We are in a series called Sturdy Faith! The early Christians faced great persecution and Peter wrote a letter to them to encourage them when they face trouble and suffering. We do not have it as bad as these early Christians, but there is still a lot we can learn about how we respond to adversity because of our faith in Jesus.
1 Peter 4:12-19
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as 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 God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” z
19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
On April 1, 1976, Ronald Wayne typed up an agreement to be signed by him and two young entrepreneurs who had invited him to join them in starting up a new tech company. Wayne was given a 10% share of the company for his partnership. The 21 and 25 year old entrepreneurs brought on Wayne, who was in is early forties, for his experience and hoped he would be able to be the tiebreaker in any disagreements they may have.
Ronald Wayne’s business partners didn’t have any money and took out a loan to fulfill some orders for the business. Wayne began to get nervous that the businesses debts were going to fall on him personally if something went wrong because he had some assets and owned a house, unlike his partners.
Twelve days after signing the contract Ronald Wayne decided to leave the company and sold his 10% stake back to his partners for $800.
When asked about leaving the company he said, “I felt the enterprise would be successful but at the same time there could be bumps along the way and I just couldn’t risk it.”
In its first year of operations, following Wayne’s departure, the company’s sales reached $174,000. The next year sales rose to $2.7 million, in 1978 to $7.8 million, and in 1980 to $117 million. However, Wayne never saw any of this because, after leaving, he accepted $1,500 for forfeiting any claims against the company.
Today, Apple Inc. is worth over $1 Trillion. Apple’s current largest shareholder, The Vanguard Group, owns a 7.2% stake in the company, valued at around $131B give or take a few hundred million dollars. Ronald Wayne owned 10%. He sold it for $800.
Ronald Wayne actually hung on to the original contract he signed with Steve Wozniak, and Steve Jobs. In the 90’s he sold it for $500. In 2011 the same contract sold at auction for $1.6M!
If Ronald Wayne would have just held on he would have been richer than Bruce Wayne. Because he was concerned about the bumps in the road along the way and the risks before him, he missed out on unimaginable riches.
In the scripture we are reading today Peter talks about a different investment and way bigger and better riches! Peter wants to encourage Christians not to give up! When your life is invested in Jesus there are unimaginable riches of joy on the other side of the difficulties being thrown at you. Don’t give up! Invest your life in Jesus and hang on when things get difficult.
God will not waste your suffering.
The Christian life is not promised to be an easy life. In fact it’s quite the opposite.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
These are the words of Jesus. The first part is not my favorite promise in the Bible.
Jesus was right, though, this is a troubling world.
I am troubled by the current events in our own country. I am troubled by the longstanding racial tension and inequality that is being uncovered. I am grieved and confused by the shooting of Jacob Blake and the ensuing violence around our nation. I am troubled for our brother’s and sisters in Christ who are people of color. I am troubled by the disunity and lack of generosity toward each other I see among Christians. I long for peace and justice, and as a Christian I need to be an active participant with Jesus, seeking his peace, justice, and grace on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus is the one who has already overcome this world. My allegiance is to Him no matter what! When the world is dark, Jesus calls us to be the light. And as we shine for Jesus and stand with him and for what he stands for, there will be trouble because of it.
Peter tells us this shouldn’t be surprising.
1 Peter 4:12
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
Just above the passage we are looking at today, Peter tells writes that the world will be surprised by the way they live.
1 Peter 4:4
4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.
The world may be surprised when we live for Jesus, but we can’t be surprised when the world acts the same way to us as they did to Jesus.
ILL: What did you think was going to happen? Have you ever had someone say that to you?
20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
Now, I have to say, it’s pretty great to live in a country where we have religious freedom and we can pray and assemble and worship God together. I’m not trying to feed a Christian victim mentality in us. But not all Christians have this same experience around the world. And it’s not to say that you may not be treated differently because of your faith. You may experience opposition because of your trust in Jesus. I hope we can learn to trust Jesus when we face small persecutions so that we may be ready to trust him if we face larger persecutions. I want to trust Jesus no matter what!
