Summary: Have you ever noticed how much the Bible teaches about suffering for the cause of Christ? Are you ready to walk with Jesus through the valley of suffering in order to receive a crown of life? Let’s get ready.
Preparing for Persecution
A couple of years ago we had a bad wind storm and afterward, as Jenny and I walked around our block we saw where a huge tree had fallen on top of a neighbor’s van. The van looked like a new one, but it was totaled by the tree. There were lots of other big trees in the yard still standing and doing fine, but one thing was different. The tree that blew down was hollow. The center had rotted away. The heart was gone. It couldn’t stand in the high wind.
Faith is like this. Genuine Christian faith is more than a shell of performance. We need a heart full of hope in Jesus Christ. A core of conviction about the love of God. If we have a hollow faith, the winds of the world will blow us away. We can’t stand in the high wind.
I believe that there is a coming persecution that will test the core of our faith. Are you prepared? Do you have a faith that will not shrink back when faced with trials and troubles? God wants you to stand firm and he will help you. He will fill your life so that when the day of testing comes you can stand, but you and I must look to God and listen to his word and learn from him and live in his will and love with his love to be prepared.
1 Peter is a letter about handling hard hits from the host of hell while holding on to heavenly hopes in the strength of the Lord.
Right in the middle of this letter from Peter is our scripture reading for today. Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (give an answer) to anyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.
In light of the rest of this letter, this verse is loaded with helpful instruction for God’s people who are preparing for persecution because of their faith.
Jesus had said in the sermon on the mount, Matt. 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Then he commented on that beatitude with these words: 11-12 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Those are Jesus words, but back to 1 Peter. The context of 1 Peter 3:15 is not that someone is watching how you live for Christ and is attracted to it so that they ask, “What makes you different? I want to be like that.” Look at verse 16… you are slandered, your good behavior is reviled… What does that sound like? That’s not an attraction. It sounds more like this:
How dare you say that homosexuality is a sin!
How dare you fight against a woman’s right to an abortion!
How dare you say that Christianity is the only true religion!
Who do you think you are? Why do you think such narrow minded, bigoted, fanatic things? Where do you get such hateful ideas?
Does any of that sound familiar?
Peter says, when someone approaches you like that, be ready to give the reason for your hope, but be careful! Answer with gentleness and reverence! Don’t get caught up into a quarrel and fight.
How do you handle it when someone mocks you or makes fun of you? Are you the type that blows up and has to have the last word? Or are you strong enough in Christ to bless those who curse you, as Jesus said in Luke 6:28? Or as Paul said in Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
How do you handle argumentative people who want to poke holes in your faith?
Paul told Timothy: 2 Tim 2:23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.