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The Struggle is Real: Week 5 - Hope from the Struggle

The Struggle is Real  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  33:50
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This might be hard to believe

Stories that are hard to believe...
Illinois Kidnapper…his own account
Topeka Kansas store “Clerk”…worked for 3 hrs
“Innocent” Suspect…didn’t say that
New boat…and trailer
......Wandering Shepherd (Dr. Randall D. Smith)
These are hard to believe…and they are funny. But what I want to tell you about might also be hard to believe, but it’s true…but it’s not as funny.
Last week we talked about how God wants to turn our struggles into a platform that he can use us to reach out people getting swept up in similar struggles.
You might say, why would God do that? If God can do anything, why wouldn’t he just get me out of my struggle? It doesn’t make sense.
But I believe it’s one of those things that sounds strange, but it’s still true.
God wants us to entrust our suffering to him that he might use it for our good and the good of others.
Many of you might say, I do. “I pray all the time when times are hard, I trust him to see me through.”
If I were to be honest though, would our prayer be more about us trust Him or just complaining?
Do we see ourselves as pawns of God…merely used and manipulated for his entertainment? or am I one of his beloved children who he has a great purpose?
Do we see our pain as something God has allowed into our lives because he is vengeful? Or is there something in it for a bigger purpose?
How do you understand pain and suffering and God's role in it? Many of us say things like…
God will always give you a way out.
God will never give me more than I can handle.
God will heal you if you just believe.
God will always protect his children.
I don’t think any of these are true. They sound good, but they are not the truth. The truth is, God has a plan for us to live beyond our circumstances, not one day in eternity…but right now, today, including in the midst of pain and suffering, our struggles.
So the question we must ask is, instead of looking to escape the struggle,

How do we trust our struggle to God?

To accept that struggle has a bigger purpose in our lives than pain and difficulty.
What is God’s desire for suffering in our lives? Why does God let it happen? Well if you look in Scripture, you will find a lot of verses that explain God’s purpose for our life. One of those is 2 Cor 3:18.
2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV84
18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

God’s purpose for our lives, to become like Christ.

If that is the goal of our lives, to be restored into a relationship with God our father who can then transform us or conform us into Christlike-ness, then God can use anything and everything he wills for that purpose. He doesn't’ waste anything....not even our hurts.
I believe that since God’s ways are holy, and just, God would use the best way to produce this holiness in us.
So you see, I believe God teaches us in scripture that suffering can produce real transformation in our lives as we trust our suffering to God. But how do we do that?
That’s what Peter was writing to explain here in this letter.
That’s what Peter’s letter to the church is all about. He’s been talking about it all this time, but now he begins to get very specific.
1 Peter 4:1 NLT
1 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.
The passage starts “so then”, it’s one of those phrases that points back to something earlier in the text. I’ve told you before whenever a passage starts with this sort of phrase, it’s important to go back and see what the writer is point back to. We don’t have to go back very far to find out what Peter is talking about here.
Jesus lived a sinless life, yet died a sinners death…for us. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the power of God’s spirit. And now, Jesus is now in heaven seated in a place of honor with God, in authority of all powers and spiritual forces. That’s where Jesus is today.
Jesus is victorious!
NOW, arm yourselves with the same attitude, and be ready to suffer. Because you know that your suffering in this life will be rewarded in the next.
God’s desire for us begins with us having the same attitude of Christ.
Philippians 2:5–8 NIV84
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Obedience and servanthood. Two things that Jesus modeled for us to center our lives on Peter uses to point out that they will be the open front door to suffering in our lives, to struggling.
This might be too hard for some of us to believe.
Best things for our kids
…we can’t imagine that God would command us to do things that would lead to trouble in our lives.
Why not? If God can use anything to transform us…wouldn’t he use the best thing? The most effective thing?
Perhaps obedience and servanthood are the best teachers.
First, Obedience opens the door to suffering in our lives

1 Peter 4:2-6

1 Peter 4:2–5 NIV84
2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

Obedience opens the door to struggles

Early Christians were ostracized for their obedience. They didn’t seek to blend in…they understood God’s call for them to be holy, yet in their holiness, not to shrink back from society. Not to hide from the pressures of their peers.
Second, we are called to serve. Serving opens the door to suffering as well.

1 Peter 4:7-11

1 Peter 4:7–9 NIV84
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Serving opens the door to struggles

When we serve others it changes us…that’s why Jesus modeled it for us, because he wanted to teach us to think like him.
You see when we are served, what do we learn?
I think of that commercial where the kid calls his grandmom in the other room and asks for another grape soda. The kid isn’t learning anything by his grandmothers service. It’s when the child serves that his thinking changes…of course the commercial doesn’t show that part though.
Serving changes the one serving…not the one being served.

The Change

Romans 8:28–29 NIV84
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Not to avoid struggles....but to cling to Jesus in the midst of them.
Not to be delivered from, but to experience Christ in them.
Christlikeness is about accepting and taking responsibility for the things that GOd allows into our lives.
5 things this change in attitude, change in perspective brings about in our life. 5 ways you can apply this change in perspective to the struggles in your life.
1 Peter 4:12 NIV84
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.

1. Expect Struggles.

:12 Don’t be surprised. In fact when struggles come, you should know you are on the right track. In fact if everything is going well....you may need to really focus.
ILLUSTRATION: Budget meeting…things are healthy, but that should tell us to get ready to move.
1 Peter 4:13–14 LEB
13 But to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, rejoice, so that also at the revelation of his glory you may rejoice and be glad. 14 If you are reviled on account of the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

2. Rejoice in Struggling.

:13 Suffering allows us to share in the life of Christ that leads to a future glory with Christ
While not a pleasing experience, we know that our best comes out in hard times. Think about the times in your life when everything was going right? What was special? Now think about the times in life when things were tough. What was special?
What we discover is God is there…we weren't alone. Our friend showed up just when we needed them…a new job, a new passion, you were rescued...
At the end of us, we experience the strength of God.
Paul bragging about his weaknesses because it was there that God revealed his power.
Can do all things through Christ who gives strength.
1 Peter 4:15 NIV84
15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.

3. Examine yourself in struggling.

1 Peter 4:16 NIV84
16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

4. Glorify God in struggling.

You aren’t weak…you are strong. You have the strength of God.
1 Peter 4:19 NLT
19 So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

5. Trust God and keep on doing good.

What does it mean to entrust our suffering to God?
Let God do God’s job, and we do ours.
It means leaving our problems with him and not just complain about them to God?
It means living our lives, in difficult circumstances, trusting that he will use our suffering to bring about the best result, through the best means, for the most people.

Hope from the struggle

The struggle is real...Imagine if we approached our struggles in this way.
Some of you do, and your life is inspiring. That's why people tell you that. IF you haven’t heard that in a while, perhaps you like many of us are looking to avoid struggles rather than experience the fullness of Christ in them.
My prayer is that we would become a people who seek to be near to Jesus first, is that yours?
Has God revealed to you the purpose for suffering in your life? Would you like to respond today?
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