1 Peter - Part 22 - 3:13-17 - 7-16-2017
You are we to fear?
You are we to fear?
Who are we to fear? Over the last few months as we have studied 1 Peter we have learned that we are to fear God. Yet it often seems in the dangerous world in which we live that there is much more to fear. But today we’re going to hear from Peter the words that were given by God through him to the church during a turbulent time in history when our brothers and sisters in Christ had more to fear than we do. And so Father as we read your word and study it now we ask for help to understand, we ask for encouragement and conviction and the leading of the Holy Spirit into the truth that we may be a people faithful and obedient to you, to your great glory. May our words, our deeds, and our thoughts be ever to your glory - these things we pray in Jesus name, Amen.
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
Peter continues his letter to the churches by encouraging them to do good regardless of the circumstances. He begins this section by reminding believers that doing the right thing is not something we should fear - even if it means we are punished for it. Peter says generally speaking that most times when you do the right thing you have nothing to fear. When we seek to do good to the glory of God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves as Christ commands, most often no harm will come to us, but that is not a guarantee. Sometimes those who hate God, hate His laws, hate His lordship, and hate His people will lash out at us, either in an effort to silence us or dissuade others from joining along side us. We have seen this before in the world we live in. We have seen mild cases of it here in America and we have seen extreme cases of it in places like North Korea, Syria, and China. Sometimes when we do the right thing, when we stand firm in the truth people will hate us and lash out at us. Jesus said this would be so in
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
Peter builds on this teaching, saying don’t be afraid of suffering for doing the right thing. Don’t be afraid of suffering for following and obeying Christ, for in the end you will be blessed. Peter says even - have no fear of them, don’t be troubled by them. What can they do? Take your money, harm your flesh - they cannot destroy your soul. Peter says don’t waste your time worrying and fretting and being afraid of created beings and their pathetic attempts to spit in the face of the Creator. You are to set aside Christ as Lord, to honor Him as holy, even if the whole world stands against you, even if you stand alone with not a single soul by your side. You worship God alone - obey Him, glorify Him, honor Him, follow Him - with every fiber of your being, with every moment of your existence, because He is due that and eternally more.
But Peter doesn’t simply leave it honor Christ personally, individually, and privately. Peter says that we should be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us. The implication is that our lives as Christians will be public, they will be seen by other people. There is this deeply unbiblical idea that has rooted itself in the American church that what we believe is a private and personal matter. That we can be silent Christians who don’t participate in culture and don’t participate in politics, but that is not so. Our public lives should declare the excellencies of our Lord and savior just as much as our private lives do. In fact our public lives should stand in such radical contrast to the lives of those far from God that they become bewildered and curious asking questions about why we have the beliefs that we do. We must stand ready to defend what we believe - that word defense, apologia, in Greek is related to speech. That means you are to be prepared to give a verbal defense, a well reasoned argument for why you believe what you believe. That’s not an option. You will be confronted, you will come in conflict with pagans and atheists of all sorts - there is no question about that. The question is, will you be prepared to do that which you have been commanded to do - to give well reasoned defense, a verbal argument for why you believe what you believe?
I can’t tell you how many Christians aren’t prepared. I encounter them all the time, people who say, “Well I just don’t feel like it’s Christ like to argue with someone.” If someone says that to me, you know what I immediately know about them? I know they have either never read the Bible, or they have read it but never bothered to try to understand it. Because let me tell you something about Jesus - Jesus stood in stark contrast to a great many leaders of His day. He had verbal conflicts with them over and over again as they poured forth lies and blasphemies, while Jesus stood firmly upon the truth. Jesus said some things that if you don’t think there’s value in verbal conflict and argumentation and strong, clear, honest words that you are going to hate. Don’t believe me, that’s ok - you don’t have to take my word for it. Go read the following passages this week and get back to me about how Christians shouldn’t argue, debate, and disagree with those unbelievers. , The entirety of Matthew chapter 23 where Jesus declares the seven woes on the pharisees, scribes, and hypocrites, and . Read those and try to tell me that verbally defending the truth is no Christian.
Some of you are very tender hearted and you think that this may hurt someones feelings - my friends Peter commands us to be gentle and respectful in our verbal defense. We are to be honest, but we aren’t disagreeing to be disagreeable and we certainly aren’t doing it with the intention of hurting anyone. We don’t wield the truth like a sledgehammer trying to crush our foes, we wield it like a sharp blade ready to cut out a life-stealing cancer. That being said, you will undoubtedly hurt feelings by being honest even if you do it with all gentleness and respect. This should not dissuade you from telling the whole truth and proclaiming the whole Gospel. I would rather unintentionally hurt someones feelings and the Holy Spirit convict them through the word proclaimed than to be silent and intentionally let them go happy and unoffended into Hell. No I’m gonna throw every roadblock in their way that I possibly can, because just like a doctor causing minor damage by cutting open the body so that he can cut out cancer, I would rather cause a minor harm by offending someone than to allow them to die unscathed.
