Trusting God – No Matter What

Posted: February 15, 2010 in 1 Peter

1 Peter 4:12-19, “Trusting God – No Matter What”
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From the Voice of the Martyrs: “On Jan. 10, Muslim extremists set fire to Tafath church in Tizi Ouzou, Algeria, damaging church property, according to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts. The Tafath church has been threatened since December, when extremists disrupted a Christmas celebration. “As Christians continued to come for worship to this church despite the increasing intimidation, the Muslim extremists decided to burn the church,” VOM contacts said. “The next morning, the church members were able to retrieve some unburned stuff from the church and move it to a safe place.””

Of course, we don’t have to go half-way around the world. Nearly a dozen churches have been set on fire in East Texas in the past 4 months. The Tyler Morning Telegraph reports on the Russell Memorial UMC in Wills Point, “The fire claimed pews, numerous musical instruments and pieces of equipment, leaving behind little more than charred offering plates and a flame-warped 15-foot-tall cross. … Church leaders said the cross will be restored. The spirit of the congregation, meanwhile, seems to have no need of restoration.”

Peter has had much to say about suffering in this letter – this was the primary reason for Peter’s epistle in the first place. The Church had already experienced persecution, and it was about to enter into much more (not unlike today). The world hates the Church simply because we are the Church – we follow Jesus Christ. So suffering & persecution ought to be expected; not a surprise to us. The real question is not: “will suffering come?” But rather, “what should our response be to suffering?” The answer, according to Peter & the Scriptures: trust God & give Him the glory.

1 Peter 4:12-19 (NKJV)
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;

A. Don’t miss the 1st word here…don’t make the mistake of just glancing over it. “Beloved” (or “dear friends”). So important to remember! Peter is not writing to a group of people of which he’s attempting to severely chastise. Peter is not blaming those who suffer for their own sufferings. No where in this letter does Peter suggest that God is “out to get them” for everything they’ve done wrong, and that’s “why” suffering has come. Perish the thought! This Church is “beloved.” God knows exactly what they’re going through, and He is loving them through it & glorifying Himself through it. That’s the whole point of what Peter is addressing today – God will be glorified through all that we go through when we do it in His power in the name of Christ. But God is certainly not punishing the Church; their suffering has come simply because they ARE the Church, and they are beloved of God.
__a. So often we get the wrong idea & start to wonder why God must hate us so much. After all, if we hadn’t done something wrong, we wouldn’t be suffering so much – right? Wrong. Granted, there may be consequences we have to endure because of our own rebellion (which Peter will remind us of in a bit), but if you’re suffering simply because of your faith in Christ – if you’re suffering simply because life is tough & the enemy hates you, then God is most certainly not punishing you. As a born-again believer in Christ Jesus, you are God’s own child & the beloved bride of Christ. …

B. Because we are God’s beloved children, we ought not be surprised when suffering arrives. … Jesus warned us personally about trials & tribulations (“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” John 15:18). Paul warned his protégé Timothy about coming persecutions (“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” 2 Tim 3:12). None of this is new! The world has always persecuted the people of God! Need proof? Just take a brief glance at Hebrews 11…
__a. What ought to be more surprising to us is when suffering & persecution does NOT come. Either we are in a bubble in history (as in the United States) or we’re simply not a threat to our enemy (which could also be the case). The devil doesn’t care about complacent Christians. Why would he?

C. What kind of suffering is Peter referring to here? This isn’t some mere discomfort or trivial inconvenience; this is a “fiery trial.” The Greek word actually refers to a smelting furnace where metals like gold or silver would be refined. There, the fire would be built up to be so hot as to burn any impurities away so that nothing but the precious metal would be left behind. Thus fiery trials are truly intense, but they are also refining/purifying. Trials are purifying for the Church because it’s in the times of trials that we see who is actually holding on to Christ & who’s just playing the game. Trials are purifying for us personally, because we never rely so heavily upon our Savior as when we have no other hope. To this extent, trials can actually be a good thing (relatively speaking) because our character is shaped more & more into the image of Christ.

D. So how ought we respond to this kind of suffering? If we can expect it to come, and we know it’s going to be both tough & purifying, how should we prepare ourselves to respond? Not in surprise & shock; but in joy! See vs. 13…
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13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

A. Peter isn’t alone in telling us to rejoice – James said the same thing. James 1:2-3 (2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. [] Keep in mind there is a huge difference between happiness & joy. Happiness is an emotional response; joy is an intentional attitude/outlook… … Peter (and James) is not saying that we need to laugh off our trials – to ignore them & make-believe we’re having fun. Trials are trials; suffering is suffering…it is what it is. Be we CAN choose our attitude in the midst of that suffering – and the Christian’s attitude ought to be one of joy.

