Summary: Suffering for the Christian must be seen in the perspective of eternity. The glory of the Lord lies ahead. It is suffering & then glory. Not to have the suffering means not to have the glory.
1 PETER 4: 12-19 [Renewing Hope Series]
EXAMINING OUR SUFFERING
What do you do when the rug is pulled out from under you? Do you panic? Do you get angry? Do you doubt the Lord¡¯s love for you? Do you trust God to get you through the tough times? Peter suffered greatly for his Christian faith. The words we have before us this morning were shaped in the blast furnace of Peter¡¯s own affliction and pain. God changed the vacillating, stubborn, impulsive, self-confident apostle into ¡°the rock¡± through the things he suffered for Christ.
Suffering and glory are twin truths woven into the fabric of the Christian life (CIT). This should not be surprising, since suffering and glory walk hand in hand. Suffering for the Christian must be seen in the perspective of eternity. The glory of the Lord lies ahead. It is suffering and then glory. Not to have the suffering means not to have the glory. If there is no cross, there is no crown.
Many Christians are surprised or shocked when the trials and sufferings of Christ come into their lives. There is a popular theology which teaches that the sun always shines upon good Christians, that our grass is always green, and that suffering doesn¡¯t come to those who have proper faith.
Peter espouses that such teaching is not true. In fact, Christians will often suffer for doing good (3:13¨C18). We should not be surprised when fiery trials come our way. We are at spiritual war with Satan himself. Christians have faced trials and have suffered for their faith from the beginning of the church, and will till God takes us home to heaven. [Cedar, Paul. The Preacher's Commentary Series, Vol. 34 : James / 1 & 2 Peter / Jude. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. 1984, S. 181]
I. EXPECT SUFFERING, 4:12.
II. EXALTED THROUGH SUFFERING, 4:13-14.
III. EVALUATE YOUR SUFFERING, 4:15-16.
IV. ENTRUST YOUR SUFFERING, 4:19.
Mental and spiritual readiness for suffering is stressed in verse 12. ¡°Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;
This section is addressed to the beloved, or the believer. We are beloved. Such love is the sweet comfort on which we can rest our suffering souls. Beloved believers are not to be surprised when suffering comes our way. Our conversion does not exempt us from troubles. We can expect the Christian life to be full of blessing, for it is, but it also is full of trials and tribulations. The world, the flesh and the devil take offense at the Word of God. Trials are an inescapable part of this life. Born again believer should not think it strange that they go through trials.
¡°Why me?¡± we ask when fiery trials come upon us. The right question is, ¡°Why not?¡± If suffering loosens sin¡¯s grip on us and causes others to see us differently, if it keeps us focused on eternity, and frees us to participate in ministry¡ªwhy shouldn¡¯t we embrace it as a necessary part of our growth?
Have you ever looked at THE ROCKS in a fast flowing stream? You find stones the size of a tennis ball and some the size of basketball, but all of them are rounded and smooth. The water had transformed once jagged rocks into rounded objects of beauty and wonder.
God does something like that with each of us. He works through the buffeting storms of life. He shapes us into men and women who reflect His glory if we hold firm to His love and yield to His control. Although circumstances may be devastating, God uses them to refine our character, making us patient, humble, and sensitive to His voice. That's why it's not strange that sometimes we must endure severe trials.
We may wish for life's streams to be a calm trickle at all times so we can live undisturbed. But God sees our rough edges and acts in grace to remove them. Think of those stormy, difficult times when you were tossed about like those rocks in the stream. Our all-wise, loving heavenly Father didn't desert you. He is working all along to smooth the rough edges and produce in you the loveliness of Christ.
Some trials are brief and soon forgotten. Fiery trials though are an intense ordeal. This word fiery is also used of a furnace used purge metal of its dross or impurities. [Perhaps some of Peter¡¯s readers were going through intense politically sanctioned persecution.]
The trial of a believer is like a refining process. The intent is to improve its value not destroy the metal. There are things you need to learn that you don¡¯t even know you need to learn and suffering will encourage you to learn them. God knows what it takes to transform you into Christ-likeness. What hope that gives us in our suffering.