I Peter 4:12-19

 (A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

November 21, 2013

 

1.      Virtually all of you would recognize the name Mother Teresa...as a matter of fact, even though she died over fifteen years ago, you can probably visualize in your mind how she looked...Mother Teresa was a Catholic nun who founded a convent in Calcutta, India...she spent her life in caring for and being an advocate for the poor...she impacted our world in a way that few people have done...

2.      You probably will not recognize the name Eileen Egan...but Eileen Egan worked alongside Mother Teresa for more than 30 years...she wrote a book about Mother Teresa entitled Such a Vision of the Street...in that book is an interesting statement which I believe gives some insight into the incredible accomplishments of Mother Teresa... Eileen Egan says that on one occasion she was laying out to Mother Teresa a series of what seemed to be insurmountable problems facing them...one after another, Eileen Egan explained the problems to Mother Teresa...and here’s how Mother Teresa responded: “Do we have to call everything a problem? Why not erase the word problem from our vocabulary and instead use the word gift?” [Brian’s Lines, Vol.16, Issue 6, p.25]

3.      I like that!...it’s a reminder that things we view as negatives can really be positives in our lives...we can view difficulties in terms of problems or we can view difficulties in terms of opportunities...

4.      The people to whom the NT letter of I Peter was originally sent were on the verge of facing some great difficulties...the Roman government, under the leadership of the Emperor Nero, had turned on the Christians...a severe, brutal government sponsored persecution was heading their way...and in I Peter 4:12-19 Peter instructs these Christian to view that persecution not as a problem but as a gift...look in your Bibles to I Peter 4:12-19 (text)...

 

T.S. – We are on the cusp of the Christmas season...one frustration that many of us experience during this season is the frustration of trying to find just the right gift for our loved ones...and as we think about all the possible gifts we could give, the furthest thing from our mind would be wishing for those whom we love the gift of suffering...but as strange as it may sound, in this paragraph Peter encourages his readers to view suffering in terms of gift...and in these verses he points out two instances when suffering becomes a gift...

 

I.       Suffering becomes a gift when we allow it to sharpen our faith in Christ


1.      Notice how Peter begins this paragraph...”Beloved, do not be surprised at the  fiery ordeal among you..."...there’s a whole sermon in that single statement...the implication of those words is that some of the Christians in the 1st century were surprised when suffering came their way...they—

--apparently believed that faith in Christ somehow was suppose to make them immune from suffering...

--may have bought into the heresy which is still prevalent in some Christian circles today...the heresy of thinking that if you are really a spiritual person, if you are really committed to and in touch with God, God will protect you from all suffering...and if you experience suffering, that is an indication of some spiritual weakness or spiritual problem in your life...

2.      But in this verse Peter says Christians shouldn't view suffering that way...suffering is a part of every person’s experience in this world—

·         Sometimes suffering comes to our lives as a result of our commitment to Christ...that is the kind of suffering Peter is talking about in this paragraph...someone has said that “...the world does not persecute religious people, but it does persecute righteous people...”[Wiersbe, p.113]...the way of the world is built on lies, pride, pleasure, and the desire to get more...the way of righteousness is built on truth, humility, holiness, and the desire to glorify God...when a person chooses righteousness over worldliness, person invariably suffers the wrath of, the contempt of, and even persecution from those who don’t understand that commitment...

·         Sometimes suffering comes to our lives merely as a result of living in a fallen world...accidents, illnesses, and death are no respecters of persons...we are all subject to those things...

·         Sometimes suffering comes to our lives because of our sin and disobedience...we often choose our way over God’s way and the result is our lives are diminished because of that...

3.      And in this paragraph Peter tells us that when suffering comes our way, as surely it will, no matter what its source, instead of viewing it as a sign of spiritual weakness or as punishment for some wrong deed, view it as a gift...as a gift which provides us the opportunity of sharpening, of deepening our faith in Christ...

 


1.      Notice the phrase used in v.12 to describe the suffering of Christians...Peter describes our suffering as a “fiery ordeal”...that phrase refers to process by which precious metals are refined... the refiner’s fire separates the precious metal from the impurities ...separates that which has great value from that which has no value...

2.      And in the same way, suffering in our lives can have the impact of refining our faith...of burning away the impurities...of making our faith purer, stronger, sharper...