B. WHY? Several reasons perhaps (not the least that our Lord Jesus is right with us the depth of our suffering) – but Peter points out here that we can rejoice because we have been given the privilege of sharing in Jesus’ own sufferings. “you partake of Christ’s sufferings.” This is knowing Jesus in the fellowship of His suffering… … What a privilege it is to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with our Lord & Master! He suffered expressly for us to the glory of God – when we suffer for Him, we’re participating in His glorious work… …

C. One reason every Christian ought to be able to rejoice? One day we will see the revelation of the glory of Jesus Christ! …

D. Peter also implies that when we suffer, we see the glory of God in that moment. Question: how is the glory of God revealed in suffering? Ask Stephen – that’s exactly what he experienced at the moment he was stoned to death in Jerusalem.
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14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

A. Being reproached (reviled/insulted) for Christ brings a blessing. … Matthew 5:11-12 (11) “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. (12) Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. []

B. How so? At the moment of our suffering, we in a very real way experience the glory of God. The language Peter uses here is very similar to OT wording about the glory of God (sometimes called the “chabod” or referred to as the “shekinah”). The “chabod” glory of God was a weighty, heavy presence. Smoke covered Mt. Sinai at the giving of the 10 Commandments. Smoke filled Solomon’s temple when it was dedicated. Thick, weighty, all-encompassing presence. The “shekinah” was more of the idea of the glorious light shining forth from God – as seen in Jesus’ clothes at the Transfiguration, or when Paul had his conversion vision, etc. Either could be the idea that Peter’s describing here…whichever aspect, this is a reference to the very presence of God. When born-again believers are persecuted for their faith in Christ, God doesn’t abandon them or leave them alone; on the contrary – they experience more of the Holy Spirit of God at that moment than they had ever experienced before. The glory of God rests upon that person as they are filled to overflowing with the 3rd Person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit empowers them for the moment.

C. The last part of the verse is questionable in the manuscripts & many translations don’t include it based on that reason. Nevertheless, it is true! In persecuting the Church, the world believes it is blaspheming Christ Jesus Himself… From their perspective that may be true (for which they will have to answer when they see the Lord in Judgment), but from our perspective, persecution isn’t blasphemy, it is an opportunity for Jesus to be glorified in the midst of suffering.
__a. Jan Huss was a pre-Reformation reformer, highly influenced by the English Bible translator Wycliffe & condemned by the Roman Church at the time for preaching the gospel & against indulgences, sentenced to be burned at the stake on July 16, 1415. (Fox’s Book of Martyrs), “When the chain was put about him at the stake, he said, with a smiling countenance, “My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this for my sake, and why then should I be ashamed of this rusty one?” … The flames were now applied to the [wood], when our martyr sung a hymn with so loud and cheerful a voice that he was heard through all the cracklings of the combustibles, and the noise of the multitude. At length his voice was interrupted by the severity of the flames, which soon closed his existence.” To the very end, Jan Huss & countless other martyrs have brought glory to Christ & experienced the glory of the Holy Spirit in the midst of their greatest suffering.
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15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.

A. Peter has covered this idea before – these are reasons why NOT to suffer. Christians ought to have no part with these sorts of things – if we are engaged in criminal activity, we ought to expect a bit of suffering. That’s not Godly suffering; that’s simply the consequences of our sin. If someone steals something, he/she needs to expect to spend some time in jail – that’s just the way it is.

B. Most of the list here is fairly self-explanatory. What’s most interesting is the inclusion of the “busybody” (or “meddler”). There are many explanations of how the term here could refer to something “big”: some take this to be a reference to covetous behavior – others think it applies to someone who’s actively engaged in looking after worldly things instead of godly things. Personally, I think we should just take it at face value, per most of the translation committees of the Bible. A busybody or meddler is simply that: someone who consistently sticks their nose into someone else’s business. Truth be told, this one ought to hit closer to home than anything. “Pastor, I’m not meddling; I’m counseling… I’m just getting more details for the prayer list…” Be careful! Godly, Biblical counsel is a wonderful thing – but we don’t want to cross the line from advising someone to trying to rule over someone.
__a. Keep in mind that according to the list in verse 15, being a busybody is on the same level as murder in the eyes of God. We have our own lists of “big sins” & “little sins.” Not to God. All sin is simply sin.
__b. BTW – how might we suffer for being a busybody? After all, that’s not exactly something that carries a jail sentence. We suffer in our relationships. Relationships can be broken or even permanently damaged when we go beyond that place of being a friend to trying to interfere as a ruler or as a gossip. Christian, be careful. The person whom you think hates you for your faith may just hate you for the way you treated them. If that’s you, take the time to go make it right (Matt 5:23-24).
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16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

