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Encountering God in Suffering

June 26, 2022

Teacher: Mike Noel
Scripture: I Peter 4: 12-19
  1. Introduction: 

 

  1. We just finished up a short series on the book of Psalms and now we are going to take five weeks to finish up our series on I Peter. I think there is a good connection between the book of Psalms and our text this morning. Psalms is a book that we get a picture of what it is to engage or interact with the Lord throughout diff seasons. .  

  2. There are 150 Psalms and in them we see the Psalmists interact with God in many different circumstances. In times of joy and sorrow. In times of challenging relationships and testing. Times of loneliness and depression, almost bewilderment at times.  Times of great temptation or repentance of sin. 

  3. These psalmists were coming to God, the Living God, our God and seeking his grace and help in time of need. And this includes during times of suffering. 

  4. In our passage this morning Peter is again addressing the issue of suffering. He is writing to what seems to be Gentile believers in present day Turkey concerning both both their current suffering and suffering they will experience in the future.  

  5. If you ask Christians in many nations around the world they will tell you of much suffering just for being a Christian. Loss of jobs, loss of reputation, loss of family, loss of homes and loss of life. This is a regular occurrence in countries like North Korea, India, Nigeria, Iran and China. We are beginning to see it more in our nation as our culture moves away from Christian thinking and values. 

  6. Now, does suffering as a Christian only mean that one is suffering persecution for their witness for Christ? That is part of Peter’s focus throughout the book including our text today but he also addresses suffering the trials and temptations of life so I think that suffering as a Christian includes both of those elements. Trials and persecution. 

    1. As disciples of Jesus we are to pick up our cross daily and follow him. We do not have to search out suffering. It will find us as we follow the Lord in obedience, in all of life. It will find us as believers seeking to live in a way that pleases God and not the world. And it will also find us as fallen people living in a fallen world. We are not exempt from suffering. 

  7. So here are a few examples of our suffering that God may ordain in our lives: (V19 let those who suffer according to God's will) 

    1. You're not promoted at work because you're known as a person who lives his/her life rooted in Scripture…

    2. You have a serious health condition and it limits your activities and is a great trial in terms of the discomfort and pain you have to deal with. 

    3. You were physically abused by your ex husband and now as a single mother you suffer the negative consequences of his actions. Or maybe you are in a really challenging marriage. 

    4. There are many ways that people suffer in a fallen world. Throughout Peter’s letter we see that one of his burdens is that we suffer in a way that pleases and glorifies Jesus. Peter emphasizes that our behavior matters, our actions matter. So even in our suffering and trials we have the opportunity to glorify the Lord.  

  8.  Let’s pray. 

B.  Let Suffering Have Its Full Effect:  

  1. Four points/ways that like the Psalmists we can engage God in suffering. And in each one of them we should think of running towards him and not away from him = embracing all he has for us.  

  2. Scripture has a lot to say about suffering. And though scripture is very clear about how we ought to live during times of suffering and trials yet that doesn’t necessarily equate to telling us why we suffer. At least completely. There is some mystery in why we suffer, including why some suffer more than others. 

  3. I know some of you have suffered in very public ways. For instance you may have a major health condition and people are aware of it. So you not only have the challenge of suffering but you also have to do it in front of others. Others may suffer in very private ways with things that no one or very few people know about and that presents its challenges as well. 

    1. I want to thank those of you who have modeled what it means to suffer well, in a way that pleases God. You have taught us from your own lives.   

  4. Though we may not always know why we suffer we can be assured of God’s love in the midst of it. Peter begins our passage by saying Beloved. One translation reads divined loved ones. The people Peter is writing to are loved by him but even more so by God. Romans 8 tells us that there is nothing in all Creation that can separate us from the love of God - even suffering.

  5. And because we have a loving God we can go to him in confidence knowing he is the source of the power that we need to walk through suffering. The first part of our text (v 12) tells us not to be surprised as though something strange happened to us. Don’t be shocked or astonished that God has allowed you to suffer.  

  6. Jerry Bridge’s Trusting God: We should come to grips with the “doctrine” of suffering when life is “normal” and hide these truths in our hearts for times to come. Also, we should realize that  suffering may or may not come in big, major ways in our lives. But we know it will come in daily little ways that make up a lot of life. 

  7. So how do we engage the Lord in the midst of trials and suffering in a way that pleases Him? 

  8.  Well I think we begin by allowing suffering to have its full effect (full redemptive effect): We seek to embrace what God is working in our lives. Run towards God!

