Summary: 1 Peter is a book about suffering. It’s about how to live in a hostile culture for faith.
A pastor is cutting his front lawn. He looks up from mowing to see a dump truck back out of his neighbor’s driveway. Yet, the large truck backed over his neighbor’s eighteen month old son. The little boy had been squatting behind the truck’s huge tire. The pastor joined the boy’s hysterical mother and ashen father on their trip to the hospital. Only, the boy had been crushed beyond recognition. People ask, “Where is God?”
Or taken from our local newspaper’s headlines just this past Wednesday. Van Buren’s Press Argus-Courier reported that a two-year-old Madison Gregory died in an electrical fire at 1:15 am on Monday. In an apartment between Van Buren and Alma, a woman, her boyfriend, along with three other children escaped. The boyfriend attempted to save the young girl, only to be overcome with smoke. Where is God?
We’re coming out of the twentieth century where we saw suffering on the biggest scale of any civilization – two world wars, the holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia, the devastating famines that took place in Africa, the emergence of AIDS, genocide in Uwanda, ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. We’ve seen all this stuff and the world wants to know why.
During today’s message, you may text any questions related today’s topic to 99503 and enter the keyword “doubt” followed by your question. For example, text the following to 99503: “doubt Why Did Jesus Have to Die?” I’ll be answer your questions at the end of today’s message.
1 Peter is a book about suffering. It’s about how to live in a hostile culture for faith.
“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. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 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? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:12-29)
1. Pain is Scheduled by God
When we ask “Where is God when I hurt?” Peter’s reply is that God schedules pain for us. Repeat these words with me: Pain is scheduled by God. That is a shock for many of you. Most believers want to place pain and God as far away from one another as possible. Yet, look at the text: “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” (1 Peter 4:12). Pain isn’t meaningless. Pain isn’t absurd. Pain isn’t absurd. Instead, pain is purposeful. This is one of the things I love so much about Christianity. It is coherent and it helps me make sense of my world. Pain is here to test you.
“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19).
Suffering isn’t outside of God’s will. Instead, it is in God’s will. If you were to ask me to explain the origin of evil in five minutes or less, here is my response. The Bible begins with God creating the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1-2. When you read the account located in Genesis 1-2, repeatedly the text says that all that God made was “very good.” There was no sin and no suffering. Then humans rebelled against God and according to the Bible, this marks the onset of suffering, toil, pain, and death. Some two chapters later after the Bible’s describes Adam and Eve’s rebellion, we read the hauntingly pitiful refrain: “then he died… then he died… then he died… then he died.” If you were to turn to the end of time or if you were to turn to the end of your Bibles, you see the ultimate reversal of this pain and sufferings as the Bible’ describes “a new heaven and a new earth.”
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:3-4). Not only does this mark the end of suffering and pain, but it also marks the end of sin: “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life” (Revelation 21:7). There is coming a day when every crutch will be carved up, and every wheelchair melted down into medallions of redemption. Yet, between the beginning and the end of the Bible, there is evil and there is suffering. The Bible’s large-scale story line, pain and sin are profoundly related. Evil is the cause of suffering. Rebellion is the root of pain. Sin is the source of death. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21). The “whole creation” is groaning. In other words, don’t think that when you suffer it has to do only with you and your personal situation. You are one part of a groaning that the whole creation experiences. But you can also see from Romans 8:21 that there is an end point to suffering. In other words, there is a day coming when pain and suffering will end.