A BIT OF SUFFERING
When we approach our suffering with humility and faith in Christ’s promises, we live in hope.
The sermon for the Third Sunday after Trinity, June 20, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant, Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.
1 Peter 5:6–11 (EHV)
6Therefore humble yourselves under God’s powerful hand so that he may lift you up at the appointed time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8Have sound judgment. Be alert. Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him by being firm in the faith. You know that the same kinds of sufferings are being laid on your brotherhood all over the world.
10After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you. 11To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed: The last two weeks we considered the situation in which Christians find themselves in the world. In 1 John 4, the Apostle John taught how the Christian kind of love, gracious and merciful love, was truly counter-cultural – and an inevitable outgrowth of the Christian faith. In 1 John 3, John delved more deeply into this counter-cultural character of Christian love. It is really the love of Christ leading to life vs the hatred of man leading to death.
We continue with the situation of the Christian in the word, turning to the Apostle Peter’s first letter, in which he has been addressing the Christians spread across the empire. He is writing to people who will be undergoing persecution as well as to all of us who have received his words. He wrote “… to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.” (1 Peter 5:12, EHV) What did he say? He said …
THE CHRISTIAN IN THE WORLD
WE WILL SUFFER A LITTLE WHILE
- Humbly Accept His Will
- Stand Strong in the Faith
- Rest in His Promises
- Humbly Accept His Will
What do you think? Is that encouraging to know that we will have to suffer? Well, we already have somewhat at least. Any Christian has, because the Devil, the world, and our sinful nature are arrayed against us. The point is that we need to humble yourselves under God’s powerful hand so that he may lift you up at the appointed time.
God Himself says that we will suffer for a while, and for our own good, but God Himself tells us He will deliver us. The same Word that tells us we will face suffering also tells us that we are we are beloved, so don’t reject the idea that hardship and, yes, suffering may very well be the gracious gift of God to us.
Peter makes the point well in few words: 6Therefore humble yourselves under God’s powerful hand so that he may lift you up at the appointed time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
Enough of your arrogance and pride, your thoughts that you are somebody special! Who do you think is in charge of the universe anyway? In His infinite power, His mighty hand, God will have his way. But that also means that by His mighty hand He will in good time deliver you from the troubles of life – through most of our lives, usually, but certainly in delivering us from this life.
If we will so humble ourselves we will also learn of His care and compassion, for He says, 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
This isn’t the only place He says so, either. In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches, ““For this reason I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? “Which of you can add a single moment to his lifespan by worrying?” (Matthew 6:25–27, EHV)
And Paul reminds us, “What then will we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also graciously give us all things along with him?” (Romans 8:31–32, EHV)
This is the measure of His love – that He entered into life and suffering and death itself for us. Do we suppose that we are better than He is, as though we deserve no suffering or trouble in this life? Peter is here telling us to humbly accept his will, even if it means suffering.
2. Standing Strong in the Faith
If we do, then by faith we know that His will is also good for us, for He has not only taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil,” He has promised to do it.
Anybody here free of uncertainty? Many of us are at the age where infirmity could overcome us. And if you are young and strong, there are uncertainties at your stage of life as well.
But as Paul says, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, EHV) Though we cannot see how things will turn out, or how soon we can be sure that His promises will never fail. That is why Paul, starting with the certainty of our forgiveness and God’s love can assure us that we are blessed also in our sufferings:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we also have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we rejoice confidently on the basis of our hope for the glory of God. Not only this, but we also rejoice confidently in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces patient endurance, and patient endurance produces tested character, and tested character produces hope. And hope will not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who was given to us.” (Romans 5:1–5, EHV)
Tribulation, suffering, affliction is something we can’t do anything about, and so it leads to perseverance, patient endurance, the process of going on and on and on and on and on, in faith and hope. We then experience God’s deliverance, and so having been tested, we grow in character. When your folks would send you out into the cold to shovel and you complained, and they said, “Go on, it will build your character,” this is what they meant. It is sometimes translated experience, because having gone through something you find that you have made it. This gives rise to hope. Essentially, it is that we see the promises of God fulfilled.
After going through any number of such “cycles,” and dwelling in God’s word, the Christian may grow stronger in the faith, and learn by experience what is taught in the word, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28, EHV)
Of course some times we don’t get to see it, and so we are left to take it on faith. Again, it is a matter of humility, as Peter says, 6Therefore humble yourselves under God’s powerful hand… .
But I want you to know that in our age, as in the first century, more of us will suffer actually for our Christian faith, but regardless, the devil makes use of anything to subvert our faith. 8Have sound judgment. Be alert. Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him by being firm in the faith. You know that the same kinds of sufferings are being laid on your brotherhood all over the world.
Being rooted in God’s word we are prepared to stand strong in the faith, for in the final analysis this is what Peter is concerned about us. The devil uses anything in his efforts to separate us from our Savior. When we are in the midst of blessing, he seeks to lull us into indifference, and so in the days of suffering He seeks to call God’s mercy into doubt.
Rest assured of God’s love and beware of pride. Remember that you are among many of our Savior’s faithful servants who also bear up under affliction. Do not give into fear but trust in Him.
3. Resting in His Promises
And how do we do that? He does that as we focus on His promises, as we dwell in God’s word, Jesus’ word. “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:31, EHV)
To survive the assaults of the devil we need to abide, to live in the word of Christ, the gospel, the good news of sins forgiven, the good promises of Christ, promises fulfilled.
For finally, what is our hope in the midst of this dying world? It is the life of Christ that defeated death.
“But once this perishable body has put on imperishability, and this mortal body has put on immortality, then what is written will be fulfilled: Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:54–57, EHV)
So Peter brings us back to the promises of Christ: 10After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you. 11To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
The fulfilled promises of Christ are our everlasting hope!