|LIVING WITH SUFFERING
1 PETER 3:8-22
Series: Living For Heaven In A Hell Bound World - Part Six
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
October 7, 2012
This morning we’re coming back to our study of 1 Peter - what we were looking at before our Fall Retreat - living for heaven in a hell bound world. Peter has been writing about God’s huge graciousness to us - God - because of Jesus’ work on the cross on our behalf - as we give our lives to God - God changes the trajectory of our lives.
Because of God’s grace we can live as a God’s people. Living by the promises and truth of God’s word. Living - knowing - that whatever this world may throw against us God will never reject us. We are now and forever will be God’s people.
Two Sundays ago we looked at what it means for us - as God’s people - what it means for us to live under authority - authority that may be totally unjust - unfair. The circumstances and relationships we live in may be brutal. But all that doesn’t change who we are in Jesus. All that doesn’t take us out of God’s plan and purposes for our lives. God using us to bring others to salvation in Jesus.
Point being that
we need to live with our focus on Heaven not Hell. Whatever is
going on with our boss or our spouse or a teacher - or
our culture - whatever the this side of hell
experience - we need to choose to stay focused on God. To hold onto
the big picture of what God is doing in us and through
we’re coming to 1 Peter 3 - starting at verse 8 -
Peter’s teaching on Living With Suffering.
The suffering Peter is writing about - starting here in verse 8 - goes beyond suffering and respecting unjust authority - what we looked at 2 Sundays ago. Suffering here - what Peter is writing about - this suffering is the result of persecution. What’s done to us - what we go through - simply because we’re seeking to live for Jesus in a Hell bound world. Suffering as a consequence of persecution.
How many of you have heard about this movie “Innocence of Muslims”? Huge flash point of violence in the Middle East. Last month the Pakistani Government announced a day of protest against the film.
Before we go on there is something I need to say. I’ve only seen the trailer on YouTube. So, I can’t comment on the movie which apparently only a handful of people have actually seen. But, I want to be very clear. The trailer - and so I assume the movie - is offensive. I can understand why Muslims would be highly offended. As a Christian, I’m offended.
I want to be very clear - as a Christian - someone who is trying to follow Jesus - trusting my life and forever to Him - what’s portrayed does not represent a Christian attitude towards Muslims or Mohamed. Are we clear on that?
Last week I received an email from a brother in Christ who’s from Pakistan. Two Sunday’s ago - on September 21st - because of the announcement by the Pakistani government - in Karachi - Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood and opened fire on Christians killing two men and injuring three.
(pictures) These are churches in Mardan - Pakistan - which were burned along with a Christian school. Muslims broke into the building - looted what was there - took Bibles - desecrated them - burned them.
This is Bishop Naeem Samuel - a pastor in Lahore - who was attacked - his leg was broken and he’s been hospitalized.
Let’s be careful. This isn’t just a Muslim - Christian thing. We could pick just about any place - China - North Korea - Vietnam - and to one degree or another Christians are experiencing today the danger and suffering that Peter is writing about. Even in the USA.
Remember what Franklin Graham wrote in the latest Decision Magazine - Franklin Graham writes this: “We’re not in a cultural war; it’s a spiritual battle, and it’s a war against Jesus Christ. The secularists are God-haters, and they hate His Son. And the church of Jesus Christ within America must wake up out of its slumber and stand up and contend for biblical truth within our society that is increasingly turning its back on God’s truth. Persecution is coming; Christians in America are slowly being silenced for their faith in Jesus.” (1)
Peter writes about suffering that is the result of persecution. What is done to us - what we go through - simply because we’re seeking to live for Jesus in a Hell bound world. Suffering as a consequence of persecution.
The email I received - from this brother from Pakistan - also had this request: “We request you to show these pictures in your church and pray for our families and Christian brothers and sisters.”
Would you join me at 1 Peter 3:8. How do we live with suffering?
Verse 8: Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
Let’s pause there. Summarizing verses 8 to 12 - We are to Live Righteous.
Peter gives us a
rapid fire list that focuses on our attitudes.
We’re to have - verse 8 - unity of mind - Greek word “homophron” - which means having the same mind - a oneness of heart - a similarity of purpose - agreement on the major points of doctrine: What the Bible is, Who Jesus is, how we’re saved. This isn’t uniformity or unanimity - but harmony. Each of our uniquenesses blended together by God into harmony - working together for God’s glory.
Then Peter writes that we are to have sympathy. Greek word “sympathies” which is where we get our English “sympathy.” It means “to feel with someone” - having close fellowship with each other. Being able to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Being connected with each other emotionally - having a mutual interest in each other.
