A sermon preached on 11-30-17
Listen on podcast here.
Read 1 Peter 2:18-25.
The Purpose of Suffering: God’s Glory
What is God’s purpose in suffering? What does it do? This is one of those questions that we may be able to grasp the answer for and intellectually understand it, but to actually see it or live it, is another thing. In 2015, ISIS members were heavily attacking and threatening Christians spread all throughout the Middle East.
- Iraq’s largest Christian town, Qarakosh, was threatened and then later overthrown by ISIS as the Christians fled and left everything.
- In a refugee camp, the news station in the area interviewed some of these Christians, in particular, a 10-year-old girl named Myriam.
- She was asked what are her thoughts towards what happened and said that she prays that God forgives them and that she forgives them because of Jesus’ command to love and forgive others.
This suffering is real, it is hard, and this type of suffering happens everywhere around the world where Christians exist. What did this suffering do?
There was another attack in Egypt that left Christians martyred on Palm Sunday by Muslims. The Christians speak of their forgiveness and the love of God that changed them to forgive.
- This reaction caused one of the most prominent talk show hosts in Egypt to cover this story and on the air to say this, “The Christians of Egypt are made of steel!”
- One of the bishops of the church in the was interviewed and he said this, “When people see this attitude from Christians and the church, they ask themselves, ‘What kind of power is this?’” he said. “But with this witness we must also declare the message of Christ, which we are fulfilling—literally. We may not see the response immediately. But we will in the near future.
What do these acts of suffering point towards? They show God to look valuable, it shows the bigness of God, and these acts of suffering displayed the greatness of God’s worth. Suffering serves the mission of God in some mysterious way to spread his fame and the good news of the gospel.
And in the first letter Peter sent to these suffering Christians, he is now going to address the central issue: suffering.
In the ending of chapter 2, Peter shows us these three things:
- Suffering that pleases God
- The suffering example of Christ
- And, the suffering that saved us from our eternal suffering (REPEAT)
Transition: first, we’ll see that there is a type of suffering that pleases God.
Suffering That Pleases God
In verse 18, Peter writes to those who are servants, or slaves of owners. This wasn’t the type of slavery in America that we think of where it was due to race or ethnicity, this type of slavery is more equivalent to a servant; someone who would sell themselves as a job, or to pay off a debt they couldn’t afford.
- In the verses above, Peter has called us to be subject to all governing authorities above us, and now he is making it extra personal.
- The 9-5 day you see 5 days a week is being called upfront and Peter says that you are to be ‘subject to your master.’
At work, Christians are to be subject to their masters. If you think about it, this really isn’t that hard of a command for anybody to follow. Anyone can listen to their boss.
- We especially like it when our boss is kind, easy going, or helpful.
- Anyone can do that — but the real difficult part that Peter points us out to is ‘not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.’
In Matthew 5, Jesus says this very thing, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”
- Even the tax collectors, one of the most hated groups of people who were hired out of the Jewish nation to work for the overthrowing powers of Rome, even those wicked men love those who are kind to them?
- Anyone can do that, says Jesus.
- But how about those bosses that really are just cruel, unfair, unjust, harsh, etc.?
Friends, you may have an unjust, harsh manager at work but you are called to be subject to them and to be obedient to them. Why? In this text we have two reasons already given to us:
- You are an elect exile (1:1)
- God has instituted these people (2:13-14)
Christian, you are first and foremost a Christian. A servant of the Almighty. 1 Peter 2:9 says that we are a ‘chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.’
- God chose you, he owns you as his prized possession.
- Therefore, you identify as God’s chosen one.
- You are not a teacher, a Target employee, or a barista — you are firstly a chosen one of God.
The natural reaction is to be kind to those who are kind to you, and the natural reaction is to make smart remarks, disobey, or talk behind the backs of these managers.
- But you Christian, are of a new nature.1:3 says that out of his great mercy, God has caused us to be born again.
- Christians have a new nature to seek to remain obedient, to act out of the ordinary in how they love and serve their unjust managers.
Christian, you are born again, you have a new nature resembling the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.
But, you might object, don’t lots of people serve and ‘tough it out’ under rude bosses or teachers? Everyone at some point, has most likely worked under and had to sit under the teaching of a rude or harsh superior. And like many, you were told to ‘tough it out’ or to just to work hard and forget about them.
- So, how is that any different than this?
In verse 19, Peter says that the obedience and submission to harsh managers is ‘a gracious thing’ in the sight of God. It pleases God. So again, are unbelievers pleasing God by sucking it up and pushing through it under horrible bosses and authorities over them?
This is a gracious thing, this pleases God, ‘when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.’
- This is the kind of suffering that pleases God. This is the difference.
- In 1 Peter 1:6-7, we read that God is the appointer of our trials and tests in our lives to grow our faith and love for him.
