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When Life Heats Up—Part 2
1 Peter 4:12-19, 15-19
Life can not only be difficult, it can hit you on the head and knock you out. Take the classic story of the bruised and bandaged workman who filled out his company sick leave form. He wrote this:
“When I got to the building, I found that the hurricane had knocked off some bricks around the top. So I rigged up a beam with a pulley at the top of the building, and hoisted up a couple barrels full of bricks. When I had fixed the damaged area, there were a lot of bricks left over.
“Then I went to the bottom and began releasing the line. Unfortunately, the barrel of bricks was much heavier than I was, and before I knew what was happening, the barrel started coming down, jerking me up. I decided to hang on since I was too far off the ground by then to jump, and halfway up I met the barrel of bricks coming down fast. I received a hard blow on my shoulder.
“I then continued to the top, banging my head against the beam and getting my fingers pinched and jammed in the pulley. When the barrel hit the ground hard, it burst its bottom, allowing the bricks to spill out. I was now heavier than the barrel, so I started down again at high speed. Halfway down I met the barrel coming up fast and received severe injuries to my shins.
“When I hit the ground, I landed on the pile of spilled bricks, getting several painful cuts and deep bruises. At this point I must have lost my presence of mind, because I let go of my grip on the line. The barrel came down fast, giving me another blow to my head and putting me in the hospital. I respectfully request sick leave.”
Trials, difficulties, pressures, even suffering come in all different forms, and Peter wants you prepared. So open your Bibles to 1 Peter 4:12 to 19 and follow along with the outline. In his letter, Peter writes over ten churches in a broad area to stand firm by living by their salvation, living under submission to their authorities, living righteous during suffering, and to commit to biblical service to one another in the Church.
Now in verses 12 to 19 he wraps up his teaching on suffering by preparing their hearts. God wants individual believers and local churches to be ready for whatever comes–how? By . . .
#1 Expecting life to heat up
Verse 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.” When God cooks you in His oven of adversity and on the stove of suffering, do you become bitter or better? Part of your response will be based upon your expectation–if you expect life to get hard for being a Christian, you will not be shocked when God keeps His promise to you. Also last week, Peter prepped us by . . .
#2 Exulting when life heats up
Harsh suffering is not supposed to cause you shock, but actually cause you to rejoice–why? For two reasons, in verses 13 and 14.
First Suffering like Christ now means future reward
Verse 13 says, “But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” Our lives on earth are temporary and difficult, but the trials God brings prove we are Christ’s and make us more like Christ. And our lives with Christ are forever and joyful, not only because we are with Christ in glory but He also rewards us, and . . .
Second Suffering like Christ means supernatural blessing and help
Verse 14 says, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” All the blessing of the Christian life is not future in heaven,
God will walk with us, empower us, care for us now and give us what we need in our darkest hour–so we are truly blessed. Again, when life gets hard, does your heart get hard or soft? And as a church, do we become damaging or depending, terrified or trusting, emotional or exalting?
We are to expect suffering and exalt God when it happens. Now Peter gives us two more main steps in verses 15 to 19, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? 19Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”
So you expect suffering and seek to exalt God as you suffer, but God does not want you to waste your suffering. Don’t waste your health issue, don’t waste the trouble you brought upon yourself, and don’t waste your righteous suffering–what should you be doing?
#3 Evaluating as life heats up
Make certain you examine your life when a trial hits. God wants you to evaluate the cause of your pain–God wants you to grow. God does not want your suffering to be brought about by your sin. In fact, Peter commands you to ask . . .
First, are you suffering for the right reasons? Last week I highlighted three forms of suffering. There is normal suffering that comes from being part of a dying planet in a dying body–illness, loss, sinful people and more.
Then there is disobedient suffering that comes from you disobeying the Scripture or not obeying the Scripture–like not paying your taxes, and as a result you go to jail or lose your home.
Finally, there is righteous suffering that occurs because you love and obey Christ. Because people hate Christ they’ll attack you verbally, economically, or even by jailing, torturing or killing you. So verse 15 says make certain your suffering is for the right reasons. If you’re going to suffer, make sure it is not because you were disobedient–make certain your suffering is . . .
1 Not as a criminal who deserves to be punished
Verse 15 says, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.” I caught you–adults, junior highers, housewives, regular joes. You read this verse and wrote it off. I am not going to suffer as a murderer or a bank robber–what has this to do with me? A lot.
