Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
Suffering: Trusting a Faithful Creator – Part #1
1 Peter 4:12-19
Turn to 1 Peter 4. I believe that in our Christian life, the greatest thing that could be said of us is that we experienced everything God wanted us to experience. In other words, we were at the very centre of the Lord’s will and that we went through those experiences well. The opposite of that of course is carving our own path, knowing that we are making decisions that are outside of what the Lord would want for us. And I want to acknowledge that we spoke about the Lord’s will as obedience. God’s will, your obedience, your loyalty, your allegiance to Christ. But that God may choose to take you through various peaks and valleys also adds some mystery to His will. And that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord is a given promise from God. That ultimately even the evil in the world is used by God to bring about His purposes. For even the killing of His Son to save mankind was orchestrated by God, though it was done by evil men. But Bible scholars do speak of God’s decreed will versus God’s desired will. That though God uses all things, God still desires that all men and women would serve Him, and that they choose not to, does not in any case affect the decreed will of God, but it also does not mean that God’s heart is not affected by our sin and rejection of Him.
We have been studying in Genesis that God created the world, He create mankind. The plan that Christ would someday come was already part of the decreed will of God and that man would rebel was part of His decreed will. Yet the Bible still tells us that when the Lord looked down at the world. Genesis 6:6 says, “And Yahweh regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” So can we change the decreed will of God? No, cannot. Proverbs 16:4, “Yahweh has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.” Did God create a world that was capable of sin? I hope so, for the world sins. Are will accountable for our actions, though God has decreed all things? Yes, we are, for the Bible that we are always responsible for every action we make. Yet listen to the Lord’s heart in Ezekiel 18:23, “‘Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,’ declares Lord Yahweh, ‘is it not that he should turn from his ways and live?’” And later Ezekiel 33:11, “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares Lord Yahweh, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’”
So can we walk outside of the Lord’s desired will for us? Of course, we can! For the Lord is not pleased when we are running from Him, or if we are flirting with sin in our lives. And this is the challenge to us as believers to honestly ask the Lord this question. Lord, am I walking in a way that honours You? Am I living in such a way that You desire? And sometimes when we are not truly serving Christ it may be obvious to others. But sometimes it is only a matter of your own heart. In other words, only the Lord knows for certain where you are in your spiritual health. And recently in our study of 1 Peter, we have been speaking about struggles, which are part of the determined plan of God. And I believe our response to this should not be so much, Lord take me out of this trouble. But Lord, help me to honour You well through this trouble. See, some mistakenly interpret Christianity as a religion that exempts you from trials and struggles and persecution. Whereas Christianity includes those things, and it also includes a relationship with One who walks with you during those trials and One who has experienced those trials Himself. So, let us ask the Lord to help us this morning before we begin. Father, we know that what we walk through as obedient children is for our good, whatever that is You have planned for us. We thank You for Your Word, that guides, directs, corrects, gives to us depth of knowledge. And where we are told that it is part of Your will that we are tested, that we suffer, that we are insulted. So, give us ears to listen and minds to understand. For we ask these things in the name of Christ, amen.
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial among you [there’s the first zinger – fiery trial],
[but there is a reason for the trial] which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.
13 But to the degree you are sharing the sufferings of Christ [here is the attachment we have to the Person of Jesus Christ, who does not leave us on our own but walks with us … therefore] keep on rejoicing, so that [why?] also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation [the best for the true Christian is still to come].
14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ [here is another trial which we will go through, being insulted, yet again attached to Christ … for the name of Christ … result] you are blessed [why?] … because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
[now Peter is going to give us a few reasons of negative suffering, not the positive suffering for good reasons, but negative suffering as a result of your own sinfulness and indifference towards God]
15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer [not just the act of murder itself, but as Christ taught … hating your brother], or thief [not just the act itself, but coveting something that belongs to someone else], or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler [likely a lot of wasted time responded to random posts on the internet likely could go under the troublesome meddler category];
[then Peter is going to go back to this positive good suffering]
16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be put to shame, but is to glorify God in this name [i.e. go through the suffering well]
[now Peter is going to give us 2 grave warnings]
17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? [i.e. God may have to judge the house of God, therefore how much greater the judgment will be when He judges the unsaved]
18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? [i.e. do not be distraught by everything the Christin must go through when considering the fate of those who reject Christ]
19 Therefore [and I would suggest Peter’s theme summary of what he is addressing here in this passage], those also who suffer according to the will of God must entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing good.
1 Pet 4:12-19 (LSB)
You know, one of the things I have learned when studying this book, is that Peter says a lot of things with only a few words, as it seems that every verse is packed with depth. So, what I wish to do this morning is to speak to the suffering passages, and address the warning passages next Sunday. So, we will stay with these eight verses for two weeks.
