1 Peter #11 1 Peter 3:13-17 Suffering—The Need for a Bigger Picture to Endure
1 Peter #11 1 Peter 3:13-17 Suffering—The Need for a Bigger Picture to Endure
In our previous teaching, we learned that it is expected that those who are keeping in step with the Holy Spirit will see that their task in this life is to bless others. The Psalmist advises the same thing:
Psalm 34:12-16. “Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you're worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what he's asked; But he turns his back on those who do evil things.”
Before we delve into the Word distinctions need to be made concerning suffering. Peter's letter addresses what to do when you are suffering because of your faith in Christ. You have taken a stand, and that stand is not culturally acceptable. Because others know you are a Christian you are being persecuted. Peter also addressed what he called unjust suffering, what to do if you are being treated poorly or even abusively by someone else; this was specifically addressed to slaves. You can see how these two types of suffering can overlap. There is a third type of suffering that happens because we live in a world with people who are not as God intended. Natural disasters, diseases, accidents, birth defects, and evil all can create suffering in our lives. You are not suffering because of your faith. For instance, there is an abusive relationship within the home. You don’t endure convincing yourself that it’s God’s will. Instead, you take action, get out of harm’s way, and then use the suffering you redeem it by making a difference in the world. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is the result of suffering used to make a difference. Megan’s Law is another. The Child Abuse Prevention & Treatment Act is yet another. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is another difference maker that was born in suffering. Joni Eareckson Tada comes to mind turning her quadriplegia into a platform for ministering to millions. We might call this type of suffering natural suffering. The type of suffering that Peter is advising us about is the Sufferings of Christ. Disciples all take part in the Sufferings of Christ, persecuted for telling the truth and doing good.
In our lesson today, Peter focuses our attention on being persecuted for doing good and what a believer's response is to be when they face opposition to the faith. Further, Peter tells us to be ready to give an intelligent testimony concerning why we are believers. This teaching of Peter rests on the requirement of living an exemplary life, a life of holiness. If that is the intent of your heart, let’s get into the Word.
1 Peter 3:13-17 (MSG)
If with heart and soul you're doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you're still better off. Don't give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They'll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath. It's better to suffer for doing good, if that's what God wants than to be punished for doing bad.
Peter asks a very interesting rhetorical question. The simple answer is “no;” no one can stop you if you are set on doing good. Yet there are many stories of men and women living exemplary lives persisting in doing good being killed. Jesus is an example. Not as drastic there are stories of the government stopping people from distributing food to the poor without a license. So, to truthfully answer that question “no,” you must look in hope to the faithfulness of God. Doing something with heart and soul means you are dedicated and passionate about the good you are doing. If you are stopped in your endeavors then you must trust that God will use those efforts to bring about some good.
Romans 8:28 (MSG)
That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Even if they kill you because of your good deeds, they, whoever they are, can’t stop the influence of your actions on the world around you. The film “End of the Spear” is a story about Jim Elliot and his companions who are murdered by tribesmen in the jungles of Ecuador and how that stopping of good eventually became a blessing to many. God can do amazing things with our disasters.
For the most part, Peter is telling us if we have set ourselves to do good, people generally appreciate it. They recognize your selflessness. But if they don’t and you end up suffering because of your loving service to others Peter says you're still in good shape. Again, we have to take a larger view looking in hope at the faithfulness of God. Jesus told us: "You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom” (Matthew 5:10 (MSG). When you suffer for the faith you depend upon God that much more, you spend more time in prayer, and you become more steadfast in your obedience. You practice the 7 habits of a disciple* stringently and diligently and you know that such practice invites encounters with God. Living with the sense of God’s approval is a blessing. Plus, many times you see your efforts making a difference in the lives of others and that’s a blessing. Jesus tells us why you can be glad in this type of suffering: “You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even! —for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble” (Matthew 5:12 (MSG). When you suffer for righteousness’s sake you take your place with the highly commended of God. Your spiritual position is with the prophets, the witnesses, the saints, and the martyrs. Your spiritual position is with Jesus who suffered for righteousness’s sake. Such a realization is a blessing, a consolation, for you know that you are being persecuted for God’s Kingdom and this empowers you to keep on keeping on as you trust God for the outcome of your labor of love. Selflessness only comes when there is great love in your heart. Gentlemen, instead of great love, you may prefer to think of “duty and honor.” Selflessness sometimes means suffering for the good of others, and this is exactly what Jesus did.
