Joyful Suffering?

Posted: December 13, 2009 in 1 Peter

1 Peter 1:6-12, “Joyful Suffering?”
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How do you handle suffering? Suffering isn’t anything that anyone looks forward to, but it is one thing we can be absolutely assured of. Many of us have been praying for a young girl who has a tumor in her spine that’s paralyzed her from the neck down…she & her family are experiencing trials. Some of you here have had family members come against your faith in the Lord Jesus…you’re experiencing trials. For others, it’s cancer – job loss – prodigal children – personal depression – legal battles…not a single person in this room (or listening later) has been unaffected by trials. If you’re not going through one now, it’s assured you will go through one soon – that’s just life.

So what is a Christian to do in the midst of it? To listen to some preachers, we’re left with the idea that we should ignore it & pretend it doesn’t exist – or just try to speak it away in ‘faith.’ Let’s be clear: that’s just not biblical. Trials & sufferings DO exist for the Christian & we’ve got to have some way of dealing with them – and that’s exactly what Peter is writing about here. We don’t ignore our trials; we rejoice in spite of our trials.

Why can we rejoice in the midst of suffering? Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ that brings salvation! The very thing that confounded the prophets & amazes the angels is what gives us hope & joy in the time of trial.

1 Peter 1:6-12 (NKJV)
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

A. “In this…” In what? In the last time, in which our final salvation is finally revealed (vs. 5). Remember our context here: we’ve been begotten again to a living hope (because Christ Jesus is alive!), and have an incorruptible inheritance reserved for us in heaven, kept for us by the power of God. It is THAT time to which we look forward in hope – the confident assurance that God will do exactly as He promised He will do. And because of this – in this – we can rejoice in trials. Peter admits a couple of things about trials here:
__a. Trials grieve us. KJV “heaviness”… NASB “distressed” – you get the idea. Trials aren’t fun & despite the numerous exhortations the Bible gives us to rejoice in them (or “count it all joy” per Jas 1:2), never once does the Bible gloss over trials as if they didn’t really hurt. There’s a reason trials are called “trials”…they aren’t times of smooth sailing!
____i. Please don’t buy into the lie that truly spiritual people never hurt! We can rejoice in the midst of trials (as we’ll see in a moment), but that doesn’t mean we don’t rejoice in the midst of tears. Trials hurt. Even when they are being used to strengthen us, they can still hurt. Even the Lord Jesus was exceedingly sorrowful in the garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:34) – what makes us think we would be “more spiritual” than Him?
__b. Trials don’t last forever. Praise God they don’t! Peter writes, “though now for a little while…” Keep in mind that statement was written by a man who had suffered trials and persecutions since virtually the day the Holy Spirit came upon the church at Pentecost! Even when trials seem to drag on & on, eventually they come to an end at some point. Maybe not in the way we might expect (perhaps they end when we die & see Jesus), but they DO end. And in comparison with spending eternity in the presence of our God, even the longest physical sufferings & trials are a blip! …

B. We can rejoice in trials b/c it is in the middle of our trials that our faith is tested & proven! It’s easy to claim that we’re holding to the promises of God in Christ Jesus when everything is going great… ‘PTL, brother! God is good & His grace is enough…’ [] How do we know that God’s grace is sufficient for everything we face until we have our own “thorns in the flesh” to deal with? 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (9) And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (10) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. [] It’s when our faith is tested that our faith is made stronger – it’s proven to be “genuine”. That kind of faith is “precious”!
__a. (M. Henry) “The trial of faith is much more precious than the trial of gold; in both there is a purification, a separation of the dross, and a discovery of the soundness and goodness of the things. Gold does not increase and multiply by trial in the fire, it rather grows less; but faith is established, improved, and multiplied, by the oppositions and afflictions that it meets with.” … (Wiersbe) “A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted!”

