1 Peter #16 1 Peter 4: 12-19 Faith in the Fire, Perspectives to Endure the Furnace.
1 Peter #16 1 Peter 4: 12-19 Faith in the Fire, Perspectives to Endure the Furnace.
Unjust persecution, oppression, just plain injustice; have you ever experienced it? The Christians that Peter is writing to are experiencing just that because of their belief in Jesus. Can you imagine being discriminated against because of what you believe? The entire culture is prejudiced toward you because you think differently than the majority. Ever have your bank account closed because you identified as a believer? Ever been told not to listen to some artist’s music or not to shop at some coffee place because you didn’t support their values? Ever been arrested for reading your bible out loud in public, how about being reprimanded for having a Christian symbol on your desk at work? Ever been ridiculed in the classroom because you are a follower of Jesus? Probably not. The folks Peter had written to certainly lived in a society that openly rejected them. Believers living in a society that wanted to silence them and squash them.
In our teaching today Peter gives us yet another way to look at the hatred believers face. There seem to be two options when you’re confronted with religious persecution, face it or flee it. Let’s get into the Word.
1 Peter 4:12-19 (MSG)
12 Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.
If you're abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It's the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they're on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that's a different matter. But if it's because you're a Christian, don't give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!
17 It's judgment time for Christians. We're first in line. If it starts with us, think what it's going to be like for those who refuse God's Message! If good people barely make it, What's in store for the bad?
19 So if you find life difficult because you're doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he's doing, and he'll keep on doing it.
I suspect that it’s never been easy to be a committed follower of Jesus. Not a fan of Christ but a fanatic for the Kingdom. A fan of Christ believes but doesn’t do. As long as Christianity stays respectable a fan will warm a seat. A fan will give lip service to the tenants of the faith but have more important things to do than exercise that faith by working on the assignment God has given them. A fan likes the entertainment, the lights, the music, and the preaching when it’s funny and encouraging. Fans flee when confronted with testimonial suffering.
Fanatics take up crosses in obedience to the Father’s will (Luke 9:23), and they love past the point of sacrifice to help others (John 15:13). Throw fanatics in prison and they sing hymns of praise at midnight (Acts 16:16-34). You threaten a fanatic with martyrdom, and they persist in doing what God has called them to do (Acts 21:11). Fanatics change the world (Acts 17:6). Fanatics face persecution.
What separates fans from fanatics is how they respond to a hostile environment. Fans flee, and fanatics face the difficulty. For the fanatic, Peter wrote that all those difficulties, the troubles, the suffering for doing good, is like a refiner’s fire. A smith heats the furnace 1600 degrees, 1800 degrees, and into the crucible throws the ore, iron, copper, lead, gold, and silver. The impurities in the metal ore rise to the top of the crucible and siphoned off. And the pure metal is poured into molds. And then the process is repeated until all the dross, the impurities, are gone. The skilled smith knows the temperatures, knows how to heat the metal, and knows when it’s refined.
Peter has given us another perspective on our righteous suffering. When you are being harassed for doing the work of Jesus, being insulted for taking a stand for the Kingdom, slandered for loving others, and denounced for doing good, you are in the furnace. You are the ore. Persecution is the furnace. God’s the smith. As you endure, everything that you are not supposed to be is burnt away and what is left is exactly the person God intended for you to be.
Vineyard Music produced the song Refiner’s Fire, the chorus reads: “Refiner's fire, my heart's one desire; Is to be holy; Set apart for you Lord; I choose to be holy; Set apart for You my Master; Ready to do Your will.” [ Refiner's Fire (worship video w/ lyrics) - Bing video ] That’s a song fanatics sing.
We can change metaphors from fire to rain.
Bart Millard of Mercy ME sings “Bring the Rain” “So I pray bring me joy, bring me peace. Bring the chance to be free. Bring me anything that brings You glory. And I know there’ll be days when this life brings me pain. But if that’s what it takes to praise You, Jesus, bring the rain.” [ MercyMe - Bring the Rain - (with lyrics) - YouTube ] That’s a song fanatics sing.
Blessing composed and performed by Laura Story tells us blessings can come through raindrops and a thousand sleepless nights. “..what if your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights? Are what it takes to know You're near? And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise? [ Blessings - Laura Story (with lyrics) - YouTube ] That’s a song fanatics sing.
