What Persecuted Christians Need to Know (1 Peter 1:1-12)

Monday, May 25th, 2015
Sermon Series: 1 Peter

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What Persecuted Christians Need to Know

1 Peter 1:1 to 12

So, as some of you know, I like to cycle. In fact there’s actually a few FBCers now who get together each week for a bike ride. And it’s been fun to do that. If you want to join us, please come let me know.

I also like to follow professional riding–the Tour de France and so on. And last Saturday I drove up to Ontario to see the start of the Amgen Tour of California–it was really fun. Mark Cavendish was there–he’s a sprinter from the UK. Peter Sagan was there. There were even some Kiwi riders in the race. And I got to meet one of my pro-cycling heroes, an American rider named George Hincapie. This guy rode more Tours de France than anyone! He competed seventeen years in a row, often under adverse conditions. I mean these guys are really tough!

In the Tour de France, they ride 120 miles a day, five to six hours on the bike every day for three weeks! They go over huge mountains, and on the downhills they reach speeds of 65 miles per hour! There are obstacles on the road, razor sharp cobblestones. There are crashes every day, broken bones, road rash, saddle sores like you can’t imagine!

It can be really hot one day, and then rain and snow the next. Tiredness sets in, riders get sick and start throwing up while they keep riding. Two hundred riders start the race, but a quarter of them don’t finish, because it’s just so darn hard. In 2009, George Hincapie was involved in an accident, broke his collarbone, taped it up, refused to quit, and kept riding for another week with a broken collarbone. He suffered for 800 more miles, just to complete the route to Paris with his teammates.

Over the years, I watched the Tour de France and heard many interviews with riders, coaches, and commentators, and they all say the same thing. “The key to being a good cyclist is your ability to suffer.” Without exception, they all say the same thing. “If you want to be a good rider, you have to be willing to suffer.”

This morning what I want to say is that, if you’re a Christian, you have to be willing to suffer. We all say we want to be Christlike, but you see, if you want to follow in Christ’s footsteps, you have to be willing to suffer. If you want to stand up for the Gospel of Christ, you have to be willing to suffer.

The Apostle Peter said, “Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose” (1 Peter 4:1). We need to have the same purpose as Jesus Christ. He suffered in His flesh.  Therefore, Christians will do the same. If you’re unwilling to suffer for Christ, if you’re not willing to count the cost of following Jesus, you cannot be a Christian–period.

Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24 to 25). If you’re willing to deny yourself, sacrifice yourself, give up that old pursuit of saving your life, but instead be willing to lose it, then (and only then) will you find life in Christ. Suffering is the norm for a Christian.

Now that doesn’t mean that every believer will suffer to the same extent. It’s clear that here in America persecution doesn’t happen the same as it does in countries like Turkey, Afghanistan, or China. But the fact remains, if a person claims to be a Christian, they have to be willing to give their whole life over to God’s sovereign plan, even when His plan includes suffering, persecution, or even martyrdom.

This is the theme that Mike Fabarez introduced last Sunday. Who enjoyed Mike’s preaching last week? Yea, it was really great! He encouraged us to stand for Christ, no matter what the consequences, no matter what the cost, no matter what ridicule or ostracism may come our way. He provoked us to live an uncompromising Christian life with a full, unashamed, unabashed Christian testimony that is clear. It was a great call to arms!

Today I want to continue along the same lines, but I really want to give you some encouragements that will sustain you through any suffering or persecution that may come your way. Now I know that in one sense, we don’t really experience persecution here in America.

I was preaching in Myanmar some years ago. Myanmar is the new name for the country of Burma, just on the borders of China and Thailand. When I got there, I asked some of the leaders if there were any customs or cultural things that I should be aware of, so as to avoid unnecessary offense while I was there.

They told me very clearly not to think that I could understand what it was like to be a Christian in their country—the Church suffers persecution. Then they proceeded to relate an incident that had just happened the week before. A man from their church was pulled forcibly from his home by a mob of Hindus. A tire was pushed over his head and down around his arms, so that he could not get away. It was lit on fire and he was left out in the street to burn to death. No, we can’t identify with that here.

But having recognized that persecution here in the Western world is not as severe as it is in other countries, there is still reason to talk about this subject because persecution is coming to America. Things are changing pretty quickly here. The more immoral this country becomes, the more isolated Christians become.

Listen–we don’t practice or condone drunkenness, pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, abortion, immorality, homosexuality, same-sex-marriage, cloning, euthanasia, feminism, cultism, idolatry, lying, murder, disobedience to parents, and hating the one and only true God. This pretty much sets us apart from the majority of Americans. I guarantee in ten to twenty years from now, America will not be a safe haven for believers. How will we handle persecution then? How do we prepare ourselves?

