Summary: Exposition of Suffering
A. Opening illustration: Young college student the other week telling me about his suffering at the hands of his
father, abuse, neglect, etc. Then he said that he thanked God for it in hindsight and wouldn’t have done it any
B. Background to passage: Marks of growing disciples: increasing ability to suffer well. So we are going to look
at Peter’s example of fear to boldness to thanksgiving.
C. Main thought: As you grow in Christ, following in His steps of suffering well will
A. Peter’s progression
1. Even though Peter’s personality was usually bold and forthright, when persecution because of Jesus
came to him personally, Satan got the upper hand. In Matt 26:69-75 Peter folds under the pressure of
identifying himself as a follower of Christ. Three times is promised onlookers that he did not know the
man. After weeping, repentance, and a seashore chat with Jesus, he was prepared for battle again. Then
in Acts 2 he preached the boldest evangelistic sermon to that date among the crowds of Jews in Jerusalem,
telling them that they were responsible for the crucifixion of the Messiah. Then several chapters later in
Acts 4, Peter told the Sanhedrin (the same body that got his Master killed) that he couldn’t help to speak of
Jesus after they threatened them and told them not to preach anymore. Then in Acts 5, after a stint in the
slammer, Peter and his buddies rejoiced that they were counted worthy to be beaten for Christ.
3. Illustration: Joseph Damien, and you’ve probably heard his story before, but it bears repeating. A Belgian
priest, he was sent in 1873 to minister to lepers in Hawaii. As soon as he arrived on Molokai, he began
trying to build friendships with the residents of the leper colony, but they rejected him. He poured himself
into this ministry, building a small chapel and holding worship services. But hardly anyone came.
After 12 long years, he gave up. While standing on the pier about to board the ship that would take him
back to Belgium, he looked down at his hands. The white spots he saw could mean only one thing. He had
contracted leprosy. So instead of going home, he returned to his work in the leper colony.
The news of the missionary’s disease spread through the community within hours, and soon the lepers-
-hundreds of them--had gathered outside his hut. They understood his pain and despair. The following
Sunday when Damien arrived at the chapel, the small building was filled to overflowing. That was the
beginning of a long and fruitful ministry.
What made the difference? Now the lepers knew that he understood their condition. There was no question
about whether he cared or not.
4. Probably need to note here that failure is not always bad. “God had another plan for Brainerd. Instead
of a quiet six years in the pastorate or in a lecture hall followed by death and little historical impact for
Christ’s Kingdom, God meant to drive him into the wilderness that he might suffer for his sake and
have an incalculable influence on the history of missions.” –Piper. But note the progression in Peter’s
life: shrinking back (denying Christ) to preaching boldly to standing up to the Sanhedrin, then finally
to rejoicing to be counted worthy to be beaten for Christ. We are all to expect suffering, persecution,
hardship, pain, difficulty, rejection, loss, attack, and tribulation, and often we cannot change it. But the
mark of a growing disciple is to have an increase in our ability to suffer well. Suffering well may be one
of the best evangelism strategies in relational evangelism. This is another reason that it is so important.
Like most things in the Christian life, growth in ability should increase. Especially with the frequency of
suffering that comes to everyone’s life, you should handle it better and better. Is your ability to suffer well
1. As part of this series, I have been trying to help you evaluate where you are on these issues. So let’s see if
we can get a handle on how we are doing? Let’s think about the last significant trial that you have had. It
doesn’t have to be life-defining, or world altering, but it could be. Think external first. Did you sink into
a deep depression that showed forth? Now don’t read too much into this statement. Some of us are more
prone to depression, and it is not necessarily a sin, but it can become one. Did you turn within, and begin
to distance yourself from relationships? Did you stop gathering to worship with other believers? Did you
get cranky with those around you? Now think internally. Were you angry with God? Did you question