Peter tells the believers that this “fiery ordeal” they are facing is there to test them.
God can use our suffering because of him for his will and purposes. In suffering we can actually learn what it means to be like Jesus. God can use our suffering for Jesus for our good.
God will not waste your suffering when you suffer for him.
ILL: The word Peter uses for test is a word that was associated with the purifying of metal. Like in a crucible. Metal is heated up to a liquid state and the impurities are revealed as they rise to the top where they can be removed as slag.
Suffering for being a Christian acts as a crucible for refinement and has a way of encouraging us to examine our lives to see what needs to be removed.
Peter actually says we should rejoice in suffering!
1 Peter 4:13
13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
We can rejoice because we will be overjoyed when Jesus’ glory is revealed, speaking of his second coming.
Rejoicing when suffering. hmmmm….
That doesn’t sound intuitive. Should Christians just grin and bear it? Fake smiles? Pretending we don’t hurt? “I love hurting. It’s great!” Do I look more Christian now? It can’t mean that. Does it mean trying to see how much suffering we can take? No.
This is not the type of rejoicing Peter is talking about. You know the truth is, in my life many of the good memories I enjoy have obstacles that needed to be overcome in them. I suspect the same is true of you. It’s why in sports we say, “everyone loves a comeback.” We love to see people overcome difficulties.
ILL: I read a book a while back written by a former Navy Seal and Seal trainer. During SEAL training recruits are put through heavy loads of physical and mental stress. Beyond what I can imagine enduring. And that is the precise reason they do it. The training teaches the recruits something about themselves—they are capable of more than they think. This painful training produces a knowledge that they can overcome more than they think they can.
I think this is similar to what Peter is suggesting. We can rejoice in our suffering because it’s revealing Godliness in us.
ILL: I have three daughters and I was there for all of their births. My wife was there, too. Did you guys know childbirth is no joke? I was there watching Jenese, the person I love most in the world, go through the excruciating pain and mental exhaustion of labor. It was intense! An absolute labor of love. I was blown away. But when the labor was finished and the baby was there, it was complete joy. It was worth it.
Our suffering also gives birth to something in us and it’s a cause for rejoicing. God is using our suffering to birth something in us.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
We can glory in suffering knowing that it is producing perseverance, character, and hope!
We get better at going through trials, too.
ILL: Do you remember your first heartbreak? “I’ll Never recover from this! How could I love someone ever again as much as I loved them?!” That’s not to belittle 6th grade heartbreak, it’s the biggest heartache they’ve felt, that’s valid. But we don’t stay there. We grow. We are able to handle more.
We learn to trust God. Do you remember your first trial as a Christian? “OH, GOD HOW CAN YOU LET THIS HAPPEN?!” We mature.
In suffering for Jesus we get to see a greater glimpse into who he is. We see Jesus more clearly. Jesus suffered for us, so when we are in a place where we are suffering for him this should bring joy. Not because Jesus wishes us to suffer, but because if points to the day when there will be no more suffering, because of Jesus. Peter tells us our joy now will grow into us being overjoyed at the second coming of Jesus.
In suffering for Jesus we are reminded that Jesus is making us more like him and he will complete that work!
It is not promised that being a Christian will be easy, but it is promised that it will be worth it! This is the wonder of Jesus, he takes what is meant for evil and he uses it for our good. He can take your pain of suffering and turn it into the joy of the hope we have in Jesus.
Will you trust him with the situation you are facing? Can you pray, God don’t waste this difficult moment of my life. I trust you to turn it for good.
2. God is near you during suffering.
Jesus doesn’t just use our suffering for good, he’s also with us in it!
1 Peter 4:14
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.
Christians were being mocked, insulted, and talked poorly about because of their trust in Jesus. But Peter says they are actually blessed in this.
When you are persecuted because of Jesus God blesses you with his presence. God promises your ultimate deliverance from the trouble of this world, but he also promises you his current presence through his Holy Spirit.