Don’t let the fear of others, the fear of persecution for standing up for what is right stop you from doing good. Be a good citizen, follow the rule of law, live an exemplary life, life to the full (John 10:10), and don’t allow the ungodly to threaten you into disobeying God. Instead, give your full allegiance to Jesus. When the scripture refers to Jesus as Lord, that’s exactly what it means. Lord is the title given to one who has authority, and power, and is in charge. When believers call Jesus Lord, it is a declaration of devotion and respect. To call Jesus Lord is to bend the knee to Jesus. The bent knee is a demonstration of your loyalty and allegiance, a sign of your submission, of your subservience, to His will and His way. It means you are “all” in with Jesus regardless of the circumstances. To call Jesus your Lord is to affirm His supremacy in your life. Don’t delude yourself, your proclamation demands obedience.
Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Remember God is both Father and Judge, and Jesus is both Friend and Lord (Proverbs 19:16). One day everyone, believer or not, will give an account of how they lived their earthly lives (Matthew 12:36, Romans 14:12, Revelation 20). Believers back up their profession of faith with deeds of righteousness. Make sure your heart is always in the right place and you have placed Jesus in the center of your heart.
People will see you doing good in the name of Jesus and if they don’t try to stop you, they may ask why you are doing what you are doing. Peter writes: “ Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are and always with the utmost courtesy” (1 Peter 3:15 (MSG). “Why aren’t you laughing with the sinners instead of crying with the saints?” [paraphrase: Billy Joel, Only the Good Die Young] “Christians are not required to know the answer to every theological question someone might ask regarding the Christian faith. But they should be able to provide an intelligent account of what they believe and what they have experienced” (Powers, p. 117). That intelligent answer is your testimony. This is your story of how you came to believe and why now you are doing the things you do. It’s the story of the hope you have in this life and the next. If you are not ready to tell someone about your experience with Jesus, then get busy and prepare, it might help to write down your thoughts. Imagine someone asking you “why are you a Christian?” Practice your answer. Peter advises that our answer must be given with the utmost respect for the one listening. There is no argument to win, it's just you, telling someone why you have the hope in Christ that you do. “This was my life before I became a believer, this is my life after becoming a believer, and I do what I do out of gratitude.” They may laugh at you, call you ignorant, or superstitious, or give you a thousand reasons why what you believe is a fairy tale. Just thank them for their concern and tell them regardless, that you are going to continue to love others with the love God has lavished upon you. It just might be that your intelligent and gentle answer wins them to the Lord.
Living an exemplary life you keep a clear conscience. A clear conscience means you practice what you preach (1 John 4:20). A clear conscience means you handled a situation properly, and you did what God wanted to be done (James 1:22). A clear conscience means you have done your best to clean up your messes (Romans 12:18). If you did not live up to the high standards of holiness in your interactions with others you ask the one you offended to forgive you, you may have to compensate them for what was done (Matthew 5:23-24). Then you can ask God to forgive you (1 John 1:9). That’s how to clear your conscience. If you are having problems with nagging guilt, on January 29th of this year Dr. Mike Pratt’s presentation Freedom From Guilt will help you. You’ll find this teaching online on our website www.hbcc.life and our YouTube channel hbcc life. The bottom line is a clear conscience convinces you that you’ve done no wrong, or what you did wrong you made right. The reason for keeping a clear conscience is so that when you are accused of wrongdoing, your reputation is like Teflon, and the accusation doesn’t stick. What’s more, God may use their slander to wake them up to the condition of their souls.
I’ve never found myself in a suffering situation when I thought, this is good, God is doing something extraordinary. Peter tells us it's better to suffer for doing good than doing evil, doing what is contrary to the way of love. That makes sense, I rather suffer because I am doing God’s will rather than suffer because I created some kind of a mess. A key to handling righteous suffering is having the faith that God is accomplishing something good from your pain. It’s impossible to see at the moment. But you get through, you endure, because you trust God to use you to make a difference in the world. We’ll explore this thought in greater detail next time.
Here’s what you can take home from this teaching.
1. There are different types of suffering. There is persecution suffering, there is natural suffering, and there is suffering from disobedience. Peter has addressed how to handle the persecution that comes from living an exemplary life. Never surrender your loyalty, keeping your fidelity to the Lord is to be preeminent.