Then brotherly love - Greek word “philadephos” - deep affectionate friendship - companionship - that goes way beyond the superficial “Hi. How are you doing. I don’t really care. But its polite to ask.” Loyalty that goes as deep as natural family relationships.
Number four - a tender heart - heartfelt compassion - a readiness to reach out to those who are hurting.
Lastly - a humble mind. Which in our self-focused - climb over others - I gotta be me culture - the whole “last shall be first” thing isn’t easy. What Peter is writing about isn’t our appearing to be humble but a deep-down with us humility at the place where no one can see - humility of mind - of thought - at the core of who we are. A humility that curbs the appetite of our egos.
Those are five attitudes that focus on how mature Christians - at the core of who we are - how we’re to think and feel. Think with a unity of mind and humility of mind - feel with sympathy, brotherly love, and a tender heart.
Peter’s next rapid fire list focuses on our actions.
Verse 9 - we’re to have a forgiving nature - “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called.” Refuse to demand revenge. Beyond that - and this is the hard part - instead cursing reply with a blessing - either with what we say or what we do for someone who’s injured us.
The next time someone cuts you off in traffic try a “Bless you.” Notice that I said the next time someone cuts you off in traffic. I’m still working on this one.
that we’ve been called to inherit God’s blessing
because of Jesus.
We have hope because of Him. Focusing on
Jesus we can endure evil and insults and respond with
patience and grace - with blessing.
Then - verse 10 - we are to have a controlled tongue. “Let him keep his tongue from evil.” Psalm 141:3 says, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” We need to pray that. To give God control of what comes out of our mouths. To avoid gossip and slander and crude rude language - deception - exaggeration - lies.
Verse 11 - a life of purity - turning away from evil and doing good - turning away from even the desire to do evil. Those little thoughts that pass through out minds. Kill ‘em dead - fast. Before the seed of temptation spouts into sin. Choose to turn from the sins of our past. Choose to replace all that with habits and actions that are pure - godly - good.
Fourth - a life of peace - “seek peace and pursue it.” It is way too easy for us to slip into controversy and conflict and arguments over stuff that if we stopped to think about what hill we’re dying on we’d probably never have gone there in the first place. Have you been there?
To seek has the idea of craving - striving after - aiming at. To pursue has the idea of running after - like a runner in a race pursuing the goal of reaching the finish line first.
Isaiah 9:6 says that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. If we’re His subjects we need to be constantly seeking and pursuing peace. We ought to demonstrate His peace to the world - starting a home and working outward.
Those are four actions that focus on what Christians say and do that affect people around us.
Hear this: The choice behind all those attitudes and actions is our choice to get our focus off of us and onto God. Humbling ourselves before God. Letting go of our little egos and what we’re clinging onto in life that’s all about us and giving ourselves over totally to God.
Stay with me: Because - when we experience persecution whatever we’re clinging to that is not of God - that will become a tool in the hands of our adversary Satan - and he will use whatever that is - to seek to defeat and destroy us and make us ineffectual in the battle over the eternal destiny of those who need Jesus.
Years ago I asked someone who was presenting a seminar on persecution. He was talking about persecution over seas someplace. I asked him, “But what about here in America? What can we do now to prepare for persecution that’s coming?” His answer? “Choose to freely give up now whatever is not of God before it is forcibly taken from you.”
What are we clinging to? Why?
If God needs to remove it from you. Let Him. He’s gonna remove it with grace and love and forgiveness. Guarantee our adversary isn’t going to be so gentle
Peter writes in 5:8 that our “adversary the devil prows around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Clinging on to ourselves we’re like a little mouse being toyed with in the paws of a great cat. Its only a matter of time before the jaws clench shut.
While we’re clinging onto ourselves we’re just leaving ourselves wide open to whatever Satan wants to do with us. Putting our attitudes and actions under his control.
We’re missing out on God’s blessing - today. We’re limiting His power in our lives - today. We’re restricting His work in us and through us - today. Cling on to ourselves and our egos and stuff and we’re just setting ourselves for disaster tomorrow.
Peter writes live righteous. That means God’s righteousness not ours. Let go of yourself.
Going on. Verse 13: Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as Holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
Let’s pause there. Summarizing verses 13-17 - We are to Live Ready.
Question. Verse 13. “Who is there to harm you if you’re zealous for what is good?” Answer: Lots of people. And they will.
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed, all - not some - not a few - all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Jesus said, “You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:16,17)
If we live in God’s righteousness its only going to further alienate us from the world. Living surrendered to God is going to earn us the world’s antagonism. There’s a name for people who live righteous - who live surrendered to God. They’re called targets. We’ve got bulls eyes drawn on us. Live righteous and we’re in harms way.
