Summary: Suffering for what is right brings reward but suffering for what is wrong brings wrath
Would you all agree with me that there are a number of aspects of the kingdom of God that are completely at odds with the culture in which we live? Because of that, whenever the kingdom of God is inserted into this world in any way, conflict and tension inevitably result.
We certainly see that in the life of Jesus. When He left the glory of heaven and became a man and inserted Himself into the culture of that day, conflict and tension certainly followed Him wherever He went. Every time that He pointed out that people were not living according to the principles of His kingdom, people became resistant, resentful and angry. So they often responded by attacking Jesus, first verbally and later even physically to the point of putting Him to death.
By the time Peter wrote the letter we’ve been studying for the last 2 months about 30 years later, the same thing was now happening to His disciples. As they lived lives which were set apart, unique and distinct from the culture around them, they threatened the status quo. And to a large degree, that lifestyle was so distinct that it served to remind the people around them just how wicked and debased their culture had become. And so those Christians experienced exactly what Jesus had faced here on earth – tremendous persecution and suffering.
That persecution was led by the Roman emperor Nero, one of the most wicked men in history. His anger was directed toward the Christians who served as constant reminders of just how evil he was. He would cover Christians with pitch and burn them as human torches to light up his garden parties. Others he would feed to the lions in the arena as a public sport. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll see how Peter makes veiled references to both those practices in his letter.
Today, we see that Christianity still serves as the conscience of our society. And, not surprisingly, as the lifestyle of those who live according to the standards of the kingdom of God exposes the wickedness of this world, we can expect to face the same kind of hostility that Jesus experienced.
But not all suffering is equal in the eyes of God. As we’ll see this morning, it is possible to suffer for the right reasons or to suffer for the wrong reasons. And those two kinds of suffering produce completely different results:
Suffering for what is right brings reward
but suffering for what is wrong brings wrath
So the question all of us must answer this morning is this:
How do I make sure that I’m suffering for what is right?
Fortunately, Peter is going to give us some clear answers to that question. Go ahead and turn with me to 1 Peter 4 and follow along as I read verses 12-19.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And