C. Genuine faith glorifies God! It’s found to give “praise, honor & glory” to the One who gives it to us in the 1st place. When Paul died & stood before the Lord Jesus, Paul surely did not say to Him, “I can’t believe You never took away that thorn in my flesh? Why didn’t You ever do anything about it?” On the contrary! Paul surely (like all of us will) fell on his face & gave God praise, glory, and honor for everything God empowered Paul to endure! God is just as much to praise for the trials He saves us from as the trials He takes us through. Both are examples of His deliverance, power, goodness, and grace – both serve to bring Him glory for the work He’s doing in our lives.

D. When will it give God glory? In the here & now AS we rejoice… Later at the revelation of Christ Jesus… BTW – Jesus IS coming back! One day every eye will behold Him as He comes in on a white horse to rule, reign, and cast Satan in the bottomless pit for 1000 years! As He comes, we’ll be with Him in the heavenly armies giving Him glory.
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8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

A. We haven’t seen Jesus, but we love Jesus. Peter obviously hadn’t met much of the church he was writing to (it was a general epistle to a vast area), but he could easily assume a few things…the 1st being that anyone who is in Christ Jesus loves Christ Jesus. Peter of course, had seen Jesus – and when Jesus restored Peter to the ministry asked Peter 3 times if he loved Him (John 21). Understand that Jesus wasn’t asking Peter because Jesus was curious…it’s not like Jesus didn’t know exactly what was in Peter’s heart; it was Peter who needed to remember & reaffirm that he loved Jesus. Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter had asserted his love for Christ out of fleshly pride; now he needed to do it out of Godly humility. Loving Christ Jesus is foundational to our faith. A person who claims to be a Christian who can not affirm he/she loves Jesus needs to get on their knees quick!

B. We haven’t seen Jesus, but we believe Jesus. “Belief” here does not seem to refer only to having faith in our trials, but having faith at all! We believe Jesus in that we believe that He is God in the flesh come to earth – He lived a perfect sinless life – died for our sins on the cross – rose again on the 3rd day in victory – ascended to God the Father – will come again. We may not have seen Jesus do these things with our own eyes, but we’ve read the testimonies of those who did & we’ve read the promises of God Himself…and then we act on those promises by believing. The result of belief? Salvation! Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. [] The question is: do you believe?
__a. BTW – that’s a blessing! Unlike Thomas… Jesus told us that those who believe without seeing would be blessed (John 20:29)…that’s us!

C. We haven’t seen Jesus, but we rejoice in Jesus. Because we love Jesus & because we believe Jesus, we can rejoice in the midst of our trials because ultimately we’re rejoicing in Jesus! It’s not the cancer we’re joyful for – it’s not the persecution we look forward to (or whatever) – it’s the Lord Jesus! Jesus is alive – Jesus reigns – Jesus is Lord – Jesus is going to receive us to Himself – Jesus is going to make everything right – Jesus has given us new life when we were destined for Hell…there’s always a reason to rejoice in the Lord Jesus! Even when we run out of words, we can still be overflowing with joy (“joy inexpressible”) – which is exactly what we’ll be doing in all of eternity. Let us start NOW!

D. Everything Peter says in this sentence is based on the fact that the Church he was writing to (including us) had not ever seen Jesus. We haven’t looked upon Him with our eyes of flesh – we’ve only looked upon Him with eyes of faith. And this is exactly where faith comes in. Faith is the substance of things hoped for & the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1). We have our ultimate faith in Christ Jesus alone for salvation because He alone can grant us salvation, and our faith in Him takes us through every trial that we face.
__a. There is a goal to our faith…see vs 9…
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9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

A. Pretty plain! What’s the end (the goal) of our faith? The salvation of our souls. People sometimes criticize evangelicals & fundamentalists today saying, “All you guys ever talk about is getting saved & going to heaven. Isn’t there much more to the gospel than just going to heaven?” Sure, there’s a ton of ramifications that result from us being born again, empowered by the Spirit, and living life here as witnesses for Christ…undoubtedly. But the END of all of that is the salvation of our souls! Why do we talk about it a lot? Because that’s what the Bible does! Peter’s point here is not to say we can get through our trials by swallowing our pain & volunteering our time at a soup kitchen. (Amen to serving one another in the love of Christ!) Peter’s whole point is that we get through trials by remembering what’s to come – our salvation! We’re receiving that right now & will continue to receive it in glory.

