Summary: The Apostle Peter shows us that when we work through suffering in a godly way, those habits and sins we cannot rid ourselves of, start to fade away.
What is the thing that Americans fear the most? It is not taxes, or speaking in public, or even death…no. What Americans fear the most is – suffering. It can all be summed up when a loved one dies and death comes quickly to them. What do we say? At least they didn’t suffer…..
Americans fear suffering, we fear difficult circumstances in life we wish them not to come our way….
As we have been looking at the book of 1 Peter we have been finding that we will have difficult circumstances in our lives as Christians and as Christians we cannot avoid difficult circumstances. The idea that because I am a follower of Jesus, I will be protected from all things – is not biblical. Or, if I work at being good, righteous, and live my life well, nothing bad will happen to me – is not biblical either.
Difficult circumstances will come our way. But through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ we can make it through. We can overcome, and we can be whole people.
Peter has been letting us know how we are to deal with difficult circumstances that come our way. We saw one of the spiritual keys last week in verse 4 of chapter 3 - Nurturing a gentle and quiet spirit. One of the qualities we saw was a person does not fight back, when personally attacked. Even if it is uncalled for. Even if it is unfair.
The person with a gentle and quiet spirit: Does not seek vengeance - because they know God is just, and so they can suffer.
So, does God allow suffering in our lives? Yes, he does. Why? I think that is a very fair question, and I think the answer is somewhat complicated. Today, the apostle Peter doesn’t completely answer that question, but he does talk a little about the why, of suffering.
Let’s start by looking at the first two verses. Let’s look again at the NIV:
1Pet. 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
In verse one it is clear that Peter is telling us to look at Jesus as our example. Note: Here, he is not saying that because Jesus suffered you will suffer. He is saying that Jesus is the example of how we act when we suffer. When Peter says arm yourselves – He is using the same thought as Paul, putting on spiritual armor. Get yourself ready, it is going to happen at some point in your life.
In the NIV is says arm yourselves with the same attitude, be careful how you apply that; This is much more than a positive attitude. It is more about intent, than attitude. In fact a better meaning would be:
Arm yourselves with the same intent as Christ. Remember from chapter 3 – a gentle and quiet spirit. Not what was Jesus attitude when he faced difficult circumstances, what was his intent? His intent was to live for God the Father.
I don’t just try for an attitude adjustment, or a different perspective….
Those are 21st century concepts and they have a whole pop psychology built around them. I have to be careful, for these thoughts are so pervasive in our culture that I can read our culture right into what Peter is saying! I can say to myself, "If I just get up in the morning and think positive, praise the Lord the first thing, and have a positive attitude for the rest of the day, even with those who hate me, everything will work out".
And that is very, very nice. Isn’t it?
But, Peter is not saying for us to live that way. Being perky, does not equal a good Christian attitude. And folks who try this route, exhaust themselves and end up wondering, why isn’t this Christian thing working?
Well, Christianity works…the perky thing isn’t Christianity.
What is the intent Christ had in difficult circumstances? That’s what Peter is getting at - I should try to imitate that intent.
Let’s take a look at how the message translates this, it may help clarify things for some:
1Pet. 4:1 Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. 2 Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.
Now, when Peter says, Christ Suffered – The grammar indicates suffering that happened in past that has an effect now. When Christ suffered – he finished with sin. It seems that suffering and sin are related. People sin against us and cause us suffering, but with suffering we can be rid of sin...the effects of sin.