The Model of Suffering

Steve Viars April 26, 2008 1 Peter 1:3-16

 

- I’d like to begin our time this morning with a simple question...

- Agree/Disagree – Selecting the right model is a critical decision for each person to make.

- in other words, determining who you want to be like...or what example you’re following...

- getting that right is very important---would you agree?

- let me try to illustrate that...If you had asked me in the ninth grade who I wanted to be like, I would have said – my orthodontist...

- and if you say – why was he your model?...

- it had nothing to do with interest in dentistry, or concern for patient health...

- and some of the dentists in our church will probably laugh at this...

- but I had braces at that point in my life---and my orthodontist, in my opinion, had it made...

- he worked six months a year...he and another guy traded patients from one month to the next...

- he always had a fancy sports car in the parking lot with his name on the license plates...

- and he was always tanned as a result of just coming back from some vacation somewhere...

- and that was the model I intended to follow – find a profession that provided the greatest ease, and the most money...and become one of those...

- at that time though, I was also having questions about what it meant to have a relationship with God...and those things were really bothering me, and weighing heavily on me...

- and at a youth retreat in Chattanooga I decided to sit down with an older youth pastor and see if he could help me...

- and here’s what I remember about that event...his Bible was just dog-eared...it had obviously been used a lot...

- and every time I asked him a question---he could just turn to the appropriate place in Scripture and show me the answer...

- and God’s Word was just burning in my heart...and that evening I made a decision to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior...

- I also started thinking this – if the Lord would ever allow me to be like that youth pastor, who could point people who were struggling to life-changing answers from the Word of God...that would be a wonderful way to spend your life...

- now please understand...if God had wanted me to be an orthodontist, and if I would have developed less selfish reasons to be one, that would have been fine...

- but for me, the new model became a person who could help others with God’s Word...

- and part of my story is, selecting the right model makes all the difference in the world...

- well, that leads us to a question, doesn’t it...who do you want to be like?...who’s your model?...who’s your standard?...

- and of course, for Christians...the ultimate answer is...to be like Jesus Christ...Romans 8:28-29 - And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son...

- that then leads us to three other questions...

1. Friend, is Jesus Christ really your model...your standard...the One whom you’re trying to be like?...

2. Secondly, can you point to specific practical ways in this past week where you allowed that concept to guide you, or direct you?...

- I don’t want to just be a student – I want to be a Christ-like student...

- I want to be a Christ-centered mom...or a Christ-centered dad...

- I want my life to be less about me and more about him...

- I want my neighbors, or my co-workers, or my friends to see Jesus in me...

- is this impacting you practically, and specifically?...

3. What if, in order to truly become more like Christ, that involved you enduring a measure of suffering?...would you still desire Him to be your model?...

- with that in mind, can I invite you to open your Bible this morning to I Peter chapter 1?...[page 180 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you]...

- this spring we’re talking about Seeking God’s Plan in Suffering...

- so far we’ve looked at several important passages of Scripture and also heard two stories that powerfully illustrated what God’s Word says about these matters...

- the book we’re turning to today could be viewed as the mother-load of biblical information about suffering...that is the emphasis from beginning to end...

- and the reason is that the apostle Peter wrote these words around the summer of 64 AD...

- students of secular history will recognize that date as the shocking occurrence of the burning of Rome...

- the amount of loss and devastation to that city was immense...

- some believe that the wicked Emperor Nero was actually behind the fire because he wanted the city to be destroyed so he could rebuild it in an even grander fashion for his own glory...

- no one knows that for sure – but what we do know was to protect himself---Nero blamed Christians for the fire...and that set off a string of persecution and suffering on followers of Christ that was tremendous in its intensity...

- to help God’s people be prepared to handle such treatment by their culture...God led Peter to write this important letter...

- we’re going to read several portions...and as we do, please be noting all the Bible tells us about The Model of Suffering...read 1 Peter 1:3-16, 2:13-25, 4:12-19, 5:6-11.

- in the time we have remaining, let’s look for Three principles to help us select and follow the right Model in times of suffering.