- And in 2:13-14, God also appointed the governments and authorities over us, whether good or bad.
The Lord loves us so much and that desires to purify us from all sin and unworthiness that dwells within us. The love of God is mysterious to us in that the suffering that pleases God is the suffering that is ‘mindful of God.’
We are mindful, not just simply of God’s existence, but of God’s appointing and providential care in our lives to order and organize all of our lives.
- From those who we work with, to our bosses, to their background and lives, to our gifting’s and talents that clash with our boss, and even down to the daily lives that everyone you work with faces that cause them to act certain ways.
- God has appointed and ordained all of this by his freedom and pleasure.
To be mindful of God is to see and trust the hand of God in and through our suffering, whether big or small. And this brings God glory, this pleases God. It is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
But, let us not be confused or foolish to purposely bring about frustration and conflict with our bosses and authorities by acting sinfully.
- In verse 20, Peter says that when we are bad workers and act sinfully, and then are punished for it, this is not reward-worthy.
- God is pleased ‘when you do good and suffer for it.’ (v.20)
Enduring unjust and harsh treatment while being obedient to your boss and to God, while being mindful of the appointing of God’s purposes in your life — that pleases God.
- So, what kind of suffering pleases God? Suffering for doing good, while being mindful and seeing that this is God’s ordering and appointing in your life
Transition: next, we are going to see the suffering example of Christ that is what Peter calls us to do.
The Suffering Example of Christ
Throughout the Scriptures, we see verses like this:
- Matthew 10:22, “and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
- John 15:18, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”
- Acts 14:22, “[going throughout the towns] strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
- Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,”
Suffering as a Christian is not peculiar, as a matter of fact, in the Scriptures it is foretold, promised, considered that it is something we must do, and that it has been granted to us along with our faith in Jesus.
In verse 21, we have been called to suffer, as Christ did who left us an example to follow in the way that he lived and suffered. Called by God and ordered by him to suffer for the sake of his name and gospel.
Do you know what a word cloud is? It is a program that arranges words in a shape that are found in a paragraph. And in it, the more the word is used, the bigger the word appears in the arrangement. The words that appear the most in 1 Peter are these three:
- God, Christ, and
- Suffering is all over this book.
- Therefore, just as Jesus suffered and we are called and granted suffering, we are called to follow in the steps and example of Jesus’ suffering life who suffered unjustly while being righteous and who was mindful of God’s governing of his life.
So, this is the example of the life that Jesus lived as, Isaiah 53 calls him, the suffering servant.
In verse 22, we read the confirmation that Jesus ‘committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.’
- In the gospels, we see that as Jesus stood before the council and Pilate that the accusers had to make up false charges and accusations because of Jesus’ flawless life.
- Jesus was perfectly righteous, he always obeyed — nor was there any trickery or deceit found in what he said.
But, in Matthew 4 we read that Jesus was tempted? Does this ruin the statement Peter just made about the sinlessness of Christ?
- Sinning is breaking God’s law, temptation is the fighting to remain obedient to God’s law.
- Hebrews 4 says that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, yet without sin.
Being tempted and sinning are different things.
- Olympic barbell competition: holding the weight above your head.
- Resisting temptation is upholding the weight above your head and fighting to keep it up successfully.
- Sinning, is giving into the weight above you and failing to hold it up.
- Sinning is actually easier than fighting temptation and succeeding, which Jesus did every time!
Jesus remained fully obedient and always obeyed the law and commands of his Father.
In verse 23, Jesus was also reviled or insulted, and yet he did not do so in return to those who hurled insults at him. And when Jesus suffered he did not threaten revenge, but entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
- Jesus was mocked and insulted throughout his ministry.
- He was called out of his mind in Mark, a drunkard in Matthew, and mocked as he hung on the cross dying and grasping for breath.
- But oh how he had the ability and power to bring down wrath and thousands of angels to wipe out all of his enemies.
- And, he resisted temptation to insult back and to one up them.
- He remained quiet as a lamb lead to the slaughter, as Isaiah 53 says.
- He also suffered unjustly for crimes he did not commit, and did not threaten revenge back in return.
- Betrayed by a kiss from Judas he did not fight, during the mock trial Jesus did not threaten; before Pilate he was silent. All the while suffering unjustly while he lived righteously and had false accusations hurled at him.
In Matthew 26:56, Jesus has just been betrayed by Judas and is in the process of being handed over to a false trial and his coming murderous death. And listen to how Jesus responds in the midst of his attackers and to his disciples, “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”
- Jesus entrusted himself to his Father’s plan and governing over his life — the life that was written of him in the Scriptures.
- The Father’s plan designed the suffering of Jesus, and Jesus, though he was in the pain of betrayal, beating, and death, entrusted himself to his Father’s justice.
