Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | February 12, 2012
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1Pe 4:12-19)
We’ve been studying First Peter, looking at what it means to suffer persecution for our faith in Christ and how we should live as aliens and strangers in the world. We’ve been trying to answer questions such as Why do we suffer? How should we respond? What is God’s purpose in suffering? So far, we’ve found at least ten purposes God has in mind when he allows us to suffer for our faith.
- To prove our faith genuine and to purify our faith. (1 Peter 1:7) These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold– though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.
- To bring us glory and honor at Christ’s return. (1 Peter 1:7) So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
- To lead unbelievers to Christ. (1 Peter 2:12) Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.
- To silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. (1 Peter 2:15) It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you.
- To please God. 1 Peter 2:20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.
- To follow Christ’s example. (1 Peter 2:21) For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.
- To win our unbelieving husbands (or wives) to Christ. (1 Peter 3:1-2) In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.
- To receive God’s blessing. (1 Peter 3:14) But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.
- To shame unbelievers who slander us. (1 Peter 3:16) But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.
- To enable us to live a more obedient life. (1 Peter 4:1-2) So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.
Today, we’ll add a few more purposes to the list. This passage revisits several of the purposes we just listed, but adds a few more. This passage identifies six ways God uses persecution in the life of the Christian.
- To test our faith – to prove it is genuine and purify it
- To deepen our union with Christ
- To increase our joy at Christ’s return
- To give us a foretaste of God’s presence
- To glorify God
- To increase our trust in God
This passage feels as if the letter is coming to a close. Peter sets us straight – if we’ve been wondering – about several things. If he has beaten around the bush earlier, now he tells us in plain language three things:
- suffering for our faith is normal, that we should expect it,
- suffering for our faith has a purpose – in fact, a number of purposes
- and finally, suffering for our faith is God’s will.
Let’s look first at how
Suffering for our faith is normal
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
We’ve been saying this all along. Scripture teaches that since Jesus suffered for his faith, we, his disciples, his brothers and sisters in the faith, may experience suffering as well. The slave is not greater than the master.
If we have not experienced it yet, we should be prepared that persecution for our faith is a distinct possibility. Not a necessity, but at least a possibility. We should be prepared that it might happen to us, and we should know what to do when it happens. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
In high school in BG, my driving instructor taught me how to correct a skid while driving in the snow… When we came into the parking lot, he told me to slam on the brakes and turn into the skid. I thought to myself, “cool,” and did what he said. I learned very quickly what worked and what didn’t work.
Yesterday, I taught Beth how to drive in the snow so she could be prepared for the possibility of going into a slide in slippery conditions. I had already told her what I consider to be the three most important things about driving in the snow – drive more slowly, leave more room between you and the car in front of you, and turn into the skid. But it’s a different story when you actually have to do it, so we went to a mostly empty parking lot where there was some snow and some exposed pavement so she could practice driving in slippery conditions. She did great and learned very quickly and like me, had a little fun doing it.
The point is – Don’t be surprised when you go into a skid on a slippery road, it happens, it is a distinct possibility, this is not something strange, be prepared. Similarly, we should be prepared for the distinct possibility of suffering for our faith. It is not something strange. We should not be surprised when it happens.
Suffering for our faith has a purpose. Six of them in this passage. The first is
- To prove our faith is genuine and to purify our faith
12 …do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
It is a fiery test. We saw this earlier in 1 Peter 1:7 (NLT) These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold…
How many of you have a chemistry set at home or had a chemistry set when you were younger?
Testing and purifying gold is not something you can do at home, at least not the last step. Listen to the process. Chris Sherwood writes,
How to Purify Gold
By Chris Sherwood, eHow Contributor]
Before gold is sold on the market, it has to go through a purification process. This process is quite complex and dangerous. It needs to be done under the right circumstances and with the utmost care in safety precautions. It is not recommended to try this process unless you have experience working with harmful chemicals.
- Prepare your beakers. Place your gold ore into one of the beakers… In your second beaker, mix three parts hydrochloric acid to one part nitric acid….
- Mix your acid beaker with your ore beaker and simmer. … simmer the mixture on a hot plate until all of the nitric acid has been boiled off….
- Filter the solution. Use a strainer to filter off any of the solid that may be left from the boiling process.
- Check for silver. Before you can extract the gold, you must first extract any silver that may be present in the ore…use a coffee filter to strain out the liquid from the silver particles….
