Summary: Living as a Church in a Foreign Land Pearls of Joy in the Ocean of Pain: Three Reasons for Rejoicing in Suffering
Living as a Church in a Foreign Land
Pearls of Joy in the Ocean of Pain: Three Reasons for Rejoicing in Suffering
We are in our last mini-series in 1 Peter, “Living as a Church in a Foreign Land,” where Peter tells us how to live life of discipleship together as a church in the midst of suffering. We start off this series looking at 4:12-19, “Pearls of Joy in the Ocean of Pain: Six Reasons for Rejoicing,” where Peter tells us how to find grace and strength to thrive in the ocean of pain. I want to take the next two weeks to look at Reasons to Rejoice in Suffering, because suffering has the potential to erode our confidence in God, his goodness, his love, his sovereignty, and his power. At times when I was suffering in the past I have wondered if had God forsaken me, that the Christian life is too hard, that it's not worth fighting, and so I wanted to give in, to give up, and abandon any real genuine pursuit of Christ. But I have learned three truths as I have gained a biblical perspective on suffering in biblical community. The first is that I can find great joy in the midst of great pain; the second is that I can have the deepest and sweetest fellowship with Christ in great pain and suffering; and third is that the greatest life lessons come in the darkest moments.
Big Idea – Disciples of Christ can rejoice in suffering because suffering is normal, suffering gives evidence of our union with Christ, and suffering is the path to greater glory.
Rejoice Because Suffering is Normal
Peter addresses this issue pastorally, addressing his readers as 'beloved.' He is a spiritual father giving medicine to ailing children. I know suffering is hard and very painful but do not be surprised when suffering comes as though something strange or unexpected was happening. We have already seen that God calls us to suffering, that sometimes it is God's will that we suffer unjustly, now he summarizes the whole letter with this statement, “let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” Jesus himself warned us that following Christ would mean suffering. Notice he says suffering for 'doing good.' If you are suffering for foolish and sinful choices, you are only getting what you deserve. When Peter says suffering is according to God's will he means that God is sovereign over everything, the good and bad circumstances in life and he is not just using the bad circumstances in life for our good. Now this does not mean that suffering or trials are intrinsically good; the bible never says that is the case. The bible describes suffering and trials as good only in so far as they have a God given purpose in for the good of his people. For instance, the greatest evil in history, the cross, is described as according to God's definite plan and predestined yet in a way that those who killed Jesus are still responsible and accountable for their sin. Suffering and trials are only good in the larger and broader purpose God has for them. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you.” Peter told us earlier that God has a purpose in trials, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
There are at least eight good purposes for trials:
• Trials gain our attention about sin, misplaced affections, and priorities.
• Trials strengthen our faith. Trials are an opportunity to develop perseverance, character, and spiritual maturity.
• Trials are following Christ.
• Trials show that Christ is our treasure.
• Trials prepare us to help others who are going through the same kinds of suffering.
• Trials provide opportunities to share the gospel.
• Trials are opportunities to display God's power.
• Trials help us keep an eye on eternity.
Rejoice Because Suffering Points to our Union With Christ
“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings.” Rejoicing because suffering as a Christian is evidence of our union with Christ. Suffering in the name of Christ is not merely our own but also Christ's suffering and points to our union with Christ. We suffer because Christ suffered. We are united with Christ and what he secured for us in his perfect life, death, and resurrection is ours by faith. Union with Christ secures for us his sustaining grace and fellowship with him that we share in the midst of our suffering. This is what Samuel Rutherford said when he was in the cellars of affliction: "The Great King keeps his wine there," and Charles Spurgeon said: "They who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls." Rejoice in suffering because it gives evidence of your union with Christ which secures everything you have in Christ. Rejoice in suffering because it is there that God's finest wines and rarest pearls are kept. Joy and suffering are linked together by faith in Christ. This does not mean that there is not real pain and sorrow but that we are sustained by joy we have in Christ.