Frankly, some of you have already felt the effects of being a Christian. There is always a price to pay, if you’re going to follow Christ. Some of you have unsaved spouses, parents, children, siblings, co-workers, classmates, employers, employees, clients, etc, who hate Jesus, hate the Gospel, and some of them even hate you.

Right now they may not be able to act on their hatred, except for subtle jabs or even harsh words, but very soon their hostility towards you will be more acceptable in the public arena, and the persecution of Christians will increase. So how do we stay strong even today as persecution rises? How do we stay the course as suffering increases?

Peter was faced with that same exact question when he wrote to his readers in the book of 1 Peter. They were suffering. They were being persecuted because of Christ. Let me show you. Look at 1:6, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.” These believers were enduring variegated, multi-colored trials. In other words, their trials were not just one kind, but they were experiencing trials of all different kinds.

Look at 2:19 to 21, “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 21 For you have been called for this purpose . . .”

The readers of Peter’s first epistle have been called not for the purpose of suffering justly, because they deserve it–but unjustly, because they don’t deserve it. That’s why God called them, and chose them. He elected them for the purpose of suffering unjustly, so that they might find favor with Him.

Again in 3:14 to 17, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”

Again, they are being intimidated–they are being slandered, and men revile them. Verse 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” Here, Peter describes their suffering as the fiery ordeal. And he says that they shouldn’t be surprised about their sufferings, because it really is just a normal thing. Anyone who is a Christian will experience this. And it’s not strange, it’s normal.

Then 4:19 says, “Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” Could it be that this persecution even led to martyrdom in some cases, where Peter has to encourage the believers to acknowledge that God will save their eternal souls no matter what suffering their bodies might experience here on earth?

There is no question that the readers of this letter were suffering–that is clear. The Greek word for “suffer”, pascw, occurs fifteen times throughout this short little letter. And so Peter has to address this issue of how to encourage these faithful believers who are enduring great tribulation.

Now who were these believers, and where did they come from? Look at chapter 1 verse 1. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Now if you take a look at this map here, you can see that each of these regions mentioned in verse 1 are right here in this location. And Peter calls these believers aliens who now reside in these five areas.

Now I know what it is to be an alien. Twenty-three years ago, when Sereena and I first visited this country, we came in through LAX, and we lined up at immigration. We had two lines to choose from, and since we are not American passport holders, we were routed under the sign that says, “Aliens”. Yea, things were not so PC back then.

Now why is it that these believers were living as scattered aliens in these five regions? Well it was because of the persecution that was present throughout the Roman Empire at the time. In AD 64, Nero, the wicked, deranged emperor of the Roman Empire set fire to the city of Rome. Apparently he lusted after building like others lust for the flesh. He loved to build, and when the opportunities to do so disappeared, he leveled Rome by fire so that he could begin the work of rebuilding again. That is how much he loved it.

Now as you can imagine, the inhabitants of Rome didn’t really enjoy having their homes destroyed, their businesses laid waste, their cultural and religious meeting places were all in ruins, and many people had died. And so it’s not surprising that the Romans began to grow in their anger towards this maniac leader.

But Nero had a plan. He had devised a way to redirect all of that hostility onto the Christians. He spread the story that it was the Christians who had started the fire in Rome, and they were the ones responsible for the destruction of the city–after all, they were always talking about the end of the world and impending judgment anyway.

And so it wasn’t long before hatred towards the Church grew all around the Roman Empire. The Christians were already disliked, but now there was a legitimate reason for the hatred. The Romans felt justified in causing the Christians to suffer, and the persecution of the Church almost became legalized under the reign of Nero. This is the setting in which Peter finds himself–writing to believers who have been scattered by this severe persecution.

Read 1 Peter 1:1 to 12. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: may grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

10 “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.”

In these twelve verses I believe we will find seven reasons for the readers of this letter to continue steadfastly in the midst of their suffering. And I want to use this acronym (SUFFERS). There are seven encouragements for the believer who “suffers”–seven facts about salvation that will cause a believer to stand strong no matter what the hardships, no matter what the level of persecution. These seven truths will cause a believer to be faithful to God, even in the face of impending martyrdom.

First encouragement—so here’s number one. In the midst of your sufferings for Christ, remember your . . .

Sovereign Election

If there is anything that is going to encourage a persecuted believer, it is the knowledge that God chose them. Look at verse 1 again. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are [WHAT?] chosen.” Literally, we would translate it this way–“Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ to the elect sojourners of the dispersion.”

