For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps….
— 1 Peter 2:21
Can you remember first learning to write as a young child? Oh, how well I remember those early days in the first grade when I carefully studied how my teacher wrote the letters of the alphabet on the blackboard. When she was done, it was our turn to take our lead pencils in hand and copy what she had written.
With all my might, I pressed my pencil onto the paper of my Indian Chief tablet. In fact, I pushed so hard writing those letters that I formed a callous on my finger that I still have to this day! I gave 100 percent of my concentration to exactly duplicate every letter my teacher had written on that blackboard. Day after day and hour after hour, I would write those letters over and over again. I filled my tablet with pages of writing until I finally mastered each letter of the alphabet. It took concentration and commitment, but in time, I learned to write exactly as my teacher had shown me.
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I’m sure you, too, can remember when you first learned to write. But did you know that this is precisely the idea Peter had in mind when he told the early believers, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21)?
Let me explain what I mean. When Peter wrote these words to early believers, they were suffering terribly for their faith at the hands of the Roman government. They were suffering unjustly, and there was nothing they could do legally to defend themselves. God’s Word commanded them to respect, submit to, and pray for the very government that was harassing and killing them. To the believers who were facing this plight of unjust treatment, Peter said this: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
The word “suffered” in this verse is from the Greek word pascho, meaning to suffer. It’s the word used to describe the passion or suffering of Jesus when He died on the Cross. However, there are many examples of the word pascho in the New Testament, all of which carry the idea of suffering, undergoing hardships, being ill-treated, or experiencing adversity.
The truth is, Jesus experienced a measure of suffering throughout His entire life on this earth. When He was a Child, His family suffered as they fled from the murderous plots of King Herod. Later Jesus suffered at the hands of religious leaders who hated Him and continually leveled false accusations against Him. Jesus had to constantly put up with the immature behavior of His disciples as He tried to teach them and set an example for them. He suffered betrayal at the hands of one of His associates, Judas Iscariot. His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane was so intense that His sweat was as great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And in the end, Jesus suffered the worst suffering of all — death on the Cross. Yet through it all, Jesus lived above the suffering and maintained an attitude of love for those who treated Him unjustly.
Peter reminded his readers of Jesus’ suffering, hardship, and ill treatment in order to draw the early believers closer to the Lord in the midst of what they were experiencing themselves. At that time, they desperately needed to know how to respond to unjust situations they could not change. Since no one was better at dealing with such challenges than Jesus, Peter reminded his readers (and us) that “…Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example….”
Now we return to the illustration of a child learning the letters of the alphabet! When Peter chose to use the word “example” in this verse, he reached into the world of early education and borrowed the Greek word hupogrammos. This word precisely depicts a schoolchild who carefully watches his teacher write the letters of the alphabet. Then that child painstakingly and carefully copies each letter, matching it as closely as possible to the original letters written by his teacher.
This is exactly the picture Peter had in mind when he told you to follow the “example” of Jesus. Since Jesus is your Teacher and Master, you must focus on your spiritual blackboard — the Word of God — to learn from Him and then reproduce His example in your own life.
You must learn:
- How the Master dealt with unfair criticism, so you can respond like Him when you are unfairly criticized.
- How Jesus responded to attacks that were waged against Him, so you can know how to respond in His strength to attacks that come against you.
- How He responded to people when they failed or betrayed Him, so you can respond the same way when people disappoint or hurt you.
- How Jesus carried Himself with grace and dignity even in the midst of unspeakable abuse, so you can then draw on His strength to walk through difficult situations with the same grace and dignity.
- How He forgave His accusers every step of the way, so you can freely forgive those who mistreat or malign you.
You cannot avoid the fact that you will sometimes face unpleasant situations in which you feel mistreated, abused, or discriminated against. As long as you live in a world where the devil operates and unsaved people have their way, evil and injustice will touch your life from time to time. So when you find yourself subjected to a situation that seems unfair and unjust, you must ask, How does God expect me to respond?
Of course, you should pray for God to change a difficult situation. Prayer can make a huge difference in any circumstance. But what if the situation doesn’t change as quickly as you wish? How should you respond? For example:
- If your employer treats you badly for no obvious reason and the situation goes on for a long time, what should you do? Of course, you could go find another job. But what if you know that your current job is where God wants you and that you’re not supposed to leave it? How should you respond to the foul treatment you are receiving from your superior?
- If fellow employees are out to hurt you, to undercut you, or to see you demoted, what course of action should you take? Perhaps you’ve taken steps to befriend them, but nothing seems to improve the situation. How should you respond to the unfair treatment you’re experiencing?
