Listen to the words that Peter quotes from Psalm 34. “Whoever desires to love life and see good days…” (1 Peter 3:10). Now I want us to stop and think about what Peter just said as he quotes. Who doesn’t want to love life and see good days? It is a very inclusive question. Everyone is seeking to have good days. Everyone wants to love life and not hate the life they are living. So as we begin, I want us to think about how practical Peter is going to be. If you want to love life and see good days, then you need to listen to the instructions he is about to give.
Now Peter is writing to Christians who are going through suffering and difficulties, encouraging them to maintain their faith during those circumstances. Now what is interesting about Peter’s quotation coming from Psalm 34 is that Psalm 34 is penned by David when he was running for his life. The heading to Psalm 34 tells us that this was the time when David feared for his life and pretended to be crazy in the land of the Philistines (cf. 1 Samuel 21:10-15). So David understood the problem of trying to do right when people are against you. David understood the hardship of waiting for God’s promises. David understood the pain of dealing with people who are causing you pain and suffering. Peter quotes what David says about this because Peter is writing to people who are going through hard times.
Not only are we given a picture of how to go through hard times, Peter is going to give us some hard instructions for dealing with such circumstances. Look at verse 9. “Do not repay evil for evil or insult for insult, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” Peter tells us that we need to do something so contrary to our natural reaction for when we are attacked, persecuted, insulted, or mistreated. Do not repay evil for evil. How can we do this? Do not repay insult for insult. How can we do this? How can we bless when people are cursing us? How can we do good when people are actively trying to resist us and cause us harm? So let’s consider what Peter teaches us about maintaining faith in difficult times.
Keep Doing Right (3:10-12)
Peter begins by telling us through David’s quotation that we need to keep doing right. Peter says that if we want to love life and see good days, then we need to keep our tongues from evil and from deceitful speech. Further, Peter says to turn away from evil and do good (3:11). Look for peace and seek to maintain it. This is so practical and so important. When we are going through suffering and going through hard times, there is a great temptation to want to stop doing good. Why should we do good to others? We are suffering! Why should we keep doing what is right when they are making our lives miserable? When we suffer, we want to stop doing what is right. We want to stop doing good. We want to speak evil about the people who are causing us pain and suffering. We do not want to do good. We certainly do not want to seek peace. Back up to verse 9 and you will see that this is what Peter was instructing. In verse 9 Peter teaches to not repay evil for evil. Peter also says to not repay insult for insult. Do not repay by doing to them what they have done to you. Rather, repay with a blessing (3:9). Why should I keep doing right? Why shouldn’t I retaliate against the opposition? Because we desire to love life and see good days (3:10). We must do good when people do evil to us. We must speak good things even when people are speaking evil against us. We must continue to do good even when suffering because of others.
But Peter gives us another motivation for continuing to do good in the face of suffering and evil. Look at verse 12 as Peter finishes his quotation from David in Psalm 34. Keep doing right because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. Let these words sink into your hearts. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and he listens to their prayers. When we continue to do right in the face of evil and under the pain of suffering, God sees what we are doing and God will listen to our prayers. The opposite is proclaimed at the end of verse 12. The Lord turns his face against those who do what is evil. So if we repay evil for evil, then the Lord is turning his face against us. The Lord is telling us that he is not going to listen to us when we sink to their level and retaliate. The Lord’s eyes are on those who do right and he listens to their prayers. Do good because God sees. Do right because God will listen to you.
Let me state this point Peter is making in another way. Do you want God with you when you are insulted? Do you want God on your side when you’re going through suffering? Do you want God to see you when you are in pain? Do you want God to help you when people harm you? Then do right as your response and do not give an evil response. Go back to verse 9. If you want to inherit a blessing then you repay evil with a blessing. Bless to obtain a blessing from God.
