We all have to honestly admit that in life comes suffering, hardship, pain, and difficulty. It is inescapable. We have all had our share of it and can anticipate more of it. But for the Christian while it is true that suffering will come just because of life, we must make sure that we avoid additional suffering for doing wrong. If we are going to suffer, let it be because we are doing good, being godly and practicing righteous living. Let it be because we live a distinctively different kind of life. Have a uniquely different set of values. Practice a different category of priorities. Rather than suffering being some kind of unexpected surprise, rather let it be as a result of our conscious choice and commitment to imitate Jesus Christ whose suffering resulted in our salvation. Let Him become the north star statement of our lives. That direction we point to and that person we look to for the kind of suffering and attitude I am to have while here on this earth. We have a choice set before us. We must choose to either ID with Christ and suffer because of our choice to follow Him or to choose to ID with the world we have been saved from and indulge in our flesh. Our passage speaks about the present attitude and mindset we must arm ourselves with so we do not cave into indulging our sinful desires any longer. If we are going to maintain the righteous conduct in this world when we suffer for doing good and being godly, then we must maintain the Christ-like mindset along with it. If we lose that mindset we will revert back to living with a worldly one. Then we lose our distinctiveness to be salt and lite in a deteriorating and dark world. We forfeit being difference-makers for Christ and eternity. And all of those around us remain spiritually blind and lost while we indulge ourselves just like they do. The difference is that we have the answer and refuse to give it and live it while we let them go to their doom.
The fact is, we cannot lose our distinctiveness or we will have nothing left to offer to a lost world. It is absolutely essential for every believer to maintain a Christ-centered, Christ-focused and Christ-like mindset so that God can use us just as He used His Son to participate with Him in what it is He is doing in the world today. We miss the mark of our purpose for remaining here otherwise. So, what is it that we learn from 1 Peter 4:1-6 that can teach us about suffering with the right mindset?
1. WE MUST HAVE THE SAME MINDSET TOWARD SUFFERING FOR GOOD THAT CHRIST DID 1a
Of course all of Christ’s suffering was because of the good He did, the righteous life He lived and the godliness He displayed. Christ never suffered once for any wrong-doing. So He becomes the perfect and only model for us to follow and emulate when we suffer for doing good, living righteously and godly living.
We are not giving room to fudge here with this. We must not think that we can accommodate our fleshly and sinful nature just because we are human and Christ was both God and perfect human. Sometimes we believe we are doing better than we really are because we lower the measuring stick from Christ. He is the only role model for the believer’s mindset when suffering for doing good and being righteous. I cannot look anywhere else. You might be thinking this is impossible. Why would God expect that. He knows I am not perfect. When I am suffering in some way because I am doing good sometimes my flesh will react. I cannot help it. God says, yes you can. You can choose to make Christ’s attitude and mindset yours and its all there in black and white. Just read it and determine to apply it. You can do that and besides I have given my HS to you, living right inside of you to bear you up and carry you if need be so that you can emulate that mindset. We have no excuses. The idea of ‘arming’ refers to what a soldier is putting on, the armor he needs to protect him in battle. With that same determination and care we must arm ourselves with the mindset of Christ. To adopt His perspective toward unjust treatment and suffering when attempting to live a godly life in the hallway of high school, in the office I work in, in the home I live, on the team I play. We can fight the good fight of faith now. We can advance for the kingdom of God now because we have the right equipment and no hardship associated with doing good, being righteous and living godly is going to trip me up or deter me away from what god wants. If I stay focused there, then I will persevere with a courageous spirit for Christ.
2. SUFFERING FOR BEING RIGHTEOUS AND DOING GOOD SHOWS I’VE ID’D WITH CHRIST AND AM DONE WITH SIN 1b
My willingness to put it on the line no matter the cost to me is a revelation of where I have set my values and priorities. I have the chance to put them on display because I am willing to do what is right and godly. My suffering then becomes a witness of who is Lord in my life. Christ has become Lord. I have willingly set aside my own personal comfort and security and reputation. What I want and what I need no longer guide my actions and decisions. When I set aside my personal comfort and well-being and replace it with a desire for God’s will and purpose, even if that includes suffering, especially if that includes hardship, ridicule, rejection and poverty, then I am identifying with Christ and shunning the grip of sin in my life. I refuse to cave into the sinful urges to get my way and protect myself and serve my interests.
At this point it is more important for me to be godly and live righteously expecting suffering because of it, than it is to avoid the suffering by not doing the will of God in my life. That is the mindset Christ lived with and that is the same mindset God calls us to emulate. And when I do that I show that I am renouncing sin in my life for Christ. That I am finished with the way I used to live and opening myself up to what it is God wants for me. Are you afraid of what god may want for you? I believe that is the reason why we cop out on God when it may get difficult to do His will. God may require more of me than I can give or than I am willing to give. It is just too painful to go His route! But if we are armed with His attitude, then we can carry on as He did in spite of the persecution to persevere and do God’s will in my life. And that is the best place of all to be.
We should never be afraid of God’s will for us. It is the best thing that can happen to us. What better place to be than right in the center of the will of God for me. There is no place more peaceful, more rewarding, more fulfilling, more adventurous, more eye-opening, more exhilarating, more hopeful, more joyful, more stimulating, more stretching, than right there. You must see that and you must believe that to carry the mindset of Christ with you all throughout your life. Just because it is uncertain and unknown to you does not been it is unacceptable. God is there after all.