 

1.      Martin Niemoeller was a German pastor who spent years in a Nazi concentration camp...he survived the war and shortly after his release was interviewed by a reporter...in the story written from the interview the reporter said that Niemoeller’s years of suffering in a concentration camp did not destroy him...did not make him bitter or angry...instead, the reporter said Pastor Niemoeller’s experience of suffering “purified him to an incandescent faith” [I Peter Study, Harbour]

2.      Suffering becomes a gift when we allow it to sharpen, to purify our faith in Christ...

 

II.  Suffering becomes a gift when we allow it to strengthen our relationship with God

1.      It’s often been said that experiences of suffering will do one of two things to our relationship with God...suffering will either draw us closer to God or it will drive us away from God...in this passage Peter says that suffering becomes a gift when we allow it to draw us closer to God...

2.      Throughout this paragraph are reminders of how suffering can strengthen our relationship with God...

--in v.13 we’re told that as we suffer we “share in the sufferings of Christ”...in other words, as we experience suffering we are walking a pathway familiar to Jesus...for the prophet Isaiah described Jesus as “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief”...

--then in v.14 we’re told that as we suffer “the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us”...in other words, as we experience suffering, God is with us in a special way...while He doesn’t promise us immunity from suffering, He does promise us His presence for the hour of suffering...it is a wonderful and comforting thought that God doesn't  abandon us in our hour of need...when experience hurt and  heartache, God doesn't stand aside and observe us in cold,  objective way...He comes to us and he suffers along  with us...we need not ask "Where is God?" when we suffer...according  to Scripture he is right alongside us, sharing in our suffering...


--and in v.19 we’re told that as we suffer we are to “entrust our souls” to God...word translated "entrust" had special meaning in 1st century...there were no banks as we know them in that day...before person went on journey, would entrust his money to the safe‑keeping of reliable friend...such trust was regarded as one most sacred duties person could accept.. . friend bound by all honor and religion to keep money  safe and return it intact...what Peter saying here is "God is reliable...when  entrust selves to Him can be sure will not fail us...can  have complete, utter confidence in him all time...and  especially in times of suffering.."

  1. The cumulative impact of those statements is to remind us that times of suffering have the potential of drawing us closer to God...and when we allow that to happen, suffering then becomes a precious gift...

CONCLUSION

  1. I’ve told you before about  my Granddad Reynolds...he was one of the key mentors of my life...granddad was a pastor, missionary, and denominational worker for many years...when he retired in the early 1960's he and Grandmother Reynolds moved to Houston near our home...on October 30, 1977 Grandmother Reynolds suddenly died of a stroke...Granddad lived for about nine years after her death...I remember watching him during the time of Grandmother’s death and being impressed with the poise and dignity with which he carried himself...while he was deeply saddened by the loss of his wife of more than 50 years, there was a calmness of spirit, a peace, a sense of strength about him during that time which was quite obvious to me...

  2. After Granddad died, the family was going through some old sermon notes and other papers from his office...came across a very interesting thing...we found a prayer Granddad had written shortly after Grandmother had died...his prayer illustrates well the principles I see in this paragraph in I Peter and I want to share it with you...

     

A Prayer by Granddad Reynolds

 

Thank you, Father, for giving us as much time together as we had.  Spare me now from further pain of self-inflicted self-pity.

 

I accept the fact that I have no right to expect that I can be so highly privileged as to never experience any sorrow in my life-time.  This is my time to experience a cross, and I do so bravely.

 

I remember with joy and eternal gratitude our wedding day.  You made no promise to us then, guaranteeing a fixed number of years together.  I thank you for what we have had, and I will not think about what we could have had.

 

I will look now at what I have left, not at what I have lost.  I weigh the fruit of our love and marriage in terms of years happily spent and in our family joys that live on in happy memories.

 

I thank you, Father, that our marriage terminated not in bitter grief but in sweet sorrow.  Not in an ignoble scene of angry parting but through the honored call of God who has glorified our marriage with the holy call, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

 

My tears are happy tears of love and gratitude.  I thank you that our love for each other is still alive this very moment.

 

I sense I am surrounded by an invisible presence and power of an indescribable love.  It is the comfort of your Holy Spirit.  I praise you, my God and my Father, for your goodness and mercy.

 

In Jesus name, Amen.

 

(Written by Reverend Thomas Tucker Reynolds in 1977

at the death of his wife of more than sixty years.)

 

  1. Suffering becomes a gift when we allow it to—

--sharpen our faith in Christ...

--strengthen our relationship with God...

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