The very first fact that Peter wants these scattered Christians to know is that they have been chosen by God. They are the elect of God. They have been singled out by God to be His children. What a tremendous encouragement!

Twenty years ago, in 1994, the All Blacks (the national rugby team of New Zealand) was playing the Wallabies (Australia). Now Jeff Wilson, the player with the ball in this picture, was very young, new to the All Blacks, and all he had to do was fall across the line basically. But as you can see in the slide, George Greghan (the tackler behind him) comes in from the side and knocks the ball loose and we lose, and the country goes into mourning for a week.

Well after the game, you know how there is always a press conference, and the players show up, and they ask Jeff Wilson, “How does it feel to be the player to lose the game?” And he was on the verge of tears, and he said he wasn’t sure he should even be an All Black. Laurie Mains was also on the panel (one of the greatest All Black coaches ever), and it was like he forgot everything else and turned to Jeff Wilson and said, “You are an All Black because I chose you, and don’t ever forget it.”

Can you imagine that kind of encouragement? Jeff Wilson went on to become one of the best players of all time for the All Blacks, and that was just a silly sports game. You see, if you know you’re chosen by the best, then you can do anything. You show me a believer who is steadfast and resolute in the midst of suffering, and I’ll show you a believer who understands their election. When you know you’re chosen by almighty God, then no amount of suffering will ever force you to give up or become discouraged.

So the first encouragement to be acknowledged in the midst of suffering is that God chose you–and that is encouraging. If you can trust God in your salvation, you can also trust Him in your sanctification and daily living. When you write your next missionary letter to that dear brother or sister who is enduring persecution overseas, or when you are encouraging that Christian who is married to an abusive, unsaved spouse, you need to say something about the doctrine of election.

Second encouragement–secondly, in the midst of your persecution and hardship, remember your . . .

Ultimate Living Hope

Remember your ultimate living hope. Look at verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” We don’t have a dead hope, we have a living hope. What is this living hope? It’s eternal life. Peter talks about it in verse 4–he calls it an inheritance, and we’ll get there in just a moment.

But Peter wants these persecuted believers to know that they have a living hope that will never die. This hope began when God caused them to be born again, and it was accomplished through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is no reason to become downhearted. There is no reason to give up, because God has given us a hope, a confident assurance that one day we will receive an inheritance that will never fade away or disappear, and it will last for eternity.

It’s the kind of hope that the world could never understand. The world says things like, “I hope the Lakers win the NBA. I hope Kobe starts playing!” Or, “I hope interest rates don’t rise.” The world cannot understand hope to be anything else but wishful thinking, and that’s all it is.

But this hope that Peter talks about is a living hope that is based upon an absolute certainty. God will not let us down, and ultimately when our life is complete here on earth, we will be transported to a heavenly scene where we will receive an eternal inheritance. This is a certainty. It is an absolute. It is irrevocable. God will not fail–He cannot fail. And this is the absolute certainty that our hope is directed towards.

Listen–is there any doubt whatsoever in your mind that God will complete His plan for you, or for anyone who belongs to Him? None, right?! That’s an ultimate living hope, and it’s a gift given to you by God. So we have a Sovereign Election, we have an Ultimate Living Hope, and third encouragement, we have a . . .

Final Inheritance

If you’re suffering for your faith and being persecuted, you need to be reminded of your Final Inheritance. Look at verse 4–actually, we’ll begin midway through verse 3, “God . . . has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”

Wow! We have an inheritance waiting for us in Heaven. And this inheritance has four qualities. It is imperishable. It won’t lessen in value. It won’t in time disappear. It is undefiled. It’s pure, spotless. It’s good. It won’t fade away to nothing. And it’s reserved just for you. It’s being held there, and no one else can pick it up. It’s got your name on it, and no one else can claim it–it’s yours.

Think about wills and estates today–most estates don’t turn out to be as good as was promised. Usually you’ve got bills to pay, accounts to take care of, taxes to pay, and by the time the benefactor actually receives the estate, it has been severely reduced in value.

Before my grandmother died, she promised to allocate $10,000 for me in her will. And so she wrote it in, and it was all set in concrete. Well, when she died, there were certain bills that had to be paid before any remaining money could be distributed. There were the funeral costs, etc. Then there was a family dispute over her will, and family members were arguing over her money, and there was no way I was going to get involved in fighting for my part, and so eventually when I did receive my portion of what was left over, I was sent a check in the mail for $450–a fraction of what it was promised to be.

That’s not the way our inheritance in Heaven is. It is imperishable. It is undefiled. It won’t fade away. And it’s reserved just for us. Isn’t that encouraging? Doesn’t that get you excited!? That’s the third fact that you need to be aware of, when you are experiencing persecution, because it doesn’t matter what people take from you here on earth, they can’t touch your final inheritance reserved in Heaven.

