Summary: A look at the difficult area of suffering and how the Christian can begin to gain understanding of its purpose.
These verses are one of the all-time best passages in scripture concerning how we live & work within the work place. Submission to the grueling boss for the sake of Jesus. There’s a great 3 point sermon in here concerning Christianity in the work place.
But, instead, we are going to look at the massive challenge Peter gives, as he encourages us to bear up under the pain of unjust suffering. So the title of this sermon is Deciding to Suffer?
The existence of Suffering is, and has been, one of the greatest issues facing the Christian faith, because we believe that God is both good and all powerful.
C.S Lewis highlights the issue succinctly when he says ‘If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures happy, and if God were almighty, He would be able to do what he wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore, Gods lacks either goodness, or power, or both’
We need to start by stating that Suffering is not a part of God’s original created order. There was no suffering in the world before humanity rebelled against God.
As we look at suffering, we may chose to view it, or rather the causes of it, in three ways:-
1) A result of our sin – God created this world with laws, both physical, moral and spiritual. If I deliberately chose to disobey those rules there is likely to be consequences. If I drink and drive, I am likely to crash the car and hurt myself. If I have an affair, outside of my marriage, again I am likely to damage myself.
2) A result of other peoples sin – Much suffering is derived from the actions of others. Both previous examples I have just given would have an affect on others not just myself. Much of the suffering in poverty in the world today is there because some want to keep all the wealth in one are, to themselves.
3) A result of a fallen world – It is difficult to attribute some suffering in terms of ‘blame’. But as humans we nearly always try to grapple with suffering in terms of looking for an answer or blame of someone, even if it is God. Some suffering cannot be directly attributed to certain people, but rather to ‘disorder’ in a fallen world.
I am conscious that there are many of us sitting in this building that have suffered in different ways, physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. We know that some are still experiencing deep levels of suffering.
It pains us to see some of our own friends and loved ones struggling, trying to hide their pain. We can find ourselves torn between our anger at their suffering and my our failings and feelings of inadequacy, in the face of such suffering.
SUFFERING screams aloud the biggest question of faith -WHY?
David Watson, a notable Anglican clergyman of the last century, grappled with his own suffering as he worked through bad asthma for 20 years and then had to fight cancer to the death, at the age of fifty. He wrote ‘the negative side of all this comes when such heart-searching leads to nagging and unhealthy feelings of guilt, and perhaps to a very poor image of God. Is it conceivable, when we see Jesus healing the sick and forgiving the sinful, that God should say, ‘Ah, there’s David Watson. He slipped up rather badly last month so I’ll afflict him with asthma for the next twenty years’ Or later, ‘He’s upset me again, so this time I’ll destroy him with Cancer’? Such thoughts are not only ridiculous; they are almost blasphemous, and utterly alien to a God of infinite love and mercy as we see him so clearly in Jesus’
But that still doesn’t answer our question of WHY?
But here in our passage this great man of God, & disciple of Jesus, pushes us even further. He not only commends suffering, but one might say the most perverse form of suffering – unjust suffering.
For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. [PAUSE]
Is Peter mad? He commends us to suffer the pain of unjust suffering.
Well no, I don’t believe Peter was mad. But I believe he had very good insights into suffering. He suffered physically many times, as he was beaten. He suffered mentally and emotionally as he grappled with his denial of Jesus. And he’d suffered spiritually, as he recalled Jesus looking into his eyes and speaking THOSE words ‘get behind me Satan’. Peter understood something of suffering.
And it is this same Peter who challenges us with his words this morning….
For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.