Picture yourself back in the first century functioning as a slave who has now come to Christ. Now you don’t merely serve your master, you serve Christ–honestly, ethically, with hard work. All the other slaves want you to back off, slow down, steal food and items from your master like they do, and they begin to exert great pressure on you to do the evil they do–to be a thief. As a believing slave, you might actually be the focus of your master’s hatred of Christians, especially since his wife now has become a believer and he is struggling greatly with her faith.
So now your master cuts your food ration in half, and in order to survive you are tempted to steal food. Plus when he gets drunk, he comes to beat you mercilessly, and in his drunken anger he actually presents you with multiple opportunities to kill him, but make it look like a drunken accident.
As an influential businessman 2,000 years ago, you had the opportunity to direct funds away from certain Christ-haters, spread rumors about anti-Christian civic leaders, make some other influential anti-Christs look bad to the rest of the community. You could be an evildoer or a troublesome meddler.
I realize today that not one of you is ever tempted to hate others in your heart–to steal from your boss, to secretly get someone back or to meddle in affairs that don’t involve you. But this is what Peter means when he says in verse 15, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.” Do not suffer for something you deserve–don’t suffer for being disobedient. If you suffer, let it be because you’re innocent, not guilty. You are clean, not dirty–you’re Christ like, not criminals.
Literally Peter commands for some of you not to let suffering for these reasons–murder, stealing, doing evil and getting involved where you don’t belong. It is not to be associated with Christ. You are to walk the talk and not to live the lie. So Peter says, true Christians must be different than everyone else. When a fiery ordeal comes as a result of your sinful behavior, then you’re not suffering righteously for the glory of God, but merely reaping the consequences of the seeds of wrongdoing you’ve sown.
If, in a moment of violence you commit murder or give into the temptation to steal what is not yours–both capital crimes in the ancient world–you will reap what you have sown. To murder is to steal life, which God treasures–and to be a thief is to steal items which God has not given you. The word thief carries the idea of subterfuge, sneakiness, concealment–it is to live out lying, to act against the truth, to defy your God who is in control of all people, all events and all things.
Even as a Christian under God’s grace, if you are disobedient, you’ve no right to complain about being punished, or any right to expect the Spirit’s special graces promised to the righteous sufferer. The same has to do with being an evildoer, which is a general term describing any kind of crime or moral disobedience.
The surprising term in verse 15 is the word for troublesome meddler. It is used only here in the New Testament, and is a combination of Greek words put together to paint a vivid picture. It actually may be a word Peter coined—“don’t be a troublesome meddler” comes from two main Greek words which mean “belonging to another” and “overseer”. It literally means to not mess with people, things or events that don’t belong to you. Don’t try to oversee or bishop those things that belong to another. It can carry the idea of being a revolutionary, or infringing on the rights of others, such as trying to fix the government, correct the morality at the wicked temples, stopping the military from being harsh, or preventing prostitution.
Peter says here, Christians are never to be troublemakers or agitators in society, their workplace or school (the 60’s revolution). You Christians may confront sin in the life of a believer, challenge unbelievers with the Gospel, exhort fellow saints to greater levels of godliness, but regarding private matters which don’t concern you, believers should never intrude inappropriately. Political activism, civil agitation and illegal activity that interferes with the smooth functioning of society is off the table for believers. Such activity would compel authorities to mete out punishment, and Peter says here, do not be punished for that kind of behavior.
God is telling you through Peter not to suffer because you were meddling in things that do not concern you. Don’t be an unwelcome intruder into someone else’s private affairs. My Russian brothers used to tell me of the evil expressions of communism, and how cruel leaders could be. There was always a temptation to defeat them or pay them back. But they added, “As we were persecuted, we always checked to make certain we were being persecuted for the Gospel and not for anything we did wrong or deserved.”
Peter is asking you to evaluate your heart as life heats up, and he commands you to check to make certain you are suffering for the right reasons. And one wrong reason is verse 15–never suffer as a criminal who deserves to be punished, but two . . .
2 But as a Christian who seeks to glorify God
Verse 16 says, “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” Just after Peter penned this letter, in the summer of AD64, for four days, a huge fire raged in the city of Rome. The narrow streets crowded with wooden buildings provided the perfect fuel for a massive fire. But because the citizens knew of Nero’s desire to refurbish the city, and because many observed Nero watching the fire with glee from a high tower, and because many citizens observed Roman centurions setting fires and preventing fires from being put out, the citizens blamed Nero in an aftermath of resentment from losing all they owned.
Nero quickly made the Christian community the scapegoat–believers were already mistrusted because it was rumored they ate human flesh and drank blood in worship, plus they had unbridled lust as they gave each other holy kisses. Plus when one member of a household became a Christian, it caused a lot of stress.