Goodness as a Principle (3:13)
Now Peter says something really curious in verse 13 given the context of what we are reading. Peter says, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?” This seems odd because Peter at many places in this letter is writing about suffering because you are a Christian. Listen to what Peter said earlier in this very letter. “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God” (2:20). Peter, you just said that we are going to suffer for doing good. What are you saying here in 1 Peter 3:13? I think Peter is reminding us of a general truth. It is not an absolute truth but it is generally true in life. If you do good, you will avoid a lot of suffering in life. The book of Proverbs puts forward this truth repeatedly. Do good and do right and it will go well for you. Peter restates this as an encouragement for us to do good. If you desire to love life and see good days, then you need to do good. People are going to be eager to harm you if you are not doing what is right. You are going to have even more problems and more suffering in your life if you reject God’s paths for life.
Peter is reminding us of a principle he stated earlier. “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?” (2:20). In short, you can’t complain about suffering if it comes from our sinning. If we do wrong, then there are going to be consequences. God arranged the world in this way. Unfortunately, so much suffering goes on in the world because of sinful decisions. Peter reminds us that we can avoid a lot of pain in life by simply doing good.
Suffering For Doing Right (3:14-17)
But Peter recognizes that there is suffering for doing good. Peter points this out in verse 14. You are blessed by God even if you do suffering for doing right. Do not be afraid of their threats but keep honoring Christ. Do not retaliate. Do not repay evil for evil. Do not repay insult for insult. Continue to honor Christ. Give the reason for your hope with gentleness and respect. Keep your conscience clear as you are experiencing the slander that comes against you. Notice another purpose for doing good in the face of evil in verse 16. “So that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” What is this picturing? Here is the point. People are going to speak slanderous words against you for being a Christian. There are going to be insults for your good behavior. There is going to be suffering for doing right. But here is the key. If we slander in return, if we insult in return, or if we do evil when they do evil, then we are proving these slanderers to be right about us. Those who resist Christians are going to say that Christians are the evildoers. If we respond with sinful behavior, then we are going to be proving them correct. We must act righteously when we are maligned, slandered, insulated, and hurt.
God Sees and Rules (3:17)
I want to also draw our attention to an important clause in verse 17. “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” The clause I would like for you to focus on is, “If that should be God’s will.” Peter is teaching us something very important. Now it is always God’s will that we do not suffer for doing evil. So that cannot be Peter’s point. Rather, Peter is teaching us that suffering is not outside of God’s hands or God’s control. The scriptures are very clear in teaching this truth. We can go to the book of Job and see that Satan was not acting out against Job against God’s will. God was still sovereign and still in control over the events that Job endured. The same is true for the life of Joseph, David, and many others including the life of Jesus. To state this another way, Peter is reminding us that God is allowing suffering to enter our lives. Times of suffering and hardship can be very demoralizing and discouraging. Suffering is never supposed to push us away from God but all the more cause us to see the hand of God who has us in our moment of difficulty.
Turn back to 1 Peter 3:8-9. Peter tells us to have unity of mind, show sympathy, show brotherly love, be tenderhearted, and have a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil and do not repay insult for insult. Instead, bless those who insult you. How can we do good in the face of evil? How can we respond with a blessing rather than retaliating against those who harm you?
First, if we want to love life and see good days, we need to keep our tongues from evil. Responding evil for evil is not in our own personal interests. Often our sinful response only causes more problems and deeper issues rather than resolving anything. Second, the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayers. If we want God to be with us through our times of hardship and suffering then we cannot retaliate. If we repay evil for evil, the Lord is telling us that his face will be against us. He will not be hearing our prayers and will not be with us through our difficulties. Third, if we respond with evil words and sinful actions, then we are proving their slander of Christians to be accurate. We are showing that we are worthy of derision. We can only put to shame the slander and evil we experience if we do not respond in an evil or sinful way. Finally, God sees you in what you are experiencing and has not forgotten you. You can respond with good deeds and right words because you know this is God’s will. God has you in this moment.