3. THE RULING PRINCIPLE IN MY LIFE IS THE WILL OF GOD NOT FLESHLY DESIRES 2
This is what it means to be finished with sin in my life. It means that I have overridden that desire with Gods desire for me. I can now live my life to the ‘good, well-pleasing and perfect will of God’. In a nutshell, this was the mindset of Christ when it came to His own suffering for righteousness sake. Always, doing the will of the Father overrode His desire to go in a another direction. Jesus said on a number of occasions “I always do what pleases Him...” Jn 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-40; 7:16-17; 8:29. He taught the disciples to pray ‘Your will be done’ Matthew 6:10 and in garden He prayed ‘nevertheless not my will but your will be done.’
Be honest, how often during the course of a day or lets say a week or how about a month is this the overriding concern of your thinking and mindset. Especially if your faithfulness is on the line and you can expect some kind of difficult consequence as a result of living righteously and doing the will of God for you? We want to believe that coming to Christ and living for Him is going to make my life easier, less complicated and more comfortable. But that is simply not true. Hanging in there for the long haul righteously is the normal experience of the Christian. Why is it that we have this explanation for a godly Christian who suffers for doing good? Precisely because of the pull to give it up when it gets tough. To cave into a sinful resolution when it gets to hard to be righteous and godly. All of us have experienced the temptation to go right back to a pagan way of thinking to bring resolution instead of sticking to the godly path. But if I have the mindset of Christ I am willing to suffer for doing good and renounce a sinful path otherwise in spite of it. This is what God wants for us.
4. OUR NEW LIVES AND VALUES ASTONISH AND PROVOKE UNBELIEVERS 3-4
The past sinful patterns and life-styles we had before Christ are no longer appropriate for the kind of life that is pleasing to God. It used to be a sufficient kind of life to live. It used to be enough for us but it has lost its luster. The whole list is indicative of lifestyles of people who have no interest in pleasing God. They are only into pleasing themselves physically, sensually and personally.
This is where the rub comes in now. Our new lives and values actually condemns those who still live like this. They will feel threatened now. Our new way of life and thinking and mindset will puzzle them and threaten them and incite them toward us. In a sense they may feel that we are making them look bad and they feel guilty. They will even be provoked to hostility in some cases. Old acquaintances may become new persecutors. Godless men are genuinely surprised by the changed lives of those they used to carouse with. Since they still reject the gospel you now believe, they will heap insults and blaspheme you and your God. They are not happy campers at all!
It is more important that we maintain the distinctiveness of our faith in Christ and the godly life associated with it than that we try to keep them won over as friends by compromising our new-found convictions. Listen, when Jesus Christ laid the grounds by which you could be a devoted follower of his, he made it unequivocally clear that He had to come before any relationships in your life. Your parents, your mates, your children, your friendships and your own life Luke 14. Yes, past friendships and associations may become a source of suffering for you because of your faith and righteous life. But your in it to please God not them and not yourself. Though we reject the lifestyle of old friends we must make it clear that we still accept them, love them, pray for them and honor God! We have to remember that their pleasure is only momentary and our suffering is only temporary. With that in mind we continue to serve them and honor God.
5. WE ARE SUPPORTED IN OUR STAND AGAINST UNGODLY LIVING BY TRUTH OF COMING JUDGMENT 5
There is a day of reckoning and accounting for everyone who ridicules righteousness. In the NT we learn that the Father has handed over judgment into the hands of His Son, Jesus Christ. This day of reckoning according to verse 7 is near. It will also be universal since it will be a judgment that embraces all the living and all of the dead. In this day of accounting every unbeliever will have to give a personal account of their lives and will not be able to withstand the divine scrutiny. Though they may speak badly of us now, if they die in unbelief, in that day of reckoning when true reality is on display for all to see, they will have to confess that our words and our works were truly good and righteous and they will be condemned. Those who spend their lives indulging their flesh will not escape this great day.
The reality of eternal death should motivate us all the more to live a distinctive lifestyle that makes us more useful for God to build His kingdom than a sinful, compromising, watered down one that does not. People all around us are condemned to die in their sin and the consequences are eternal. Judgment is coming and we must alert a lost world even though we may suffer because of it. For believers, we have been spared this judgment.
6. THOUGH WE SUFFER FOR DOING GOOD HERE WE WILL ENJOY LIFE FROM GOD IN HEAVEN FOREVER 6
The contrast is that while we are suffering for righteousness and godly living while alive on earth in this life, we have all eternity to experience the favor of God in the new heavens and the new earth. Gods judgment will reverse the judgment of men upon believers. Those who hear and believe the gospel have an altogether different future ahead of them. The penalty for sin has been paid at the cross and the last earthly effect of that sin is physical death. Believers still die physically because God has not removed that part of the curse . We are still judged as to our bodies but this does not lead to judgment but to eternal life. Listen, every believer who has died is in a much better position than we ever can be here back on earth. Then, we can only be at the mercy of Gods standards for us. There will be no persecution or hardship or difficulty or suffering for doing good and being righteous in heaven in His presence. So, determine to do the will of God and live a righteous life in spite of the suffering associated with it. This is as bad as it is ever going to get for us. So press on and do it in Jesus name!
A. Evangelism is not trying to ID with unbelievers to show them how much like them we are. It is about living a distinctively different life than they and then explaining why. It is not looking and acting like the world, trying to make people comfortable with us and our faith. It is the distinctive that makes the difference. Lets win them!
B. Make Jesus Christ the center-focus of your life in 1999. Commit to do His will in every instance. Each of us will have our crosses to bear in this arena but bear them we must.
C. Fight sin and live a godly life. How about making a commitment to cut out some sinful habits this year. Why don’t you let go of those secret sins that are holding you back from fuller devotion to Jesus Christ. Set aside that weight of sin that so easily entangles you.