Some believers were excessively zealous for making converts, others caused discord in family or commercial life, still other believers were overeager to denounce pagan habits and practices. So Nero capitalized on the anti-Christian sentiment and punished the Christians by using them as human torches to light his garden parties, also sewing them up in animal skins to be eaten by lions in the arena, and by jailing, torturing, and crucifying them. Nero did this to shift blame, but in doing so, he lit another fire across the empire and all those who were believers were now at risk of being arrested, tortured or killed.
The beginnings of this resentment had already started with the recipients of Peter’s first letter, so he tells believers to respond to this suffering both negatively and positively in verse 16, “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” If you suffer as a Christian–negatively, do not be ashamed. And positively, glorify God as a Christian. If you suffer as a believer, then you qualify for the Holy Spirit help of verse 14.
Notice Peter starts verse 16 with “but”–in contrast to suffering because you acted like a criminal. If you suffer for uniquely following Christ as your Lord, as Peter says–as a Christian, then react both negatively and positively.
Right here in verse 16 is the third, and last, time the name Christian is used in your New Testament. The first two usages were in Acts 11:26, “and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch,” and Acts 26:28, “Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.’”
Christian was not the first term used to describe believers–in fact it was not the main term at first. Genuine believers were mainly called disciples–followers/learners of Christ. And when first called “Christians”, non-believers were not calling believers “little Christs” as some have said, but Christian means those who belong to Christ. To be called a Christian back then and today means “to belong to Christ.”
Believers back then did not immediately own the term Christian as a name for themselves, but in order to differentiate themselves from Jews who had brought about some persecution upon themselves for their behavior against and rebellion to Rome, the title Christian quickly was embraced by all true believers. So much so that by the time of 1 Peter, the term Christian became the category of people who Rome began to punish and later blame for their problems.
The title Christian, those belonging to Christ, became associated with suffering. It was their loyalty to Christ that actually caused others to turn against them. They followed Christ, not Rome. They honored Christ as king, not Nero. They worshipped Christ, not Caesar. Their first loyalty above all others was Jesus Christ–they belonged to Christ, no one else. They were Christians.
And as a Christian, you are to react two different ways when suffering righteously, according to verse 16, “But if anyone suffers as a Christian.” Negatively, he is not to be ashamed. If you’re living as one who belongs to Christ, and you are persecuted because you love Christ above all, honor Him above all others, serve Him as your highest authority, then do not feel dishonored at all. Do not hang your head as if you need to repent of wrongdoing not feel ashamed–do not shame yourself.
The middle voice of ashamed tells us you are doing this to yourself. Do you see “guilty dog” on YouTube–the dog that squinted his eyes and showed his teeth in humorous shame for eating the cat snacks? Peter says that is the wrong reaction to righteous suffering. How are we supposed to react? Verse 16 says, “If anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but [positively] is to glorify God in this name.”
Don’t place shame and dishonor on yourself, but place all glory to God as one who belongs to Christ. Don’t shame yourself pointing all the attention to you, but reflect God’s character, pointing all the attention to Him. It is to praise God when you suffer for doing what is right. It is to rejoice when you are hit hard for being a Christian.
Glorify God, verse 16 says, “In this name.” What name? Christian. Do you get it? As one who belongs to Christ, this life is a blip on the radar of eternity–it’s one ping on the sonar of heaven. This life is a tiny spot on the canvas of forever. So you can rejoice when you suffer for sharing the Gospel, or obeying the Word of God, or honoring Christ first above everyone, because you will be rewarded in eternity, you will be helped now by the Holy Spirit, and you have salvation in Christ now and forever.
As Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Do you really want to impact your relatives, family, spouse, classmates or fellow employees for Christ? Then rejoice when you suffer–celebrate, trust, express faith, joy, love and forgive. That is when they will see Christ, and you will bring Him glory as a Christian–as one who belongs to Christ.
So think about your current trial or struggle or test right now–God wants you to evaluate yourself as life heats up.
First Are you suffering for the right reasons?
1 Not as a criminal who deserves to be punished
2 But as a Christian who seeks to glorify God
Next, in verse 17 Peter adds,
Second Are you evaluating yourself and your church first?
When you get hit with a trial, is your first reaction to blame and to be bummed, or to say, “Lord, what do you want to teach me?” When life hurts, do you look outside for a place to accuse, or do you look inside for an opportunity to grow? Peter says when you suffer for Christ, even though you know who is causing the pain, look at your heart.
