Summary: When is suffering ministry?
19For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. 20Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. 21For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 22He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 24He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 25Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.
1 Peter 2:19 - 25 (NLT)
Suffering is a fact of life. A woman’s husband had been slipping in and out of a coma for several months, yet she had stayed by his bedside every single day. One day, when he came to, he motioned for her to come nearer. As she sat by him, he whispered, eyes full of tears, “You know what? You’ve been with me all through the bad times. When I got fired, you were there to support me. When my business failed, you were there. When we lost the house, you stayed right here. When my health started failing, you were still by my side. You know what?” “What dear?” she gently asked, smiling as her heart began to fill with warmth. “I think you’re bad luck.”
We all know people who suffer; we have all had our share of suffering. Job even stated the reality that we are born into having trouble as certainly as the sparks fly upward from a fire.(1) The real question we all have is, If God is good, and God is kind…WHY do we suffer? We want to know why God thought it necessary to put us through suffering in this life.
My favorite movie is “Shadowlands” – the story of the latter life of that great defender of the Christian faith, C. S. Lewis. In that movie we find the teacher, Dr. Lewis giving one of his famous speeches; he calls suffering a gift from God.
Not all suffering is a gift, nor is all suffering Christian; sometimes it is just a matter of circumstances, poor choices or both. The effects of cancer, a raging tornado or a thief that breaks into your home are certainly issues of suffering. But, they’re not the kind of suffering Peter has in mind.
Peter wrote to scattered, suffering saints, many of whom were slaves. In the verse preceding (18) our text we are told that this text is a direct command to the slave-Christians. Slaves in that era were treated worse than cattle or a hand tool. Peter’s admonition was that if they wished to be Godly, Christlike, they must bear suffering without retaliation or even thoughts of revenge. Rather they were to endure it, and go up to the level of Christlikeness; that which they learned from Jesus’ teaching – to love their enemies.
And so we would beg the question this morning…
When is suffering Christian suffering (or ministry)?
The “ministry of suffering” is not to be confused with not having enough money to pay your bills or having an upset tummy or being blind or diagnosed as terminal by the doctors. Rather than just saying what it is “not” – let’s look at what it “IS”…
I. Suffering is Ministry When It is Done to Fulfill God’s Purpose
19For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. 20Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. 21For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:19-21 (NLT)
The key to understanding the fulfilling of God’s purpose has to do with why you suffer. If you’ve made a series of poor or evil choices and you’re suffering because of them, you’re not in ministry…you’re in consequence!
A man who suffers the effects of a gunshot wound he received while he was robbing the local bank and shooting two tellers, a guard and four customers is not fulfilling God’s purposes – at least not the higher purposes God has for his life; he is suffering the consequences of evil choices.