Summary: We should not be surprised by persecution when it comes, nor by the joy we feel when we suffer for Christ.
A. The story is told of a man who went to the perfume counter and told the clerk he'd like a bottle of Chanel No. 5 for his wife's birthday.
1. The clerk smiled and said, “A little surprise, eh?”
2. “You bet,” answered the customer, “She's expecting a cruise.”
3. Won’t she be surprised?! Probably not pleasantly surprised!
B. There was another couple who had been debating the purchase of a new car for weeks.
1. He wanted a new truck. She wanted a fast little sports-like car so she could zip through traffic around town.
2. He would probably have settled on any beat up old truck, but everything she seemed to like was way out of their price range.
3. “Look!” the man’s wife said, “I want something that goes from 0 to 200 in 4 seconds or less. And my birthday is coming up. Why don’t you surprise me.”
4. So, for her birthday, he bought her a brand new bathroom scale – It goes 0 to 200 in 4 seconds or less!
5. Not a very joyful surprise!
C. I have stolen the title for today’s sermon from the title of a book by C.S. Lewis.
1. Lewis stole the title from the opening line in one of William Wordsworth’s poems.
2. Lewis’ book describes his pursuit of joy in life, and his surprising turn from atheism to Christianity.
3. He was surprised to find the joy he was seeking in a belief in God.
4. I’m using the title today to convey the counter-intuitive relationship between suffering and joy.
5. Suffering and joy seem to be diametrically opposed to each other.
6. “Suffering joy” or “Joyful suffering” should be an oxymoron, but it is not when the suffering is for Christ sake.
D. We are nearing the end of our series from Peter’s first letter.
1. We have noticed throughout the series that one of Peter’s themes has been Christian suffering.
2. He has spelled out how Christians are to live honorably within the context of a hostile society.
3. As Peter addresses the subject of suffering, in a major way, one last time, he adds a note of urgency and intensity.
E. Every Christian who lives a godly life will experience a certain amount of persecution.
1. We may face persecution on the job, in school, in the neighborhood, or perhaps even from our family.
2. We will likely encounter people who resist the truth and oppose the Gospel.
3. No matter what we Christians do, some people are going to find fault and criticize.
4. Peter has addressed this kind of “normal persecution” in the previous sections of this letter.
F. In this final section, Peter addressed a special kind of persecution that he calls a “painful trial” or other translations put it “a fiery trial.”
1. This painful trial was about to overtake the entire church.
2. It would not be like the occasional, personal persecution they had experienced from those around them.
3. This painful, fiery trial would be official persecution from those above them – the government.
G. Let me remind you of the historical background, I have mentioned previously.
1. For nine days during the summer of A.D. 64, a huge fire raged in the city of Rome.
2. The flames spread rapidly through the city’s narrow streets.
3. Because of Nero’s well-known desire to refurbish Rome by whatever means, the populace believed the Emperor Nero was responsible for the blaze.
4. As the fire destroyed most of the city’s districts, Nero watched gleefully from a tower.
5. Roman troops prevented people from extinguishing the fire and even started new fires.
6. The disaster thoroughly demoralized the Romans because many lost everything.
7. With public resentment toward him on the rise, Nero diverted the hatred away from himself by making the Christian community the scapegoat for the fire.
H. Nero’s ploy was a clever one, because Christians in the Roman Empire were already the unjust targets of much hatred, slander and suspicion.
1. Following the burning of Rome, Nero capitalized on that anti-Christian sentiment and instituted an official persecution of Christians.
2. The apostle Peter likely wrote this letter just before Nero’s persecution began.
3. Peter’s major reoccurring theme in this letter is how his readers should respond to unjust suffering – especially this painful, fiery trial they are about to face.
4. Let’s look at the verses in this final section on suffering and see how Peter summarized the proper response in the face of a fiery trial.
I. The Command (4:12)
A. Peter began: 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
1. Peter exhorts his readers to avoid being surprised by the painful trial they are suffering.