(A Chosen People – Sermon in I Peter)
Westgate Chapel 8/29/04 I Peter 4:12-19
PROPOSITION: In the face of painful trials the follower of Christ is called to rejoice, because of the coming glory, praise God, because you bear His Name, and trust God and do good, because of coming judgment.
- PETER, the disciple of Jesus Christ, picks up his pen from prison in Rome, around 67 AD, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit begins to write a letter to Christians in tiny little churches on outskirts of the Roman Empire.
- ALL around him he has seen the signs of coming persecution against Christians.
- THE persecution was not widespread in the Empire yet, but isolated reports were coming in of believers laying down their lives for their faith.
- NERO had come to power in Rome, and the open immorality and social decay of the empire was a sure sign that some sort of a showdown was inevitable between darkness and light.
- JUST eighteen months after writing these epistles to the churches of Jesus in Asia Minor, Peter was one of the first to be hung on a cross for his faith in Rome by Emperor Nero.
- NERO made history by frequently tying Christians to stakes around his palace gardens, covering them with tar and setting them on fire to light the palace festivities.
- WITH the signs of this coming crisis all around, the apostle Peter writes to these Jewish and Gentile believers many of whom…
* …have made huge sacrifices to follow Christ
* …are separated from their families
* …have lost their popularity in the community
* …are very much in the minority
* …are unsettled about the future
* …are frightened about what’s next
- AND Peter senses in the Spirit that worse is on the way, so he writes to them in I Peter 4:12 (page 1203),
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering…”
- AND what follows in the next 8 verses is the instruction of the Holy Spirit for how followers of Christ, living in the present reality of the Kingdom of God, respond to painful trials.
- YOU have several options, you know….
* You can run from them, doing whatever it takes to avoid going through them.
* You can disclaim them as having any place in the life of a Christian.
* You can retaliate.
* You can live in resentment.
* You can isolate and become bitter.
* You can live in perpetual discouragement.
* You can even turn your back on your faith.
- SO let’s follow the apostle Peter as he instructs us in the Spirit on how to deal with painful trials.
ii. rejoice…because of coming glory
- LET’S go back to verse 12,
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you.”
- THE Greek word translated “painful” in the NIV literally means “burning”... “burning trial.”
- IT is the same word used for the fire that refines metals, burning out the impurities and leaving behind the pure ore.
- WHEN that trial by fire comes to your life to burn off the slag and leave behind pure gold…
* Don’t be surprised…as if you never expected this out of the Christian life.
* Don’t think it is strange…as if you were the only one going through the fire.
- WHY should we not be surprised, and why should we not think it strange when we go through trials?
- THE New Testament teaches us three things about these trials.
1. THEY ARE INEVITABLE FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN
- IN John 16:33 Jesus tells His disciples that trials are part of the deal,
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world…”
- JESUS went through trials.
- IN John 7:7 Jesus said,
“…the world hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.”
- AND the religious leaders of His day put Him to death.
- JESUS’ disciples went through trials. He had told them in Mark 13:13,
“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
- ALL but one disciple died a martyrs death….and the one they didn’t kill they sent to a desolate island (John).
- THE early church went through trials.
- IN I Thessalonians 3:2-3, Paul writes to the church,
“We sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, (3) so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.”
- TRAILS by fire are inevitable!
2. TRIALS PUT YOU IN THE COMPANY OF JESUS
- LOOK at I Peter 4:13. Don’t be surprised at the trial…
“But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ…”
- REJOICE because the trials put you in company with Jesus. They are proof that you are in His family.
- PAUL writes, in Romans 8:17,
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
3. TRIALS BY FIRE ARE A TEST, WHICH IS A GOOD THING TO HAVE BEFORE THE FINAL EXAM
- JAMES 1:12 says,
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test…he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised those who love Him.”
- TRIALS are a test to see if you are willing to go through stuff for what you say you believe….in other words to see what you really believe about God.
- REMEMBER trials are the burning furnace that purifies the metal.
- BUT they are also a proof that God is treating you like a son or a daughter…that He disciplines only the ones He loves (Hebrews 12).
- NO wonder then that Peter and James and other apostles tell us to rejoice at the trials that come our way! That is because their purpose is to remove impurities and leave behind the true character of Christ….so that we will receive the crown of life.
- THOSE who resist or reject God’s purifying work will not see His glory.
- THERE will be many on that day that will say, “Lord, Lord! I was a Christian. I attended First Baptist, or Westgate Chapel, even taught Sunday School.” But He will say, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:22)
- THE trials must be allowed to work their burning in our lives.
- JESUS says,
“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)
- SO, we rejoice in the painful trial, because we will share in His glory.
iii. praise god…because you bear that name
- NEXT, Peter says that we need to praise God if the trial is the result of holding high the Name of Jesus Christ…and he gives us two reasons.
1. IT SHOWS THAT THE GLORY OF GOD RESTS ON YOU
- LOOK with me at I Peter 4:14,
“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
- THE word for glory is the same word the Hebrews used in the Old Testament for the cloud of God’s manifest presence that appeared to them from time to time….sometimes a pillar of fire, sometimes a cloud over Mount Sinai or the Holy of Holies.
- IT is a visible shining of Christ’s radiance through the believer.
- THERE is a special grace, a special anointing of God’s presence on you when you are going through persecution for the Name of Christ.
- YOU see it on the face of Stephen in Acts 6:15 right before he was stoned to death for his faith. It says,
“All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”
2. THERE IS NO SHAME IN GOING THROUGH THE TRIAL
- LOOK at I Peter 4:15,
“If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.”
- THIS verse excludes the trials that you and I bring on ourselves.
- THAT doesn’t mean that God cannot redeem those kinds of trials also…but those are not what Peter is referring to in this passage.
- MURDER and stealing are self-evident.
- BUT the word “meddler” is an interesting word.
- A LITERAL translation for meddler from the Greek is “an inspector of someone else’s business.”
- IT can mean…
* Coveting someone else’s life or business.
* Interfering in someone else’s business.
- BUT assuming that you did not bring your present trial on yourself, and that it is in large part because of your commitment to serve the Lord, Peter writes in verse 16,
“…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
iv. TRUST GOD and do good…because of coming judgment
- YOU rejoice in the trial…because you are living for the coming glory of God that awaits all those who overcome in Christ.
- YOU praise God for the trial…because in your suffering you are bearing His Name.
- AND finally, you “trust God and do good in spite of your trials….because of the coming judgment.
- READ with me from I Peter 4:16-19 (pg. 1203),
“For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (18) And, ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’ (19) So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”
- WHY do the fiery trials begin with the family of God?
* God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).
* He paid a high price for His bride and He will have her radiant and without spot, wrinkle or blemish (Ephesians 5:27).
- AND so if this is what God’s family goes through, what will be the outcome of those who do not obey the Gospel?
- AND the very thought of it is so dreadful that Peter leaves the question unanswered.
- HE asks the same question in a slightly different way in verse 18.
- AND then he concludes the subject of fiery trials by saying,
“So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (verse 19)
- IN other words, do not slip out to the sidelines and disengage from family, from friends, from the work of the Kingdom…even though everything inside of you is screaming at you to do just that.
- LET me quickly go over Peter’s three main points in this passage on how the Christian is to handle burning trials.
1. Rejoice in the trial…because you are living for the coming glory of God that awaits all those who overcome in Christ.
2. Praise God in the trial…because in your suffering you are bearing His Name.
3 And finally, “trust God and do good in spite of your trials….because of the coming judgment.
HOLD TO HIS HAND