Summary: Shepherds are to help the church remain faithful to the Lord when suffering.
Title: Shepherd the Suffering
Truth: Shepherds are to help the church to remain faithful to the Lord when suffering.
Aim: I want to encourage pastors and the church to live in a way that helps those who suffer.
Life ?: How do church leaders help others to remain faithful to the Lord when they suffer?
When I left my second pastorate there was a beautiful redheaded seven year old by the name of J’ann Clower. She was the only child of Johnny and Retha. I am partial to redheads because my wife, four daughters and two granddaughters are redheaded. A dozen years later there was a tall, willowy young woman with red hair standing in the hallway of Northeast Baptist. I could tell by the look on her face that she knew me, but I did not have a clue who this beautiful young woman was. It was that little redheaded girl grown up and attending OU. I became her pastor again.
Recently, she came home from work and went for a jog. Suddenly, we are told, she simply fell over. Eventually, we learned that a blood vessel burst in her brain. Physically, her body is strong and healthy, but according to five doctors, her brain is dead. Her family waits by her bedside for the inevitable.
I was surprised how deeply this moved me. Maybe it was because she is so young. She’s only 21. We generally associate death and suffering with advanced age. Maybe it is because she looks like my daughters: young, beautiful, and redheaded. Maybe it is because she was such a good girl and a devoted Christian. The weekend before, she had visited family on the Illinois River at Tahlequah. Sunday morning she left the campground and went to the First Baptist Church. That evening she took her nephew back to the same church. Whatever the reason, suffering moves us to think deeply and to challenge the beliefs and practices that we take for granted in the easy days.
It’s not surprising that the motivation for writing the epistle of I Peter has to do with suffering. Peter, the author, is writing to encourage and reassure Christian churches in Asia Minor as stormy seasons of persecution begin. No Christian avoids suffering, and no true Christian escapes suffering for Christ’s sake.
In I Peter 1:6, the word “trials” is the same one used by our Lord at the Last Supper to convey the spiritual and mental trials He would endure, as well as threats to His person. The word describes difficulties and sorrows caused by opposition, and they are the means by which God tests the mettle of a man’s faith. I Peter 3:13-17 reveals that some may suffer for righteousness sake. It is written in a way that makes this a remote possibility. The best way to defend the Christian life is with goodness, gentleness and a respectful spirit that answers all honest enquiry. A change of tone occurs in 4:12-19. The trials occasionally are “fiery.” These three passages reveal that the persecution at this time was spasmodic and occasional. The Christians whom Peter addresses feel exposed and vulnerable at any moment to slander, deprivation and even violence. This would date the letter in the 60’s and not the last part of the century when there was widespread government sponsored persecution of the church.