Do Not Be Surprised at the Fiery Trial
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12 ESV)
The first thing I want you to notice is that Peter calls these elect exiles beloved. And what he is about to say next will test that love. To these loved ones of God he is about to give some pretty startling news. He's about to tell them that a fiery trial is going to come upon them. He is prophesying. By the Holy Spirit he is telling them that some really difficult times lay ahead.
History tells us that Nero burned Christians in shockingly evil ways, even using them as torches in his gardens. The words translated 'surprised' and 'strange' come from the same root word meaning "receiving as guests strangers who arrive unannounced". I know it's going to sound strange but it's also related to the word 'hospitality' in verse nine. They're supposed to receive the idea of intense suffering for Christ gladly. That might be the hardest thing they would ever be told to do.
I don't know anyone who thinks suffering is a good thing or that it feels good. No one wants to go through a fiery trial. Literally 'a burning'. We would rather be built up than be consumed. But as we know, God often uses the fire of testing to refine and strengthen our faith. You can be sure that God will use everything at His disposal in the process of making us more like Christ. We should not be shocked but thankful that we are counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ.