May 28, 2017 Text: 1 Peter 4:16-17
Dear Friends in Christ,
Is there anyone here who doesn’t ask the question why there is suffering in our world? Why does the Christian suffer? When we see problem after problem pile on our Christian friends and loved ones or even upon us we begin to wonder what God is thinking. What is the plan?
We can tell our kids all the reasons in the world why they need a shot but it doesn’t make the pain in their face any easier. But who do they look to for comfort? Dad and mom. Comfort comes not in knowing the reason why. Comfort comes in knowing the comforter.
We have that Comforter when we suffer. He helps us to glorify His name even as we deal with the rough patches in front of us. This morning we examine . .
The text begins, “If anyone suffers as a Christian…” (v. 16a) We make this distinction. All people suffer in this fallen, sinful world. This is suffering because of our Christ connection. Our text focuses on this type.
Do we suffer because of our Christ connection? Yes, in some ways it is getting worse each day. But no, when I think of the martyrs around the world. We still have our freedom to worship and come together to hear God’s Word. We are not meeting in secret. But maybe just maybe in our school or workplace we have to downplay our Christianity. Dan Harman wrote it correctly, “So long as Jesus was misunderstood He was followed by the crowd. When they came to really understand Him, they crucified Him.” After all, why did He die on the cross? It wasn’t bad timing or a bunch of nuts with a vendetta. He died for our awful, God-hating sin.
Without the knowledge of sin there is no understanding of Jesus. Without the constant reminder we grow complacent and self-righteous. The Christian claims the Christ of Calvary, the empty tomb, and all that means.
So Peter speaks specifically to the Christians. “Let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (v. 16b) The Lord said in Matthew we are blessed when people insult and persecute and speak falsely against us because of our Christian faith.
Dr. G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “The world hates Christian people, that is, if it sees Christ in them. The measure in which the world agrees with us and says we are really a fine type of Christian…is the measure in which we are unlike Christ.” Doesn’t that disturb you? The Lord isn’t asking us to be offensive or to go out and harass people – He simply calls us to take a stand and make a commitment.
Peter tells us not to be ashamed but glorify God that we have that name. The love of the world is great and overpowering – the desire to maintain intimate friendships with the pagan so alluring – that the willingness to take the heat for Jesus causes shame. If that’s the case, then prepare yourselves for the next thought from the Apostle.
“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?” (v. 17)
Judgment begins with the family of God? You bet. Right now…here, on earth. The church’s suffering is not blind chance – suffering as a Christian pulls us ever upward and upward focuses our attention on the things above. As the Proverb says, “If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and sinner!” (Prov. 11:31)
We are going to have trials and tribulations. But our Lord is not going to leave us alone. He comforts our valleys with his eternal Word. In our despair, our baptism reminds us we are children of God. In our weakness when we want to chuck it all away because we think we can’t handle anymore, he comes in bread and wine, body and blood and provides strength for the days ahead. This is why we gather on a weekly basis. We need these means of grace because they let us face a world that is at each other’s throats. A populace that wants to do everything politically correct except stand with the Christian soul. One of the beautiful things the Lord provides is life experience. Any amount of time on earth and you been through the valley, taken on the coaster ride or been in the depths. But you have come out on the other side because of your faith in a Savior that loves you and will never, ever leave you.
Recently when Andy Benjamin was in the hospital in Peoria I made my way there on I-74 westbound. As I approached East Peoria a truck in the eastbound lanes was on fire. Traffic was starting to back up. I went and saw Andy and left about two hours later thinking the lanes had been cleared. As I approached the accident, the police were directing cars off of the interstate into East Peoria.
Now at this point I could have been completely lost. But over the years our boys had ballgames in East Peoria and Morton. I knew I could get on highway 150 to Morton and safely back on the interstate. This is what I did and I was back in Bloomington in a reasonable amount of time. This was the Lord’s doing. He gave me a previous life experience, which allowed me to get through the challenge.
Our lives are like that. We meet our Christian suffering because we know there is a God-ordained route that will lead us home. An eternal home where there will be no more suffering or pain. We experience a splash of suffering across our all too often colorful, worldly lives because it draws us back to the Cross of Jesus. Reminds us that that we are Heaven’s people. God’s own even in suffering.