Suffering For Well-Doing

Rev. Houck is pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois.

"For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." 

1 Peter 2:20

Before the apostle Peter lays down the positive principle of this passage, he speaks of a contrasting principle. He says, "For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?"

Here the apostle speaks of the believer's faults. Even though the love of God is in our hearts, we still sin. The sinful nature with which we were born is always with us. Thus we sin all the time. That is what Jesus teaches us in His admonition of Matthew 18:15, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone...." Jesus would not have to tell us that, if we did not sin.

We sin as employees. We don't do the work which we are called upon to do. We talk back to our employers. We are careless in our work. We sin in our homes. Husbands are not very considerate of their wives sometimes. We fail to lead our family in devotions. We lose our tempers when we deal with our children. Wives sometimes disrespect their husbands. They are contentious. We sin in church. We don't listen to the preaching of God's Word. We don't sing and pray from our hearts. We don't love our brethren as we ought. We don't seek to help them and encourage them in the faith. We have many faults. 

The apostle speaks of being punished for those faults. "...when ye be buffeted for your faults...." The word "buffeted" means "to strike with the fist." This is the word which is used of the soldiers who struck Christ in the face with their fists at the time of His trials. They buffeted him. When a slave misbehaved, it was common for his master to hit him with his fist or strike him with a stick. No doubt some of those to whom Peter wrote had experienced such treatment at the hands of their masters.

The same is true of us. When we sin against others, especially those who are in authority over us, sometimes we are punished for that sin. We have probably all had our employer scold us at one time or another. Maybe he punished us by giving us a dirty job to do. Wives who are contentious are rebuked by their husbands. Husbands are scolded for mistreating their wives and children. They are rebuked for losing their tempers. Even in the church there is some buffeting. The minister rebukes a person for his sins. The elders discipline a person who is wayward. Perhaps it is one brother dealing with another who walks in the ways of sin. All of us have been buffeted for our faults.

When we are buffeted for our faults, how are we to take that? Because we are sinners, sometimes our reaction is improper. We get angry, rebel, and strike back. A lazy employee will tell off his boss and then quit, or he will deliberately mess things up in his anger. A contentious wife will deny her faults and blame her husband. A husband who has mistreated his wife or children will tell the one who exhorts him that it is none of his business. He can take care of his own house. Church members, instead of heeding the admonition of the minister, elders, or fellow believers, become angry with the one who is trying to help.

That is sin. We add sin to our sin. First we sin in doing something which requires rebuking. Then we refuse to hear the rebuke. In doing so, we go against our Lord. For the implication of Matthew 18, where Christ tells us to go to an erring brother, is that he is to listen to the admonition. And that is what Peter says, "...when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?"

The words "take it patiently" mean literally "to remain under." The idea is not only that of bearing up under the buffeting, but that of continuing in it. We are to take the buffeting. We may be struck over and over again, but we bear it without getting angry, striking back, or complaining.

We ought to note, however, that by reacting in that way we do not make ourselves worthy of any praise. The apostle Peter says, "For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?" If we sin and because of that are buffeted, and if we take that buffeting patiently, we are not worthy of praise. That is not something which will cause us to receive the praise and glory of men. There is nothing extraordinary about that. It is what is expected of a person. We have done wrong. Therefore we deserve to be buffeted. We may not think that just because we take rebuke patiently, we are exceptional Christians. We are not.

Since patiently taking the buffeting is nothing special, think how far we are from being good Christians when we don't take it patiently. That is a very great sin.

Now let us look at the positive statement of the apostle Peter. We read, "but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God."

Here the apostle speaks of doing well. The word used here means "to do good, do something which profits others or is a help to others." The apostle has already made it clear that we believers have a calling to do good deeds. Back in verse 15 he said, "For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." Jesus tells us in Luke 6:35, "But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil." In III John 11 we read, "Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God." Even though we are sinners, we have the calling to do good. Good works ought to be a big part of our life—not because we seek to earn salvation, but because we are grateful for the salvation given to us.

These good works ought to be seen at our place of work. Maybe no one wants to do a certain job, so we volunteer to do it. Perhaps the workers are picking on a person, so we stand up for that person. Maybe we are asked to work on Sunday, but we stand fast in our conviction that it is a sin to work on the Sabbath. We may even have to take a cut in pay or have bad hours because we insist upon this Christian principle.

Good works ought to be seen in our home. A father ought to insist that his family have family devotions and personal devotions. Both parents ought to insist that their children do their catechism. The TV must be strictly controlled so that nothing ungodly is watched. And the same thing is true of the radio. A husband ought to be kind to his wife and she ought to be submissive and obedient to her husband.