I. Prepare Your Mind for Suffering – 1:3-16.

- one of the key misconceptions in this topic is that the real issue is the identity of the struggle, or the intensity of the suffering...

- some books have even attempted to assign a certain number of stress points to each kind of suffering...and the idea is...if you have a certain level/combination of stress points...then you will have to respond a certain way...

- so the key issue lies outside of you...you’re essentially a passive victim in this whole discussion...

- but when we open the pages of Scripture...the picture is a lot different...

- the issue isn’t the identity of the suffering...it’s the character of the sufferer...

- and that brings with a load of hope...because instead of being a passive victim...there are steps you can take, with the help and enablement of God...to handle difficulties well...

- And you saw the key phrase in verse 13 – prepare your minds for action...

- that doesn’t sound like a passive victim...does it?...

- well, let’s back up in the text and see how you make that work...this kind of preparation starts...

A. By cultivating a thankful heart for all the blessings of knowing Christ – 1:3-9

- that’s what verses 3-9 are all about...

- see, there are spiritual realities that cannot be taken away from you regardless of the current trial you may be facing...

- and the more you recognize such things, and value such things...[and remember, that cannot be taken away from you]...the better prepared your mind is to face whatever difficulty might come your way...so let’s run through the verses...what kinds of things are we talking about?...

1. You have been impacted by God’s mercy – v. 3

- if there has been a definite time in your life when you admitted your need and then trusted what Christ did on the cross as your only way of establishing a personal relationship with God...then you know that didn’t happen because of your innate goodness...that happened because God chose to relate to you...in mercy

2. He has given you new life – v. 3

- that’s what it means to be born again...an entirely different way of thinking about suffering...

3. He has given you a living hope – v. 3

- no one can take that from you...and you don’t have to try to conjure it up on your own...or put ion a plastic smile...

- this is something that is alive...just like all this new life popping out of the ground at springtime---we’re talking about the kind of hope that is real, that is fresh—its alive...and if you say---how could that be – keep reading in the verse...

4. Secured by the resurrection of Christ – v. 3

- and who is it who’s writing this?....and what event totally his outlook and his life’s direction?...it was the resurrection of Christ...

- and remember, Peter was a fishermen...he was a man’s kind of man...

- he wasn’t a pushover---he wasn’t a sissy...

- but if he was right here today---he would look at every one of us and say...listen, Jesus conquered death...he conquered suffering...I saw Him alive...

- if it looks like followers of Christ handle suffering differently than those without the Lord...that’s by design...we have access to a life and a power and a perspective that cannot be moved...now, as if that’s not enough---check out verse 4...

5. A marvelous inheritance awaits you – v. 4

- and did you see how it is described in the text?

a. imperishable

b. undefiled

c. will not fade away

d. reserved in heaven for you.

- and that’s dependent on the condition of the stock market...

- God’s not going to have to recalculate that if oil prices hit $120 per barrel...

- if you know Christ --- it’s in the bank...and all you have to do is appear in heaven, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, to receive it...

6. You are protected by the power of God – v. 5.

- this isn’t about you or me pulling ourselves up by our own spiritual bootstraps...

- which is why Peter makes the outrageous claim that...

7. You can rejoice in all of these things – v. 6

- please think about the condition of the people to whom he is writing...

- and verse 8 says that you can – v. 8 – you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible...

- that sounds a lot like what we learned in our first week when we studied James chapter 1...

- and Peter is so sure of this, that he says it again in1 Peter 4:13 - 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.

- and if you say – and what’s the reason for all of this?...that’s found in chapter 1 verse 7...

8. The genuineness of your faith can be proven – v. 7

- and the picture is of men and women lining up and saying – in this skeptical world in which we live, if it takes having to endure suffering in order to prove that God is the real thing...then bring it on...my faith can’t perish...this isn’t like some hunk of gold that will melt under extreme heat...God has given me something that can’t be taken away...a faith that can endure...

- now, please let me ask you to look down through that list...

- and then I would ask you this – how thankful are you for those things?...how often do you meditate on the incredible privilege of being a follower of Christ?...and all the benefits and blessings you’ve received that cannot be taken away by today’s suffering or any day’s suffering...