Persecution and suffering shouldn’t surprise us. Shouldn’t bend us all out of shape. Especially if we’ve already surrendered everything to God we’ve already surrendered our right to a “Woe is me this is totally unfair while I’m living so righteously” attitude. We need to be ready for suffering when it comes.
Verses 14 to 17 are five rapid fire readiness responses of God’s people to suffering.
James writes, “Count it all - what? joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” (James 1:2)
Realize this: God uses suffering as part of His plan to grow us to be more like Christ - to grow us and strengthen us and to make us into the men and women that He’s created us to be. This may be a bit strange to think about - but when we suffer for righteousness we are right in the center of God’s will and plan for our lives.
Second - realize this: Even when we’re suffering we can look forward to God’s future blessing. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mathew 5:10) Think - what’s coming really is hugely better than what is.
Response number two: Don’t Panic. “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.” Fear is the Greek word “phobeo” which is where we get our English “phobia.” The idea is to run away in terror. “Troubled” has the idea of stirring up turmoil inside us. Stuff we loose sleep over - tossing and turning - stressing out over - with no solution in sight.
God spoke to the prophet Isaiah - in the midst of some really perilous times - God said to Isaiah, “Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, Him you shall honor as holy. Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:12,13).
Point being - stop being afraid of all those pagan nations - living in fear and being troubled by them. Instead rely on God and His promises. Fear God alone.
Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)
Don’t be intimidated. Don’t fear them. Don’t panic. God is still God. Jesus - God - is still our Savior. God’s promises - that truth - that hope - never changes.
Third - verse 15 - in contrast to panicking - “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.” Response number three: Honor Christ. Keep Jesus as holy - separate - as Lord over every part of your life. That’s choosing to fear God rather than fearing our enemies. Regardless of the opposition God comes first. We will choose to trust God.
Fourth - verse 15 - Prepare To Apologize. The Greek word for “defense” is “apologia” - apology. It has the idea of giving a well reasoned defense. Think a courtroom with lawyers. We need to be ready to give a reason for the hope we have in Jesus.
A huge fear of people is getting up in a room of strangers and having to say something. People hold back on sharing their faith because they fear exposing themselves - maybe not having the right words.
But let’s be careful… this is number four on the list. Which means its part of a process. As we live focused on God’s blessings - not panicking - but trusting - sanctifying Jesus as holy - people are going to wonder what’s up. How can they live that way? How do they put up with that? That’s been an open door for the testimony of God’s people for as long as there’ve been God’s people.
“Let me tell you about the hope that’s within me.”
Peter’s teaching about our response to suffering isn’t so much about a well reasoned verbal argument that just silences the opposition as they’re in awe of our theological understanding - so much as how we live in the midst of persecution and a readiness to tell others why - the hope that “is in you.” Why I’m living with hope instead of fear. “Let me tell you about Jesus. What He’s done for me.”
Verse 16 - number five - Have A Good Conscience.
Verse 17: “If you’re gonna suffer at least suffer for doing what’s right.” Behavior is huge. Actions speak louder than… words. Actions that bring others to the point of acknowledging the reality of the Gospel.
Hang onto your integrity. A life of consistent obedience to God - of unwavering integrity - is a huge - if not silent - testimony - defense of the our hope which opens the door of opportunity to share Jesus with others.
Which ultimately is what all this is about. Not us. But God. Being in a place in our lives - surrendered totally to God - living centered on the hope that’s ours in Jesus - means that we will be ready - prepared at the heart level so that when we do suffer we will keep Jesus holy - and live lives that testify of Him - that will point others to Jesus.
Let’s go on. In verses 18-22 Peter writes that we are to Live Focused. We are to live totally focused on Jesus Christ.
Verse 18: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to Him.
If those verses seem a tad confusing the reason for that is that they are confusing. These are some of the hardest verses in the New Testament to get a grip on. There are scholars who study these verses who have different ideas of what Peter is getting at.
What I’d like to share with you is what seems to be the best understanding of where Peter is going here.
In verse 18 Peter describes Jesus’ suffering on our behalf. “Jesus also suffered.” As Peter describes Jesus suffering what he gives us is a very to concise presentation of the Gospel.
Peter writes that Christ suffered once for sins - our sin - our hopeless separation from God. Which is about on our need for a savior. Jesus died once. Because He only needed to die once. That’s what it took to pay the penalty for our sin - to deal with our sin and separation from God. Jesus is the complete all sufficient sacrifice for our sin.
Jesus died the righteous for the unrighteous - meaning that He died in our place - voluntarily - because of grace and love. And in this hugely unfair exchange God takes our unrighteousness and places it on Jesus and in exchange we get Jesus’ righteousness.
Why? Verse 18 - “that He might bring us to God.” The result of Christ’s work on the cross that is we have access to God - a righteous - a made right - sins forgiven - penalty paid - restored relationship with God.