1. Christians are to expect trials … so that our faith is tested (vs 12).
Verse 12, “do not be surprised by the fiery trial among you.” In some ways this might be a shocking statement, that when I become a Christian and make peace with God, that I am going to be exposed to something called “fiery trials.” Yet when we think of it, imagine if someone accepts a truth that goes against the grain of the mainstream culture. When our message says, this is right, and the culture says, no it is not. When our message says, this is wrong, and the culture says, no, it is right. So, when we become a believer and we take with us a message that goes counter-cultural, all Peter is saying here is to expect opposition. Now if you don’t want to face this kind of opposition, then hide your faith, or abandon your faith. Because if you live for Christ, some will oppose you. This picture here of “fiery trials” not only symbolizes the trial itself, but is also a picture of our lives being purified. We think of the passage way back at the start of this series where Peter says:
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire.”
1 Pet 1:6-7a (LSB)
This is a refining of our spiritual lives.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.”
1 Pet 4:12 (LSB)
These are not trials that are haphazard. They are not trials due to wrong choices or sin. No, these are trials for the purpose of “testing.” Is that a good thing? Yes. If we understand as Christians that this is the purpose. For if I do not understand that these trials have a purpose, then the setback, the health issue, the disappointment, the heartache, the lost job, the rebellion in your family, and in this case specifically opposition, only becomes a frustration or a cause to become bitter. And the response becomes all about the “anger” over the trial, as opposed to the passing of the test. Have you ever had something happen to you when you were just taken back, and this was not due to any fault of your own. And you found yourself, because of what happened or because of how someone reacted to you, or the news you received to cause you to become extremely angry. And so you choose lie awake at night and rehearse the heartache over and over again. And your blood pressure goes up, and your joy goes down. And at certain times of the day, what happens keeps coming to the forefront of your mind. And once in a while you get really “spiritual” and you say “why Lord?” For that is a spiritual response, because you are at least acknowledging that it was God who allowed the trial. And yet Peter reminds us here that not only did God allow the trial, but that it is purposeful, for your testing.
Another word that could be used here for this Greek word pi-ras-mos’ is for your proving. In other words, you claim Christ and therefore that relationship is going to be tested or must be proven. And the testing is not for God’s benefit, for He knows if you are a true believer or not. But it is for our benefit, as the testing of our faith proves to us our true commitment to Christ. And this is not a Christian whose faith is proven false so that he loses his or her salvation. No, this is a test to indicate whether someone has truly received Christ or not. And we cannot look at this as seeing a time in our lives when we may have responded poorly to a struggle that it means that we are not saved. No, this is a lifelong endeavour that we continue as we grow in our faith to persevere for Christ. And testing carries the significance to show us how we are doing, that as I mature in life, trials often bring us, draw us to Christ, in a way that they would not have when my faith was more immature and untested.
So, we are to expect trials, so that our faith is tested. And it is really a quality of a deeper Christian who sees the trial from God’s hand, and trusts God through the trial that assured the believer of the realness of his faith. Therefore the trial is needed.
2. Christians share with Christ … so there is a reason for rejoicing (vs 13).
“But to the degree you are sharing the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”
1 Pet 4:13 (LSB)
“All of the way my Savior leads me … And He cheers each winding path I tread
Gives me strength for every trial … And He feeds me with the living bread
And though my weary steps may falter … And my soul a-thirst may be
Gushing from a rock before me … Though a spirit joy I see”
Notice Peter says here, but to the degree you are sharing the sufferings of Christ. The assumption is that as we share a higher degree of the Lord’s sufferings, which ultimately will come to the Christian who is serving to a greater level. In other words, the more the commitment, likely the more suffering. In other words, if you want to go and live somewhere on your own, have limited connection with the people of God, keep a low profile as a Christian, you will share less in the sufferings with Christ. It would be like playing hockey and shying away from the corners. Don’t go near the front of the net. And you likely will not get near the resistance you would receive if you were willing to go to the tough areas. So, stay safe, wear a helmet, avoid the deep discussions, and people will likely leave you alone. But if you are willing to deepen your walk with Christ, if you are willing in love and gentleness speak truth, no doubt you are going to experience some of the same suffering that Christ faced, for we bring the same message. Why? Why would we do this? (vs 13) “so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” When Jesus finally shows Himself in all His glory, we are able to say, “I served You! I served You! Even through suffering, I served You!”