- now I realize that some here today might say – but I don’t have these things...I’ve never trusted Christ...

- can I just ask you this --- what are you waiting for?...

- salvation is a precious gift that has to be humble received...

- and it is an important decision that has to be carefully made...

- and I don’t know how else to say this...only a fool wouldn’t take God up on this offer...

- and you can do that right now...it may be that God has allowed a period of suffering into your life right now to draw you to Himself...

- He may be trying to bring you to the end of your rope so you’ll acknowledge that life without Him doesn’t work...

- and He’s made a way for you to be reconciled to Him through trusting what His Son did on the cross...and you can pray to Him right now and say something like, Father, I’m a sinner and I need a Savior...and on the authority of Scripture...everything we’re seeing in this text will be completely and instantaneously yours...

- now, if you say, PV, I’ve got some questions – that’s fine – you can e-mail them, or call...another option is to sign up for our Intro to Faith class that is starting up this Wednesday night...

- so back to the overall point – part of preparing your mind for suffering is cultivating a thankful heart for all the blessings of Christ...

- now, how doe verses 10-12 fit into this?...

B. By understanding the comprehensive nature of the plan – 1:10-12.

- what’s all this about prophets making careful searches and inquires...

- here’s the quick point...

- God led the writers of the OT to talk about how the Messiah would have to suffer even though they didn’t fully know what that meant...

- and God led the prophets to explain that followers of the Messiah would sometimes suffer as well...

- now the pieces are coming together...

- and Peter says in verse 12 – they weren’t serving themselves when they wrote those kinds of things hundreds of years ago...they were serving whom?...

- they were serving you...

- because when Jesus suffered, that was happening right on time...that had always been part of the plan because that was the only way sinful man could be redeemed...

- in fact, Peter made that point on the Day of Pentecost...Acts 2:23-24 - this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.  [for those here 3 weeks ago, there is compatibalism written all over that text]

- see, that’s another ay you can prepare your mind for suffering – its by believing that everything that happens is part of God’s comprehensive plan for you...that does not mean that it is intrinsically good – but it does mean that He can work it for your good and for His glory...[what was it that Joseph said --- you meant it for evil...but God meant it for good]

- now please lock on to verse 13...you do this ...

C. By learning to discipline your mind and heart – 1:13-16

a. Keep sober in spirit – v. 13

- you have to take this seriously...and you can rejoice and be sober simultaneously

b. Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

- your hope is not that the other people in your life are going to change...or that you’ll be immediately relieved of the pressure...

- you’re developing a long term view of what is occurring...

c. Do not be conformed to your former lusts – v. 14.

- usually, the lust to get the other person back who’s causing the suffering in the first place...I have to get even...I have to get my pound of flesh...I have to be treated fairly...

- Peter says – those desires won’t serve you well during times of suffering....

d. Be holy in all your behavior – v. 15-16.

- I know of a man right now from another state who is going through what he believes is a period of suffering in a relationship...

- and his answer is to discard the relationship, and take steps that he knows will displease God...

- and the truth is – staying engaged in the suffering, and working through the suffering would take that man to a place spiritually that he’s never been...

- but that kind of endurance only comes through what we’re seeing this morning...

- you have to cultivate a thankful heart for all the blessings in Christ that cannot be touched by the present trial...

- you have to believe that God really has a comprehensive plan is for your good and for His glory...

- and you have to discipline your mind for action...and put off all the desires that are raging in your heart to get even now, and find relief now, and enjoy sin now...

- this particular man is right at the precipice of all of this – I wonder how many others who hear this message today will be right on the cusp of handling an episode of suffering in a way that pleases God...or a way that doesn’t...

- now, if you say...PV, I can’t do it...the answer is – you can if you have the right model...that’s where chapter 2 fits into this...the principle is...

II. Let Suffering Mold You Into the Image of Christ in Specific, Practical Ways – 2:13-25.

- chapter 2 is a tremendous help in these 2 ways – it gives us a couple of case studies...

- to help us see how this really works...

- and then it focuses in on the main point that we’re trying to drive to this morning...

A. To government – 2:13-20

- the passage is clear...

1. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution – v. 13

- now before you say, well, I’m not sure I can do that if Senator McCain is elected, or Senator Clinton, or Obama...

- do you realize, however bad you think any of that might be, that’s not even in the same league as what we’re talking about here...

- this was Nero...think about that kind of suffering...

- and there was no question that there were going to be facing evil treatment and persecution at the hands of a wicked government...but Peter says – you can/must respond to that suffering in a godly fashion, and...

2. By doing right you will silence the ignorance of foolish men – v. 15

- there’s all kinds of people who want to say that God is not the real thing...

- and when believers respond to suffering in ways that are winsome and wise, it silences such blasphemy...and puts others in a position where they are more likely to believe...

- by the way – that leads to an obvious question, doesn’t it – when others watch you suffer, are they more or less likely to be attracted to your Savior?

B. At work – 2:18-20

1. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect – v. 18

- that’s pretty straightforward...

- now if you say – PV – but I have a really bad boss, so that let’s me off the hook, right?

- the next part of the verse that is unbelievable....

2. Not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable – v. 18.

- please follow the argument of this next verse very carefully...[read 19-20]

- you might ask...did Peter just say what I think he did?

3. If, when you do what is right and suffer for it, you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God – v. 20

- now, I want to ask you to think about how you choose to respond when things at work don’t go your way...

- think about what you say behind the bosses’ back...think about the tone of your voice, the look on your face, the content of your words...

- you can’t control what the company does...you can’t control what your boss does...you can’t control what everybody else does...

- but what can you control?...the condition of the heart and mind and words and actions that you bring to the occasion when you’re suffering at work...

- and think about what you typically bring to the table – would the words “patient endurance” be a fitting description?

- now, verse 21 brings all of this into focus...

C. This is one of the primary reasons God made you one of His children.

1. For you have been called for this purpose – v. 21

- what purpose?...to respond to suffering in a way that pleases God...

- but the great news is...

2. Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps – v. 21

- and friends, this brings us back to the question I asked at the beginning...

- is Christ really your model?...is He really your example?...

- and are you willing to follow Him even when suffering is involved?...

- let’s push it a little further...what if suffering is the only route to greater Christ-likeness for you?...would you still embrace it?...

- see, do we really agree with the apostle Paul... Philippians 3:10 - that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;

- what would you rather have – a spouse who always did everything you wanted, or an imperfect spouse so that you would have a greater opportunities to become like your Savior?...[develop – perfect kids, the dream job, material things that never break down...]

- do you know what Your Example said to that?...

- Luke 22:42 - ...Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.

- now if you say, Steve, this is too much for me...it is, if we try to do it on our own...but please always remember...

D. You can only follow Christ as your Example if your have trusted Him as your Savior.

- 1 Peter 2:24-25 - and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

- Can I ask you – does the way you handle suffering give evidence that you are following Christ as the Shepherd and guardian of your soul?...

- now, what about the verses in chapters 4 and 5?...

- there’s a lot there...one of the main emphases is in chapter 5 verse 6...

III. Humble Yourself Under the Mighty Hand of God – 5:6-11

A. The way we respond to suffering will either reveal a heart of humility or a heart of pride – v. 6

- and Peter says – you can count on this...

1. God will exalt you at the proper time.

2. That is why you can cast all your anxiety on Him, knowing that He cares for you – v. 7.

- please don’t think of the mighty hand of God as something that will crush you – his mighty hand is something that will protect you, and shield you...

B. Please always remember, the worst suffering that any believer will ever have to endure is only for a little while.

1 Peter 1:6 - In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,

1 Peter 5:10 - After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

- What are the take aways?...

1. If you’ve never trusted Christ, let the difficulty of suffering drive you to the Savior.

2. If you know the Lord, take the steps necessary to be prepared to handle suffering well – prepare your minds for action...

- read and re-read the book of I Peter...

- write key verses on index cards and review regularly...

3. Use instances of suffering as an opportunity to become more like Christ

4. If you are handling present instances of suffering poorly, confess that to God and the appropriate people...

- did Peter know what he was talking about?...

- conclude by telling about how Peter and his wife died...

- cf.John 21:18-19 - Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go. Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”

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