B. BTW – there’s a reason we call it “salvation”: we need to be saved! Our sin & transgressions (our rebellion against God since the moment we were born – our very nature itself) leaves us spiritually dead & rightfully smack dab in the wrath of God. Every evil thought, word, and deed will be judged in righteousness by God in the last day. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit we’re deserving of that judgment – we’re the ones who have broken all 10 of the 10 Commandments either by the letter or by intent, and we deserve an eternity in Hell. What’s our only hope? We cannot save ourselves from that fate, we need to be saved – and that EXACTLY what Christ Jesus offers to the world! Jesus took the very wrath & judgment that you & I deserved upon Himself & offers you eternal life & forgiveness in return. No wonder it’s called “salvation!”
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10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,

A. The gospel that brings salvation was never a surprise throughout the Old Testament – the prophets wrote of it over & over again…they “inquired” of it. There were times it certainly confused them (Daniel was certainly perplexed by some of his visions!), but starting in Genesis 3 when God told Eve of her Seed to come that would crush the head of Satan, the gospel of Jesus Christ was promised!

B. Specifically, they knew the gospel would be brought to the Gentiles – “the grace that would come to you…” The interesting thing is that many Jewish teachers tended to ignore this over time. A common thought was that God created the Gentiles simply to fuel the fires of Hell. But even a casual reading of the OT prophecies show that God’s intent all along was to make His salvation available to the entire world! Even in the Abrahamic covenant (the foundational promise that all of Israel looks back to), God makes this perfectly clear when He says: “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3) – who are all of the families of the earth, other than the Gentile nations? Abraham barely even had a family of his own at the time! God spells it out in Isaiah: Isaiah 49:6-7 (6) Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” (7) Thus says the Lord, The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One, To Him whom man despises, To Him whom the nation abhors, To the Servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise, Princes also shall worship, Because of the Lord who is faithful, The Holy One of Israel; And He has chosen You.” []
__a. There are not 2 gospels (OT vs NT) – there is only ONE gospel, and from the beginning it was always pointing people to the Messiah (Christ – Anointed One) of God. In the OT, people looked forward in faith; in the NT we look backward in faith.
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11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

A. Though the prophets were told of the coming Messiah, they obviously didn’t understand everything about the gospel. Some things were mysteries that were later made clear by the incarnation of Jesus Christ. So the prophets searched out & inquired of these things. What specifically did the prophets inquire into? Where is He – Who is He? Like the magi of the east who came to celebrate the birth of Christ, the prophets were constantly on the lookout for the Promised Son of God. God sent Jesus in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4), but although the prophets had many clues, they didn’t know when exactly that time would be – so they kept searching it out.
__a. Likewise, we know that the Lord Jesus is coming back; we just don’t know when. We’ve been given many clues in prophecy, but no one knows the day or the hour – so we need to always be ready!

B. The prophets were distinctly told two things that the Messiah would do: Jesus was foretold to suffer & foretold to be glorified. Some Jewish scholars thought this meant 2 Messiahs – a Messiah ben Joseph (who would suffer like Joseph suffered at the hands of his brothers), and a Messiah ben David (who would reign as king). Where they got it wrong was not 2 Messiahs, but 1 Messiah coming twice!
__a. Sufferings: Isaiah 53:4-5 (4) Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. (5) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. []
__b. Glories: Isaiah 9:6-7 (6) For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (7) Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. []
__c. Jesus does both! He suffered for us at the cross – and yet He’ll reign over the nations in His kingdom – and even receive praise, honor, and glory for all eternity! He is both the Suffering Servant & the King of Kings…

C. How was this revealed to the prophets? By the Holy Spirit…speaking of the inspiration of God. Peter will get into this more in his 2nd letter (2 Pet 1:20), but it’s plain that the Bible is not the collected writings of man; it is the very word of God. When the prophets wrote down 300+ prophecies concerning Jesus Christ (and the rest of the Scripture), they weren’t randomly pulling information out of a hat – they were being moved upon by God the Holy Spirit Himself.
__a. BTW, the Holy Spirit is just as much the Spirit of God as He is the Spirit of Christ…thus we can affirm with confidence that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father AND the Son. Part of the mystery of the Trinity…
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12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.