A. Amen! The Christian who suffers consequences for his/her sin might rightly be ashamed of their actions, but the Christian who suffers persecution for his/her faith never need be ashamed! That’s exactly the opposite of what the world would have us believe… They do their best to shame Christians into denying their Lord & God’s word – “You silly ignorant fool, how could you believe such a thing?!” …

B. Historically, even the word “Christian” was a label from the pagan world meant to shame believers. Believers didn’t start out calling themselves “Christian”; it was given them by people trying to insult them as a “follower of Christ”. In more modern terms, Peter is saying, “Don’t be ashamed when someone calls you a fundamentalist Bible-thumping Jesus freak.” When people belittle you for your faith in Christ & throw insults of you, that’s nothing to be ashamed of – that’s no reason to be embarrassed.
__a. Peter was especially equipped to teach others on this point. This is exactly what happened to him when Jesus was arrested, and Peter did feel ashamed & afraid. …

C. So if the Christian is not to be ashamed, what should we do when suffering for our faith? “Glorify God.” Honor God – praise God – magnify His name, giving Him thanks for grace in the moment & for the privilege of partaking in the sufferings of Christ.. Like the early disciples who were beaten by the Jewish Council in Acts 5, you were “counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41).
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17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?

A. Judgment? What kind of judgment begins for believers? Obviously this is not judgment for sin – all of God’s judgment for our sin was placed upon Jesus Christ at the cross. Christians never come under the wrath of God because Jesus bore all our wrath – to the praise of His glory! Some scholars take this to be a reference to the Bema Seat (judgment seat) of Christ where believers will be judged for the things done while in the body – looking at our eternal reward. With respect, it seems somewhat out of place to Peter’s context here… Other scholars think this may be a reference to God’s disciplinary judgment in the Church – but Peter’s already addressed discipline in vs. 15; the trials he refers to here are the fiery trials for simply being a Christian. Contextually, this seems to be more a reference to perhaps the judgment the world places upon the Church – the trials of persecution Christians endure in this life. This time of judgment has come upon believers (and has been continuing since the beginning of the Church), but it won’t always be so. God will pour out His wrath on those who persecuted His people – both in the Great Tribulation, and in eternity.
__a. Beyond the idea of persecution, this is an idea that the Church ought to remember with our own behavior. Before we judge others (sometimes hypocritically), we need to remember that judgment begins with the house of God. It’s tough for us to stand up against sexual sin in the world when Christian homes are racked with it. …

B. Whatever happens with the Church, it does not mean that the world escapes judgment. Quite the contrary! If God’s own beloved people are to endure some form of judgment now, how much more the world later?
__a. Notice how the unbelieving world is defined here: “those who do not obey the gospel of God.” … Have you obeyed the gospel? Have you heeded it’s call?
__b. Question: why does Peter make this point so clear about judgment for unbelievers, when he’s writing to believers? (1) Perhaps to give the church comfort for what they are enduring. (2) As a reminder that those who persecute the church now will face a terrible eternity that we wouldn’t wish upon even our worst enemies. It’s no wonder that both Jesus & Stephen prayed that God would forgive the people who were killing them – the people didn’t truly know what they were doing. [] Whenever you pray for the persecuted church (or even yourself as you go through it), do not forget to pray for those who are doing the persecuting! They need to hear, receive, and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ… They are also men & women who are under the wrath of God & need the forgiveness & grace the Lord Jesus offers…
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18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

A. OT quote: Proverbs 11:31 (LXX)…the Hebrew translates directly into English a bit differently. Proverbs 11:31 If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth, How much more the ungodly and the sinner. [] For the writer of the Proverbs, the idea is that we can be assured that we will experience the consequences of our actions. If we act righteously, we’ll see a righteous reward (in our families, relationships, etc) – if we act in sin, we’ll see the results & consequences of that sin. Goes back to the idea that we reap what we sow…

B. For Peter, the translation he used ties it directly in with the judgment of God. Those who are made righteous by Christ are “scarcely saved” from the righteous wrath of our holy God. This doesn’t mean that Jesus’ sacrifice was barely enough to squeeze us through the door; it simply means that we have zero hope of salvation without Him. If you’re a Christian, it’s not because Jesus added to the vast number of your good deeds that had already impressed God – it’s because you had NO good deeds outside of Jesus, and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross & resurrection are the ONLY reason God saved you at all! …

C. Again, Peter ties this in with the thought of vs. 17. If this is the case for the ones counted righteous (i.e. who have been given the righteousness of Christ), what’s the case for those who die outside of Christ, denying Him? If we have no hope for salvation outside of Jesus, certainly they have no hope at all!
__a. If that’s you, it doesn’t have to stay that way. You CAN have hope of forgiveness & eternal life in the presence of God. But you must humble yourself before the Lord Jesus Christ, turn away from your sins & trust Jesus as your personal Lord & Savior…
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19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

A. Great summary statement…goes straight to the heart of what Peter’s been trying to get across through the whole letter.

