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Suffering With Jesus 1st Peter 4:12-19

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Suffering With Jesus

Suffering is part of the Christian Life. It is not the advertised part of the Christian life, but it is still part of being a follower of Jesus. You are going to suffer as a follower of Jesus.
Last week we saw that in the church we were to love each other and be known by our love for each other. We are to build relationships and care for each other. Peter follows up that paragraph with the paragraph we are working through this week dealing with suffering. Peter has talked about suffering consistently throughout this letter.
So, let’s dig into the text this morning and see what God is teaching us through the pen of Peter.
(ESV)
1 Peter 4:12 ESV
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.
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.
Peter begins the paragraph with the word “Beloved” as he has several other paragraphs in the letter. This word not only talks about Peter loving the people he is writing to but it also has within it the idea that he values them as one would value a prize. These people were very important to Peter and to his ministry. Remember, we believe that the people he is writing to are people in the churches that were started by those Jews who were in Jerusalem on Pentecost when the church began and 3000 were saved. They had to hold a special place in Peter’s heart. They were as prized possession to him.
Peter then tells his readers to not be surprised at the fiery trials when it gets them. The word surprised is one of those cases where the word in Greek has a much fuller and deeper meaning than our English translation. Peter was not just talking about being surprised but being astonished and bewildered. There is also the sense in this word that after being bewildered for awhile they became bitter and resentful. So, Peter is telling his readers to no get bitter at the suffering that they will go through as followers of Jesus. We should also understand from the text here that Peter had warned them about the coming suffering. They should not be surprised because they had been warned.
You know, I understand people who have been sold a false bill of goods concerning being a Christian would get bitter. Of course, I am talking about those who are enticed into following Jesus by the teaching that everything will be unicorns and rainbows if they commit to Jesus. So much of the evangelistic effort today is in telling people that everything will be just fine when they follow Jesus. All their pain and sorrow and all their trouble will be gone. If you use that in your evangelistic efforts STOP! It is bad theology and simply not factual. But there are a lot of people in churches that have bought that lie and then when trouble comes, I understand how they could be bitter and even bewildered. They have bought into a lie, and it has come back to bite them.
Notice what Peter says here in verse 12. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you.” Notice that Peter says “when” not “if,” the fiery trials comes. There is no doubt that fiery trials will come. Look at the end of the verse. Peter does not want them surprised at the trials that come like they were the only ones going through these things. Here me on this. If you are a follower of Jesus you will be tested and you will go through ordeals and you will suffer. Not all the time and pray not even most of the time. But Peter wanted to make sure that his readers knew they were not the only ones going through it.
Fiery trials have the idea of testing or refining by fire. In the original Greek, the word trial is not there, it is simply one word Fiery. Peter is suggesting that his readers should not be surprised by the painful trials that come their way.
As I was studying this passage I came across one commentator that dove a little deeper into Peter’s use of the word we have translated as Fiery trial. Peter is writing this right around the time that Nero burned Rome and blamed it on the Christians. Think about that for a moment. If in fact Peter is writing after Rome burned and Christians were blamed, it would make sense that Peter speaks of fiery. As we know from History Nero was ruthless and evil in his dealing with the early church. He executed many by feeding them to lions and using their bodies as torches etc. Nero’s wrath on Christians was not warranted, they had not done anything to provoke him other than believe and follow Jesus rather than Nero. So it makes sense that Peter uses the picture of fire.
Peter makes sure that his readers understand that the fiery trials that come their way are there to test them. They are there for a reason these are not just random acts of violence or God enjoying pushing pins in us as though we are voodoo dolls. God brings things our way to refine us, mold us, and build us.
In contrast to being surprised by the trials peter tells us in verse 13 that we should rejoice.
(ESV)
1 Peter 4:13 ESV
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Don’t be surprised and don’t think you are the only one going through stuff but rejoice because you share in Jesus Suffering. At first, I was not sure how to understand this verse. I think what Peter is telling his readers and us is that we should rejoice in the reality that we participate with Jesus in Jesus’ suffering. We suffer because we are followers of Jesus so when we suffer we prove to Satan we are followers of Jesus. The fact that we suffer this way proves to us and Satan that we are legitimate followers of Jesus. We should rejoice in being counted with Jesus.
I don’t think Peter is saying that we should be happy that we suffer, I don’t think that is what he is saying at all. That is just kind of weird. We are not happy, or we do not rejoice in the suffering but in the fact that the suffering demonstrates that we are with Jesus.
When we suffer for Christ we demonstrate to the world that we are followers of Jesus, well, that is when we respond properly. When we are not surprised and when we rejoice in being counted with Jesus, we demonstrate to the world we are followers of Jesus.
But then when the suffering and the potential for suffering is all over, when Jesus returns our suffering is turned to gladness and we rejoice in how God has molded us and refined us.
(ESV)
1 Peter 4:14 ESV
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
The trials also include being insulted for claiming the name of Jesus. We talked about Emperor Nero a little bit ago and all he did against the church. Most of those he executed only had to renounce the name of Jesus and they would have been spared. So, when Peter talks about being insulted for the name of Jesus it was a big deal to his initial readers. Claiming the name of Jesus often lead to death and often led to separation from your family and even from your work. Being a follower of Jesus was illegal at the time and you, in many ways, became an enemy of the state when you claimed the name of Jesus. You were saying that Jesus is my Lord, my king, my emperor. It would be the same as being an overt Christian in Saudi Arabia, or Iran or many other Muslim countries today.
