GRACE TO SUFFER FOR CHRIST
God can be glorified by my suffering
1 Peter 4:12-19
INTRODUCTION: We might rather talk about answered prayer, heaven or fellowship. In 1999 an Australian missionary and his two sons burned to death in their jeep in India by a radical group of Hindus. Suffering because of our faith in Jesus Christ is the price we must pay as we stake our lives on following Him. Suffering because of our determination to keep Christ’s commandments is neither random nor senseless but part of the divine plan of God. Just this week a friend described how his commitment to follow Jesus Christ has caused a series of friendships he used to have to break-up. In this instance, following Christ has cost him close friendships he once upon a time had enjoyed and benefited from. The interests and priorities are different now and he is coming to grips with some of the suffering associated with obeying Jesus Christ. It may cost us our lives. It may cost us our friendships. It will cost us to obey Christ’s commandments. Our passage teaches us that suffering is the legacy of a committed believer and God is glorified by the godly attitudes and actions we display when we suffer. The instruction begins with the principle:
1. SUFFERING SHOULD NOT TAKE US BY SURPRISE 12
The implication is that suffering can take us by surprise if we do not have the appropriate perspective about it. Be mentally prepared for it. This fiery ordeal shapes the nature of the suffering-it was painful and possibly associated with fire. In other words when difficulties come our way because of decisions we make to live godly lives we should not look upon it as an intruding stranger or unexpected guest. Jesus told us that His followers would suffer Matthew 5:10-12; Luke 21:12-19. Jesus himself suffered, setting the example for us to follow 1 PT 2:21-25. The apostles and many in the early church suffered and they taught us to expect it Acts 4 and 5; 9:16; 2 Cor 1:5-7; James 1:1-4.
In each case a deliberate choice was made to move in a godly direction knowing that choice would bring suffering or hardship of some kind into the life. That was not a deterrent from continuing to follow Christ. Christ knew what was going to happen to him and so did the apostles but they did it anyway! We can expect to be misunderstood, alienated, rejected, ridiculed, marginalized, gossiped about, maligned, misjudged by those who have no interest in following Christ. Our faith in Christ will get in the way of some of our relationships at work, at home, in our circle of friendships. Our faith in Christ may get in the way of our career opportunities or financial priorities. We should not be doing what we can to minimize our suffering but to maximize our devotion to follow him.
First, we must expect to suffer. There are opportunities you will never have because of your determination to follow Christ. There are friendships you will lose, priorities that will shift, all of them costly to some degree but not unexpected as you re-organize your life patterns to conform more and more to the will of Jesus Christ! That life-long process will be costly to you. Expect it to be so!
2. WE SHOULD REJOICE BECAUSE WE ARE SHARING IN CHRIST’S SUFFERING 13
It is all a matter of perspective. We can look at the suffering as an unexpected guest. Then we will respond in ways that focus on relieving the suffering for self-protective reasons. Reasons, the Bible teaches us that have nothing to do with following Christ. Or we can look at our participation in Christ’s suffering. That he tells us will bring a joyful response from us. The fact is that when we take part in Christ’s sufferings we will also take part in His glory which is to be revealed or unveiled later. I can have a piece of that he tells us and that should motivate me to respond with joy when I am suffering because I am choosing to follow Christ’s commandments. I can participate in this or fellowship in it or have communion with it. So, I become intimate with it’s outcome.
Now if I am not interested in following Christ, then suffering will not be a joyful thing for me. But I will also not share in his glory when it is revealed. The suffering I experience now is a down-payment of the glory of Christ I will share in then. We will be rewarded by Christ for the sacrifice we have made to build His kingdom. So Xians who are following Christ are people who are living for the other side of the grave. We have the opportunity to share as co-heirs in the inheritance of Christ but there is a cost involved. Romans 8:17 says ‘If so be that we suffer with Him.’ All Xians are heirs but certainly not all will be co-heirs. For many xians will decide that the price tag involved in discipleship is too high and will settle for comfortable, complacent, convenient Xian life. But those who opt for the path of discipleship will discover that the sufferings of this life are not even ‘worth comparing’ to the ‘glory that will be revealed’ Romans 8:18. So this gives us a future hope to endure suffering with rejoicing.
3. SUFFERING FOR CHRIST IS A PRIVILEGE NOT A PENALTY 14
The text tells us that being ridiculed or reviled when we make decisions to honor Christ places us in Gods favor (Matt 5:11). That means that this kind of suffering is never a penalty but a privilege. It places us in Gods good graces! We can make the mistaken notion that because I am suffering or a fellow believer is suffering that God is penalizing them for something wrong in their lives. We are talking about the specific kind of suffering associated with following Christ not suffering generally.