B. “Suffer according to the will of God” – two thoughts here…first: Don’t suffer for sin. Just like in vs. 16, if Christians suffer because of the consequences of their sin, then we ought to expect to just buck up & take our medicine. It is for those who are suffering unjustly or being persecuted that Peter is giving all this encouragement. Those suffering for doing the will of God need to continue to trust God.

C. Second thought: If you are suffering, it’s not because God has suddenly stepped off the throne. God is sovereign, no matter what the circumstance. One of the toughest truths for us to grapple with is why God allows suffering to take place. “Where was God on 9/11? Why did God let this child be orphaned? Why did God allow so many to die in Haiti?” It’d be foolish to try to claim that we could answer all the questions in this life… There are some things that we might never understand until we see our Savior face-to-face in glory. But that said, there are several things we CAN be absolutely assured of:
__a. Things won’t always be this way. There will come a day when suffering & death will be no more. Every born-again believer in Jesus Christ has a true & glorious hope of being with our Savior in heaven, when we will never have to worry about death ever again. Death has no more sting & no more victory!
__b. Beyond the hope of the future, we have a hope for the present. Our Lord Jesus has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. He is right here in the midst of the suffering with us. We do not walk through these times alone – even in the worst tragedies. As Peter has affirmed over & over again, we have a Savior who has suffered as well.
__c. More to the point of vs. 19, we can be assured that God is absolutely sovereign. Whatever it is we are walking through, God is by no means surprised by our circumstances. The very fact we are walking through it means that God has either directly willed it to happen, or that He has permissively allowed it to happen (via Job). Either way, it is “according to the will of God.”

D. If we’re suffering according to the will of God, what does that tell us? Simple: it means we can trust God. Don’t miss this point or gloss over it – if you do, you’ve missed the whole point of the passage! If you’re suffering according to the will of God, then you can know you are in the hands of God – and thus have the freedom & joy to “commit” your soul & circumstances to Him. Understand that it’s in our times of sufferings that we most feel like life is completely out of control. When we’re watching our loved one die in hospice – when our family members have rejected us because of our faith – when Christians in history (and even today) are literally set on fire & burned at the stake at the hands of a wild mob, it most feels like our life is in the midst of a tornado, and there’s no possible hope of any stability. Christian, hear me clearly: God is in control. God is completely in control. We may have a difficult time seeing how He is, but we can know without a shadow of doubt that the Father God who loves you & adopted you as His own child through Jesus Christ is 100% in control. So trust Him. [As a child, it didn’t matter how lost I might have felt in the car as long as Dad was driving… Our Heavenly Father is behind the wheel.]
__a. “commit” – the Greek word is actually a banking term, referring to a deposit for safekeeping. If you can entrust your paycheck to a drive-through teller that you’ve never actually met before, how much more can we entrust our lives to our loving Heavenly Father?
__b. We can commit our souls to God because He is our “faithful Creator.” The One who created the universe by His word can surely oversee our circumstances. And we can trust that He will do good with whatever He allows us to walk through. One of the most glorious promises for every believer in Jesus Christ on this point is Romans 8:28. Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. [] How can we be assured that ALL things will work together for good? Because our God is the Creator God. Nothing’s too hard for Him. How do we know it’ll be true with us? Because we are the ones God has called to Himself for His glory. God is OUR God. [] Christian, your life is in the hands of the God who loves you more than you can possibly comprehend. Trust Him.

Conclusion:
For Peter, the question of whether or not suffering & persecution would come is not even a question; it’s an assumption. Of course it’ll come – the question is: would the Church be ready for it when it arrived? … What about you? Are you ready? Some of you in this room (or listening later) have begun suffering through a trial that you never imagined you would face. Some of you have just come through such a time. Others have experienced a taste of persecution & it left you shaken. What Peter would say to you is the same thing he said (via the Holy Spirit) to the early church:

A. Suffering isn’t a surprise or a punishment. Don’t be amazed that it would come; expect it. It doesn’t mean God loves you; it’s actually a confirmation that you’re walking steadfastly with Christ Jesus.

B. Suffering brings glory & blessing. In ways that we can hardly imagine, those who suffer persecution for their faith in Christ experience the filling of the Holy Spirit. We need never worry whether or not we could “handle” it – God will equip us with what is needed at the time it’s most needed. Have faith in God.

C. Suffering isn’t in shame when it’s in righteousness. The world will bring derision & insults. Let them. The gospel is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s the power of God unto salvation for those who believe!

D. Suffering (along with our souls) can be entrusted to God. If there ANYONE in the entire universe that can be trusted, it’s GOD! He’s our Heavenly Father, and we can trust Him to always do what is right – to always do what will bring Him glory – to always be working what is good.

Do you trust Him?

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