Life Through Death Sermon Series Sermon #4 January 17, 2016
Sermon: “Joy Through Suffering” 1 Peter 4:12-19
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
My heart goes out to you who are suffering. Some of you are in constant physical pain. Others are struggling with seeing a loved one hurting. You are dealing with diseases, old age aliments, and struggles of the mind and the emotions. So how can you have joy through your suffering? What can I share with you that will bring you a sense of God’s life through death?
Let me begin by saying two things. One is that I myself do not have all the answers. My own life has been relatively suffering-free, at least in comparison to some of you. I am not the expert on joy through suffering…but I know who is! The other thing is that our Lord loves you more than you can know, and He feels with you in your suffering. Jesus Christ Himself has experienced every type of pain and struggle that you are going through. Furthermore, His sufferings have redeemed our sufferings and given them meaning. And therefore Jesus can lead you to joy, through your sufferings.
With those things in mind, let’s look at 1 Peter 4:12-19
“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. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”
When your whole world is shaking because of suffering, you need something to hold on to that will give you stability and peace. Let me point you to some truths to hold onto, and with each one, we’ll see how it relates to who God is for us.
You can have joy through your suffering because…
1. By the Time Suffering Reaches You, It is Part of God’s Good Plan for You.
The suffering you experience is not “raw material”. Rather, it is pain that has been treated and filtered and tailor-made by God to fit you perfectly. The suffering you face is not a surprise or a mistake, but part of God’s wise plan. Look at v. 12: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” That means that your suffering isn’t random, accidental, or meaningless, as it often appears to be. Rather, by the time any suffering touches you, God has refined it for His wise purposes, including for our testing and our strengthening, so that we will learn to trust more in the Lord, that He alone is Wise and Sovereign in all His ways. This was something Joseph, Job, Peter, and Paul all learned through their sufferings, wasn’t it?
Look at v. 19a: “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will…” This tells us that your suffering is not outside the will of God. It is part of God’s will. This is true even when Satan may be the immediate cause. God is sovereign over all things, including our suffering.
But here’s the rub: I want to know, “Why am I suffering? Why did this accident, this illness, this tragedy happen to ME?” We think: “If I could just know God’s purpose for my pain, I could take it much better.” Isn’t that what you think? But God usually doesn’t reveal all His detailed plans to us, does He? No. How could we understand how He masterminds the way a million different events are all working out in your life for His glory and our good? (Isa. 55:8-9 His thoughts and His ways are so much higher than our thoughts and ways.)
Think about the suffering of Joni Eareckson Tada, who at age 17 had a diving accident that has left her as a quadriplegic for 50 years, or Elizabeth Elliot, whose husband was brutally murdered as a missionary, leaving her a widow with a small child, in the jungles of Ecuador. Both of their sufferings appeared senseless, and yet most of us have learned so much from their books, that we can say that truly, God has been glorified, and we have grown in our faith and Christian character, through their sufferings.
Therefore, by the time suffering reaches you, it is part of God’s good plan for you…because our God is a wise and sovereign God. That’s the first thing I want you to hold onto.
Here’s the second truth I want you to hold onto: You can have joy through suffering because…
2. You Can Trust God with Your Suffering because Jesus Christ Suffered both for You and with You.
Not only is our God wise and sovereign over suffering, but He is also loving and tender in the midst of your suffering. Look at v. 13a: “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ” Here’s one half of this truth, namely that our sufferings are united with Christ’s sufferings. Not in any redemptive or meritorious way, but because of our union with Christ.
That is, your suffering as a Christian is an evidence of your union with Christ. Your sufferings are not merely your own. They are also Christ’s, because you are united to Christ, though faith in Him. And the other half of this truth is that Christ is united to us in our sufferings, so that He feels our pains and sympathizes with us in our suffering. Hebrews 2:14-18 encourages us when it says that Christ “shared in our humanity” and that “He was made like us in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” And then in v. 18 we read “Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”
If we had the time this morning to look more deeply into Hebrews 2:14-18 and 4:14-16, we would see that the sufferings of Jesus Christ were both for us, as our atoning sacrifice for our sins, and with us, as our sympathetic high priest. And as our high priest, Jesus Christ is both exalted and victorious, so that we are assured of our triumph over sin and suffering, as well as being a compassionate high priest, so that He can comfort us and care for us, in our hurts.
