Suffering – A Biblical perspective

Speaker: Rev. Shine Thomas

INTRODUCTION:

Have you ever wondered why we go through sufferings? Yes, we know that suffering is here because of the fall of Adam but why do we have to suffer even after being a child of God? Can a believer suffer? What does suffering accomplish in us?

Today I want to speak to you on the Purpose, Position, and the Payoff of suffering from the life of Peter.

Peter was the disciple who spoke of his undying loyalty to Jesus. But when Jesus was arrested, Peter betrayed Jesus three times and the cock crowed. Jesus turned and looked at Peter and his heart smote him and he went out and wept bitterly. Even after following and loving Jesus, Peter failed his master.

Now a few days after the resurrection the disciples are on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and Jesus prepares food for them. Jesus asks Peter “Do you love me?” Peter answered, “Yes.”

John 21:17-19 17The third time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

In his old age or his last days Peter would be taken to places he did not want to go. Jesus was speaking of the kind of death which Peter would die. No man looks forward to his death. Peter was a man just like all of us are. I would imagine over the years that went by that Peter suffered some with that words of Jesus.

The scene shifts. Move forward in time with me just a few weeks in Jerusalem. Jesus has ascended back to heaven. Peter’s betrayal is forgiven, he is now preaching the Word of God, and people are being saved. Soon Peter is arrested and persecuted by the authorities, Acts 4.

Peter serving God, doing good, begins to suffer now, not because of his wrongdoing but for doing good and is thrown into the prison. This was not a prison with air-conditioning or TV. His feet were in the stocks. He was hurting. Here Peter is suffering for doing good. Later he was released from prison.

Travel forward with me in time again a few months and the city is by the name of Antioch in Acts 8. People are coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ and Paul is there. Peter and the other apostles from Jerusalem come up to Antioch to preach and minister to the people there. Apostle Paul steps in front of the crowd one day and publicly rebukes Peter because had been keeping certain practices of the OT law which signified that one must not only trust Jesus Christ by faith but also keep the law in order to be right with God. Paul publicly rebuked this famous disciple, Peter.

Now Peter was rebuked and suffered because of his wrongdoing, but you understand Peter was in Antioch to serve God. It was an unintentional doctrinal mistake. Now he is convicted and how his heart might have been again. I am sure the devil reminded Peter of his betrayal at Jesus’ arrest. The devil would have reminded, “You failed again, you are never going to make it friend, you just keep failing.” But you know Peter got that right with God and went on serving God.

A number of years later Peter penned the letter called the first epistle of Peter to the believers of the Roman Empire in Asia. The Holy Spirit used him to pen these very words about suffering. Why? Because, all God’s people suffer if they love the Lord. I would like to speak to you about 3 things regarding this matter of suffering.

THE PURPOSE OF SUFFERING.

It would be too hard to bear if suffering was without a purpose. My dear friend if you are suffering today in relationships within the family, employment, suffering spiritually or because of any problem there is a purpose behind it.

a. Suffering contributes to our sanctification.

1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.

Now many of you are born in a believer family. That is great you have not spent much time in wickedness of the world. In contrast, many of you have come to the Lord Jesus Christ after living a life in sin. Thank God we are all now equal before God. Peter is reminding them of the days before they were saved. 1 Peter 4:3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. That was the lifestyle and that was the normal thing to do; now we are changed.

The world, the gentiles do not understand why you do not do those things anymore. Your neighbours and friends do not understand why you do not go over for social drinking, cigarette break, or a pooja at your family or at workplace. 1 Peter 4:4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.

That is normal for the unsaved person but that is not for God’s people. They do not understand that and sometimes we suffer because of that. They abuse us, separate us from their group, and we are looked as some frenetic. 1 Peter 4:5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.  There is coming a day of judgement for them.

Dear friend if you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as saviour, you need Jesus because there is a coming judgement for nonbelievers. Secondly, God is going to judge everyone who is giving his believers a tough time in this world because of our faith.

Peter is saying: 1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude…. So, when the going gets tough, we are not to quit. When the going gets tough don’t faint. The Bible says that the man who faints in the day of adversity, his strength is small. Now that does not minimize the pain of suffering but when you suffer, arm yourself with the attitude and the mind of Christ.

Now did you notice the purpose in our suffering? 1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. He who has suffered in his flesh/body has done with sin. Suffering leads to sanctification.

Suffering has a teaching quality about it. Hebrews 5:8 Son though he was, he learned obedience form what he suffered. Jesus had no sin. He was the sinless Son of God who took upon himself man’s sins. The Bible says Jesus learned obedience to the father through his suffering.

