GRACE TO SUFFER FOR CHRIST
Suffering with Dignity
1 Peter 3:8-17
Jerry A Collins
v What kind of response do we give to unjust suffering?
v Suffering may be the will of Godóhow so?
v What kind of blessing is mine when I suffer for righteousness?
Suffering in life has to be the greatest single challenge for a Christian to stay committed to what it is God wants. Especially suffering resulting from doing the right thing from Godís point of view. It is absolutely crucial that we respond appropriately when we suffer this way. There is so much at stake related to the kind of action and response I bring to suffering from doing righteousness. God commands us to cut across the grain of our old nature. This can be a choreóit can be taxing on us. We can struggle with the illogicalness of Godís expectations. Yet, God keeps coming at us with the need to counter our human tendencies and as difficult is that is for us, God does not relent. God requires that we respond not with a grudge but with grace. So we learn that an appropriate response will result in blessing. But what kind?
1. WE RESPOND TO SUFFERING WITH COMPASSIONATE CONDUCT 8-12
Just how differently is a believer to respond to suffering for righteousness? We have three commands woven around Psalm 34:10-12 that Peter apples for us in vs 8-9. The point of this exposeí is to heighten the benefit associated with following these commandsóthat is, †let him who means to love life and see good days 10a, follow this lead. This is condensed in the following ideas:
First, whoever would love lifeógood days, decline evil and deceit in your speech vs 10. Peter applies this in vs 8 with five characteristics. Let allóno one gets off of the hook; (1) Harmony to be like-minded. This is nothing new, Rom and Phil 2:1-2 teach the same thing. Not conformity to everyoneís thoughts, merging our values and standards, but agreement together with Godís Word and will. That way we will not be factious or contentious promoting our own perspectives. (2) Sympathetic, that is sensitive to what others are going through and not detached by personal protection or self-interests. Not to be indifferent toward one another. (3) Brotherly, the love of a brother that is as binding as blood. Not just tolerating each otherónot just existing with one another. (4) Kind-hearted, compassionate with deep feeling, merciful and affectionate, instead of aloof and uncaring. A word refers to our hidden vital organs where it is believed our deep intense emotion originates from. (5) Humble in spirit, understanding your dependency upon God and not arrogantly self dependent. Without Him I can do nothing. It is these virtues which keep us from deceptive and evil speech which forfeits a lengthened life and happy days in it as well.
Second, desiring this, turn away from evil and do good vs 11a. Applied in vs 9, One bad turn never deserves anotheróeither with evil or with insult. Both cause injury to us but we must never retaliate. There is nothing that triggers my carnality more than this. Revenge is reserved for the Lord and every word we speak as well as every action we pursue will be scrutinized by Christ at our judgment (James 5:9).
Third, seek peace and pursue it in our relationships vs 11b. Peace may be lostóit must be sought. It may be elusiveóit must be pursued. By application, in vs 9, we give a blessing. Here we speak well of another. Jesus said, pray for those who persecute you Mt 5:44; Paul wrote when we are cursed we bless 1 Cor . We never escalate the insults. We do not participate in revelry. We are always on a quest for peaceful relations with others never regarding each other with contempt Rom 14:10. (Thomas Jefferson) And why do this?
NB: One who does this and lives this way is watched over, and listened to, by God vs 12. This is applied in vs 9, as the blessing we will receive in life. Godís OPEN eyes means we have Godís attention. Godís OPEN ears means we have His provision. God sees more than we see and more than we can mention in our prayers. So this kind of life makes available the full range of Godís watchful care and attentive ear. If we do evil, it says, Godís face is against us. You get Godís snarl. Godís interest intensifies as we take His desire for our conduct when suffering seriously. Of course, God is always interested in us, but the depth and intensity of that interest increases when we suffer for doing righteous things with this kind of dignity. This is something God is very serious about. I want God to notice me like He did Noah, Abe, Moses, David, Ruth, Jabez, Gideon, Mary, and Paul. But there is a price tag for thatóresponding to suffering with compassionate conduct. You will have His eye and you will get His ear. ††2. OUR COMPASSIONATE CONDUCT NO GUARANTEE SUFFERING WILL CEASE 13-17
13† Persecution occurred in spite of believers desires to live peacefully and apply Godís desires. We may win with God but what will such a life win from man? The fact is, a believer eager to do good and suffering for it will not face real harm.
14 †Even if suffering for sake of righteousness, believers are blessed and should not be frightened by this. The Ďblessingí here means Ďto be fortunate, happy or prosperousíóa †different word than previous. We may be kept from unnecessary suffering when living this way, but not spared from all suffering. Suffering is necessary part of our experience as believers but on the other hand it is not the normal, usual result of a righteous life. Sin is a much quicker path to trouble than holiness. So, Peter quotes Isa 8:12ócomes from context to fear God rather than men. Donít be intimidated by manís response to your righteous deeds.
15 Suffering for righteous sake can have impact on our hearts. If we set Christ apart as Lord in there, that allows us to purge away our fear of man and his intimidationówith all of itís unconscious and conscious influence. The Lord then becomes the dominant focusóHis example, His commands, His expectations influence us to pursue what God wants for me. Competing interests are laid aside. The result is that we are always prepared to orally defend the hope we have to others who ask us. And we can do that without vindictiveness but gently and in the fear of God. Our conduct will stimulate interest in our hope.
16 Donít modify your conduct or compromise your convictions until the intense pressure of persecution of you righteous deeds. Keep a clean conscious in this regard and when slandered they will be put to shame without any evidence to back up their accusations or to point our any hypocrisy as a Christ follower. Peter had to learn this lesson.
17. The Christian life is not a trouble free life and suffering, when it comes because of the good is better than when it may come otherwise.
1. It may be Godís will for you to suffer. We mistakenly believe suffering is avoided. Expect it.
2. If blessed when suffering must be for righteousness not sin.
3. Make most of suffering by using the occasion for proclamation of the gospel.
4. You must settle the issue of who you are serving when suffering. Your response will determine whom you fear.
5. Be ready to respond to those who ask you about your faith.
6. Suffering is a consequence of following Christ.