Summary: Peter gives us instructions on how to deal with suffering.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Suffering
Text: 1 Peter 4:12-19
In Basic Training, soldiers quickly become acquainted with two simple facts about suffering:
1. You will suffer
2. There is a right way and a wrong way to deal with suffering as a Basic Trainee. Ways that will only increase the suffering and ways that will help you overcome your suffering.
Proposition: As Christians we need to understand that there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with suffering--or as I’ve phrased it in the sermon title, there are Do’s and Don’ts for the Christian facing suffering
Interrogative: So what is the proper Christian response to suffering?
Transition: In our text today there are some answers to that question--some Do’s and Don’ts of Suffering. The first is a Don’t. When facing a trial...
1. Don’t Be Surprised
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
Some people think that life with Christ should be a bed of roses, or that if anything goes wrong or if they experience discomfort along the way something must have gone wrong, or that difficulties mean that you are out of God’s will.
Peter writes, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, don’t be surprised at this firey trial as if something strange was happening--in verse 19 he writes of us who suffer ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL. Suffering is just par for the course. The cross and the need for forgiveness is an offense to a world who wants to think they’re doing OK on their own. It’s normal to draw fire.
In fact difficulty is just a normal part of living in a fallen world:
17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
18And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"
Proverbs 11:31 If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!
This is similar to the thought rain falls on the just and the unjust. Whereas verse 12 was referring to persecution verses 17-18 are talking about Judgement or God’s normal sifting process--a testing by fire like Paul wrote of to the church at Corinth, those whose lives are built on hay and straw are consumed but even those who have built their lives on the precious living stone, Jesus Christ, pass through the fire.
2. Do Be Joyful
13But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
If it weren’t for the fact that this isn’t the only time in scripture that this theme appears in scripture it would be tempting to dismiss it as an aberation--a problem with the text--Rejoice that you suffer? But the text is right and in fact this is a regular theme in the Scripture, not just that you should endure suffering but that you should rejoice in it--not in spite of it but because of it.
James begins His letter:
James 1:2-4Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything
Rejoice in your trials not because we derive pleasure from pain but because they are evidence that a good work is going on in you--you are being perfected, driven to maturity.
3. Don’t Be Responsible
By that I don’t mean don’t take responsibility, I mean rather, make sure that what you suffer is not because you’ve earned it.
15If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
Now even though suffering is a normal part of our life as Christians, that doesn’t mean that everything a christian suffers is necessarily a merit badge.
ILLUSTRATION: I remember reading about soldier injured in Panama during Operation Just Cause because he looked over his barricade when he heard an explosion--even though his injury was the result ofhis own mistake he still got his Purple Heart.
Peter writes in verse 15 that God isn’t giving out medals for Christians who suffer as a result of their own foolishness. If you suffer it shouldn’t be becuase you’ve done wrong.
Some Christians get themeselves in trouble and then blame God or try to claim credit for suffering for the faith. No, that’s not the deal, Twice earlier in our letter Peter makes clear that our lives should be so pure that they put to shame anyone who would criticize us or our Lord.