The Stewardship of Your Testimony

Steve Viars October 27, 2013 1 Peter 4:12-19

Kevitt Brown: Good morning, brothers and sisters. We have been asked to speak a few minutes about our stewardship of testimony. Many of you know us as we have served together for the last 21 years at Faith. For those who may not know us, we became followers of Christ in college; we grew spiritually with excellent Bible teaching over the many years and because we dedicated ourselves to daily Bible reading and prayer, God blessed us with three wonderful daughters and helped us to raise them by knowing him. By God’s grace, they were all saved and are serving the Lord today. Over the years, we’ve given a high priority to serving God by serving others in things like the children’s church, the nursery, Wednesday night youth programs, Bible studies and so forth. We’ve also been very active in outreach with the international students over the years and our leaders in the Hispanic ministry today and I’m a deacon.

Up until 2002, we had only faced the common, small trials of life but that May, I was diagnosed with cancer, a rare non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The disease is considered incurable and in those days, the average life expectancy with chemotherapy was just three years. This past week, we learned that my cancer has come back for the fifth occurrence and tomorrow morning I start a new chemo treatment followed by a bone marrow transplant in December or January with a likely prolonged recovery period.

James 1 teaches us, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you face various trials,” and the trials are a gift from God to help us to grow and to bear more fruit. So, rather than denying the cancer or trying to escape from it, we began to embrace it and the opportunities that it provided with joy. The result has been that we have both grown and matured a lot in our faith. The greatest thing that God has been teaching me, is to trust him. To know Christ and him crucified has been my goal through it all but I don't ask the question, “Why me, Lord?” as if I were upset with his good and perfect will for me. Nor do I plead with God for health and wellness because I need his closeness much more than I need his material blessing and I am content to wait upon his will and his timing should healing come.

My testimony through cancer is best expressed in Psalm 73 which states, “You hold my right hand, you guide me with your counsel and afterwards you receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire beside you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Sarah Brown:  Another area that God has been teaching us is to continue our Christian walk despite the circumstances. As with any major trial, there is a temptation to withdraw from normal life. Of course, during the worst of the cancer treatments of the past, we focused on prayer and survival but as God returned Kevin's strength, we continued to serve and glorify the Lord. Kevin has also served faithfully as a deacon for all these past 12 years of cancer and taught FCI classes on handling trials and on prayer and this semester we're teaching an ESL class. Going through this time of trial has also helped me to talk with others about their problems and to seek biblical solutions. I'm in the middle of the Monday biblical counseling training course here at Faith. Lord willing, this will prepare me even more to help others with Scripture and the comfort of God as stated in 2 Corinthians 1:2, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.”

God uses even my weaknesses to show forth his great strength. Service to God and people is not just something we do when we feel like it, but it's a lifestyle for God's children.

Kevitt Brown: Maybe you're not facing a terminal cancer, but all of us face trials every day, great and small. We are responsible to be good stewards of those trials. We must ask ourselves whether we are handling our trials in ways that glorify God.

In conclusion, we are thankful to God for the many lessons he's been teaching us through this journey with cancer and how he has refined our faith. We also thank you, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have lifted our burdens through prayers, meals and other encouragements all along the way for many years. We appreciate your continued expressions of faithfulness and love. May God receive the glory. Amen.

 

Pastor Viars:  Wasn't that wonderful? It's one of the tremendous illustrations of why it's so helpful to be part of a family of God, a church, where we have brothers and sisters in Christ like Kevin and we can suffer together, that we can share in one another's weaknesses and we can grow and learn together as we pray for one another. What a marvelous story, just solid gold what you just heard. So, thank you Kevin and Sarah for sharing with us and for all you mean to our church family.

A couple of weeks ago, an article was published in the Indianapolis Star written by a former deputy editor of the Washington Post named Colbert King. It was entitled “Islamic terrorists put Christians in cross hairs.” Let me read a little bit from that article of the Indy Star.

“Hiding the Christian name on his ID with his thumb, Joshua Hakim approached the gunmen and showed them the plastic card. 'They told me to go. Then an Indian man came forward, and they said, “What is the name of Muhammad’s mother?” When he couldn’t answer they just shot him.'

“That’s the way it went Sept. 21 inside the Westgate Premier Shopping Mall in Nairobi. If you said when asked that you were Muslim, you were let go. If you answered no, you stayed. And maybe died.

“More than 60 patrons in that upscale mall in Kenya’s capital breathed their last that day, shot dead by Islamist militants from Somalia who call themselves al-Shabab. The massacre was not al-Shabab’s first attack on non-Muslims.

“But why should we know much about the killing of Christians when news of Washington’s political food fights, the looming federal shutdown and the National Zoo’s new panda cub keep getting in the way?

“Since 1999, more than 14,000 Nigerians have been killed in sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians, reports the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The militant group Boko Haram, which supports an extreme and violent interpretation of Islam, is behind most of the violence.

“In the past year alone, Boko Haram has bombed, burned or attacked at least 50 churches, killing more than 360 people, the publication Religion Today reports. The extremists also are known to have assaulted more than 160 Christians or people thought to be Christian in more than 30 incidents. Western education is a sin, according to Boko Haram. On Sunday, gunmen, apparently members of Boko Haram, killed about 50 students at a college in northeast Nigeria.

“On Sept. 22 in Peshawar, Pakistan, worshipers at All Saints Church... were greeted outside by two suicide bombers who ripped apart at least 78 people, including 34 women and seven children.

“'It’s not safe for Christians in this country,' Mano Rumalshah, bishop emeritus of Peshawar, told the Guardian newspaper. 'Everyone is ignoring the growing danger to Christians in Muslim-majority countries. The European countries don’t give care about us.'” Then the author said,

“Hello, only Europe?

“In the Middle East, the Arab Spring has sprung misery upon Christians...Shortly after the Egyptian military’s bloody breakup of Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo in mid-August, at least 42 churches were attacked, with 37 burned or otherwise damaged, Human Rights Watch reported.

“In Syria, a Christian community wasn’t burned; it was hammered. The ancient town of Maaloula endured the brunt of an attack this month led by militants of Jabhat al-Nusra, a terror group affiliated with al-Qaida in Iraq.

“But this isn’t about who has the corner on God.

“It’s about striking down innocent souls because they believe in one God and a Son who teaches, 'Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.' Their annihilation cannot be what the Almighty intended.

“So why does the rest of the world seem to care so little about what is happening?

“Yo, it’s time for some footbawl.”

Now, we're certainly not suggesting that every Muslim would condone that kind of violence, just like we wouldn't want others to lump us alongside what a few people who call themselves Christians do in the name of their so-called god. But, on the other hand, there is no question about the fact that wherever you live and whatever you do, the more over your testimony, the more open you are about your faith in Christ, the more likely you are to pay some sort of price by those around you who don't agree with your beliefs.

The book of Psalms proclaims this, “Let the redeemed of the earth say so.” In other words, you have been entrusted with a testimony. You have been entrusted with a story of what God has done in your life and what Jesus means to you today but the more you do that, the more you say so, the greater the possibility that there will be a price to pay because of your beliefs.

With that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible this morning to 1 Peter 4. That's on page 182 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you if you need that this morning.

This morning we're talking about the Stewardship of Your Testimony. The reason we've chosen that title is because this morning, around here, is the beginning of Stewardship Month and I recognize that a number of people who will hear this message this morning are relatively new to our church. God blesses us year after year with many who are new. In fact, we're on a trajectory this year to have more people join this church in this calendar year than ever before in our history and we're glad for that. But before Thanksgiving, the month in advance every year around here, it gives us an opportunity to think about various aspects of stewardship. I realize that may be a new word to you.

Here is a key passage from the Bible that can help us organize our thoughts. It's 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Just like Kevin and Sarah, that a man be found faithful. That's one of the words that God would use to describe you. If you're truly a follower of Jesus Christ, he would call you one of his stewards. Now, again, I realize that's not a commonly used word today but in Bible times, it was very familiar. Here's the picture: often landowners would have to travel and because of the methods used in that period of history, sometimes a person would have to be gone for a long period of time. So that landowner would select one of his most trusted employees or slaves and that person would be given the responsibility of managing the farm or managing the vineyard or whatever it might be, in the master's absence. That's why the Greek word translated “steward” is the Greek word  oikonomenos which is a compound word from the word oikos which is “house” and menous with is a participial ending used in this case as a noun. So oikonomenos was literally a “housing one.” The point is, a steward is in charge of the house; he's in charge of certain responsibilities or certain tasks or certain duties around the house while the master is away. So, it's a position of trust, being a steward. It was a position of honor and God says to every follower of Christ, “That's what you're like.” There it is: that's what you're like. You are a steward.

Historically around here, we've tried to boil all that the Bible says about this matter down to four key principles of stewardship and if you don't know these already, here's assignment number 1: write them down and memorize them this week. They will serve you well the rest of your days. That's true. Four key principles of stewardship: 1. God owns everything, you own nothing. It's really important to get that straight. Then, God entrusts you with everything you have including, by the way, your cancer, Kevin and Sarah just told us. You can either increase or diminish what God has given you. God, of course, wants you to increase it and you can be called into account at any time and it may be today. For our purposes this morning, that includes your testimony, your story of what God is doing in your life and the opportunities that you have to stand for Christ and tell others what he means to you and how important it is to be faithful to that trust.

I asked you to open your Bible to 1 Peter 4, that's because we've been studying this book verse-by-verse this fall and we don't always do it this way, but we're actually going to let the argument of the remainder of this book dovetail with what we're trying to do with stewardship this month. So, if you've been here with us, you know, I hope, the flow of thought through the book thus far where Peter began by giving us a series of general principles about how to handle trials. Why do we go verse-by-verse through the word of God? Well, we're trying to get these truths in your heart and in your mind and what we've said is it's so crucial for us to have these concepts embedded deeply in our inner man and the reason is, this is one of the longest and most comprehensive discussions about trials in the entire word of God. You're going to need it.

Then, in chapter 2:13, there is a noticeable shift because Peter begins applying these general principles about trials to specific areas of everyday life. You understand, the word of God is intensely practical. God wrote it, of course, you wouldn't be surprised by that and so, starting in chapter 2:13, he talks about how you handle trials in a setting where you have an imperfect government, in case you would ever need that particular information. Then, he moves on and talks about handling trials with an imperfect employer in case that would ever be your calling. Then, how to handle trials with an imperfect husband, then with an imperfect wife.

So, we have these general principles followed by specific application to key areas of everyday life. Now what's going to happen? In chapter 4, verses 12 through 19, Peter is going to bring this part of the discussion to a close. Yes, there is another chapter that's going to deal with some other important issues but the issue about trials is coming to a close. Maybe this particular quote from commentator D. Edmund Hebert will help us  have our minds where they need to be. Hebert says,

“This paragraph develops and reinforces the theme of Christian suffering first touched on in chapter 1, verses 6 and 7. It's not a repetition of what has already been said. In chapter 3:13 to chapter 4:6, the experience of suffering was treated with reference to their inflictors whereas this proceeds wholly on reference to a Christian's own inner hopes and considerations within the church itself. The apostle appropriately called for steadfastness on the part of his readers as they encounter persecution because they were Christians. He directed attention more distinctly than elsewhere to the deep and the varied sources of comfort that are opened to the persecuted believer. His use of present imperatives calls for a resolute inner attitude of steadfastness and joy.”

Do you have that? To endure those experiences, there is an intensification of tone in the paragraph. Peter brought his theme to its peak by calling Christian readers to suffer steadfastly for their faith. Let's listen in, 1 Peter 4, beginning in verse 12. Hear the word of God, “Beloved,” remember Peter loved these dear folks to whom he was writing,

“12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God;” now hear this, “and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? 19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”

We're talking this morning about the stewardship of your testimony. I want to present to you this morning in these verses we can find five principles to help God's people handle trials well. You want to be faithful with his trust, don't you? Absolutely. Whether it's a big one, whether it's a small one, anywhere in between, if God trusted me with a trial, I want to be a faithful steward of that. Here is some truth that can help us get that job done well.

I. Don’t be Surprised by Trials

First of all, don't be surprised. There it is: don't be surprised by trials. Peter says, “Friends, beloved, people I care deeply about, don't be surprised by the fiery ordeal among you.” In other words, we've been given advance notice. I mean, trails and difficulties are part and parcel of what it means to be a follower of Christ. There it is. Our Lord said it this way in John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.'” Here you go: “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” If any of us are ever surprised by trials and testings, it's evidence we weren't listening very well because we've been given advance notice that living for Christ involves difficulty. It involves hardship. By the way, that's what's so insidious, in part, about the health and wealth prosperity gospel movement. There are people who suggest that God only wants you to be healthy; he only wants you to be wealthy. If you just have enough faith, God will give you whatever you want. In that way of thinking, God simply becomes a cosmic vending machine who exists to give me what I want. That is not biblical Christianity. The God of the Bible operates differently than that and for good reason and Peter says we should not be surprised by that.

Now, if you're in the habit of writing in your Bible, you might want to go back to chapter 4:4 because the word “surprised” is used in that verse too talking about those who don't yet know the Lord. You can actually circle the word “surprised” in chapter 4:4 and then come back to the verse we just read, “surprised” in chapter 4:12, circle that, connect your circles with a little line and then make yourself a little note: it's the exact same word. Now, think about the flow of thought: people who don't know Christ in chapter 4:4 can't figure out why believers aren't interested in pursuing the simple practices they pursued before they were saved. That dynamic does not make sense to a person who doesn't know Christ so Peter says, “They're surprised.” They just cannot figure it out.

But then he says in chapter 4:12, “Christians should never find themselves in a state of surprise.” Why? Because God has told us in his word exactly what to expect. He's given us advance notice of the kinds of things that will be coming down the pike of our lives. That's a compliment to you. In fact, I quoted John 15:20 a moment ago, here's what Jesus had said just a few verse before that: “No longer do I call you slaves for the slave doesn't know what his master is doing. I call you friends.” Here's how: “For all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” One of the great things about being a Christian is that God prepares us for what's going to happen. That's why it's such a terrible thing when one of God's children acts surprised and unprepared for a trial or a difficulty because God had told us in advance things like that were going to happen.

Something else about verse 12 that's a very important piece of this puzzle: Peter says expect them as positive tests. The emphasis here is not on God trying to trip you up, not on God trying to make you fail, the emphasis is on God giving you and me opportunities for the genuineness of our faith to be manifested. He entrusts you with that trial, in part, to give you an opportunity to live and then speak your testimony, the story of why you live the way you live and how God is helping you get through that event successfully. You see, there is trial.

Think about the challenge you're facing right now, whether it's big or small, it's like a refiner's fire, the Bible would say. What does that do? It's a good thing, that fire. It purifies the metal and then it shows the purity of the metal. It shouldn't be threatening, it should be welcomed. That's why Psalm 66:10 says, “For Thou hast tried us, O God; Thou hast refined us.” That is a good thing, is it not? Please tell me you want your silver to be refined. “Thou hast tried us, O God; Thou hast refined us as silver is refined.”

Now, think back to a trial or difficulty God gave you this week, a big one, a little one, whatever it was and then I would just ask you: did you act surprised when it came? And consequently were you unprepared? Were you acting as some strange thing was happening to you and, therefore, you missed the opportunity God gave to live and then to speak your testimony? Or were you ready for it? Did you cease the opportunity that your sovereign God gave you?

Maybe this illustration will help you: most of us have either played or watched Little Leaguers play baseball. Have you ever been there? I am so glad my Little League career proceeded the advent of video cameras because I would not want any of that on YouTube for sure, but I played Little League because there were no requirements. You just played and I played. Is there a difference in the performance of a Little Leaguer who is prepared for the ball to be hit to them and the one who isn't? Our coaches taught us this: you always ought to act as if the next pitch is going to be hit to you and be thinking in advance what you're going to do when that happens. So, you have to get it into your brain: okay, there is one out, there are runners on first and third so if the ball is hit to my right, I’m going to do this; if it's a fly ball, I’m going to do that; if such-and-such happens. That kind of a player is not surprised when the ball is hit, he's ready.

Have you ever seen a Little Leaguer who is totally unprepared for the ball to be hit to him? He's daydreaming about who knows what. So the ball comes in his direction, maybe it hits him right in the mitt and bounces off, maybe it hits him right in the head. Thank the Lord video cameras were not invented yet. Maybe it hits him right in the head; maybe the ball goes right between his legs, but he's surprised. He's just totally unprepared. Well, friend, if you liken the way you handle trials this week to one of those two kinds of Little Leaguers, which category are you like? Which category are you like?

II. Learn to Rejoice During Times of Trials

The second principle is this: learn even to rejoice during times of trials. Am I telling the truth that that is the emphasis of this text? That would've been a good time for a “yes.” Look at verse 13, “but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on” what? “Keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may,” what? “Rejoice with exultation.” I realize, especially if you're new to studying the Bible or if you haven't been around this section of Scripture for a while, you might say, “This is getting harder by the second. I mean, you already told me I’m not supposed to be surprised when testing comes and now you're telling me I’m supposed to rejoice? Seriously?”

I guess you could look at that one of two ways: you could say, “What a bummer! What a bummer, I have to rejoice when God gives me a test.” or you could rightly conclude this concept is filled with hope because, friends, remember this, God never asks us to do something or asks us to be something without promising and offering the strength and the ability to get the job done. Is that right? So, it's true that this is an entirely different approach to handling the difficulties of life but that is exactly what you and I need. Exactly.

Now, there's a very important principle imbedded in verse 13 and I hope you understand this: our rejoicing finds its basis in our union with Christ. Verse 13 doesn't just say “keep on rejoicing.” Here's what it says, get it: “to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing.” Nathaniel Williams said this,

“There are enemies that would persecute Christ if he were among them for it really is he who is the object of their hatred and, therefore, in being perseucted themselves, they are partakers of Christ's suffering.”

I recognize you might say, “This is a hard concept to get my arms around.” Okay, let me show you a biblical example I think that really makes the case. Hold your hand in 1 Peter 4, we're going to be back here, but go back in your Bible to Acts 5 for a moment. That's on page 95 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you. This is an event from the same Peter who later wrote the book that we're studying so none of this, “He doesn't know what he's talking about.” This is right after the resurrection of Christ and Peter is functioning as one of the apostles of the church and he's spreading the good news of the resurrected Christ, the free gift of salvation that is available by admitting your deed and placing your faith and trust in him. So, Peter is giving his testimony anywhere he possibly can but people who didn't want to believe in Christ are not realy happy about it. Here's what happens, Acts 5:27, “When they,” that is these who didn't like what the apostles were saying, “had brought them,” that is, Peter and the apostles, “they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, 'We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name,” in the name of Christ, “and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.” Don't you love that. That's called being a really good steward of your testimony. You filled up your city with your teaching “and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.' But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men.'” That's a sanctified way of saying, “Too bad, Jack. We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.'”

That's called being ready. That's called not wimpering away, “Well, then we won't do it anymore.” No, he had his testimony ready. He had it in his heart and he was ready to talk to anybody who would listen.

“But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time.” So they sent Peter and the other apostles, they were like, “Go out for a minute, And he said to them, 'Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered.  So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.' They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them.” Do you understand what that means? They beat the fire out of them. “They flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them.

Now, what do you think Peter did next? Had this pity-party thing? “I'm quitting. I'm not going to do that anymore.” Seriously? Here it is, verse 41, “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council,” doing what? What does your Bible tell you? “Rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day,” you got that, every day, “in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Welcome to that's called being a faithful steward of your testimony even in the midst of suffering, recognizing sometimes difficulties give you a special opportunity to steward exactly what God has given you and if they were faithful in their generation to do that, so should we. Commit ourselves right here, right now, during Stewardship Month among many other things that we want to be faithful to and we, too, are going to look for opportunities to share our testimony.

Now, how in the world could Peter rejoice at the kind of treatment he's receiving? Well, same reasons we're studying in the text this morning: he wasn't surprised, he's ready and he knew that God was allowing this as a positive test to prove the genuineness of his faith and he saw this trial as a means to be identified with the Lord he loved. So, he lived out his testimony. You see, the point is: if you're in Christ, you don't mind suffering with him. Is that right? If you're in Christ, or united with him, you don't mind suffering with him. In fact, you rejoice when that occasion comes. Hebert said this and this is worthy of memorizing, friends,

“Their suffering was not a threat to their spiritual life but a pledge of the reality of their union with Christ.”

To you think our brother Kevitt Brown gets that? Do you think his wife Sarah gets that? Do you think their kiddies get that? And we're not here to elevate human beings, but we're here to elevate the God who makes that kind of living possible. Their suffering was not a threat to their spiritual life but a pledge of the reality of their union with Christ.

That concept is found throughout the Scriptures, your union with him. Romans 6:5, “For if we become united with him,” that's the gospel indicative, preach that to yourself, “in the likeness of his death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” Or Philippians 3:10, “That I might know him and the power of his resurrection.” Did you hear what Kevin said, “I'm not simply praying for physical deliverance.” There is nothing wrong with that, but there are a lot of things about this that are more important than that. The power of his resurrection. Here it is, “the fellowship of his sufferings being conformed to his death.”

Paul said it this way in Colossians 1, “Now I rejoice,” there it is again, “in my sufferings for your sake. In my flesh I do my share on behalf of his body,” which is the church, “in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions of this church which I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God,” there it is, “bestowed on me for your behalf that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations but has now been manifested to his saints to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of the mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ in you and the hope of glory and we proclaim him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom that we may present every man complete in Christ.”

Friend, you and I will not be made presentable, complete in Christ, apart from suffering, apart from trial and apart from learning what it means to be a good steward of those opportunities as a privilege to speak for what Jesus Christ is doing in and through us. “For this purpose, also I labor,” Paul says, “striving according to his power which works mightily within me.” Hebert summarizes all this well when he says,

“Faith realizes that the ground for rejoicing does not lie in the suffering themselves but in the fellowship with Christ that they bring.”

Exactly. Let's talk about this practically just to be sure what this looks like when the rubber hits the road. Let's say you're here today and your spouse doesn't know Christ or your spouse is not living for God the way that they should. I know we have a number who will be here this morning and that is your situation. So, as you try to live for God, your spouse is indifferent or maybe even your spouse ridicules your faith. That hurts. I've done enough counseling to know that can be very difficult in a marriage but I would encourage you: hear the words of our text. That person is not simply being indifferent to you, they're being indifferent to Christ. That's simply a reflection of what they think of Jesus and when you receive that kind of treatment, you have been allowed to share in the sufferings of Christ. Or at work, where you've taken a stand for doing things in your business with integrity: you're not going to lie; you're not fudging on that expense report; and you don't care what anybody else tells you to do. You're not going to do that and you don't care what everybody else is doing. You're not going to do that. People know you're a Christian and it's not like you're a Holy Rollers, you just stand out because Jesus has made a difference in your life and they start calling you names, start making jokes about you, they start sending emails around, they start calling you “the Preacher” as if that would be the worst name to every call anybody. Or “the Holy Roller,” they make fun of you. I understand that's not an easy environment to work in but Peter says “expect it and rejoice in it” because that treatment is a reflection of what those persons think about Christ and you have an opportunity to share in his sufferings.

You may remember back in chapter 3:15, Peter said, “Be ready always to give an answer to any person who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you with all meekness and fear.” And I would just ask all of us: are we living in such a way when we are suffering, that we would stand out, so that people would ever have a reason to ask? Are you handling trials in the way Peter is teaching?

Of course, this begins by having a personal relationship with Christ. I mean, it's possible that you might say, “I know what my problem is. I can't expect them, I can't be ready, nor can I rejoice, nor can I tell a story of what God's doing in my life because I don't have that story yet.” Well, friends, you can be united with Christ today. That's right. The opportunity is available to admit your need and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord today. Today, and I would urge you to do that and, Christian friend, I would just ask you: are you prepared? What are you thinking about on the way to work anyway? I hope you're preparing your heart. And what are you thinking on the way home from work? And are you rejoicing?

III. Be Sure Your Suffering is for His Name

Peter gives us a balancing principle, he says: be sure you're suffering in his name. He says that in verse 15, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer,” have we all got that straight? None of that this week. “Or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.” The idea is that sometimes people suffer but not for the name of Christ, it's because of their own sin. That's not what we're talking about this morning. That's why anytime we're facing a trial or difficulty, we ought to ask, “Am I experiencing this because I brought it on by my own sin?” If so, I need to confess it and make it right. I can't call that the sufferings of Christ, I need to call that facing the consequences of my own sin.

IV. Understand the Significance of What’s at Stake

Verse 17 explains why this is so important here and now, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.” Yeah. “And if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” See, understand the significance of what's at stake. Think about that person who is giving you guff at work. Think about that indifferent spouse who doesn't know the Lord. Or think about whoever is the source of the trial that you are facing right now and then I would ask you this: do you truly love that person? God calls upon you to do that. Do you pray for them and are you concerned about their eternal home? And listen: one of the reasons we ought to be a good steward of trial and one of the reasons we ought to be a good steward of opportunities to share our testimony in the midst of that, is because that may be the only story of Christ that persecuting person ever hears and instead of us fussing about it and grumping about it and hating that person who is the cause of that trouble, God's word would cause us to rises up above all of that and love that person so much that we want to be a good steward. You understand, many times the opportunities to be a good steward of your testimony is not with people who are loving the fire out of you but that may be the only Jesus that they ever hear.

V. Entrust Your Soul to Your Faithful Creator

Then, entrust your soul to your faithful Creator. You say, “Boy, this hard.” Fine. “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.”

Now, what are some of the take-aways from this? Well, you know you need a church family in order to know how to suffer well. You need some people who can suffer with you and that's why we're encouraging you, if you've not joined our church, it's time. So I want to encourage you to jump into Intro to Faith class that's starting up this Wednesday night. We'd be happy to talk with you about any questions you have. We'd be happy to get to know you. You say, “Well, I want to but that leads to church membership.” You don't have to join just by taking the class but you can. But you need brothers and sisters in Christ who can help share the load so that we can suffer together. You need that in your life.

That's also why it's important to make commitment during Stewardship Month and I realize you might look at that stewardship commitment card and so, “Whoa, they're asking me to take this pretty seriously.” Yup, because Jesus is worth it and you need to have that depth, you need to be on that path so that whatever episode of suffering comes your way, you have the spiritual maturity to handle it and to handle it well.

I want to encourage you this week, if you've never done it before, write out your testimony. Write out the story of what Christ means to you and why you're living the way you are and if you're a member here, get your deacon to help you if you need it. Get a small group leader or an ABF teacher or whatever kind of small group you're in, to help you. Call one of the pastors. Email us. We would be more than happy to help you with that as you write out your testimony. Then, if an occasion to suffer comes up this week, you think one might? Live your testimony and then look for ways to share it.

Let's stand together for prayer.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video