What is the right approach to suffering? 1 Peter 3:13-17
Illustration on Suffering
In 1927 the wife of Scottish preacher Arthur Gossip died suddenly. When he returned to the pulpit he preached a sermon titled “When Life Tumbles In, What Then?” In that sermon Arthur compared life to watching a plane pass through the sky during wartime. There you are, lying on your back watching a plane fly gracefully across a brilliant sunlit blue sky when all of a sudden it is blown apart by gunfire and falls to earth a tumbling, tangled mess of metal. Only on this occasion the gunfire was the tragically unexpected death of his beloved wife.
Arthur went on to explain that he didn’t understand this life, but what he did know was that during this darkest period of his life he needed his faith more than ever. “You people in the sunshine may believe the faith, but we in the shadow must believe it.” Source: Reported in Hans, God on the Witness Stand (Baker 1987).
We live in a world full of trouble and suffering. Man faces trouble in a variety of ways. Suffering can come by the way of death of a loved one, loss of job, accusations, misunderstanding, persecution and the list goes on and on and on. We come across suffering whether we like it or not. So the question is: How do I face suffering as Christian? What is the Christian approach to suffering?
Background of text:
Remember, in this epistle, Apostle Peter has been giving some instructions to the suffering believers about living in a hostile world. The believers in Rome were undergoing great persecution; therefore, Peter gives them an approach to suffering and how to deal with it.
1 Peter 3:8-17 is the core of this epistle.
Peter began in 1 Peter 1-2:10 by identifying Christians as the chosen of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, and set apart to holy living in the midst of an unholy society, for the purpose of reaching that society with the saving gospel.
Then, starting in 1 Peter 2:11-12, Peter identifies Christians as aliens and strangers. We are only temporary in this world. We are set apart for holy living with the purpose of being a light in our society.
1 Peter 2:13-3:7, Peter talks about our relationship to government. He talks about our relationship to authority. Peter talks about our relationship to our employer. In chapter 3, Peter talks about our relationship to our marital partner, everything is evangelistic goal in mind.
In 1 Peter 3:8-17, we have the core of Peter’s message. So far Peter had been laying a foundation. Now, Peter addresses the believers who are going through suffering. He talks about the Christian approach to suffering.
1 Peter 3:13-16
13Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
Well, Peter gives us a handful of principles on a Christian’s approach to suffering.
A CHRISTIAN’S APPROACH TO SUFFERING
1. EAGER FOR GOODNESS.
First of all, a Christian must be passionate to do good even in the midst of suffering.
I must be passionate to do good in spite of my suffering.
1 Peter 3:13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
John Wesley, the founder of methodism had this for his rule of life:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
John Keble, English churchman and poet in 18th Century said, “When you are quite despondent, the best way is to go out and do something kind to somebody. This is a medicine that never fails to cure. To test it, try it. Imprison yourself with your sorrow, and life will be a gloomy bondage.”
It is very unusual for most people, to mistreat those who are zealous for good. The world doesn’t have any problem at all attacking the thief and or a murderer, bBut the world is not so eager to fight against those who are doing good. Peter is talking about a good life, a life that is marked by generosity, unselfishness, kindness, and thoughtfulness toward others.
So, Peter begins by insisting then that one of the ways a Christian can live in the midst of suffering or pain is to have a zeal for what is good. It’s a question that Peter is asking: Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? The implied answer is no one, or very few.
Above all, Jesus had that passion for goodness.
Acts 10:38 ..how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
Jesus did good and only good. He is our model. A hostile world killed Jesus. Be passionate for goodness.
If you have an abusive husband, being good is to love him and to pray for him hoping that one day he will change. If you are be targeted in your workplace, doing good is to continue to work as you are working as unto the Lord.
2. FLEXIBILITY IN SUFFERING.
Pliable means be flexible or be adaptable to suffering. Example: Rubber band, flexible scale. A tree facing a wind is flexible.
1 Peter 3:14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.
Now, it is not a guaranteed promise that if you do good you won’t suffer from people. In spite doing good, there will be times when those who do good suffer. Therefore the right approach to suffering is to be flexible in suffering.
Illustration on Suffering
Parnell Bailey, CEO of Skills Camp, TEDx speaker, and one of the 100 most powerful women in Canada once visited an orange grove where an irrigation pump had broken down. The season was unusually dry and some of the trees were beginning to die for lack of water. The guide then took Bailey to his own orchard where irrigation was used sparingly. “These trees could go without rain for another 2 weeks,” he said. “You see, when they were young, I frequently kept water from them. This hardship caused them in their formation stage to send their roots deeper into the soil in search of moisture. Now mine are the deepest-rooted trees in the area. While others are being scorched by the sun, these are finding moisture at a greater depth.” (Our Daily Bread).
I need to be willing to adapt myself when suffering comes.
1 Peter 4:12-13
12Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Suffering is a major theme of Peter’s letter. And there again Peter says basically the same thing. You will suffer perhaps for doing good, accept that. Count it a privilege when you suffer for good.
Illustration on Suffering
One Pastor once said, “While my husband Frank and I were living in an a foreign country many years ago, our six-month-old baby died. An old believer who heard of our grief came to comfort us. “A tragedy like this is similar to being plunged into boiling water,” he explained. “If you are an egg, your affliction will make you hard-boiled and unresponsive. If you are a potato, you will emerge soft and pliable, resilient and adaptable.”
In other words, when you suffer for doing good, there’s a sense in which you can identify with the very sufferings of Christ. Philippians 3:10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings becoming like him in his death.. God sometimes allows suffering in order to perfect us.
1 Peter 3:14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Now, what does blessed mean? Do you remember what Elizabeth said to Mary? Luke 1:42 Blessed are you among women.
Blessedness does not necessarily mean “happy.” In fact, her heart was pierced with many sorrows. But it meant privileged, it meant honored. It meant divine favor and divine grace was upon Mary. That’s exactly what it means here. Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you’re privileged, you are blessed. Why? Because you can join in the sufferings of Christ, you can fellowship in His sufferings.
Matthew 5:10-12 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
What are the challenges in our life today? What is your approach to suffering today? Will you commit your trials and pain into the hands of the living God. Make a commitment to do good in your suffering. Change your perspective from self-pity to do going for others. Commit yourself to be flexible under God’s mighty hand. He will lead you through this trouble. Let’s pray.