Summary: Christians may experience pain and suffering just because we are Christians... and knowing that, we prepare for it.
Title: Anticipatory Pain and Suffering
Text: I Peter 4:12-19
Thesis: Christians may experience pain and suffering just because we are Christians.
This is the sixth message in a Lenten Series: Knowing Christ through Pain and Suffering.
The Apostle Paul wrote, I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead. Philippians 3:10-11
When I go to a doctor, I want to know everything. I want to know what has to be done and if the doctor can do it. I want to know if it is going to hurt and if so, how much? I want to know the risks. I want to know the prognosis for complete recovery. I want to know if it is going to be covered by insurance. I want to know if the doctor has ever done this before and if he or she is any good at it.
If I have surgery, I don’t want any surprises. I do not want to hear the surgeon say anything like, “Oops!” or “Wait a minute, if this is his appendix, what is that thing I just removed?” or worst of all, “We had better save that for the autopsy.”
However, I am willing to entrust myself to the care of a medical professional, whom I trust. I am willing to anticipate and experience additional pain and suffering if there is hope of recovery and wholeness following a procedure.
Jesus anticipated his own pain and suffering. In Luke 22:21, as he sat at the table with his disciples, enacting what we now call the Last Supper, he said, “Here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. For I, the Son of Man, must die since it is part of God’s plan.” Later that same night in the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering from me.” A few days earlier, the day we mark as Palm Sunday, as Jesus was about to make his triumphal entry, he looked out over the city of Jerusalem and began to weep for those who had rejected their opportunity of God’s grace.
Jesus also anticipated our pain and suffering. In John 16:33 Jesus said to his followers, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
In some ways it is unnerving to know that pain and suffering loom on the horizon… anticipating pain and suffering can be as painful, if not more so, than the actual experience of pain and suffering. Some temperaments may prefer to be kept in the dark about whatever may be in the wind. Others of us prefer to know, up front, what we can expect. We do not like surprises. We want to approach life with our eyes wide open. While some may be
paralyzed by the inevitability of pain and suffering, others seize the opportunity to prepare for it.
In our text today, Peter gives the followers of Jesus Christ guidance as to how Christians may anticipate experiences of pain and suffering.
The first thing we are told is, “Don’t be shocked by it.”
I. There is no shock in experiencing pain and suffering.
• Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the painful trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. I Peter 4:12
There are two instructive truths that may be lifted from this verse.
A. Pain and suffering is an expected part of the Christian experience.
We are not to be surprised by it. Pain and suffering is not to be thought strange or foreign to the Christian experience. In fact, if we link these comments with those made in I Peter 1:6-7, trials are necessary for the refining and perfecting of personal faith, which only when under fire, may be shown to be strong and pure.
B. Pain and suffering in the Christian experience will be intense.
The second instructive truth in this verse is that the trials may be very intense. The word used to describe the trials is “painful.” In the original language, the word is “pyrosis” which we immediately associate with pyromania, an irresistible desire to start fires. The word means to burn and may be more accurately translated “fiery trials.”
We have something of an understanding of the pain that results from a burn. We know that 1st degree burns are relatively mild and affect only the epidermis or outer layer of skin. 2nd degree burns are more serious and affect the epidermis and the dermis, which is the lower layer of skin. 2nd degree burns result in pain, redness, swelling, and blistering. 3rd