A. The prophets understood that they themselves wouldn’t receive/see the actual promise…that the Messiah was to come in the future. They may not have known exactly when, but they did know He was yet to come. So what did the prophets do? They passed it on…they wrote down the prophecies & gave them to Israel. The prophecies were perfectly fulfilled in Christ Jesus… The gospel of salvation (which was promised) was then given to the apostles… The apostles gave it to the Jews who formed churches & missionaries… The missionaries & Church then reported it to the Gentile world. WE are the recipients of the glorious promises that the OT prophets wrote about centuries ago! What a blessing! The very last of the OT prophets is considered to be John the Baptist – and Jesus said that there had been none born of women that was greater than John (Matt 11:11)…yet the least person in the kingdom of heaven would be more blessed than John the Baptist – the greatest OT prophet. What makes the difference? We’re the recipients of the promise John was proclaiming – John may have baptized Christ Jesus, but John died prior to the cross & resurrection. We are the ones blessed to see it & receive the promises! The gospel was preached to us in the power of the Holy Spirit, we heard it, received it & are blessed through it!

B. If all this seems amazing to you, just think if you were an angel! Angels are truly amazed by our salvation & the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Eph 3:10 tells us this is one way in which God reveals His manifold wisdom to the angels. Keep in mind there is no indication that angels partake in the gospel – whether their will is of a different nature than ours, we don’t know. But the Bible makes it clear the gospel is given to mankind – and though angels assist in myriads of ways, they are looking in from the outside at what God is doing in us. Angels have known God the Son from the moment of their creation by Him – they definitely know Him as Lord; but they don’t know Him as Savior. And it is a wondrous thing to them – just as it ought to be to us!

Conclusion:
Our salvation is a reason to rejoice! Our salvation is a reason to wonder! … Angels desire to look into it… The OT prophets inquired into it… They wanted to have what we DO have: the secure hope of salvation that promises us eternity with Christ & takes us through every trial & tribulation on earth.

Some of you here today are going through immense trials. Not necessarily the same trials (even Peter mentions “various” – as in many colors)…you may not think your trial is much compared to someone else, but whatever it is, it’s still weighing you down. This is not the time for you to give up on faith thinking that God hasn’t answered your prayers; this is the time for you to hold fast in faith – knowing that your Lord & Savior also suffered & He Himself will see you through in the power of the Holy Spirit. Understand that God for whatever reason in His limitless wisdom has allowed you to go through this trial, and that in the end your faith will be refined – worth more than the purest of gold. So hold fast: love Jesus – believe Jesus – and rejoice in Jesus.

Others of you here cannot get past verse 8: you cannot rejoice in the midst of your trials because you do not yet believe Jesus Christ. Don’t be unbelieving any longer; be believing! People often will say, “I’d believe in Jesus Christ if I only saw proof” (like Thomas)… We’ve been given proof: the resurrection. Jesus Christ is alive today – we’ve been given testimony after testimony of the fact (Peter himself as an example). The real issue for most people isn’t proof; it’s stubbornness…they simply don’t want to bow their knee to Jesus, submitting to Him as Lord. … Don’t let your pride get in the way of your salvation any longer! Jesus IS Lord – whether we receive Him as such or not…and one day that will be revealed to the entire world. The question is: will Jesus be revealed to you as Savior or as Judge? God created you – God knows you – God loves you – God’s desire is that you would be saved! Your sin requires salvation… And God offers that salvation to you freely through Jesus Christ. Believe Him today!

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