When you’re in the crucible of the Sufferings of Christ you can find encouragement in that God is still mindful of you (Romans 8:28), even if it is only refining your faith, your character, and your skills. Can you find consolation in the thought that the situation you hate is a blessing in disguise? Can you find consolation that God is using your pain to bring Him glory? Fanatics can.
Changing metaphors again, the fire, the rain, let’s consider pruning. Pruning hurts, God cuts off the healthy, the vibrant, the alive, and the good out of your life to make room for the best (John 15:2). Fire, Rain, and pruning, the natural response to natural suffering is to get out of it, to be done with it, to get through it. Peter tells us that God can use the suffering of this life to perfect you and show the world through you who He is. A fanatic is willing to allow God to use them in this way.
Have you noticed yet? The fan will compromise with the world to avoid being persecuted. They will flee testimonial suffering. The fanatic will endure. In this sense, persecution works like a judgment within the Church. Persecution separates the weeds from the flowers. My friend Corey Jones who pastors Crossroads Tabernacle in Texas believes the pandemic sorted the fans from the fanatics, the fans never came back, and the fanatics never left. Judgment begins within the family of God. Judgment comes in the form of the refiner’s fire, the rain, and the pruning.
Those living a devout and holy life, an exemplary life in the face of persecution can be assured that God has not abandoned them and that even in the most horrible of situations, God is at work empowering them to get through the ordeal. Often there is no miracle, one of those incredible coincidences that unexpectedly happen, and suddenly everything is just fine. More often we are to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, no sudden escape, instead, it’s a march through the troubles. The Holy Spirit will guide you into a plan on how to handle your circumstances. This plan comes in a combination of your thinking, your experience, the counsel you receive, and your encounters with God through your daily practice of the 7 habits of a disciple and is confirmed by those closest to you. The cup of righteously suffering did not pass for Jesus, it may not pass for you either. If it does not remember, God will redeem all things. Nothing that you entrust to Him will ultimately be lost.
As you live a devout and holy life, that exemplary life to which you’ve been empowered and you’re doing good, obeying God, loving others, a few are grateful, a few understand but the majority want to stop you, they want to shut you down, they want you permanently sidelined, marginalized, no voice, no influence, and you are met with nothing but abuse and suffering realize that they did the same thing to Jesus. You have been honored to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10). You can count on this, “If you suffer with Him, you will be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17).” We may not fully understand what it means to be glorified like Jesus but one thing is for sure, it means vindication and victory.
Friends I see word of warning in what Peter wrote. Verse 17 “If good people barely make it, What's in store for the bad?” The good people are those who have bent their knees to Jesus. It’s not easy for the righteous to be saved. That sounds like hard work ahead after you’ve asked God to accept your faith that as a sinner Jesus died for you, believing you committed yourself to be a disciple and you asked God to allow you to enter his Kingdom. If you think you can coast through this life on that grace that saves you alone, you may be sadly mistaken. It is hard to be a Christian, it is hard to obey, it is hard to love, and it is hard to be used for purposes that make no sense to you, but that’s what you committed to when you bent the knee to the Lordship of Jesus. Pick up your cross and do the work God has given you to do and keep on keeping on no matter the opposition. Fans just might disqualify themselves from the prize.
Here’s what you can walk out of here today with. Fanatics should expect to be persecuted for their faith. One of the ways a follower of Jesus deals with testimonial suffering is to take the perspective your ordeal serves you as a refiners fire, transforming you into the person God created you to be. In addition, there is the gratification of knowing that you are identified with Jesus, the world put Him to death, the One He called the Father raised Him from the dead. The same is your inheritance. Even if don’t understand why doing God’s will, God’s way, is met with so much difficulty, you believe that against the opposition God is at work, regardless if you are successful in your labor of love or your work meets with apparent failure, you know that He never fails. One last thing may encourage you, the Devil makes war against the Children of God, if the spiritual forces in the Heavenlies are making things difficult for you then you know that you are right with God.
Fans flee the persecution. Fans don’t do anything that would draw attention to them. Fanatics face persecution, they love the Lord more than their comfort, more than their own lives. Like Jesus. Fanatics unhesitatingly entrust their lives to God, certain that God will not fail him or her. Follower of Jesus-- trust God and do right.