We need to understand that the word insulted here is bigger and deeper that just insulted. It really should be translated as slandered or even abused. That is exactly what was happening to the early church at the hands of both the Roman government and the Jews in Israel.
Peter reminds the people that being slandered and abused like they were stands as proof that they are God’s elect and have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
You see the Holy Spirit give you strength and power to be able to take the abuse and slander. The fact that you can take the abuse and lander reveals that you have the power of the Holy Spirit to get through it.
Peter then turns it around again that suffering for Jesus is way better than going through the same suffering because of your own sins.
(ESV)
1 Peter 4:15 ESV
But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.
There is a sense in this verse that Peter is telling his readers that they should not rejoice in suffering that comes as a result of their sins. That would be wrong. We should not look for strength to bear up under the suffering that comes from our own sinful behavior. God will not give you that kind of strength. If you commit murder and go to prison for it, your suffering does not demonstrate you are a follower of Jesus. You have violated the societal norms and now pay the price.
Peter also mentions the meddler or the Christian that stick their noses into other people’s business and situations where they disrupt the lives of others.
It is almost as if Peter adds verse 15 as a parenthetical thought. He is talking about the suffering we go through because we are followers of Jesus and how we are to rejoice in the fact that we are suffering for Jesus, but we should not be rejoicing when we suffer because of our own sin.
(ESV)
1 Peter 4:16 ESV
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
Peter goes back to our suffering as followers of Jesus and reminds us that we should not be ashamed of suffering for Jesus. By the way, here is a little factoid I am not going to charge you extra for, this verse is one of three verses in the new Testament where the word “Christian” is used.
It was common in the Greco-Roman world to believe that any suffering you go through is the result of your own sins and because of that you do not want others to see you suffering. You would be ashamed of suffering because it pointed to your own sinfulness, or that you had somehow angered the gods. So, Peter reminds his readers that they should not be ashamed for suffering for Jesus. It does not point to their own failure but really points to the truth that they are counted with Jesus. We are to praise God and glorify Him in our suffering. It points to His success not our failure. Praise God for how He molds you and shapes you. The things He takes you through.
(ESV)
1 Peter 4:17–18 ESV
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? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
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?”
These two verse more relate to the entire paragraph than they do to verse 16. For the follower of Jesus our suffering for our naming the name of Jesus, has a positive effect on our hearts and on our relationship with Jesus. When we suffer because we follow Jesus and we respond properly through the power of the Holy Spirit it builds you into a better person and it builds your relationship with Jesus. It also has a tendency to build your relationship with others in the church, especially others who have gone through or are going through the same thing you are have gone through. We are naturally attracted to or empathetic to others who go through the same trials. God uses that empathy in the church to build support mechanisms within the church.
I want you to think about that for a moment. You may be going through stuff right now for no other reason than to prepare you to help someone else through the same thing later. So that you can praise God and help someone else deal with the issues you have already been through. Only an all knowing, all powerful, sovereign God could plan that way. But that is exactly what God is, all powerful, all knowing and sovereign.
Suffering within the church also demonstrates to the others in the church who is truly committed to standing with and serving Jesus. How people deal with their own suffering reveals a great deal about their relationship with Jesus.
Peter quotes from in verse 18. This quote reinforces the point that unbelievers are not refined by God’s trials. Their suffering is judicial in nature, just as Peter was talking about in verse 15. Those who do not know Jesus and are not followers of Jesus we face suffering and punishment completely different than the suffering we face as followers of Jesus. Peter makes these statements in 17 and 18 to remind his readers that the unsaved receive punishment but sometimes so do followers of Jesus. Sometimes we need punishment and correction. God knows exactly what we need and when we need it.
(ESV)
1 Peter 4:19 ESV
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Peter here is advocating a personal assessment of each believer. Evaluate in your own life if you are suffering as punishment for you sins or you are suffering because you are a follower of Jesus. This assessment takes prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit and men it means listening to your wife. You may put out of your mind the sins you committed so you evaluate and thing you are suffering because you love Jesus. Your wife will help you remember you sins that maybe what is leading to your suffering. I don’t mean that in a malicious way. God has given you your wife to help you in many areas, this is one that they are really good at.
I love the principle behind very 19. Essentially, we are to self-assess and then when we have concluded we are not suffering as punishment we are to go headlong into our ministry and not worry about the suffering and just trust God to care for you. Peter uses a sideways comment to remind us that god created everything, so He can deal with our suffering and our refinement. No need to worry about it. Accept it, praise God that you are His and get your work done. Your suffering illustrates that you are God’s so let the guy that created it all care for you and do you job! How cool is that!

Conclusion

We, as followers of Jesus, are responsible to know the difference between suffering because we are followers of Jesus and punishment. We are to deal with it by recognizing that when we suffer for being followers of Jesus we prove God’s sovereignty and His care for us. We should rejoice in being called to be his children and all the blessing that will come from being a child of the King. We should accept the refinement and continue to do what god has told us to do. We should never just give up because things got a little tough or a little hot! Just put your head down and do your job and prove that Jesus saved you!
Let’s Pray!
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