1 Focus on your heart and the Church first, not the lost
Verse 17 says, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.” Literally, this is the appropriate season for God to begin to deal in judgment with His family. Right now, before His second coming and the final judgment, this is the time period for God to deal with His own family. The season for the true Church to be spanked by God has now commenced–the verb “begin” means this operation has now started. God cannot condone sin, so even His own family stands under His careful judgment—right now.
Today, has the Holy Spirit highlighted some sin in your life? Is there some secret sin no one knows about that is eating you up? Are you unwilling to forgive, to repent, to confess or to submit? If you are part of verse 17, God’s household, talking about the true Church, made up of those who truly belong to Christ–then Peter says this is the season for your judgment. Not the judgment of damnation–Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” but the judgment of discipline, 1 Corinthians 11:32, “But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world,” and Hebrews 12:8, “But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
God’s judgment of His own house will be the spanking of His children, and some of that will include suffering, persecution, trials and hardship, all designed to chasten us, cleanse us and make us more like Christ, which will bring God greater glory. God says your focus is not to be on the Roman governor who is abusing Christians. Your priority is not to change your government. Your main concern is not how to fix your society or somehow stop the cruel leader from picking on Christians. Your focus is to examine your own heart and your own church. God’s judgment begins with his own household.
Right now, God is not concerned about a wicked society now being punished, but God is concerned about a holy church being pure. Don’t spend more time reading Fox News and listening to Rush than you do examining your own heart and reading God’s Word. Do you hate Obama’s policy more than you hate your own sin? Do you complain more about government spending or invest more time figuring out how you can increase your giving for God’s cause? Do you grouse about California having no budget or do you work more at being a good steward and living by a budget? Are you appalled by what certain actors say (Charlie Sheen) or are you more appalled by the words that come out of your mouth?
God says here, judgment begins with us, and when you get hit with suffering, trial or hardship, evaluate your own heart–but never forget, Christian, your discipline may be painful now, but it’s nothing compared to the judgment that will fall later upon the lost, and upon those who’re persecuting you if they don’t repent. Peter asks us to . . .
2 Compare the difficulty of discipline for a Christian now with the certainty of damnation for the lost forever
Verse 17 and 18 say, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” Peter poses this comparative question in the middle of verse 17–let me read it to you with some explanation. Look carefully in the middle of verse 17, “and if it begins with us first.” If judgment begins with believers first, then what will the outcome be for those who do not obey God’s Gospel? What will happen to those who do not belong to Christ? The obvious answer is, those without Christ will be condemned.
Those who belong to Christ are lovingly disciplined. Those who reject Christ are righteously damned. Revelation 20:15, “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” If you do not belong to Christ, then you are cast into hell at the final judgment, called the Great White Throne Judgment. Peter’s point is this–though you and I will be disciplined now, His future judgment of those without Christ will be infinitely more devastating. Their outcome, literally end, is hell.
One more time, I never tire of saying this, and I hope you don’t tire of hearing it–this life can be very hard for Christians. But never forget, this life is the only hell a Christian will ever experience, whereas this life is the only heaven a non-Christian will ever experience. The church father Augustine put it this way—“If the sons are chastised, what have the most malicious slaves to expect.”
God is reassuring His readers and you in verse 17 with this truth. Even though your present sufferings as God’s children are severe, they still fall far short of what awaits the enemies of God. Our loving Lord is telling you it is infinitely better for you to endure suffering with joy now as believers, being purified for following Christ than to later bear eternal torment forever as unbelievers for following yourself.
So Chris, they go to hell because they kill Christians, right? They’re condemned because they’re the cruel Hitler, Saddam, Gaddafi, Kim Jong types, right? No, not at all–Peter says at the end of verse 17, they are condemned because they do not obey the Gospel of God. It is not their moral failure, nor their cruelty to Christians, nor the evil things they do in life that condemns them, but their ongoing rejection of the only way to be right with God. The character of those headed to hell is described by their continuing activity–they reject God’s good news. They are unbelieving and willfully refuse to be persuaded by the claims of the Gospel.
Do you get it? You can’t get right with God, you can’t go to heaven on your own. Just one sin makes you God’s enemy–just one sin violates His perfect character. And because no one is perfect, we are all equally condemned–from Hitler to Billy Graham, from Mohammed to Mother Teresa. So God–loving, gracious, merciful and kind became a man in the person of Christ, the God man, then took the punishment for your sin upon the cross, rose from the dead and lives today to give a totally new life to those who turn to Him alone, exchanging all that they are, for all that He is.
The Gospel is good news, because it is God’s news, reflecting God’s gracious character–God doing for you what you could never do for yourself. When you reject the Gospel, you reject God. When you die, if you have not turned your entire life over to Christ, you will not be in a better place, no matter what the guy says at your funeral. You will be burning in torment forever because you did not obey the Gospel of God.