 

Count it all joy, my brothers,  when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1: 2-4

  1. We want to allow the sanctifying aspects of suffering and trials to have their full effect upon us. We want to benefit from suffering! It’s difficult enough to suffer, but  it’s worse to suffer and not benefit from it. In verse 12 Peter tells us that a fiery trial has come upon his readers to test them. Refining, purifying happens through trials and suffering. 

The issue God is dealing within our lives is not so much what we do but what we are. All of us tend to underestimate the remaining sinfulness in our hearts. We fail to see the extent of pride, fleshly self-confidence, selfish-ambitions, stubbornness, self-justification, lack of love and distrust of God that He does see. But adversity brings these sinful dispositions to the surface just as the refiner’s fire brings impurities to the surface of the molten gold. Jerry Bridges Trusting God

  1. Example: Empathy, sympathy. Suffering and adversity strips off a lot of veneer.  

  2. If you take a full tube of toothpaste and squeeze it real hard what happens? Stuff comes out! When we get squeezed by the hardships of life what happens? Stuff comes out! We can appear to be very godly Christians in prosperity. But when adversity comes the genuineness/artificialness of our faith is revealed. And we must see it as God’s kindness that he is revealing to us the condition of our heart so that we might seek to change and by it bring him glory. 

  3. We must embrace his work and not kick against the goads. (sharpened stick)

    1. Maybe you are single and you desire to be married. And that’s a good thing. But how we handle the disappointment of not having what we want, when we want it(James 4) is very important. In Colossians 3 Paul says 

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Colossians 3:8 

 Is there unbelief, bitterness,  even hatred or a coolness in your heart because you haven’t gotten what you want from God? 

  1. Suffering also “pushes” us towards God in a way that prosperity doesn’t. As we see in many of the Psalms we are driven to God during suffering and trials. 

In the day of prosperity we have many refuges to resort to; in the day of adversity, only one. Horatius Bonar 

  1. We have only one refuge in all of life, the Lord himself. There is something bittersweet about trials and suffering. They are difficult and challenging but in them we find the joy of drawing near to God and finding solace in him alone. He and his word are the true source of our joy and strength, comfort and peace. Suffering often helps strip away the artificial supports in our lives, even ones that are good and provided by God at times.

“God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. To live with your ‘thorn’ uncomplainingly—that is sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak—is true sanctification. It is a supreme victory of grace.” --  J.I. Packer 

  1. There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. We find him in suffering. Run to him!

C. In Our Suffering Be Filled With The Spirit and Joy: 

 

  1. In verse 13 Peter tells us to rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings. Following Jesus is counter-cultural isn’t it. It can also seem counter intuitive. Not only are we not to be surprised by the suffering of fiery trials, we are to rejoice during them! There are a number of verses in the New Testament that connect the Holy Spirit with both joy and affliction or persecution. Besides our text 1eg. 

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, I Thessalonians 1: 6

 

  1. Now rejoicing in our suffering does not mean that we rejoice in the actual acts of suffering or trials but we are to rejoice in the Lord in the midst of them and in the fact that he is at work, he is with us and for us.

    1. When we look at the fruit of the Spirit… transcend circumstances. Part of the purpose of suffering is for us to cultivate those qualities in a way that is not dependent on the situations we find ourselves in.   

  2. Here are a few ways I think our passage encourages us to rejoice in suffering. 

  3. The first has to do with the mindset and attitude of a Christ follower.  Verses 13 thru 16 reveal a Christ centered lifestyle. Peter exhorts us to center our lives around Jesus and to share in his sufferings which includes being insulted for his name. It includes suffering for him in a way that glorifies God. If we are living Christ centered lives we will generally be thinking in most situations “what is it in this situation that will please the Lord, that will glorify the name of Jesus?” 

    1. That’s the heart and mindset of a Christian. And so whether it’s suffering persecution for witnessing for Christ to a non-Christian or by suffering by longsuffering in a marriage or in your parenting you are following the lead of Jesus who came to please his heavenly Father. (John 4) 

  4. The second way is found in v 13 wh/ tells us that part of the motivation of suffering with joy is to look forward to the joy of Christ’s return when his glory is revealed. O we should think about that day! Throughout his letter Peter is encouraging his readers to remember eternal things. Joy comes in suffering when we are rooted in the eternal truths of God. Yes we live in this world in the here and now. But we should never allow the things of this age (even the good things of life, the things that give us pleasure and joy) to cloud our view of eternity and eternal things. We must be alert to the things that can dull our view of eternity. Sports eg. Aware and evaluate the hold that things have on us. “Shiny objects” Hold lightly

  5. Spiritual disciplines. Worship, prayer, fellowship, study reading of God’s word (keep our eyes fixed on the eternal k of God) 

  6. We must be filled  with the Holy Spirit as we go through life and thru suffering. (v14 the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.) I began this teaching talking about the Psalmists and how they engaged.