Fourth encouragement–the fourth encouragement in our acronym is . . .

Future Salvation

When you’re being treated harshly because of Christ, you need to have your eyes fixed on your future salvation. Look at verse 5, “you . . . who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” You say, “Well, what kind of salvation is this?” Look at verse 9 here, “obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

This salvation that Peter mentions is the salvation of our souls. You say, “Well, I already know about that. I have already experienced salvation.” Well you need to understand that there are three parts to salvation—past, present, and future. Your past salvation refers to the time when you accepted Christ as Savior–you were washed in the blood of the Lamb, and regenerated as a new creation in Christ. Your present salvation refers to the ongoing process of sanctification, where every day God continues to make you more and more like His Son. Your future salvation refers to that day when you will be transported into the presence of God and glorified. You will leave this world of sin and be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

That’s the salvation that verse 5 is talking about–it’s that future salvation that is still to be revealed in the last time. You see, if we have our eyes fixed on that future day when our bodies will be glorified–if we are so looking forward to that day, then we will be better equipped to handle any persecution that comes our way.

Eric Barker was a missionary from Great Britain who had spent over fifty years in Portugal preaching the Gospel, often under adverse conditions. During WWII, the situation became so critical that he took the advice to send his wife and eight children to England for safety. His sister and her three children were also evacuated on the same ship. Barker remained behind to conclude some missionary matters.

The Sunday after Barker’s loved ones had left, he stood before the congregation and said, “I’ve just received word that all my family have arrived safely Home.” He then proceeded with the service as usual. Later, the full meaning of his words became known to the people. He had been handed a wire just before the meeting, informing him that a German U-boat had torpedoed the ship, and everyone on board had drowned. Barker knew that all on board were believers, and the knowledge that his family was enjoying the bliss of Heaven enabled him to live above his circumstances in spite of his overwhelming grief.

You see, if you have your eyes fixed on your future salvation and on the future salvation of other believers, it radically changes the way you live. You can handle the hardships of ministry, and you can endure persecution.

Fifth encouragement—let’s take a look at the fifth encouragement for a suffering Christian. If you are one who suffers for the sake of Christ, you need to know that you have . . .

Enduring Faith

This is the “E” of our acronym–enduring faith. Notice faith is first mentioned in verse 5, “you . . . who are protected by the power of God through faith.” Somehow it’s through faith that we are protected by the power of God. But then he goes on to talk about this faith in verses 6 and 7, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, [from God’s point of view, not ours] you have been distressed by various trials, [it is God’s decision whether we be persecuted for our faith or not–why?] 7 that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Why does God bring persecution into our lives–what’s the purpose of it? It is so that our faith–which is not our own faith by the way. The faith we have was given to us. We did not manufacture our own faith. We didn’t have to muster it up ourselves. Ephesians 2:8 to 9 says that faith is “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” And so God has given us this faith, and He wants to see it proven. He wants to show that the faith He has given us is an enduring faith.

And that is why He brings persecution into our lives. It is so that our faith might be shown to be enduring to the end, no matter what is brought to bear against it. It is so that God might be praised, glorified, and honoured, because the faith He has given us is not a faulty faith that gives up, but it endures amidst the hardest circumstances. See we need to have this kind of mind set. Our persecution is not always to accomplish some temporal result, but it is to bring about an eternal result–the praise and worship of God.

When we understand that–when we know that the purpose of these hardships is to prove our God-given faith, then that brings some meaning to it all. Now we understand why this is going on. Now we understand that God wants to show that He has given us enduring faith. And when it’s shown to be enduring, it is seen to be more precious than gold.

Sixth encouragement–and sixthly . . .

Real Joy

A believer who is being persecuted can and does experience real joy. When we talk about joy, we need to be careful how we define what it is, because many believers have no idea what real Christian joy is. Let’s go ahead and read verse 8, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

Now think about this–even though these believers are experiencing terrible trials, and violent persecution, they are rejoicing greatly with a kind of joy that can’t be communicated. It’s a joy that’s inexpressible. Peter doesn’t need to command them to be joyful. He doesn’t need to reprimand them for not being joyful. This is a joy that they are already experiencing.

What is real biblical joy? Well, it is definitely not an emotional outburst that lasts for just a moment. It is not simply a response to external circumstances. Real joy can’t be whipped up or manufactured–but it often appears in the midst of hardship, suffering, trials, and persecutions. It is a gift from God. It is that inner blessedness that comes through knowing that all is well between you and your God. It’s that inexpressible thrill of knowing that you are doing what is pleasing to Him.