My dear friend, life can bring many disappointments to us. It may be because of our wrong, maybe temptation, maybe sickness, failure, accusation, and so on. In your pain remember you ought to be doing something different, we ought to be living like Jesus. That helps us bring sanctification. Suffering sanctifies us.

b. Suffering contributes to fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made confirmable unto his death.

Yes, we all want to know Jesus. We want the power of his resurrection. But the Bible also says there is fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ when we suffer. Listen, none of us are going to pray for sufferings, that is not the point. But suffering is going to come and when it comes if you and I will submit ourselves to the will of God, we begin to know him more and deep, we begin to know him in the fellowship of suffering and he begins to make himself real more and more to us. There is a sweetness involved in suffering which is not gained any other way.

1 Peter 4:12-14 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. 14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. So when suffering comes remember this purpose. Suffering helps us in our sanctification and our fellowship with Jesus Christ.

c. Suffering contributes to testimony of Christ.

1 Peter 3:15-16 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: (that means set him apart in your hearts, make him the focus of your heart, give attention to him in your heart.) Sanctify the Lord in your hearts and be ready always (now what is the context? The context is suffering in the government, family, business, sickness, relationships, spiritual suffering) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

So here is the believer and he is suffering for the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps he is tormented by the unsaved friends or family, but he keeps the testimony. One day one of his co-workers or family comes up and says, “You know you are so different in a good way.” He would say you are different because he is tormenting you, but he says there is something different about you, you are not getting angry at anybody when we tease you, when we give you a hard time, when we do bad things to you. What is it about you that make you different?

My dear friend if in the suffering you have sanctified the Lord God in your heart, you have focused on him and have fellowship with Jesus Christ, you will be ready to give that person an answer of the hope which is in you. You will be able to tell him of Jesus and how he can have peace with God and forgiveness of sins. So there is a testimony in suffering.

POSTURE OF SUFFERING.

When suffering comes there are ways to handle it, ways to deal with it.

a. Humble yourself.

1 Peter 5:5b Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. In the time of suffering it is easy to lash out. It is easy to have that proud and arrogant response in turn. But in the midst of suffering, we are to humble ourselves under the hand of God. Every other posture in suffering is derived out of humility.

Then in our posture there are some words spoken especially to the elders who were among them. We have pastors, department heads, and members of different team at City Harvest in the midst of suffering you need to:

b. Serve God.

1 Peter 5:1-3 1The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.

There is one command in these verses which governs the rest – feed the flock, serve God. This is our primary task as a minister. We may have difficulties at home, work, financial problems, sickness, or even problems from the members who we are ministering to. However, you are not to stop your ministry. You are to carry on the ministry that God has placed you in. Do not do you ministry by constraint but willingly, you do not do it for money or materialism or for what you can get out of it but out of a ready mind even when you are suffering. So the posture for ministers even when you suffer is to serve God in humility.

c. Submit to one another.

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, (All, young and old). This is speaking of the young people first and then all in the congregation – Submit to one another and be humble.

d. Cast your cares on God.

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon God; for he careth for you. Suffering hurts. It is painful. You become so burdened, so your posture should be a posture on your knees, casting it upon Jesus, talking to him about it because there is the promise – he cares for you. You think in the midst of your suffering God is not even aware of it? No the Bible teaches us, this verse tells us that in the midst of your suffering he cares for you, so your posture should be on your knees casting your care upon him.

e. Be Sober and Vigilant.

1 Peter 5:8-9 8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the worldSober means sensible and thoughtful. Vigilant means watchful.

We are to be sober and vigilant because your adversary, the devil in the midst of your suffering is like a roaring lion, he walked about seeking whom he may devour.

Do you understand dear child of God, the devil wants to feast in your suffering. He wants to defeat you in your suffering. He wants you to question God and doubt God. He wants you to be angry at you, angry at others, angry at God. He does not want you to have the victory and the peace of God. So we need to be sober and vigilant.

We are to resist the devil. We are not to be resisting the husband, wife, children, or our parents. We are not to resist one another. In the midst of the suffering there is one we are to resist and that is the devil because he is trying to defeat you in the middle of the suffering. So when you are suffering be sober and vigilant, resist the devil.

f. Trust God.

1 Peter 4:19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. You may be going through trouble today, but the Bible is asking us to trust God, commit yourselves to God and do good.

THE PAYOFF OF SUFFERING.

Finally I would point out to you that there is a payoff to suffering.

a. God will exalt you.

1 Peter 5:6, 10 6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. 10But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.

When God exalts you he will make you perfect, establish you, strengthen you, and settle you.

Dear saint of God who is suffering today trust God, there is a payoff. There is a pay day coming and it will be well worth your faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

CONCLUSION:

This morning commit your circumstances and pain into the hands of God. He cares for you.


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