Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (NIV)
Just about the whole book of 1st Peter is about suffering as a Christian. So far most of it has been about how to handle the troubles and trials of life that happen and especially when it is a result of persecution for my faith. This verse addresses suffering in order to eliminate sin.
I’ll have to admit that this one is hard to figure out since I can’t quite come up with any examples where I’ve had to suffer in order to resist sin. However the same concept is presented in Hebrews. Heb 12:4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (NIV) In context, the writer to the Hebrews had just explained how many people in the past, from Abel through the prophets and beyond had to give up something to accomplish God’s will. Many had been killed for their unwillingness to succumb to the demands of others. Prophets, for example, had been killed when they refused to stop preaching that Jerusalem would be destroyed for Judah’s sins.
You can see why I don’t relate to this. I decided that drinking was not something I would do because the spirits in even one beer quenched the Holy Spirit in me enough to make comments that hurt others. Have I suffered because of this? No. some people may think I’m weird or legalistic, but for me, it has been a good decision. Has it completely eliminated my ability to hurt others in my speech? No, but it has reduced the frequency.
There are many parts of the world where the biggest sin of all, denying Jesus, does bring about bloodshed. I just heard on the news that a mega church in China had been forcibly closed and the pastors told to stop their illegal religious activities. Other churches have been razed by bulldozers along with the homes of Christians. Many were sent to the hospital during that incident.
The Living Bible paraphrases the verses which sometimes helps and sometimes hinders. It says that I must be ready to suffer. The implication is that I may not have had to suffer physically as a result of sin or in attempting to resist sin. The NIV and NASB say I’m to arm myself with the attitude of Christ, who suffered. So my conclusion is that while I may not have suffered resisting sin, I can certainly make up my mind that I will not let physical discomfort prevent me from resisting sin.
How do I arm myself with the attitude that I’ll be ready suffer? Many verses come to my mind. The first is James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (NIV) I have to have a mindset that all trials are there to help me persevere. Persevere in the face of sin or persecution or whatever. Heb 12:7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (RSV) Heb 12:10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. (NIV) I must look at suffering of any kind as a way that God disciplines me. This is not discipline in the sense of being punished but the same kind of discipline that an athlete goes through to so his body will respond correctly when called upon. Suffering produces strength to persevere in the tough times and it gives the training to respond correctly during temptation. This is how suffering does away with sin. It is a long process that eventually leads to holiness.
When I allow suffering to work in me, I will be able to overcome sinful habits, I won’t spend the rest of my life wondering if I’m missing out on something. Instead, I’ll be eager to do what God wants. I would like to say that I’m eager to do what He wants, but it seems that most of the time I’m not. Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV) It is a two-step operation. First, I need to stop being conformed to the world’s ways and ideologies. All the stuff that says I can be satisfied by something less than God Himself. Then the second step is to be renewed so that I can determine His will. I still have a long way to go in yielding to the Holy Spirit so that I can do that. However, as I look at each trial and each problem as something that is there to teach me rather than just bad stuff happening, I will move forward.