- Check for gold. Put the remaining acid mixture back into a beaker. ..add sodium sulfite to the mixture. This will cause the gold to go to the bottom of the beaker… Filter the solution again
- Heat the gold. Now that you have your separated gold… Cover the gold and the filter with borax and place it in a furnace that is capable of reaching temperatures of 2,000 degrees F until the gold is smooth. Pour into a mold and let it cool.
In this process – by applying chemicals, filtering and heating – with serious heat! – the chemist tests to see whether there is any gold at all, and if he found gold, he removed the impurities.
Similarly, the fiery trials we endure through persecution test us to see if we have faith at all, and if we have faith, it purifies our faith.
Some trials come to test people to see if their faith is genuine. In Jesus’ parable of the sower, or the parable of the seeds, Jesus taught that persecution sometimes demonstrates that a person does not have saving faith. Jesus explained to his disciples, Matthew 13:20-21 (NLT) The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.
Other trials come to purify or refine our faith. This is what he is getting at in verses 17 and 18
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
God’s testing of Christians through persecution is found also in an OT tradition based on a number of passages in which the end times judgment of all humanity begins now with the household of God as illustrated in Mal 3 as we read earlier and in other passages. (Jer. 25:29; Ezek. 9:5-6; Amos 3:2; Zech. 13:9)
Mal 3:1-5 (NLT)…the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple…. For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD.
Zechariah 13:9 (NLT) I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'”
To reiterate this point he quotes Proverbs 11:31 in verse 18.
And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
The point is that if believers are judged through God’s refining fires of persecution, how much worse will be the judgment for those who disobey.
The second and third purpose for persecution found in this passage is
- To deepen our union with Christ
- To increase our joy at his return
13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings… that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Suffering for our faith is a participation or fellowship in Christ’s suffering, – rejoice in it now so that you can rejoice even more when you participate in his glory
Paul… “the fellowship of his sufferings…”
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phi 3:7-11 NAS)
A fourth purpose is
- To give us a foretaste of God’s presence
14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
Since suffering is accompanied by the presence of the Spirit, rejoice that you have received a foretaste of your future reward.
Matthew 5:10-12 (NAS) 10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
A fifth purpose is
- To glorify God
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
We should be ashamed if we suffer for doing wrong, but we should not be ashamed for doing good because it glorifies God.
Jesus “despised” the shame of the cross. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NAS) for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising (disregarding) the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
He disregarded it. His enemies’ and God’s values were completely opposite.
- To increase our trust in God
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
We should entrust ourselves to God as we continue to do good, since he will not allow us to suffer beyond what we can bear.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
THE EXAMPLE OF BETHANY HAMILTON
That word for “commit” is actually a banking term. It means to deposit something for safekeeping. Well, that’s what we’re to do with our lives when we go through times of suffering. Deposit your life in God’s bank (so to speak) for safe-keeping. Trust Him to preserve you in the fire. Give yourself to the Lord by continuing to do good.
That’s what Bethany Hamilton did. At one time, Bethany was ranked as the #1 amateur teen surfer in Hawaii. Then she lost an arm to a tiger shark in October 2003, but she never lost her faith.
Soon after the attack, she began to raise money to restore a man’s eyesight. While visiting New York City, she gave her ski coat to homeless girl. When asked about the gift, she said she had more than she needed in life.
At the time, Steve Thompson, her pastor, said, “She’s looking forward to the future. She’s asking herself, ‘How can I show the world I still have a life, that I enjoy my life, and that my life is filled with joy?’ She has an underlying trust that God is taking care of her.”
(Jill Lieber, “Teen Surfer Riding Wave of Amazing Grace,” USA Today, 3-19-04; http://www.PreachingToday.com)
Bethany Hamilton entrusted herself to her faithful Creator. She didn’t quit living when she lost her arm. No! She gave her life to God. She deposited her life for safekeeping into His hands; and now, God has given her an international platform from which to share her story and bring Him glory. Bethany Hamilton returned to surfing; and just over a year after the shark attack, she took 1st place in the Explorer Women’s division of the 2005 NSSA National Championships — winning her first National Title. Since then, she has turned pro, and a major motion picture about her life was just released this last April (2011). It’s called Soul Surfer, and God is using it to bring hope to people all over the world. (www.BethanyHamilton.com)
(From a sermon by C. Philip Green, In the Fire! 7/30/2011)
Click here for the series of twenty-three sermons on the entire book of 1 Peter.