Note with me how Peter taught the early believers of the First Century how to face horrible times of pain and suffering in life.
First Century Believers Faced Horrible Tortures
I Peter 4:12 (NKJV) Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
This phrase in v. 12 could be read as “the painful trial that burns among you.” The original readers would hear this as martyrdom by being burned at the stake.
It could describe the fact that followers of Jesus in the city of Rome (the place where Peter may have lived as he wrote this letter) were being dragged from their families, dipped in tar, and used as living torches to light the gardens of Nero.
At the very least, Peter described experiences of pain comparable to the pain of being burned with fire, though his definition of these trials remains deliberately vague. Next, look at v. 13:
First Century Believers Experienced Divine Comfort
I Peter 4:13 (NKJV) but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
Our suffering is the same kind of thing that Christ received, and therefore, in some sense, suffering is an indication of the believers’ identification with Christ. The word Peter used in v. 12 “partake” is taken from the familiar word koinoneo, “to share or fellowship with someone.”
At the end of the verse when we see Peter refer to the “exceeding joy” we are reminded that Biblical joy, in the deepest sense, is a profound confidence that God is in control of every area of our lives, even the painful places.