Suffering serves a purpose. Peter links suffering for being a Christian with being done with sin (4:1). I don’t think Peter can possibly mean the person who has suffered for Christ will never sin again. I believe he is saying something similar to what we have in Romans 6 that the ideal Christian life is to die to sin and live for righteousness. To be “done with sin” seems to me to mean that it is no longer the dominating, driving force in your life because your passions and desires have changed because you have changed. Suffering changes us. Suffering for our faith changes us and, should, make sin less appealing.
Out of this verse, 4:1, Peter spends some time talking about their former way of life and the future judgment. Peter wants more than anything for his readers to be justified on the day of the Lord and he knows that sin can throw a monkey wrench into our justification. To Peter, the future coming of the Lord was immanent. It could happen at any moment, “The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.” Peter connects the return of the Lord and the corresponding need to be disciplined with our prayers. Our prayers can lack full potential when we are given over to sin and rebellion. But if we discipline ourselves and remove ourselves from our former way of living, in sin, then our prayers have their full potential. God takes our prayers more seriously when we are living more seriously.
There are times I have been at a major crossroad in life, trying to determine which thing was the right choice. It has been a conviction of mine that God will guide us best when our feet are walking in a righteous direction. It is hard to guide someone who isn’t moving. It is hard to guide someone determined to walk the wrong direction. But through obedience, devotion, and submission God can walk alongside us and guide us. In a sense this is connected with God hearing our prayers and taking them most seriously because our feet are backing up our mouth/words.
Last in verses 8-11 Peter gives them some practical instruction. He grounds the instruction in our stewardship of grace. This is the idea that just as we have received unmerited favor/grace from the Lord so we too should give love and grace unconditionally to others. The end goal of all of these things is the glorification of the Lord. When Christ is most glorified we are most in his will.
So what does this mean for us? It means we should live in light of the future judgment…putting aside our old ways and living for Christ by the way we love and serve each other. When we live this way, God will be glorified. There is no bigger purpose in life than to glorify God and we see in these verses that that is tied in to how we treat each other as stewards of the grace given by God to every Christian.