Summary: Understanding the functions of suffering in the Christian life would help us cope with them.
SUFFERING FOR CHRIST
ILLUSTRATION One of my children asked why we don’t practice fasting or flagellation during the observant of Lent. Flagellation is the practice of a person to whip himself or herself as a public penance. iblically speaking, the best expression of repentance is a changed lifestyle as a result of faith and obedience to Christ’s Lordship.
On the other hand, some believers think that since they have expressed their faith and obedience to Christ, they should not suffer anymore. Christ already suffered for us therefore we should just reap the blessing of his sacrifices on the cross.
Our meditation this morning reminds us that suffering is very much a part of our relationship with Christ. Understanding the reasons and the process of dealing with them should help us go through with it with ease.
Please open your bibles to 1 Peter 4:12-19 and let us find out why we need to suffer for Christ and what we can do to cope with them.
Our passage says that early believers were surprised at the painful trial they suffered and thought that it was as though something strange were happening to them.
What kind of sufferings were Peter’s readers experiencing?
1. Suffering for doing what is good because one is conscious of God. (1 Peter 2:19)
It is obvious that people do not appreciate your good deeds because you are conscious of God. They think that you simply want to impress others and make them look bad. Others thought that you are self-righteous and critical of their behaviors.
2. Suffering for being a Christian. (1 Peter 4:16)
Not everyone recognize the identity and intention of Christ when He died on the cross. A lot of people insulted him and Jesus said that if this happened to him then we must prepare ourselves for the same destiny.
Peter said “don’t be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you.”
Why would Peter’s readers not be surprised at the painful trial they were suffering?
1. Sufferings prove the genuineness of our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Suffering is not to be regarded as something foreign to Christian experience but rather as a refining test. As gold is extracted and refined by fire so is our faith being refined by trials and sufferings.
The genuineness and strength of faith can be proven by subjecting it to trials and sufferings. God wanted us to have faith that will pass every type of testing. We must have faith that outlived the sufferings and trials of life.
ILLUSTRATION Christians are like tea; their real strength is not drawn out until they get into hot water. —Daily Bread
2. Sufferings are part of God’s calling. (1 Peter 2:21-23)
Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first" (John 15:18). Let us realize that suffering is part of the package that Christianity offers. Sufferings are instrument of Satan to discourage us but they are God’s instrument to develop Christ likeness in us.
ILLUSTRATION A LITTLE PIECE OF WOOD once complained bitterly because its owner kept whittling away at it, cutting it, and filling it with holes, but the one who was cutting it so relentlessly paid no attention to its complaining. He was making a flute out of that piece of ebony, and he was too wise to desist from doing so, even though the wood complained bitterly.
He seemed to say, “Little piece of wood, without these holes, and all this cutting, you would be a black stick forever—just a useless piece of ebony. What I am doing now may make you think that I am destroying you, but, instead, I will change you into a flute, and your sweet music will charm the souls of men and comfort many a sorrowing heart. My cutting you is the making of you, for only thus can you be a blessing in the world.”—M. R. Dehaan, Broken Things
3. Sufferings allow us to participate in the sufferings of Christ. (1 Peter 4:13)
Christian should rejoice because he is participating in Christ’s sufferings. There is no glory without sacrifices. (2 Corinthians 1:5) Christian rejoicing rests on the fact that as Christians share in Christ’s suffering, so they will share in his glory with great joy.
ILLUSTRATION In his book Knowing God, J. I. Packer writes: “It is often the case, as all the saints know, that fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy the greatest, when the cross is heaviest.”
4. Sufferings reveal the presence of the Spirit of glory and of God. (1 Peter 4:14)
Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven…" (Matthew 5:11-12).