Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-19
Idea: When you are up to your armpits in alligators, when you are hassled for your faith, when your civil liberties are up in smoke—you can face anything when you’ve got Jesus: Life. Death. Hard times. Misunderstandings. Persecution. Nothing can keep you down when you’ve got a tough, holy courage that keeps you faithful and cheerful through it all.
Story: Being a Christian in first century Asia Minor was not easy. The local pagan temple was the center of community life. It was more than just a church. It was the Country Club, Chamber of Commerce, Veterans of Foreign Wars post, Rotary, and Historical Society all rolled into one. Business contracts were sealed at the temple. Friends and clients were entertained at the temple. Temple life embraced the totality of community life, and Christians simply found themselves outside the loop. They were different, so the rumors began to fly. Christians were said to be clannish. Stuck up. Unpatriotic. Atheistic cannibals. There were a few people, however, who said, “Hey, Christians are not really evil people, they’re just incredibly stupid.” Everyone in town was agreed on one thing: Christians were not “one of us.” And so Christians suffered for their faith. They suffered verbal abuse. They were often beat up. They lost their jobs. They got run out of their homes. They were disowned by their families.
The apostle Peter provides a word of encouragement for Christians facing hard times when he tells us, first of all, that suffering for your faith is normal (verse 12). When you apply for a job and your religion becomes a determining factor of whether you are accepted or not; when your boss threatens your employment because of the Sabbath; when your relatives think you’ve gone off the deep end because you are a member of the church; when there are value conflicts when the family gathers for the for the holidays…relax. Everything is normal. Not easy, but normal.
Then Peter takes things to the next level when he tells us to rejoice in our sufferings (verse 13). Instead of moping, whining, and weeping, Christians with an attitude of fortitude always see things on the sunny side. What makes that possible? Three things: 1) the realization that our suffering brings us into intimate fellowship with Christ (verse 13), 2) the assurance that our suffering brings to us the ministry of the Holy Spirit (verse 14), and 3) the promise that the grind will help us to shine brighter when Jesus comes again (verse 13).
In light of our present circumstances and the light of heaven to come, Peter invites us to examine our lives (verses 15-18). We need to ask ourselves the hard questions: “Why am I suffering? Am I suffering because it is just part of living in a sinful world? Or am I suffering because of my own stupidity? Am I suffering because of my participation in criminal activity? And what is my attitude in all this? Am I ashamed and bashful about being a Christian, or am I displaying my colors boldly for Christ?” When it comes to the final examination, Christians are the first to step up to the plate. They honestly face the tough questions of the heart.
Peter concludes his appeal by asking us to quietly trust ourselves to God, no matter what (verse 19). Instead of throwing our doubts in the face of God, we need to place our lives in the hands of God. These are the hands that will catch us and sustain us through it all.
Submitted by Dan Martella. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.