Why Do Christians Suffer?
Text: "But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye..."
Introduction. For the Christian believer no suffering is meaningless. Paul said that,"in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). But yet there is a question that plague us from generation to generation, why do Christians suffer?
First, we need to realize that not all suffering is undue suffering. Some suffering is due a wrong action we took or bad decision we made, sometimes suffering is caused by our sinful disobedience. However, we do face at times undue suffering. Job committed no sin yet he suffered greatly.
The Apostle Paul was beaten severely, stoned, and shipwrecked for the cause of the gospel. Many great saints suffered immensely in order that church may grow. Many missionaries have lost never lives in foreign lands trying to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Why does a loving God allow these things to happen? Again, with God’s children no suffering is meaningless. There are many people in the world today who have suffered greatly for no other reason than that they were followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How will you react if you find yourself in a position where you are going to have to suffer in order to be true to Jesus Christ? The Apostle Peter was qualified by personal experience to write words of encouragement to Christians who were experiencing persecution at the hands of the high priest and the Sadduces (Acts 5:17-42). He had been in great danger during the persecution which was promoted by Saul of Tarsus (Acts 8). He had been unjustly imprisoned by Herod the king, who evidently intended to execute Peter, as he had done with James (Acts 12:1-4).
Although Peter had experienced some remarkable spiritual triumphs and wonderful deliverances by the Lord (Acts 5:18-20; 12:5-11). In this epistle he sought to encourage his readers to be faithful even unto the point of death, in view of the assurance of eternal glory beyond death.
I. THE POSSIBILITY OF UNDESERVED SUFFERING (3:13,14).
There are two words used in the New Testament which refer to suffering. These two words occur fifty-three times in the entire New Testament and sixteen of them are found in the five chapters of I Peter. The suffering of God’s people is one of the major themes with which the book deals, the writer sought to give them, on the basis of his experience of the Lord’s faithfulness, the courage that would be necessary if they were to suffer meaningfully and triumphantly.
A. "If ye be followers of that which is good?" If the believer will lead an upright and benevolent life, no actual harm will come to him from proper constituted legal authorties. Normally men are punished for wicked deeds, not for righteous deeds.
B. "If ye suffer for righteousness’ sake." Peter recognized that in a pagan world of wicked men there was a strong possibility that innocent might suffer unjustly. Jesus pointed out ine the Beatitudes that Christian character would provoke opposition and persecution on the part of those who were willfully and maliciously evil (Matt. 5:10-12). I believe that the tragedy that took place here in America on September 11, 2001 happened because evil men hate the fact that America is primarily a Christian nation a nation founded upon Christian values. As a result, many innocent people died that horrible and tragic day.
C. "Be not afraid of their terror." Peter here encouraged the Christians not to be filled with terror because of anything their persecutors could do to them. They were to recognize that God was their protector. God is never confined to the present. He can cause us to triumph, even if that triumph comes on the other side of the suffering of death. In the meantime they are to meet peril with calmness and courage based on their knowledge of the character and purpose of God.
II. SPIRITUAL PREPARATION FOR UNMERITED SUFFERING (3:15-17).
A. "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts." Peter was saying here set your hearts on Jesus Christ. Trust in Jesus, and dedicate yourself to Jesus. This will in turn will lift you above the fear of man.
B. "Be ready always to give an answer to every man." The word which is translated "answer" means "to defend one’s self of a charge, to make defense."
C. "Having good conscience." It is extemely important that Christians be able to witness to their faith without being hindered by a conscience that accuses them of having done wrong. They will have to suffer enough without having to endure the pains of a guilty conscience.
D. "If the will of God be so." Peter definitely implied that at times suffering would accompany the doing of God’s good will. There are some things to be learned and demonstrated in Christian suffering that cannot be revealed in any other manner. Suffering for Christ and righteousness’ sake is redemptive both for the sufferer and for others.
III. EXAMPLES OF UNDESERVED SUFFERING
A. The example of Christ (3:18). Peter’s purpose in referring to the sufferings of Christ was not to discuss the Atonement, but to remind believers that Christ suffered greatly as an innocent person and not as an evildoer. Christ had suffered as the innocent for the guilty and as the just for the unjust. He had suffered for a purpose even though it seemed that He had failed. Instead of escape or deliverance from suffering He was put to death in the flesh.
Peter suggested that the sufferings of Christ followers can be part of the divine purpose that will make it possible for others eventually to hear the message of God’s salvation. As Jesus was patient in His sufferings, even so His people should persevere in their time of trial.
B. Noah’s patience in sufferings (3:19-21). This difficult passage must interpreted in its context. As Christ was saved from death by the Resurrection, so Noah and his family were saved from the Flood that threatened them after suffering the ridicule of a paganistic world. Here when Peter refers to Noah he uses Noah as an illustration of God’s ability to deliver those who are obedient and faithful in the face of appears to be insurmountable obstacles. For a hundred and twenty years Noah had to endure their ridicule while being obedient to the command of the Lord to build an ark.
Conclusion. No matter what the suffering is--persecution, ridicule, mockery, victimized by rumor and gossip, rejection, abuse, criticism (destructive), being bypass,imprisoned, illness, assault, or financial difficulties. God will meet your need and he has great things in store for you and I. God will use your suffering as a strong testimony for His precious Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.