1 Peter 4:12-17, 5:6-11
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 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?
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Life is difficult when you are suffering. When a family member is sick, or your own health is failing, it is difficult to find peace. When money is tighter than you’d like it to be, stress can seep into all areas of your life. Or when relationships with friends and family start to get strained, it seems like you have no place to turn.
And when things are going badly, we often wonder why? We might even turn to God and ask, “Why?” But when we are hurting, God has an answer for our aching.
The Bible tells us to expect suffering in our lives. Because we live in a world of sin, there will often be trouble. In fact there are many enemies that are looking to attack God and his people. Some people hate Christians purely because they bear God’s name. Because the message of God stands in direct opposition to a way of life that they want to lead, or against what their human rational minds would grasp, or just the fact that the sinful nature stands in direct opposition to God and his will.
But Peter goes on to describe another reason that we suffer here in this world. We suffer because the devil wants to devour you. The devil prowls around like a vicious and powerful lion looking for someone to devour. Young and old, man and woman, even believer and unbeliever alike the devil, the devil is just out there looking to destroy. And any way that he can bring pain and suffering in this world, he’s going to do it. Through events like he brought in the life of Job in the Old Testament – as he caused Job to lose all of his possessions, all of his servants, and even go through the death of all of his children. And then if that wasn’t enough the devil caused painful sores or boils to appear all over his body so that he couldn’t get any rest or any comfort. And then his friends, even his wife, asking him, begging him to just curse God and die because of all of the suffering.
But most often the devil doesn’t look to devour you in that way. Instead of attacking in those outward and obvious ways, most often the devil and his demons attacks are much more subtle. It’s a whisper in your ear that God’s not that serious about his law. It’s the temptation that he just places before you hoping that you walk right in.
But what is it about suffering that really makes suffering difficult for a Christian? Because I don’t think that it’s the suffering itself that is hard. Friend and family look at you funny or talk down to you because God and church are priorities in your life. That’s not fun but I think we can handle that. There is discrimination in a sort in this world when we would dare to say that whatever God’s Word would say is true, even it if stands against popular opinion. That’s probably harder especially if things in our world and country continue in the way that they are, but still I don’t think anyone here would change their stance on the fact that the Bible is God’s Word completely. Even if there were people like Sergei Kourdakov still walking our streets, I believe that with the help of God, you would even be able to withstand that kind of physical suffering. It’s not the suffering itself that is difficult the most often. So what is it that makes it so hard?
But what makes that suffering worse most times is that we expect something different. Often we are like the disciples at Jesus’ ascension. As Jesus disappeared behind the clouds, the angels who appeared there with the disciples spoke so incredulously to the disciples. “Why are you just standing there staring up in the sky? It’s like you think that Jesus is never coming back. The same way that Jesus went, that will be the same way that he will come back. Why do you expect something different?”
And that’s what Peter is addressing here as well in these verses. Suffering in our lives shouldn’t surprise us – in fact Jesus promised that it would be a part of our lives. But that answer is incomplete by itself, just to say suffering will happen. God doesn’t just leave us there. He gives us an answer to the aching.
The first reason, the first purpose of the suffering in our lives is to remind us of Christ. Peter wrote – rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ. Any amount of suffering that we have in this world it reminds us of the suffering that Jesus went through for you. Talk about Jesus suffering and death. All the times of doubt and disbelief like we experience with the disciples all the times we look at suffering as something that comes from God, Jesus has taken all those sins away. Jesus – he is the answer for our aching – because through his death and his resurrection and ascension – the suffering of this world is only temporary and in fact nothing compared with the glory waiting for you.
Pastor Nick Schmoller