There can be a temptation when things get difficult in life or when people speak poorly of us or our faith to move away from God, but Peter says that God is near you in suffering. I want my default when I’m face trouble to look for Jesus. The Spirit of God’s glory and of God rests on you. What a beautiful thing to say to those who are suffering for Jesus. To those who are under persecution for following Jesus, The Spirit of God’s glory and of God rests on you.
Now, I have to say, Peter is not just talking about any suffering, he’s talking about suffering because of the name of Jesus. In fact he clarifies this.
1 Peter 4:15-16
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.
There is a difference in being a Christian and being insulted and being insulted for being a Christian.
There is a difference between suffering with Christ and being insufferable.
Just because you are a Christian and a jerk doesn’t mean people are persecuting you for the Christian part.
Peter says there is no glory in suffering for being a murderer or a thief or any other kind of criminal, that’s not persecution. I love how he adds meddler into the list. Maybe you’ve killed people, or burgled property, or lived a life of crime, or just got all up in someone else’s business. When people insult you because of these things you aren’t being persecuted!
However, if you suffer as a Christian, don’t be ashamed but praise God that you bear that name.
God is walking us through our suffering and as he does his is purifying us and making us more like him. This is what his judgement looks like, the eradication of sin.
1 Peter 4:17-18
17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
We will all sit under the perfect judgment of God—both Christians and people who don’t follow Christ. For Christians this judgement is having a purifying effect on us as our sin is finally dealt with and we are made holy as Christ is holy. God is using our current suffering in this way.
This is not a judgement that says we are getting what we deserve for all the bad stuff we have done, it’s a judgement that is a test revealing to us our iniquities. Yes the test is hard but don’t run away! You think you are running to comfort, but you’re actually running to a worse judgment that will come later. And this is not God’s will for you.
Without Jesus we are left to the repercussions of our sin and sin leads to death. Jesus has dealt with our sin through his resurrection and he is dealing with its repercussions in his grace through suffering in this life so that we may have abundant life in him! The stakes are high and you do not want to face this judgement apart from Jesus. He is the one who turns our rebellion against God into adoption into God’s family and God’s likeness in character.
Put your trust in Jesus!
So what do we do if we face trouble in this life because we follow Jesus?
3. Trust God and do good.
You will not always be accepted by the world because you are Christian. But the thing we can learn to do is trust Jesus no matter what’s going around us.
1 Peter 4:19
19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
When Peter writes to commit yourself to God he is using a greek word that means to entrust in the care of someone (paratithēmi). This word was used when someone was going on a trip they would entrust their belongings back home to someone they trusted.
They didn’t have banks to keep their stuff so they had to really trust the person with everything they had.
This is what Peter wants us to do with Christ. To trust him with our everything. With your whole life! We invest our life in him! And because of the resurrection we know that he’s good for it.
Ronald Wayne could have unimaginable riches if he would have trusted his shares to Apple.
This is nothing compared to the surpassing glory of knowing Jesus christ.
The apostle Paul would say it this way:
8 …I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ
Following Jesus is a longterm investment. As in eternity! It may cost you in the short run, but even that is for your good and his glory. So don’t give up!
As Christians we trust God. Not matter what is happening around us, we trust God in the good times and the bad time. And as we trust God we do good. In both of these things, our trust and our doing of good, we tell the world about our God!
When you feel frustrated and attacked and insulted and looked down upon, remember these words from Peter, trust God and do good!
This is the way we respond to suffering and persecution.
We live for Jesus and we live like Jesus!
Trust God and do good. This is the way. And on the other side is the unimaginable riches of his glory. Don’t give up! God won’t waste your suffering. God is with you! Trust God and do good!
The sermon is over but the discussion is still happening. Take some time this week to connect with a person or a few and discuss what the Holy Spirit is teaching you.
If you are wondering what your next step with Jesus is, head inside the Welcome Center for a Next Steps Meeting right now to meet with someone who can talk with you about what that looks like and what your next step might be! The Welcome Center is just inside the commons to your left of the main doors.
If you need prayer, we have members of the prayer team up front ready to pray for you.