Summary: In 1927 the wife of Scottish preacher Arthur Gossip died suddenly. When he returned to the pulpit he preached a sermon titled “When Life Tumbles In, What Then?”
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What is the right approach to suffering? 1 Peter 3:13-17
Illustration on Suffering
In 1927 the wife of Scottish preacher Arthur Gossip died suddenly. When he returned to the pulpit he preached a sermon titled “When Life Tumbles In, What Then?” In that sermon Arthur compared life to watching a plane pass through the sky during wartime. There you are, lying on your back watching a plane fly gracefully across a brilliant sunlit blue sky when all of a sudden it is blown apart by gunfire and falls to earth a tumbling, tangled mess of metal. Only on this occasion the gunfire was the tragically unexpected death of his beloved wife.
Arthur went on to explain that he didn’t understand this life, but what he did know was that during this darkest period of his life he needed his faith more than ever. “You people in the sunshine may believe the faith, but we in the shadow must believe it.” Source: Reported in Hans, God on the Witness Stand (Baker 1987).
We live in a world full of trouble and suffering. Man faces trouble in a variety of ways. Suffering can come by the way of death of a loved one, loss of job, accusations, misunderstanding, persecution and the list goes on and on and on. We come across suffering whether we like it or not. So the question is: How do I face suffering as Christian? What is the Christian approach to suffering?
Background of text:
Remember, in this epistle, Apostle Peter has been giving some instructions to the suffering believers about living in a hostile world. The believers in Rome were undergoing great persecution; therefore, Peter gives them an approach to suffering and how to deal with it.
1 Peter 3:8-17 is the core of this epistle.
Peter began in 1 Peter 1-2:10 by identifying Christians as the chosen of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, and set apart to holy living in the midst of an unholy society, for the purpose of reaching that society with the saving gospel.
Then, starting in 1 Peter 2:11-12, Peter identifies Christians as aliens and strangers. We are only temporary in this world. We are set apart for holy living with the purpose of being a light in our society.
1 Peter 2:13-3:7, Peter talks about our relationship to government. He talks about our relationship to authority. Peter talks about our relationship to our employer. In chapter 3, Peter talks about our relationship to our marital partner, everything is evangelistic goal in mind.
In 1 Peter 3:8-17, we have the core of Peter’s message. So far Peter had been laying a foundation. Now, Peter addresses the believers who are going through suffering. He talks about the Christian approach to suffering.
13Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15But in your hearts revere 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. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
Well, Peter gives us a handful of principles on a Christian’s approach to suffering.
A CHRISTIAN’S APPROACH TO SUFFERING
1. EAGER FOR GOODNESS.
First of all, a Christian must be passionate to do good even in the midst of suffering.
I must be passionate to do good in spite of my suffering.
1 Peter 3:13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
John Wesley, the founder of methodism had this for his rule of life:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
John Keble, English churchman and poet in 18th Century said, “When you are quite despondent, the best way is to go out and do something kind to somebody. This is a medicine that never fails to cure. To test it, try it. Imprison yourself with your sorrow, and life will be a gloomy bondage.”
It is very unusual for most people, to mistreat those who are zealous for good. The world doesn’t have any problem at all attacking the thief and or a murderer, bBut the world is not so eager to fight against those who are doing good. Peter is talking about a good life, a life that is marked by generosity, unselfishness, kindness, and thoughtfulness toward others.