Suffering 1 Peter 2:21-24 Sermon
Preached in Leicester Church on 3-13-05 and in Southbridge on 3-20-05
Revised on 4-2-06 Preached in South Road on 4-2-06
1 Peter 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
What do you think of when I say the word “Suffering?” Do you think of pain, hardship, or maybe you in vision a heavy load that is being carried? Suffering is defined as:
SUF'FERING, ppr. Undergoing pain, inconvenience or damage.
Distress, loss or injury incurred; as sufferings by pain or sorrow; sufferings by want or by wrongs.
You know there were thousands of people who were affected by the Tsunami that hit a little over a year ago. Many people suffered and died as a result of the Tsunami and many people are suffering now. They suffer with sickness and disease as a result of the pollution in the water and they suffer while watching their loved ones go through pain and death.
The Hurricane that hit the southern part of our country. There are many who suffer persecution through out the world. And we all suffer the day to day trials of life.
We know that people suffer but why do we suffer? That’s a really good question and one that we ask all the time. This is a question that people have asked throughout the ages and have answered in many different ways. There are people who think we suffer because of past life Karma, the idea that when we do wrong we suffer and when we do right we are blessed and we are here to somehow work off our wrongdoings and especially our past life wrongdoings, and there are those who believe we suffer because we haven’t come to a higher level of godness to stop our suffering. Some people just believe that there is no rhyme or reason to this life that we all evolved from a Big Bang and are all headed for nothing and suffering is just a natural thing that happens as a part of the evolutionary process.
But is it true that we suffer for our past life Karma?
Is it true that there is no purpose to life and so no purpose to suffering except to cause or continue evolution?
No. The Psalmist says: Psalm 139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving creator. Unlike these other beliefs the Bible tells us that there is a reason and a purpose to this life. But if that’s true then why do we suffer?
There are two major reasons why people suffer in this world.
Our sin causes suffering
The first is that we suffer when we sin. When we break God’s law we suffer. Sometimes the suffering is immediate and other times it’s off in the future. For example if a person goes out one Friday night and drinks, and drinks and drinks and over drinks alcohol and then decides he will drive home and on his way home he hits a tree and is severely injured. This man now suffers for the next six months or so. He suffers physically as he goes through surgery and rehabilitation and the pain of his injuries. And he suffers mentally as he asks himself why he chose to get in that car and why he chose to drink in the first place and he also suffers financially as he now has to pay all these doctor bills.
Sins of others affect us
Sometimes we suffer because of what other people do. The sins of others affect us.
Let’s take the example of the drunk driver again but this time instead of hitting a tree he hits a car full of teenagers on their way home from a youth group rally and they all are injured or killed. These children did nothing wrong they were innocent in all of this and yet they and their families are suffering because of another persons actions, their sins.
But what about Christians? Do Christians suffer?
Churches of Christ through out the area (bordering the Indian Ocean) reported losses from the killer tsunami that followed a massive under sea earthquake near the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Many church families “are suffering from the tidal wave that swept away their loved ones and homes,” said Dennis, a minister in Chennai, in southeastern India.
At least 40 church members were killed in the Chennai area, and 105 church families in four area villages lost their homes.
The Christian Chronicle
Volume 62 Number 2 February 2005
Brothers and Sisters in Christ suffering due to the hurricane (Katrina).
We can all see from this news story that Christians do suffer but why is it that Christians suffer? Shouldn’t we expect God almighty to keep us safe? We, after all gave up our sinful life and Christ died that we might have a new sin free life. Why do we as Christians suffer?
B) Suffering as a way to refine and purify
First of all we have to realize that we as Christians are never told that we will live a life of comfort never suffering. In fact The Lord said:
Luke 9:23 And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
That’s a day by day suffering. You want Jesus, you have to take up your suffering everyday and follow Him.
2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
We are never told or guaranteed that suffering will not come to us but are told that we will suffer everyday if we choose to follow Christ. Don’t fall for this lie that if you’re a Christian you will never suffer that is the farthest form the truth.
But that still doesn’t answer the question of why we suffer.
Let me say that we suffer for two main reasons. There maybe other reasons you can think about but I want us to take a look at two general reasons why we as Christians suffer. There are at least two reasons or purposes why Christians suffer.
The first reason is because through suffering and trials we are strengthened and our faith is built up.
James 1:2-4 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.
Romans 5:3-5 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings,
Wow, we rejoice in our sufferings. Why and how can he say that? Well, he tells us.
knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
When we suffer as Christ suffered we are being built up and strengthened.
Some of you may have heard this illustration before. The person who wants to strengthen their bodies goes to a place of pain and suffering. They put heavy pieces of metal on to a long bar and they proceed to lift these heavy pieces of metal over and over again. If you have ever worked out with weights or in any way gone to a gym then you know that you suffer while exercising, and even after you exercise. Sore muscles and you are usually fatigued at least at first but after a while you are able to lift that weight more times it is not as painful during or after and you are feeling better physically. Your body is becoming stronger and stronger and you are able to do the everyday tasks of life and not get as tired as fast. Isn’t that the case? It is.
The very same idea is true for the Christian as they suffer. We are being strengthened and even thought it doesn’t feel like it at the time we are building endurance and we are having our faith built up.
Isn’t that what Paul is saying? We could take the illustration of a runner and if you know anything about competing in a race it’s hard work and it takes training just like the weightlifter the runner has to train for the race or they won‘t finish.
When we suffer as Christians we suffer and in that suffering we are being built up and strengthened.
Romans 5:3-5 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame,
C) Suffering as a picture of Jesus to others
But Christians suffer for another reason or purpose. We not only suffer as a process of building up and strengthening but we suffer and our sufferings benefit others.
Let’s turn to the letter of 1 Peter chapter 2 verse 21 and see what Peter has to say about this.
1 Peter 2:21-23 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
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.
We talk sometimes about the innocent suffering, who was or is more innocent than Christ? Yet he suffered and left us an example of how we are to live our lives and how we are to suffer.
When a Christian suffers in this life they are showing others Jesus Christ. We suffer because Christ suffered and he is our example. We follow in His steps and when people see us suffering and we endure and suffer like Christ they see Jesus. They see the Gospel acted out in our lives. There is Jesus, there is Jesus, there is Jesus.
1 Peter 2:11-12 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1Pe 2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
1 Peter 3:13-16 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 1Pe 3:14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 1Pe 3:15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 1Pe 3:16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
A Christian who suffers as Christ suffered is being refined and purified and strengthened and is an example of Jesus Christ to others.
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 1Pe 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1Pe 4:14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 1Pe 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 1Pe 4:16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1Pe 4:17 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? 1Pe 4:18 And "If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" 1Pe 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Let me say this, if you’re here today and your not a Christian you are going to suffer, and at the end of the day you suffer for absolutely no reason. If you’re a Christian your going to suffer because Christ suffered but if we suffer as Christ suffered we will be blessed. God through suffering is building our faith and endurance and God is using your sufferings to show others Christ.
A Word of Encouragement
(Romans 8:18) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
We have the hope of life with God eternally when this life is over.
There is an old fable that says the gold objected to the heat of the furnace and asked how long it should be expected to endure such heat. The answer was, "As soon as the refiner's purpose is accomplished." "And when will that be?" asked the gold. The answer was, "When the refiner can see his own face in you."
-- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
See: Isa 48:10; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 4:12-14; 5:10
I want to leave you this morning with those words. We are called to suffer and in our sufferings we became more like Christ and reflect Christ to others.
May God bless you as you continue to follow HIM.