And here’s the thing friends, you can love those you disagree deeply with. You can be kind and considerate. You can show love and concern for them. And many will see this and be thankful for your friendship and concern, but even if they don’t - even if they hate you for being honest, don’t hate them back. Still treat them with respect. Still love them in as far as you are able. Still care about their well being. And even if they continue to hate you and slander you they will be put to shame when they try to slander your good name. But even if they aren’t - continue to do good.
Peter brings us full circle in at this point, bringing us back to the idea that even if we should suffer for doing good - we do it anyway. Peter says it’s better to suffer for doing good if that should be God’s will, the for doing evil. You want to talk about a hard saying. Nobody preaches on this passage nowadays. In many church’s preachers are telling people that God wants to take away your pain and ease your suffering and dry every tear and so on. Now make no mistake - that reality is coming for those of us who believe in and follow Christ Jesus. Revelation speaks of a day when that will be so for us. But healing may never come in this life time. Relief from suffering, may never come during this life time. And we need to come to terms with this truth - that our suffering might very well be what God has planned and ordained for the accomplishment of a greater and far more marvelous good than we can ever imagine.
Charles Spurgeon the man that so many preachers myself included herald as the prince of preachers was one of the most powerful speakers, profound theologians, and pious Christian men that has ever lived, but he was a man stricken by suffering, familiar with hardship, and dragged down by depression almost constantly throughout his life.
Spurgeon had numerous health issues that plagued him throughout life including gout, rheumatism, and Bright’s disease which affects the kidneys. For over half of his ministry he was afflicted with recurring and ever increasing pain that he once said was worse than dying a slow death by cobra poison. Spurgeon was continually in emotional turmoil as long time friends begrudging his success betrayed him and turned on him. The newspapers often published hitpieces on Spurgeon that were almost always filled with harsh and biting criticism from his contemporaries and often slanderous misrepresentations and outright distortions of the truth. Writing of such spurious publications Spurgeon recorded the following in 1857, “Down on my knees have I often fallen, with the hot sweat rising from my brow under some fresh slander poured upon me; in an agony of grief my heart has been well-nigh broken.”
Spurgeon’s own congregants were often no better complaining to him when a fellow congregant, member or otherwise left because they were offended by him, his method, or his message and many times complaining when his sermon went 5 minutes over the usual scheduled time.
But perhaps no single event contributed to his depression more than the incident at the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall in 1856. Spurgeon who had only begun preaching five years prior was at that time 22 years old, but his audiences were growing exponentially. People from far and wide came to hear the preacher that spoke with power and passion, with clarity and certainty, and with what some called vulgarity as he spoke plainly for every man, woman, and child to understand the word of God. So many people wanted to hear him that the normal church space in which he preached would not hold the more than 10,000 people who assembled to hear him preach the word. So the Music Hall at the Royal Surrey Gardens was secured to accommodate the people. But many more packed into the hall than it could hold, even with its 10,000 seats and thousands more stood outside trying to press their way into the hall. It was October 19 a day that Spurgeon would never forget and the text of the sermon was to be , “The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.” It was a text he would never preach from for the rest of his days for that evening, a few minutes after six someone in crowd stood up yelling “Fire! The galleries are giving way! The place is falling!” And absolute pandemonium and chaos ensued as thousands scrambled for the exits in vain. People in fear of a fire that was not real and only a hoax trampled one another in an effort to save themselves. Spurgeon cried out for calm and peace, for the people to exit in an orderly fashion but to no avail. One eyewitness said the following, “The cries and shrieks at this period were truly terrific. . . . They pressed on, treading furiously over the dead and dying, tearing frantically at each other.” Yet Spurgeon struggled still to calm the people till he nearly lost consciousness and was rushed from the stage. When the dust had settled 7 people lay dead and 28 were seriously wounded. He was overcome by depression to such a degree that he said for a time, “Even the sight of the Bible brought from me a flood of tears and utter distraction of mind.” For the rest of his days he would be haunted by the calamity that had taken the lives of seven and injured so many. Friends would say of Spurgeon that even though he claimed to be unharmed by the event that he was forever after plagued by an internal furnace of mental suffering. Yet two weeks after this terrible tragedy Spurgeon was back in the pulpit proclaiming the goodness of God in whom is found true joy. How? How could such a man so afflicted and conflicted, so slandered and plagued by pain and suffering speak of joy in Jesus and the goodness of God?
It was because Spurgeon believed that God is truly good and that even when He allows or even wills suffering He does so with a far greater good in mind than we can imagine. Spurgeon saw that even terrible events can bring deeper faith and trust in the Creator. He once said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Oh that I would have the faith and trust in my God to kiss the wave rather than to curse it.
How often in our lives do we run from suffering and fight against the waves that rock our lives, beating at them wildly and ever in vain? What would happen if we stopped? What would happen if we kissed the wave realizing just how much it was causing is to press into and lean upon the Rock of Ages? What would happen if we learned to embrace our suffering and our hardships recognizing not only our opportunity to glorify God through them, but learn to trust in His goodness more in the midst of the suffering?
Peter says that to such is what we are called as Christians. To trust with absolute certainty that God is good all the time, and that all the time God is good. To trust in His good and perfect will.
Today my challenge to you is this - do you trust him?