those words so vividly. I’d be rounding the curve on the final laps of a race, only to hear Coach Brown’s voice in the midst of a crowd of spectators. Those words became not just words but a mantra. In the midst of heavy breathing and increasingly tighter hamstrings, I would remember “relax and run, Lacey. That’s all. Relax and run.” And friends, after years of attending track camps and early morning practices, those simple words have carried this runner to the finish line time and time again. In the midst of all the suffering, all the sweat, all the pain, the reminder to “R & R” – to relax and run.
In teaching through 1 Peter 4 this week, I felt myself a bit overwhelmed. How do I teach this entire chapter clearly and fully to these ladies? What is the most important point to land on in this passage? What kind of “R & R” reminder to do we see in this text? What is our “coach” (i.e. the Holy Spirit) reminding us of as we make the turn in the midst of pain and fatigue?
Well, I’m going to call us to do two things in this article. Read the first 18 verses. And then join me in verse 19. We’re going to camp here.
Peter begins with the word “therefore” and thus draws us to what he has previously said. And since all of you just read the previous 18 verses of this chapter (and if you didn’t, now you will), we know that Peter has given us encouragement regarding both the responsibilities of following Christ (verses 1-11) and the reality of suffering like Christ (verses 12-19). The apostle here simply acknowledges the truth that we will suffer. As Christians, it is not a question of if we will suffer, but rather when we do suffer.
You might be reading this and think “How can my suffering be according to God’s will?” How can my struggle with my current job, uncertain health, or extended singleness be according to God’s will? In the same way that Christ suffered according to the will of God, we too suffer according to the will of God. In the same way that the suffering of Christ achieved a purpose so too does our suffering achieve a purpose. That at the Cross, Jesus Christ endured the greatest suffering, dying under divine judgment as the just for the unjust and also accomplished the greatest triumph over sin and the power of death. And that in our suffering, we are refined in knowing that there’s always purpose in our pain. Just as the suffering of Christ preceded the glory of Christ (his resurrection) so to our suffering precedes glory (our future glorification). Suffering always precedes glory. Friends, there’s purpose in your pain. And your suffering has passed through the hands of God.
So in light of being reminded of the will of God, Peter tells us to “entrust our souls.” The word “entrust” is a banker’s term, referring to a deposit for safekeeping. Jesus actually uses the same word on the cross when he committed his spirit to his father (Luke 23:46). Why does Peter call us to entrust our souls and not our bodies? He’s intentional here to contrast both the perishable with the imperishable. We are called to trust God with the imperishable. It’s simply more weighty. And if you haven’t already, you can read an article I wrote on this verb “entrust” here.
So we make this deposit, if you will, of our souls to who? Peter tells us – “a faithful Creator” (verse 19). Just as we make the deposit into our savings account and wait for the return investment, Peter tells us to do the same with our lives, to entrust our souls to our faithful Creator.
Now before you speed read the rest of this article, let’s look intentionally at the emphasis on God as the “faithful Creator” (verse 19). The combination of “faithful” and “Creator” reminds us of both God’s love (he cares) and his power (he creates). And thus, in the midst of our trials – whether with raising children, starting a new job, or battling depression – we can remember both the interest and ability of God. He cares. He creates. Because God is faithful to himself and his promises, we are to rest in his power and his purpose.
And then Peter tells us that we entrust ourselves “while doing good” (verse 19). Let’s have some real talk. When you are suffering, you know in the middle of a week that just has been “one of those weeks…”, probably one of the hardest things is to keep doing the right thing. Now let’s think of Peter. We know his history. Was he good at this? Not initially, but God grew him in this. Whew. There’s hope for us, too. Our continuation in good works in the midst of suffering reflects the assurance of our identity in Christians. And thus, we do the next right thing. Take the next step of obedience. Make the next right play.
So that’s the last verse of chapter 4. We entrust ourselves to our faithful Creator and wait for a better day to come. We keep doing the next right thing in the midst of our suffering. We remind ourselves to “E & E” – to entrust and to embrace. We entrust ourselves to our faithful Creator. We embrace the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Friends, there’s just no better way to run this race as disciples of Jesus. So as we turn the curve today, let’s drop our shoulders, take a breath, and remember to “E & E” – entrust ourselves to our faithful Creator and embrace the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.