Or as Beautiful Eulogy raps, “the throne where perfect justice is.”
God’s perfect justice will always be done, either in the present or finally in the future. Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? Jesus entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.
- Jesus perfectly obeyed his Father’s will and never sinned. He always obeyed, while we have always rebelled. This is how Jesus lived under the unjust suffering as he lived righteously and was mindful of God.
Transition: so, why does the suffering life and example of Jesus matter to us?
The Suffering that Saved Us from Eternal Suffering
When we think about the life of Jesus, we should feel the guilt of sin that we have.
- He always loved God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.
- Jesus loved his neighbor perfectly as himself.
- He kept the Sabbath and rested during the week from his labor.
- He had no other gods before him.
- Jesus always obeyed and honored his parents, he never lied, he never stole or cheated.
- When Jesus suffered, he never threatened revenge.
- As he was insulted and falsely accused, he never retaliated or fired back.
- Jesus remained perfectly obedient in all circumstances of life under all of God’s commands.
And we don’t do those things perfectly as he did:
- We don’t love God fully all the time everyday.
- We don’t love our neighbor as ourselves everyday.
- We work too much and do not rest.
- We dishonored our parents, we lie, cheat, and when we are insulted we often fire back.
- Friends, we have not remained perfectly obedient, just the opposite unfortunately.
Sin is not just a boo-boo before God, or a mistake. Sin as 1 John calls it, is lawlessness; it is rebellion against God and breaking his laws. Sin is high treason against the King of the universe.
- So, sin deserves punishment, and a good God will punish all evil down to the smallest amount because of how perfectly holy and just he is.
- It is not the bigness of the crime committed that brings about the depth and length of the punishment, but against whom the crime is committed against.
- The reason why in our courts, murdering a homeless man and murdering the president is different is not because of their wealth or age.
- It is because of the bigness and authority of the person.
- Our crimes are against an infinitely high and holy God, therefore, our sins deserve an eternity of suffering and punishment.
- And all of us deserve every bit of that eternal suffering and punishment for our sins.
So, in verse 24, we see what the cross was designed to accomplish for humanity. Jesus, himself, bore our sins in his body on the tree.
- Jesus lived perfectly righteous, we have lived terribly unrighteous and sinful.
- Yet, Jesus was counted as if he lived our life, though he committed none of our sins.
- Jesus was so far from sin that the only sin he could ever bare would have to be from another, from us!
- He suffered unjustly (because he did not commit them) but in justice (because sin was punished by a good, just God).
- The righteous one bears our injustices to satisfy the just one.
This was done so that we might ‘die to sin.’ Sin’s penalty is killed with Christ, and Jesus also died to free us from the power of sin, from its influence in our lives that we might live unto God.
- By our faith and repentance in the person and work of Christ on our behalf, we are crucified with Christ and he bears our sins on his body.
- The bible uses language such as dead to sin, crucified with Christ, buried with him in baptism, and Jesus became a curse for us.
- And by our faith and our union with Christ, we are, as the Scriptures say:
- Raised with Christ, Christ lives within us, seated with him in the heavenly places, and we are to live to God.
Romans 6:10-11 says it best, “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Our union with Christ by faith and turning from sin, puts us in Christ Jesus.
We have gone from dead in sin and dead to God, to dead to sin and alive in God.
And now, we who were under the condemnation of God and sentenced to eternal suffering, are saved from that suffering by Jesus’ suffering death for us in our place. He bore not only our sins, but the punishment our sins deserve. And by his wounds, we have been healed.
And here is the accomplishment of the suffering and death of Jesus in our place, in verse 25, for we were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Friends, we have all like sheep gone astray and wandered off to be devoured by wolves and slain. But, the Lamb of God, Jesus, was sent off in our place and was slain for us.
- Notice the fault in this verse, ‘you’ were straying.
- We are guilty, it is our doing.
- Just as in the above text the unjust bosses were credited with being unjust and harsh, so, too, we are credited with our own straying and sinfulness.
Jesus suffered for us to Shepherd us; he strayed to return us to our Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.
The suffering of Jesus in the gospel was designed to save us from eternal suffering.
The death of Jesus satisfied the justice of God for our injustices; therefore, God can justly count us in union with his Son through our turning from sin and turning to God in faith in his Son’s death and resurrection from the dead.
Therefore, when we suffer unjustly and endure, we do so because of the suffering of Jesus for our injustices that he did not deserve. We live to God, and are dead to sin. We follow in the ways of Jesus and endure the reproach that he bore. We see and trust in the Father’s appointing and guiding of our lives in suffering to conform us more to Christ.
- By his wounds, we have been healed and live forever to the Lamb who suffered.
May the Lamb receive the reward for his suffering.