  7. One of the things we should be engaging God for, asking God for, seeking God for in all of life including suffering and trials and persecution is more of his Spirit. This is not primarily because we’re a spiritual people who desire to be even more full of the Spirit. No, it’s because we’re weak people and whatever measure of the Spirit we personally have we tend to lose it/leak  and need to be filled back up again. Acts. 

  8. Just like our phones and our tablets and our watches need to be recharged every night so do we! So one of the things that we ought to be calling out, crying out to the Lord regularly is for more of him, more of his strength MORE OF HIS SPIRIT! We need the sustaining power of the Spirit. It’s through his Spirit, his active presence in our lives that we are sustained, we are strengthened  we are carried along through life.  

  9. Eg of my mother: Groaning, coughing, suffering. Carries us many ways/the Holy Spirit  

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11  

  1. If you’re suffering, know that the Lord is your shepherd, draw near to him and allow him to carry you in his strength. 

  2. As you get older. Stuff happens. 

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne  by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. Isaiah 46: 3-4

 

Do not run away… in old age or in hardships, witnessing opportunities. Learn to rely upon the Holy Spirit in your weakness. Trust him to strength and sustain you and use you.  

D. In His Judgments:

 

  1. Years ago I attended a class once that was over two weekends. 4/8/8 The instructor had one rule. No sleeping in class. 

  2. If you’ve been sleepy while reading this passage. Bam! Peter gets our attention in verses 17-18 doesn’t he. 17 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? 18 And“If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

  3. Before we discuss this judgment for the household of God it is good to remind ourselves of the gospel because the gospel changes everything! Our judgment is different from the non-Christian’s. Ours is rooted in a saving relationship with God as our Father.

  4. Still, It is sobering to hear this statement that it is time for judgment to begin in the household of God. One commentator explains that this Greek word of judgment  seems to mean "the severe trial which would determine character." It refers to such calamities as would settle the question whether there was any religion, or would test the value of that which was professed. So in that sense it’s very close to our first point that suffering is part of fiery trials that come upon Christians to test the quality of their faith. 

  5. Though here I think it also refers even more to God’s discipline (active) in our lives. Judgment includes the examination of our lives. So there is an ongoing examination/judgment of our lives as well as a final examination (sanctification). We will stand before the judgment seat of Christ where we will give an account for how we lived our lives. This is not eternal judgment. Christ suffered in our place so that we will not face eternal judgment! We will however give an account. If your boss goes…

  6. In God’s mercy (and his holiness) he is often revealing to us through discipline that our quality of our life is not complete in his sight. Parents you know all about that. Read Revelation 2 and 3 where Jesus is speaking to a number of churches in Asia. He is revealing areas where they needed to change/repent. I have this against you. 

  7. For the Christian two primary things are true. One, we have been saved and accepted by God thru Christ alone. And two God is actively at work in our lives examining us and working (incl his discipline) to help us grow in holiness. This does not mean that all suffering is God’s discipline but we should grow in our “God awareness” of when that may be happening. It shouldn’t be a mystery. Learn to connect the dots.   EG

  8. I Cor 3:13 tells us that when we stand before the Lord 

each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.” I Corinthians 3:13

  1.  God in his mercy is revealing part of that ahead of time so that we can be ready for that day. 

  2. In verse 15 he exhorts his readers: But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.

  3. I don’t think he was writing hypothetically. There must have been some reason he wrote that. May none of our suffering be the result of blatant sinfulness in our lives. This applies both to our actions but also our words and attitudes. Standing up for a biblical conviction with an attitude of pride or harshness does not glorify God in the  way that verse 16 calls us to. May any suffering we experience be done with the humility and love of Christ. 

 

E. Entrusting Ourselves To God

 

Our last point has to do with entrusting ourselves to God during suffering ( 19Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.) 