In addition I have the HS of God inside of me now and He empowers me to move through the suffering and various kinds of hardships in a God honoring manner. This is when we need God’s presence to strengthen us as we resolve to follow through with our commitment to follow and obey Christ! We are never alone in our sufferings for Christ. God is right there in the person of the HS. You may shed some tears and struggles with your emotions and have to swallow a few lumps in your throat as you try to make your way through your sufferings for Christ but you are never left to go it alone! We have a companion called the HS and He assists us to respond so that God is glorified by the way we handle it.
4. SUFFERING DOES NOT JUSTIFY RETALIATION 15
The point seems to be that no matter what the trials, xians are to do nothing that would justify punishing them as criminals. In other words, physical violence against us is not to be met by murder. Confiscation of property is not to be compensated by theft. We are not to suffer as murderers, thieves, or any other kind of criminal or even as a troublesome meddler in other people’s affairs and business. Our suffering is no excuse for lawlessness.
This is not the kind of response that honors God or gives him any kind of glory. So, if you are tempted to act with any of these responses, stop. Don’t do it Peter tells us. Instead, focus on the fact that you are having the privilege of sharing in Christ’s sufferings and leave the consequences with God.
5. THERE IS NO SHAME IN SUFFERING AS A BELIEVER 16
Our suffering for Christ should not be a cause for surprise but neither should it be the source of shame. There is no shame if one suffers as a Christian rather than as a criminal. While we courageously endure the hardships associated with obeying Christ we bring glory to God. We show the worth of His name. He is worth suffering for and our suffering puts God on display! Suffering as a criminal only brings shame to us and no glory to God. Since our highest purpose is to put the greatness and character of our God on display, then my suffering as a believer from an opposing world does just that! And this is to be my business. Avoiding suffering as a xian is not my business. That only has my greatest interest at heart and not Gods. “Christian” only occurs 3 times Acts 11:26; 26:28 and here. Maybe used as an insult.
6. GOD ALLOWS OUR SUFFERING TO DISCIPLINE US AND PURIFY OUR LIVES 17-18
Peter has said that suffering is used to refine and prove our faith 1:6-7. Now suffering is used by God to correct us when needed because we may need it. There is going to be a time of judgment for all believers before Christ and in our lives God uses suffering as corrective action to get us back on the right path so that we will not lose rewards. Now if we need and deserve this kind of disciplinary action—and we do—to keep us faithful and on the right track, how much more do those who do not obey the gospel deserve the judgment they are going to get? (Prov 11:31) LXX rendering emphasizing disciplinary demands on His children. From our perspective discipline is always hard!
A believer will experience the sufferings here while he follows Christ. The suffering is for a short while and God will use it to shape us and correct us so that we can be rewarded by him at our judgment. The unbeliever will not only have his sufferings here but he will also experience the judgment of God for all eternity because of His sin. That is where the ungodly and sinner of Vs 18 will appear. So he is warning the xian that he is not exempt from corrective action by God through his sufferings. Hebrews 12:7 “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.”
7. WHEN WE SUFFER DEPOSIT OUR LIVES IN THE HANDS OF GOD 19
It is suffering according to the will of God that is significant. If I am suffering as a criminal it does not count. If I am suffering solely because I bear Christ’s name and my decisions reflect that, then I can be confident that my suffering is Gods will for me. Whenever I suffer because I am a xian it is Gods will for me. And when I do suffer for that reason I am to deposit, like one makes in a bank, my soul, my life in the hands of God.
There are many things into which a man can deposit his soul in order to alleviate the pain. It can be money, power, alcohol, lust, business, even a favorite hobby can all be used to temporarily stifle the cries of the soul. There are a number of drinks the world holds out for us that mite deaden the pain of the cross we must bear for Christ. Don’t deposit your soul there. The temptation will be to retaliate, get even, take the plunge. All of these are ruthless bankers you make deposits in because they promise much but never deliver. When we are suffering for Christ, we need to make sure that we deposit our affections, our attitudes, our responses, our hopes into the hands of God because he is a faithful banker who will increase the value of our lives as a result.
1. Suffering is a consequence of following Christ. It is unavoidable in this world if you desire to emulate the righteous life of Jesus Christ. So don’t be surprised when it happens.
2. We should not make it our goal to avoid suffering. Free will choices require consequences. To overcome adversity is better than to not have adversity to overcome.
3. We only have a short time to suffer. Suffering is only for this side of the grave. We will not suffer in heaven. So this perspective gives us hope and joy in our suffering here.
4. Suffering is from God, as an opportunity to glorify God, resulting in heavenly rewards. Job teaches us not to ask why we personally suffer. It could be for many reasons and faithfulness to Christ is one of these.