Summary: God tells us to rejoice when the world persecutes us and makes people give us a hard time about our faith. Why on earth would I want to rejoice? What possible advantage could my being persecuted do for God?
OPEN: Next week Ryan and Trisha Seybold will be here to present their new ministry at Show Low, Arizona where they’ll be managing the American Indian Christian Mission (AICM). It’s a ministry to the Navajo and Apache tribes in that area and they’ve done a great job there for a number of years.
When I was preaching at my first church I took our youth group there to Arizona to do a VBS at AICM. Our kids had a great time and made such friends amongst the kids from the Indian tribes that they hated to go. But once our week was done, we set off to see a little of the old West, going to swim in the Salt River and traveling down to Tucson and eventually to Nogales – half of which is in Arizona and half is in Mexico. This was before you needed passports to cross into Mexico and all we had to do was present ourselves to the guards at the border and we were in a foreign country. My family bought a tall bottle of pure vanilla (it took about 10 years to use it all) and I bought a shirt that fit me… until we put it through the washer. Then it fit my 2 year old nephew.
We had a great time… but there was ONE thing we warned the kids NOT to do. Do you know what that one thing was? We warned them NOT to eat or drink anything because of the danger of something called Montezuma’s Revenge.
But ONE of them didn’t listen… and she was really sick for a couple of days.
Every year about 20% to 50% of international travelers—come down with Montezuma’s revenge. And it is NOT a pleasant experience.
And there are times IF you travel abroad that something will not go right. It might not be Montezuma’s revenge … but just about anything can go wrong and as a result (if that does happen) your experiences there will NOT be pleasant.
Now here in I Peter 4, God is warning us that there will be times as we live in this world that our experiences will not always be pleasant. Earlier in I Peter - God reminded us that we are not citizens of this world.
He started out this letter addressing us “To God’s elect, STRANGERS in the world…” 1 Peter 1:1
And He told us: “Dear friends, I urge you, as ALIENS AND STRANGERS in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” 1 Peter 2:11
And “… live your lives as STRANGERS here in reverent fear.” 1 Peter 1:17
Then, since it’s true that we’re not of this world, Peter tells the church “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12
You’re aliens here.
You’re strangers here.
This is NOT your home.
It’s like the old Spiritual says (sing it with me):
“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
We are strangers in this world and we will have difficulties here. In fact, the Bible has always been very straightforward about the fact that as Christians we will face opposition.
Jesus said “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12
And again: If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:19
Paul wrote: “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Timothy 3:12
And just a few verses before our text for this morning Peter says: They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.” 1 Peter 4:4
As a man once observed: "If you want to follow Jesus you had better look good on wood." Berigan
So God tells us:
DON’T BE SURPRISED if you face persecution.
DON’T BE SHOCKED if people give you a hard time about your faith.
ILLUS: Just last week an actor named Matthew McConaughey accepted an Oscar for best actor. In his acceptance speech he thanked God and said that the blessings in his life had come from the Almighty and not from any “human hand.”