- Maybe you feel persecuted by fellow students who don’t share your faith in Christ and who dislike your personal conviction. You know you can’t quit school as a reaction to this difficult situation. But exactly how does God expect you to respond?
- Perhaps your family members are hostile to you because they don’t understand your faith or they don’t agree with the direction you’re taking in life. How should you respond to your loved ones? It’s so very important that you know how to respond when your family doesn’t agree or support what you are doing — especially when you know the Holy Spirit is the One leading you to take that course of direction.
Certainly you must do everything possible to resolve conflicts with friends and family and to protect yourself and your reputation. Yet sometimes things happen that are beyond your control, that are not so easily resolved, and for which there is no easy recourse. Whenever you’re feeling maligned and mistreated, remember that it’s a prime opportunity for the devil to tempt you to become bitter, angry, hard-hearted, and resentful of those who have treated you unjustly. If you yield to that temptation, your wrong response won’t do anything to improve your situation, but it will produce negative consequences in your own life.
That’s why you must absolutely refuse to allow the devil to sow those negative emotions into your heart, which only bear bad fruit. Harboring such emotions is never the answer, no matter what situation you might be facing in life.
Are you facing difficult times? Are you being accused of things you didn’t do or being blamed for things of which you have no knowledge? Are you being mistreated or discriminated against? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this is the moment for you to turn your eyes to the blackboard — God’s Word — and study each stroke of the Master. Once you see what He did and how He responded in situations similar to yours, it is then your task to copy Him. If you’ll take this approach to the challenges you’re facing right now that seem so distressing, you’ll begin to see those situations as opportunities to become more like Jesus.
So make it your earnest goal to apply the principles of Jesus’ life to your own life. Strive to pen the strokes of your moments on this earth to reflect each stroke of the Master. If you’ll let the Holy Spirit help you, it’s possible for you to successfully walk through life as Jesus did. What a blessing that you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself! Just study the strokes of the Master’s pen, and press forward by faith to copy those strokes in the face of every challenge that arises.
By yourself, you cannot do it. But Jesus didn’t leave you to face the challenges of life alone and without help. After purchasing the full price of your redemption, He ascended on High, where He now intercedes continually before the Father on your behalf (see Hebrews 7:25). And just as He promised, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within you as your Teacher and Guide and to fill and empower you so you can walk as Jesus walked through every situation you could ever face.
Jesus did the hard part. All that He suffered, He suffered for you, leaving behind a perfect example for you to follow. As you respond with His wisdom and love in the face of every challenge, light will overcome darkness and God’s purposes will be fulfilled. Victory will be the outcome today in every situation you face when, by God’s grace and the help of His Spirit, you determine to copy the strokes of the Master!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I’ve been struggling with a difficult situation. I have prayed for wisdom; I sought the advice and counsel of others. But now I know that I need to seek the example of Jesus as it is revealed in the four gospels. Jesus is my Example and the One I am called to imitate. So, Holy Spirit, I am asking You to help me as I open my Bible to seek answers from the life of Jesus. Once I see what Jesus did and how He responded to situations that are similar to mine, I ask You to help me copy every stroke of His life. I know that if I will do what Jesus did, it will not only help me, but also it will positively affect those whom the devil has used to mistreat me.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am a serious disciple of the Lord Jesus. He is my Example, my Teacher, my Master, and my Lord. As a serious disciple, I study His life and endeavor to imitate His every response in my thinking, in my actions, and in my relationships. I regularly read my Bible to learn from the life of the Master. As I seek answers from God’s Word, the Holy Spirit enlightens my eyes and gives me the answers I need to successfully navigate through the difficult situations and relationships I encounter in life. By myself I could never know how to effectively maneuver through all these minefields, but the Holy Spirit sees what I do not see, He knows what I do not know, and He is helping me walk unharmed through life with the actions and attitude of Jesus!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- How long has it been since you’ve read all four gospels? Can you remember the last time you did it? What impact did it have on your life?
- What is the exact situation you are facing right now that personally challenges you? Is it a person or a group of people that seems to be the source of trouble for you? Do you really understand why they don’t like you, why they don’t enjoy your company, or why they disagree with you? Even if their point of view is wrong, have you tried to understand it?
- How long has it been since you seriously prayed for the people who are troubling you? As you pray for them, rather than just think about them, the Holy Spirit may drop ideas into your heart that will help you break the barriers between yourself and them. Why don’t you take a few minutes to pray for them right now?