These good works ought to be seen in the church. We ought to love the Word of God, love to hear it preached, and love to study it at Bible study and catechism. We ought be helpful and kind to our fellow believers.

These good works ought to be manifested in our community. If our neighbor needs help, we give him a hand. We talk to him about the gospel. We try to show him the way of salvation and tell him about Christ. There is no end to the good works that we can do.

But when we do that, we are not always received well. One would think that everyone would appreciate the good works of another, but it is not so. Our good works often bring suffering upon us. The apostle says, "but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it...."

We must never forget that the world hates us believers. It hates us because we are light and the world is darkness. We are of God and the world is of the devil. Jesus says in Luke 21:17, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake." It is our good works which show forth the fact that we are light and of God. Therefore it is our good works which the world hates.

Because of that hatred, the world persecutes us. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 5:10-12 that we will be persecuted. "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." They persecute us by ridiculing us and making fun of us. Sometimes we are even persecuted physically or economically.

It is not just the world which persecutes us. We believers have the world inside of us. Our sinful nature is in perfect harmony with the world. Therefore, when we operate out of that sinful nature, we too hate and attack fellow believers for their good works. Sometimes the attack of a fellow believer can hurt much more than the attack of an unconverted person.

We are persecuted at work. Fellow employees make fun of us because we will not join them in listening to and telling dirty jokes, or because we do not swear and use four-letter words. They ridicule us because we stand up for someone who is being picked on. They play dirty tricks on us because we will not join them in neglecting the work. Sometimes we are forced to quit our jobs because we will not work on the Lord's Day or we will not agree to be a part of some ungodly practice.

We are persecuted in our community. When we do not allow our children to play outside with the neighborhood children because of the Sabbath day, neighbors scoff at us. If we tell our neighbors about Christ or humbly point out certain sins, they get angry with us and accuse us of interfering with their life.

Sometimes we are persecuted in our own homes. A godly wife or husband is ridiculed by the children for not letting them listen to ungodly music or watch something sinful on TV. A husband might be mocked by his wife for believing that old-fashioned stuff about submission. A wife might be mocked by her husband for insisting upon wearing modest dress instead of short skirts or tight pants. Some members of the family might put up a terrible fuss because father insists that they spend a good deal of time reading and talking about the Bible.

We can even be persecuted in the church for our well-doing. If we stand up for the truth and for righteousness, most likely we will be criticized by someone. Even in the church, people tend to become more liberal and to slip toward the world, so that if someone stands up for the old paths he is put down.

Anyone who does good works knows that those good deeds bring suffering in every sphere of life.

The apostle teaches us that we are to endure such suffering: "... but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently...." 

This is the same word which was used earlier in the verse. We are to continue to bear up under this kind of suffering too. We are to endure patiently persecution for the cause of Christ. The apostle Paul says in Romans 12:12, "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation...." This is the true love of God. For we read in I Corinthians 13:7 that love "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."

We are to endure persecution, even when we do not deserve it. Even when we are persecuted for our good, we are to take it patiently. That is extremely difficult. By nature we say to ourselves, "I do not deserve this. I have done good and they give me evil in return. That is not right or fair."

It hurts very much when we do good to a person and he turns right around and is evil to us. It hurts when we do our best for our employer and he returns evil, just because we are Christians. It hurts when we help out a neighbor and he spits in our faces for it. It hurts when a father and mother do good in seeking to lead the family in the ways of God and one or more of the children buffets them for that good. Still, we are to take it patiently. We are not to strike back. We are not to ridicule back. We are not to complain. Silently, quietly, and submissively, we are to take it.

If we patiently take the suffering inflicted upon us for being a good Christian, "this is acceptable with God." We read literally, "this is grace with God." The word grace means pleasant, delightful, or beautiful. It is beautiful when someone patiently takes the suffering inflicted upon him because of the good which he does. Such a person is beautiful. 

This passage, however, says more than that. It says, "This is beautiful with God." In the first part of this verse the apostle had said that patiently taking buffeting for wrongdoing was nothing for which to be praised. Now rather than talking about receiving the glory or praise of men, he speaks of being beautiful or acceptable with God. That we patiently take buffeting when we have done good is beautiful to God. It is delightful to God. This is pleasing to God.

That is because this beauty comes from God. We can do good only by God's grace. We can patiently suffer for well-doing only by the grace of God. Thus patiently taking suffering for the sake of well-doing manifests the beauty of God's grace in us. This is acceptable with God, because God receives all the glory and honor. Our beauty is but a reflection of His beauty.

Do you want to show forth the grace and beauty of God? Then pray that God will give you the grace to endure patiently the suffering which comes to you because of the good which you do.