Summary: Standing up for Christ in difficult times
Reading: 1 Peter chapter 4 verses 12-19.
• We’ve noted in past studies that every Christian who lives a godly life;
• Will at some stage experiences a certain amount of persecution.
• That’s part of the package! i.e. 2 Timothy chapter 3 verse 12.
• The apostle Peter has already dealt with this kind of "normal persecution";
• If we can call it that in the previous part of this letter.
• In our section tonight,
• Peter talks about a special kind of persecution that Christians face;
• He calls it a “fiery ordeal” or a "fiery trial".
• This type of trial;
• Would not be occasional personal persecution from people around them,
• But rather it is official persecution from those in authority above them.
Note: Up to this point in Church history:
• Christianity had been tolerated by Rome;
• Because they considered it a sort of ‘sect’ of Judaism,
• And the Jews were permitted to practice their faith freely.
• But, that attitude was about to change;
• And the fires of persecution would soon be ignited,
• First by Nero, and then by other emperors that would follow him.
Quote: Stuart Briscoe:
The emperor whose unpopularity was well earned, was widely suspected of arson but managed to divert suspicion to the Christians, who were easy pray for his malicious slander.
They were horribly persecuted even to the extent that “new kinds of death were invented”,
they were devoured by dogs and some were “set apart…that when the day came to a close, they should be consumed to serve for light”.
Eventually it was decreed by Rome that it was “unlawful to be a Christian””
In this section of his letter;
• The apostle Peter gives his readers;
• Four instructions to follow in the light of the coming "fiery ordeal."
(1). Expect ordeals (vs 12)
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you”
• A man found a cocoon of a butterfly.
• One day a small opening appeared.
• He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours,
• As it struggled to force its body through the little hole.
• Then it seemed to stop making any progress.
• It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.
• So the man decided to help the butterfly.
• He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon.
• The butterfly then emerged easily.
• But it had a swollen body and small, shrivelled wings.
• The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment,
• The wings would expand and be able to support the body,
• Which would contract in time. Neither happened!
• In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life;
• Crawling around with a swollen body and shrivelled wings.
• It never was able to fly.
• What the man in his kindness and haste,
• Did not understand was that:
• The restricting cocoon;
• And struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening
• Were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into the wings;
• So that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
As a Church and as individuals sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives.
• If God allowed us to go through life without any obstacles,
• Like that butterfly it would cripple us and we would never be able to fly.
• At times God allows ‘Fiery trials’ to come upon us;
• To make our faith strong & to make our light shine brightly in this world of darkness!
• A bar of iron worth £2.50,
• When wrought into horseshoes is worth £5.
• If made into needles it is worth £175.
• If into penknife blades it is worth £1,625.
• If made into springs for watches it is worth £125,000.
• What a ‘trial by fire’ that bar must undergo to be worth this!
• But the more it is manipulated, & the more it is hammered & passed through the heat,
• Beaten, pounded, and polished, the greater its value.”
Notice: Did you notice that little word "happen" or “happening” in verse 12:
• It is an important little word that means "to go together."
• In other words persecution and trials do not just happen,
• In the sense of being accidents.
• They are a part of God’s plan, and He is in control.
• They are a part of Romans chapter 8 verse 28 teaches us;