Then Peter goes off talking about Jesus being put to death in the flesh and being made alive in the Spirit and making proclamation to spirits in prison that were disobedient in the days when Noah was building the ark and God was being patient and Noah and his family getting saved instead of drowning with everyone else and how all that corresponds to baptism that saves us because we appeal to God for a good conscience.
Cutting through all that to the bottom line. Peter is writing about what Jesus did between His death and His resurrection - which was to declare to those who had died disobedient to God - who were waiting for God’s judgment and punishment - Jesus declaring to them His - Jesus’ - victory over death and sin and the power of Satan. Think Jesus’ victory.
Noah and his family are saved - bottom line - because by faith they obeyed God. By faith they built the Ark while everyone else was being disobedient. By faith they got in before it ever started raining. And God shut the door of the Ark and brought them to safety.
Which is an illustration of what happens to us when we come to Jesus as our Savior. In a sense - what happens when we trust God and get into the Ark. God graciously shuts the door on our old life - our disobedient before the flood life - brings us through the water - to new life - a new beginning in Christ - cleans us up inwardly so even our conscience - the core of who we are becomes good - purified of sin - before God.
Water baptism demonstrates all that - our dying - our a break from our old sinful lifestyle and God bringing us into a new life - a new beginning as a believer in Jesus. Think our response to Jesus’ suffering.
Which brings us to Peter’s point in verse 22 - which is the absolute confidence that we have in Jesus Who is victorious - Who has complete authority over angels, authorities and all powers. Whatever there may be that may be a source behind our suffering Jesus has already triumphed over all that.
Peter’s bottom line: Christ suffered. We suffer. But, beyond suffering Jesus was victorious. God saved Noah. God has saved you. Live focused on the victory that’s yours in Jesus.
Do you see where Peter is going with all this? Jesus’ suffering has purpose. Jesus’ suffering accomplishes the means of our salvation and our confidence of living in His victory forever with God.
Hear this: When we live righteous - live ready - live focused on Jesus - then when we suffer our suffering becomes a tool - our very lives become tools in God’s hands - not Satan’s - our suffering will be used by God to bring others to salvation and eternity with Him.
Peter is writing to Christians in the Roman provinces of Asia, Galatia, Cappadocia, Pontus, and Bithynia. For the Jewish believers that meant being kicked out of their families and nation that no longer saw them as Jews. For the Gentiles that meant being kicked out of their families because they no longer followed their culture and pagan religions. And seeing what was going in on Rome at the time they knew that to follow Jesus probably meant death.
Let me share a bit about Bithynia and a little town called Alacham - which is located here. Alacham - back at the end of the 1800’s was about 1/2 Greek and 1/2 Turk. The Greeks were descendants of Alexander the Great - which means that they were descendants of some of the Gentiles that Peter is writing to. Greeks who became Christians and at the end of the 1800’s were part of the Greek Orthodox church.
During the middle to later part of the 1800’s American missionaries came to Alacham and there were 4 teenage boys who accepted Jesus as their savior. Along with a tobacco merchant who had come to Christ in Istanbul and later converted his tobacco plant into a church - these boys were the beginning of the Greek Evangelical Church in Alacham.
Grab the similarity with those that Peter is writing to.
When those boys came to Christ they were given a choice - either renounce their faith or they would be kicked out of the Greek Orthodox Church and their families. Can you imagine being a teenager - in those days - in a small village - and having to make that choice. Imagine the consequences - what they would suffer. Those four teenage boys choose Christ.
Not too many years later one of those teenagers - now married with eight children - was thrown into prison by the Turkish government because as a Christian he was hiding Christian Armenians - siblings in Jesus. Hiding them during the genocide of the Christian Armenians by the Muslim Turks. And Stavros Petrides - who’s name means “cross” - died as a martyr - suffering in prison - trusting Jesus as his savior.
The account doesn’t end there. There are at least 55 plus descendants of those 4 teenage boys who are involved in full time Christian ministry around the world today - and thousands who have heard the gospel through them - and God only knows how many will be joining them in heaven because they’ve responded to God’s gospel.
Peter’s words hit me because Stavros Petrides - one of those teenagers from Bithynia - is my great grandfather. The words of Peter are for each one of us who choose to follow Jesus - who choose to follow the example of our siblings in Jesus who have gone before us. They are as relevant today as they were when Peter wrote them - especially as we see persecution and suffering coming for us.
It is our turn. Will we live righteous? Will we live ready? Will we live focused on Jesus? Who will be in heaven because of your testimony?
1. Franklin Graham: “Sound The Warning” - Decision Magazine - 09.2012
General reference: Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on James, 1 and 2 Peter - Zondervan, 2010
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.