Here’s what I want you to hold onto in your sufferings:
First, that God Himself is the ultimate sufferer in the universe. No one has endured more pain or hurt than He has.
Second, that you should trust God with your suffering, because Jesus Christ suffered both for you and with you. “In our great suffering on earth there is great support from heaven.”
Third, that God’s suffering love for you redeems and transmutes your suffering, giving it purpose and hope in Christ.
Or to summarize it another way: All of our questions about suffering must be filtered through the lens of Jesus’ suffering for us and with us.
Trust God with your suffering because Jesus Christ suffered both for you and with you.
You can have joy through your suffering because…
3. Your Suffering, as a Christian, Has Cosmic and Eternal Significance.
Not only is our God wise and sovereign over suffering, as well as loving and tender in the midst of your suffering, but He is furthermore glorious and victorious over your suffering. Look with me at two verses. Verse 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.” Verse 16: “if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
You may think now that you can’t hold up any longer under the weight of your pain. You may feel that it makes no sense to be so beaten down. But if you belong to Christ, He promises you will that you will be able to bear it, because He Himself will come to you and rest upon you (v. 14). The Holy Spirit will reveal enough of God’s glory and enough of God Himself to satisfy your soul, and carry you through. In fact, in Scripture, suffering and glory are bound up together in God’s plan. God uses our temporary afflictions to prepare us for an eternal glory with Him.
Moreover, v. 16 encourages us by saying that our suffering as a Christian strongly brings praise to God. It has eternal significance this way. You see, when you trust God in the midst of your pain, it shows to the world that God is glorious to you — that He is valuable, precious, desirable, satisfying, in the midst of your hurts. It demonstrates that the Lord Jesus satisfies your heart, so that you can keep on rejoicing in Him, even when all other supports for your satisfaction are falling away, such as your health, your mind, your finances, your security. When you keep rejoicing in God in the midst of suffering, it shows that God, and not other things, is the great source of your joy. That means your suffering echoes through the cosmos with a gospel-soaked, Christ-centered melody.
Allow me to finish this encouragement with a quick look at 1 Peter 5:9b-11 “…because you know that your brothers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
Listen to the three great encouragements which the Lord gives to sufferers here:
First, Christians throughout the world are sharing in your suffering. You are not alone! Don’t listen to Satan’s lies, telling you that nobody has it as bad as you do, or that you are alone in your suffering and anguish. No! You belong to a close-knit band of brothers and sisters who are all wounded and hurting, but are bound together by the scars of our Savior.
Second, your suffering will be limited. There will be an end to it. The calendar may turn slowly as you wrestle with your pain, but all the time of your suffering will be but a blink of the eye, compared to an eternity of fullness and joy with our great King in heaven. It is like a woman in labor who knows that all her pain will soon be over and she will have the joy of seeing her new child.
Third, God will restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. He will turn your crying into laughing, your sorrow into joy, and your weakness into strength! God is personally in charge of rebuilding and restoring your broken life and beaten body.
God has triumphed over your suffering at the cross and in the resurrection and ascension, and your final and ultimate victory over sin and suffering is secure!
Your suffering, as a Christian, has cosmic and eternal significance! Hallelujah!
But how can we be so sure of all this?
Because our God is the God of all grace and He is the God of all power and dominion. (vv. 10-11) “And the God of all grace… will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever.”
Our God is both full of grace and of greatness. He alone is all-merciful and all-mighty. And because He has proven that to be true over and over again – in Scripture, in history, and in our own lives – therefore we can have hope and even joy, in the worst of our suffering.
Let us rest on His grace and rely on His power.