Now think about what Peter is doing here in this passage. As he writes these verses, he is describing qualities that his readers already possess. They have been sovereignly elected. They have an ultimate living hope. They have a final inheritance. They have a future salvation. They have enduring faith. And on top of all of that, they have a real joy.

They have to be asking themselves, “How did I get this kind of joy? This is so unnatural! I don’t understand how, in these terrible circumstances, I can be so blessed, so excited, and thrilled to be here! How did I get this joy?” And the obvious answer is, “God gave it to you.” What an encouragement, to know that God has put you in these awful situations, and He’s also enabled you to feel joyful about it! That’s amazing, and would bring so much encouragement!

An old Jesuit priest once said, “Joy is the surest sign of the presence of God.” He said, “Grimness is not a Christian virtue. There are no sad saints. If God really is the centre of one’s life and being, joy is inevitable. If we have no joy, we have missed the heart of the Good News, and our bodies as much as our souls will suffer the consequences.”

Seventh encouragement—lastly, what is the seventh encouragement that Peter gives these persecuted Christians? He wants them to know that they have received the knowledge of all of the above through . . .

Special Revelation

Look at verses 10 to 12, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look.”

He says to these dispersed and harassed believers that everything he has just been talking about has been announced to them through the apostles, by the Holy Spirit. The knowledge of these things, the knowledge of this salvation, was especially provided for them. All throughout history, the prophets had tried to figure out what this salvation was all about. It was a mystery to them. And God told them that they weren’t going to find out what it was about.

Even the angels want to know about it, and they long to understand it. But the salvation that Peter has been talking about here in verses 1 to 9 is something that has only been revealed to those who are saved through faith in Christ. It is only revealed to those who believe during this present age. It is only revealed to men and women, not angels or any other species.

We have a knowledge of things that the Old Testament prophets and angels could only dream of having. They can’t even get close to understanding the facts about salvation like we do. Doesn’t that get you excited? God has given you a special knowledge of salvation, revealed through the apostles, by the Holy Spirit that no one in the Old Testament was privy to. You know more about election, hope, Heaven, faith, joy, and the Church than has ever been revealed in the past. That’s got to be encouraging to those who are being persecuted.

So there we have it–seven encouragements for a Christian who is undergoing persecution. Do you think these encouragements work? Have you thought about who wrote 1 Peter? The author of this letter is Peter the disciple–yea, this Peter is the one who denied Jesus three times on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion.

But that was 35 years before he wrote this letter. He’s learned a few things now. The Holy Spirit lives in him now! He’s more mature in the faith. And he even knows that one day he is going to be a martyr himself, because Jesus warned him. Jesus told Peter, “When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you, and bring you where you do not wish to go” (John 21:18). And then in the very next verse, John explains that Jesus said this to signify by what kind of death Peter would glorify God (John 21:19).

Peter knew he was going to die for His faith. And two years after writing this letter, that’s exactly what happened. Historical documents (not in the Bible) tell us that he was arrested, tortured, and ultimately crucified upside down, because he refused to deny Christ His God. Do you think these seven encouragements were on Peter’s mind as he went to the cross? You bet they were!

What about you–will they work for you? Next time your unsaved spouse ridicules your faith . . . next time your classmates ostracize you . . . next time you don’t get that promotion at work because your faith gets in the way . . . next time you’re sued because you won’t compromise your Christian principles . . . next time someone shouts at you when all you’ve done is try to love them and help them understand their need of a Savior?

Remember these facts–you know you’ve been sovereignly chosen by God . . . you know God has granted to you an ultimate living hope . . . you know you’ve got a final inheritance waiting in Heaven for you . . . you know you have a future salvation to look forward to . . . you have this enduring faith that is empowered by God . . . you have real joy, a kind of joy you can’t even express . . . and you know that you know these things because of the special revelation that has been given to believers in this Church Age.

What on earth could possibly cause you to be afraid now? There is no way that anyone will be able to convince you to back down, recant, deny the faith, and seek a comfortable life. See how these seven truths can drastically change your outlook on life? All of a sudden temporal things don’t really matter that much anymore. This world is passing by, and its cares and concerns are minuscule compared to the great truths of your salvation.

When you have a solid grasp of all that God has revealed about His work in your life, then you can face tribulation, suffering, and persecution with real joy, and with the conviction to stick it out and prove that you faith is enduring, so that God will be glorified. See, if you can make these seven encouragements a part of your daily understanding, they will radically change the way you look at life. And I pray that will be your experience and mine. Let’s pray.

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