Peter reinforces this truth with verse 18, quoting Proverbs 11:31, “And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” The righteous here are believers who have been justified by faith and thus seek to walk uprightly, though they are far from perfect. And Peter asks, if those God has saved have to go through great difficulty in this life to be ultimately saved, then what will happen to those who are not saved through God’s Gospel.
Remember what Paul said after being stoned in Antioch? By the way, getting stoned back then was not as popular as it is today–Paul was rocked, not with music but with boulders, to kill him. And after he was crushed under stones and presumed dead, he said in Acts 14:22b, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” The road to heaven is a rough road. The word difficult in verse 18 means severe pain—it is used to describe a woman’s labor pains. If the Christian’s life is filled with suffering pain resulting in our ultimate salvation in heaven, then what will happen to the godless man–the person who lives like there is no God? And what will happen to the sinner–the person who lives in violation of God’s Word?
Peter tells us with the verb “become” in verse 18–become is in opposition to the verb “saved”, implying that any person who lives as if there is no God and lives in violation to God’s Word, in other words they have rejected God’s Gospel, is not saved–will be in hell forever.
So Peter says in verse 18, if it was with excruciating difficulty that Christ gave Himself to redeem sinners and with painful difficulty that the redeemed endure to their final glory, does anyone think the godless sinner who has lived his life without suffering for righteousness sake because he is unrighteous, will simply die and go out of existence or be given a place in heaven because God must be loving and forgiving to all? Peter says no, don’t be foolish–the eternal suffering of the ungodly is far greater compared to the temporal suffering of the godly.
So expecting life to heat up, exalting God when it happens, and evaluating your own heart–now one final key . . .
#4 Entrusting while life heats up
Verse 19 says,”Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” The first word of verse 19 tells us Peter has reached his summary conclusion. Therefore, never forget this, Christian. When you suffer, it is not an accident. When you hurt, it’s not random. When you are attacked for your faith, it is not because of fate, Karma, the dark side, ying yang, or eating poorly. You suffer as a Christian because God willed it to happen. You suffer according to the will of God–the Greek word “will” can be translated want. You suffer because God wants you to suffer.
You say, “No, it was those evil Christ-hating people. No, to His brothers who had thrown him into a pit, sold him into slavery, resulting in him spending years in prison, Joseph said in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
God promises you persecution–in fact 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It is God’s will for you to suffer in this life, the way Christ suffered in this life–so what should you do when it happens? Verse 19 says, “shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.” Entrust is a bankers term–it means to deposit for safe-keeping. In ancient times there were no banks and few safe places to deposit money. So before you went on a journey you often left your money in the safekeeping of a trusted friend.
Can you trust God when you suffer? What is God’s collateral? Your heavenly Father loved you so much, He punished and killed His own Son on the cross for your sin. Will you trust your God? God is in control and verse 19 tells us nothing comes to you except through His will. Will you trust your God?
God is infinitely powerful as your faithful Creator. Look around you, friends–who designed it all, made it all and sustains it all? How can you not trust Him when life heats up? Today have you forgotten just how big and powerful God is? Is He not worthy of your trust for who He is and what He has done? Entrust is to deposit a treasure into safe and trustworthy hands. When you suffer in your current trial, whatever is making it hot–Peter says deposit your life completely into God’s safekeeping. Put your life in His hands, even when it hurts.
How do you know when you’re trusting Him? The end of verse 19 says when you entrust yourself to your faithful Creator, you will be “doing what is right.” You’ll not give into lying, stealing, or plotting revenge. You will not explode emotionally. You won’t start pouting. You will not give into despair, defeat, delay or discouragement. No, you will obey God’s Word, rejoice, do good deeds, be filled with the Spirit, wait, trust, depend, hope, express faith and react like the Lord Jesus Christ who suffered for you.
#1 For those of you who belong to Christ
When God turns up the heat in the oven of this life, the first thing you need to do is check your heart. The right focus is to glorify–live under Christ and not under your circumstances. The most important step is to follow Christ’s example. The greatest witness to the lost will be for you to rejoice, and the sweetest place to be is entrusting yourself completely into Christ’s hands. But you can’t do that unless you have embraced the Gospel of God.
#2 For those of you who do not yet belong to God
Remember He will judge your sin, and one sin is enough to cast you into the eternal torment of hell forever. There are no second chances, there is no purgatory, there is only one way, and it is through Christ alone. Cry out to Christ to open your heart so that you might turn to Him alone in repentance and faith. Let’s pray.