This is very consistent with the whole of the Christian life. The Christian life is one of faith, of belief in Jesus Christ. The church’s historic understanding of saving faith contains three elements: The first is understanding. It’s having the knowledge and understanding of the gospel. Knowing who Christ is and what he did. Secondly it’s affirmation. Do I agree that this knowledge is true, can I affirm it? Do I believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that he died for my sins. That he was raised for my justification?   

  1. And thirdly is trust and reliance. Have I personally trusted Christ to save me? Have I entrusted myself (soul) to him.  When I think about standing before God on the day of judgment is my faith solely on what Jesus did for me? This is described in the first question and answer.      

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?                                                                                A. That I am not my own but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from all the power of the devil. Heidelberg Catechism 

 

So a person is saved by entrusting themselves to Jesus Christ by leaning upon him, trusting him and entrusting oneself  to what he did for us in his life, death and resurrection. And this entrusting ourselves to God through Christ doesn’t stop at our initial salvation. It’s how we are to navigate all of life. The second part of the Heidelberg answer is this:

 

He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him. Heidelberg Catechism

 

As we go through life are we entrusting ourselves to God our Father in every situation we encounter? Both in times of joy and of suffering and trials (inbetween)? Obviously no one can say yes I do that in every situation. But the goal is to grow in that area, to make it a lifestyle.  Philip Bennett Power “We must make God the great object of our trust.”  

 

And one of the main ways that we do that (of living an entrusted life)  is by knowing, affirming and trusting the promises of God. 

 

Believing in the sovereignty and  providence of God does not mean we are to be a passive people. No we are to be a people who are exercising faith in God’s word and promises.

Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promise of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us. Jerry Bridges Trusting God  

 

John Piper (well known pastor) utilizes two categories for the promises of God. One, he has a general category. These are “all purpose” promises that a Christian can go to at any time and in any situation and put his/her trust in. A big reservoir    

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you Psalm 55:22

 

My times are in your hand Psalm 31:15

 

Piper also encourages Christians to be asking God for specific promises for specific situations. When you encounter difficulties, especially recurring difficulties and trials: We should 1) View it  thru the gospel-perspective  2) through the truth of what God’s word says about it - Proverbs, Psalms, Epistles. Wisdom 3)  We should ask What are the promises of God I can believe him for in this situation. Help us to entrust ourselves to God and believe him for great things.  

 

he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1: 4

Tap into the divine power of God through his precious and great promises. Let me ask you this question? Are God’s promises precious and great to you? Are you laying hold of them and clinging to them as Jerry Bridges encourages us to in a vigorous way? Christians talk a lot about  “trusting God”. Jerry Bridges wrote a book on it. The main way that we trust God is through believing and trusting his word and his promises. 

 

F. Closing: In closing let me encourage you in the area of prayer. This is one of the points that Jerry Bridges brings out in his book Trusting God. Prayer and Perspective in Suffering. So how should we pray in suffering and trials:

 

  1. For deliverance and pray with acceptance:

Acceptance does not mean that we do not pray for physical healing or for the conception and birth of little one to our marriage. We should pray in a trusting way. We should realize that though God can do all things for infinitely wise and loving reasons He may not do that which we pray that He will do. How do we know how long to pray? As long as we can pray trustingly with an attitude of acceptance

Jerry Bridges does a great job with the balance. Charismatics and Reformed. 

  1. We pray in faith

The best praying man is the man who is most believingly familiar with the promises of God. After all, prayer is nothing but taking God’s promises to him, and saying to him, “Do as thou hast said.” Prayer is the promise utilized. A prayer which is not based on a promise has no true foundation.” Charles Spurgeon

We trust and believe the promises of God and we pray the promises of God. 

  1. We pray and we act.

Just as God’s sovereignty does not set aside our responsibility to pray, it also does not negate our responsibility to act prudently. To act prudently in this context means to use all legitimate biblical means to our disposal to avoid harm to ourselves or others and to bring about what we believe to be the right course of action. Jerry Bridges Trusting God

  1. As the worship team comes up let us lift up Jesus Christ by looking at his example of  entrusting himself to God. Peter tells us in chapter 2:

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. I Peter 2:22-23

 

  1. So may we seek to live all our lives including trials and suffering in the shadow of the Cross! Jesus suffered not only at the hands of sinful men before the Cross but even more so he suffered on the Cross because of our sins. This he gladly did for the joy set before him. He suffered in a way that we will never comprehend or know. This is not to minimize anyone’s suffering but is an encouragement that in your suffering we keep your eyes upon our Savior and King who suffered in our place. Let’s pray. 

 

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