Notice that phrase “keep on rejoicing.” You know church-life over the years has its peaks and valleys, as there can be a tendency to over-compensate for a weakness in ministry. And I am sure that the church today likely has some things that have grown over the years. The changing culture and even the faltering liberal churches have taught the true church some valuable lessons. I would suggest many churches have responded well to the questioning of the Bible with a renewed focus on the inerrancy of Scripture. We have had excellent teaching from organizations such as Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition. I would suggest many churches have responded well to the trend towards woman pastors with a renewed focus on complementarianism, where we understand that men and women have unique roles. I would suggest many churches have responded well to the focus on man and salvation with a renewed focus on the sovereignty of God and His divine election. But I see a weakness in many churches today and that is this, exactly what Peter focuses on here, keep on rejoicing. We live in a wealthy, affluent society, but also a fearful society. We do not work for what we have so much. But as a culture we live in fear that what we already have is going to be taken away from us. And this has found its way into the church, as sometimes our joy, gladness, fondness are based upon things of the past. I thought it would be like Peter saying, “But to the degree you are sharing the sufferings of Christ, remember the days of rejoicing.” And I would actually understand that if that is what Peter said, “Hey folks when the going gets tough, just think back to happier days.” No, what does Peter say here? Keep on rejoicing, folks this is a vital element of church-life, that we should be known of all people as a joyful people. This Greek word khah’-ee-ro means to thrive, gladness, overwhelmed with joy, and it almost seems that the more we rejoice now, the more we will rejoice when Christ in His fullness is revealed to us. End of verse 13, “keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” The insinuation of Peter is that if you do not think that the Christian life is not the most exciting and joyful life you could ever live, than you might be disappointed later on.
You know, we can get pretty excited about a lot of things. I was pretty excited about winning the crokinole tournament last night, but Anne and I lost to Michael and Cheryl in the finals. So annoying! Yet for the Christian the greatest joy we can ever have is to share our lives with Jesus Christ. Nothing else even compares. Paul wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). I would suggest that a great witness of Elim Bible Chapel is that they are a people who express a wonderful joy in Christ. The Christian shares with Christ so there is a reason for rejoicing.
3. Christians will be ridiculed … so the Holy Spirit comforts them (vs 14).
“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
1 Pet 4:14 (LSB)
Here is the direct suffering for our speaking about, proclaiming Christ, or for aligning ourselves with Christ. If you are insulted for the name of Christ. Here is the friction with our society. The problem with Jesus is that he is the only way and He is the One who speaks the truth of what is right and what is not. If Christ had said that people could follow Him and learn to love others and love God and be kind to our neighbours, society would be okay with Christ. But Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” Our pluralistic society does not like that message. Peter in Acts 4 spoke of Christ and said, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” If Christ offered Himself to the world, but did not claim to be the only way in which a person can be saved, He fits in nicely with other religions, maybe even someone’s own understanding of spiritual things. But Jesus claimed that if we do not serve Him as Saviour and Lord, you are condemned. He could have said, do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will not be saved.
So, the challenge here is that we would in the face of opposition align ourselves with Christ. Align ourselves with truth and all He stands for, and Peter says, you will be blessed because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Young people, when you are surrounded by unbelievers and you have an opportunity to stand up for Christ, you are blessed, and the Holy Spirit of God comes right to your side. On the negative side of this verse, when we are insulted somehow for the sake of Christ, and we respond in anger or attack or deny Christ, we really make the work of the Spirit to appear useless to those around us. Yes, Christians are to expect trials, so that our faith is tested. Christians share with Christ, so there is a reason for rejoicing. Christians will be ridiculed, so the Holy Spirit comforts them. Let’s pray. Lord, You have mandated that the Christian life involve suffering, that yes, we may expect trials, that we will face some of what Christ faced, and we will be insulted for the name of Christ. But as we go through these things are faith is tested and proven, we can still rejoice, and Your Spirit rests upon us. So may we be faithful to do what You have called us to do, amen.
“… but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be put to shame, but is to glorify God in this name.”
1 Pet 4:16 (LSB)
4. Christians face sufferings without shame … so God is glorified (vs 16).
Certainly the context of our passage is persecution for the cause of Christ, so that all these blessings are given to the one who is being persecuted for his faith. And I would agree, it is the immediate context. But especially here with verse 16, let me expand this. For when you are going through a fearful health issue, or you are going through a desperate marriage problem, or you have something that has been handed to you that is so difficult to bear. And yet you resolve in your weak human heart to exult Christ (vs 13), and you determine that through whatever trial it is to glorify Jesus (vs 16). And whether we face whatever it is in life that is difficult. John Piper says the question is this, will I turn against Jesus in anger or will I trust Him? Because can Jesus change my situation? Can Jesus take away my disease? Can He restore my relationship in my marriage or with my child? Can He solve this grave problem at work or financially? Yes, He can. Will He? I don’t know. But I do know this, you will never be put to shame. That though you trust Him, though you trust in One who is becoming more and more despised by the world, you will never be put to shame. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel.” The gospel is the story of Christ that He was foretold, that he came, that he was born of a virgin, that He lived a perfect life, that He died, and that He rose again. And Paul knew exactly what Peter is preaching here this morning, that when the Lord chooses that I would suffer, and my response is a tribute to the glory of God, the Christian will never be put to shame. And as difficult as this life can be, the proof of this passage will be revealed on the day that you and I who love Christ will stand before Him and rejoice in His exultation. And all God’s people said, amen.