October 4, 2015
Series: “A Time to Keep Silent, a Time to Speak Up, and a Time to Suffer”
Today’s Message: “A Time to Suffer”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Review/ Into: We’ve thought about a time to be silent and a time to speak up. Today we are going to consider what the Bible says about a time to suffer.
Christians in America had it fairly easy up until now, but the tide is turning, and we are going to have to prepare ourselves for some persecution and suffering. True followers of Jesus Christ may be increasingly marginalized, discriminated against, penalized, harassed, fined and jailed. This is serious stuff, and it could happen in the next few years. Some Christians are already paying the price, like Oregon cake bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, and now not only are facing a $135,000 fine, but have been driven out of business and have received death threats.
So… are you ready to suffer for the Name of Jesus Christ? Will you stand firm, when persecuted, in order to love and obey the Lord?
One of the best books of the Bible to help us is I Peter, written by the apostle to help those believers who were experiencing persecution from the Romans in the first century.
There are three key sections: 1 Peter 2:11-25; 3:13-17; and 4:12-19
Allow me to make three assumptions about you and the issue of suffering:
One, you don’t want to suffer any more than possible.
Two, you especially don’t want to suffer unjustly, (when you didn’t do anything wrong.)
Three, even if you are willing to suffer (for a good cause), you’re not going to be happy about it.
Therefore… you need some very good reasons in order to be persuaded to suffer unjustly. You want some very compelling motivation if you’re going be happy about paying outrageous fines and going to jail and losing your business.
God gives us five reasons:
1. Such Suffering is Commendable before God (It is Grace-full Suffering) 2:19-20
2. Such Suffering is Blessed by God (It is Joyful Suffering) 3:14, 4:14 (Mt. 5:10-12)
3. Such Suffering is Planned by God (It is Purposeful Suffering) 2:15; 3:17; 4:19 will
4. Such Suffering is Modeled after Christ (It is Christ-like Suffering) 2:21ff.; 3:18; 4:17
5. Such Suffering is Founded in Christ (It is grounded on Christ’s Unique Atoning Suffering) 2:24-25; 3:18-22
1. Suffering is Commendable before God (It is Grace-full Suffering) 2:19-20
19 “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”
The word commendable (NIV), gracious (ESV), or thankworthy (KJV) is the Greek word that is usually translated into English as “grace.” So twice here the Apostle Peter is telling us that when we bear up under unjust suffering as believers, our attitude and actions are commendable to God. Why? Because such an attitude in suffering reflects God’s grace at work in us. It is only because His grace and transforming power are at work in us that we are able to endure persecution and hardship for the gospel. And as you rely on His grace to uphold you through suffering, God commends you; He applauds you and speaks well of you. Ultimately, you and I have an audience of only One, when we suffer unjustly. Think of Pastor Sa’eed Abidini, who has now suffered for three years in an awful Iranian prison. He has been ridiculed, beaten, and denied medical treatment. Yet, perhaps his only encouragement is that his suffering is commendable before God… even as was true for Job, in his suffering.
So be careful that you are not living for the applause of people, otherwise it will be difficult to survive under persecution, if you only have the applause of God, by faith. The world may see such suffering as senseless and disgraceful, but in God’s eyes, it is glorious and honorable.
2. Such Suffering is Blessed by God (It is Joyful Suffering) 3:14, 4:14 (Mt. 5:10-12)
1 Peter 3:13-15 “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…”
1 Peter 4:12-14 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
The joy of fellowship with Christ in suffering is counter-intuitive. Yet it is true that increased sufferings for Christ actually can increase the believer’s joy in the Lord. Scripture testifies to this: Acts 5:41; 16:25; Rom. 5:3; Col. 1:24; Heb. 10:34, and I can testify to this out of my brief experiences of suffering for the gospel, in being arrested for seeking to save unborn children.
How does that work? Well, when you suffer loss for the gospel, it helps to strip away all the distractions and illusions in your life, and it leaves you with what is real and meaningful; it lets you focus on the Lord in deeper ways, and find real joy in Him. It’s like taking an old ugly dining room table, and stripping off layer after layer of old paint and varnish and grime, and underneath you find a beautiful and majestic oak.
The process is scary, but it is sanctifying. It’s refining but rejoicing. But Satan wants you to be afraid of it. He doesn’t want you to walk through the door of faith and obedience, because he knows the blessings and joy you will find when you are willing to endure suffering for Jesus.
Remember: Suffering is not the opposite of blessing. See Mt. 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you….Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”
3. Such Suffering is Planned by God (It is Purposeful Suffering) 3:17; 4:19
1 Peter 3:17 “It is better if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good that for doing evil.”
1 Peter 4:19 “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”
We Christians do not suffer accidently or because of forces beyond God’s control; no, we suffer according to God’s will. It is God’s good and perfect will that we may have to suffer for His sake. And since this suffering is in His sovereign and gracious hand, it means that He determines its intensity and duration; it means that it is for our good and purification, and it will draw us closer to God. It also means that He will be with us, and that Jesus has already suffered the same thing for us, so He is a sympathetic High Priest, on our behalf.
Illustration: Like suffering a tear in your muscles, and you need to have physical therapy 2-3 times per week. You entrust your body to the PT. She has a plan for you to strengthen you and restore your broken body, for your good, and she knows what she’s doing… therefore you endure the pain of the exercises. How much more should we trust God and His plan for us! Unjust suffering affords us the opportunity to trust God and His sovereign plans for us.
4. Such Suffering is Modeled after Christ (It is Christ-like Suffering) 2:21-23; 4:1
1 Peter 2:21- 23 “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
1 Peter 4:1 “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude…”
Christ left us an example of how to suffer unjustly; Christ calls us to follow in His steps; and Christ wants us to arm ourselves with the same attitude that he has, when He suffered. And all that boils down to two main things:
One, that we do commit ourselves to our Heavenly Father; and
Two, that we don’t commit any sin in response to our persecutors.
It’s what Jesus did do and didn’t do during the time he was tortured, falsely accused, hung on a cross, mocked and reviled. He entrusted Himself to His Father, and either remained silent or he returned blessing for curse, at the cruel treatment he received.
We must look to Christ alone for the pattern to follow when we are persecuted, for He has supplied it, perfectly, for us.
5. Such Suffering is Founded in Christ (It is grounded on Christ’s Unique Atoning Suffering) 2:24-25; 3:18
1 Peter 2:24-25 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit….”
The four attitudes I have mentioned so far are possible only if you are resting on the foundation of what Jesus Christ has done for you, through his sacrificial death on the cross, and the power of His resurrection at work within you.
Christ suffered with us as our pattern [Example]; He suffered for us in our place [Atonement].
Because Christ took our sins upon His body in His death upon the cross, we can die to our sins and respond to unjust suffering in a righteous way.
Because Jesus was wounded for us, we can be healed of our sinful responses to unjust suffering.
Because Jesus is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls, we no longer go astray to our own ways, when persecuted, but can follow Christ and His example.
Therefore we should not be shaken by persecution, as if God is letting us down! Rather, such painful trials are a normal part of being a follower of Jesus. For God uses them to refine us, as a precious metal in a fire. We are purified and strengthened and made more precious through such trials. Therefore we are to rejoice when we participate in the sufferings of Christ. Our union with Christ “In Him” includes not only His death and resurrection, but His sufferings as well, for without the sufferings, we can’t share in His glory either!