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Archive for July, 2014

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Christians suffer. We shouldn’t be surprised by it (1 Pet. 4:12). But how do we respond? How does God want us to deal with the suffering, trials, and persecution we experience?

Preaching on 1 Peter 4:12-19 for the past two weeks has focused my attention on the subject. Once again, Willmington’s Book of Bible Lists provides thirteen ways Christians should respond to suffering. I’ll add a Scripture reference here and there, but otherwise the list is presented as it was found.

  1. Expect suffering (John 15:19-20; 16:2, 20, 33; Heb. 12:9-10; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 4:12)
  2. Commit your soul to God at the very beginning of your suffering (Psa. 3:5-6; 37:3; 31:5; Dan. 3:14-18; Heb. 6:17-20; 1 Pet. 4:19)
  3. Don’t try to understand all the reasons for your suffering (Rom. 8:28-29)
  4. Realize others suffer (1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Pet. 5:8-9)
  5. Pray while in your suffering (Psa. 50:15; Job 42:10; James 5:13; Mark 9:20-24)
  6. Don’t despise your suffering (Heb. 12:5; 1 Pet. 4:16)
  7. Don’t faint because you’re suffering (Prov. 24:10; Heb. 12:5)
  8. Patiently endure suffering in a steadfast way (Rom. 12:12; 2 Tim. 2:3; James 5:10; 1 Pet. 2:20)
  9. Thank God for your sufferings (Psa. 42:5; 1 Thess. 5:18)
  10. Rejoice because of your sufferings (Acts 5:40-41; 16:25; Phil. 4:4; James 1:2; 5:11; 1 Pet. 4:13)
  11. Don’t become a self-made martyr because of your sufferings (Heb. 12:12-13)
  12. Don’t suffer needlessly (1 Pet. 2:20; 3:17; 4:15-17)
  13. Weigh your current suffering against the coming glory (John 16:20-21; Rom. 8:18)

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“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” (1 Pet. 4:12).

Christians suffer – we know it from God’s Word and we know it because we’ve experienced it. As Peter says, we shouldn’t be surprised, amazed, or shocked by it. But the question inevitably arises as to why we suffer, experience pain, and are even persecuted.

In His Word – the Bible – God has answers, as you might expect. Willmington’s Book of Bible Lists provides twenty-five reasons Christians suffer.

  1. To produce the fruit of patience (Rom. 5:3; James 1:3-4; Heb. 10:36)
  2. To produce the fruit of joy (Ps. 30:5; 126:5-6)
  3. To produce the fruit of maturity (Eccl. 7:3; 1 Pet. 5:10)
  4. To produce the fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:11)
  5. To silence the devil (Job 1:9, 10, 20-22)
  6. To teach us (Ps. 119:67, 71)
  7. To purify our lives (Job 23:10; Ps. 66:10-12; Isa. 1:25; 48:10; Prov. 17:3; 1 Pet. 1:7)
  8. To make us like Christ (Heb. 12:9, 10; 1 Pet. 4:12-13; Phil. 3:10; 2 Cor. 4:7-10)
  9. To glorify God (Ps. 50:15; John 9:1-3; 11:1-4; 21:18-19; Phil. 1:19-20)
  10. To prevent us from sinning (2 Cor. 12:7, 9-10)
  11. To make us confess when we do sin (Judg. 10:6-7, 15-16; Ps. 32:3-5; Hos. 5:15; 6:1; 2 Chron. 15:3-4)
  12. To chasten us for our sin (1 Pet. 4:17)
  13. To prove our sonship (Heb. 12:5-6)
  14. To reveal ourselves to ourselves (Job 42:6; Luke 15:18)
  15. To help our prayer life (Isa. 26:16)
  16. To become an example to others (2 Cor. 6:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:6-7)
  17. To qualify us as counselors (Rom. 12:15; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-5)
  18. To further the gospel witness (Acts 8:1-5; 16:25-34; Phil. 1:12-13; 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-17)
  19. To make us more than conquerors (2 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:35, 37)
  20. To give us insights into God’s nature (Job 42:5; Rom. 8:14-15, 18)
  21. To drive us closer to God (1 Pet. 4:14; 2 Cor. 12:10)
  22. To prepare us for a greater ministry (1 Kings 17-18; John 12:24)
  23. To provide for us a reward (Matt. 5:10-12; 19:27-29; Rom. 8:16-17; 2 Cor. 4:17)
  24. To prepare us for the kingdom (2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:12)
  25. To show God’s sovereignty (Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 10:13; Ps. 66:10-12; Gen. 45:5-8; 50:20)

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Material that didn’t make it into my sermon yesterday:

1 Peter 4:17 says, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God.” The Lord uses suffering, trials, and persecution to purify and discipline His people, not to punish or condemn. The punishment we deserve was meted out by God the Father on His Son Jesus Christ on the cross, but God has purposes for suffering. Jerry Bridges writes,

God uses adversity to loosen our grip on those things that are not true fruit. A severe illness or the death of someone dear to us, the loss of material substance or the tarnishing of our reputation, the turning aside of friends or the dashing of our cherished dreams on the rocks of failure, cause us to think about what is really important in life. Position or possessions or even reputation no longer seem so important. We begin to relinquish our desires and expectations – even good ones – to the sovereign will of God.  We come more and more to depend on God and to desire only that which will count for eternity. God’s pruning is so that we will be more fruitful.”

(Trusting God, pp. 180-181)

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I had the privilege this morning of preaching on 1 Peter 4:15-19. The following is a one-sentence summary of my sermon: Christians respond to persecution by not being ashamed of Christ or the name “Christian,” and entrusting their souls to God.

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Tony Dungy, former Super Bowl-winning coach and current analyst for NBC, expressed his opinion about whether or not he would have drafted Michael Sam (a University of Missouri football player who announced he was gay before the league’s draft earlier this year). So far, so good. Except one thing: Dungy’s opinion was different from the accepted position of the Left (to which the vast, vast majority of the media subscribe)-that anyone who disagrees with same-sex marriage or thinks homosexuality is a sin, or doesn’t celebrate homosexuality in every way at all times, is a racist and a bigot who should be drummed out of polite society. The response to Dungy was predictable: outrage.

Tony Dungy expressed his opinion. So what. Have we come to the point in the United States where only certain opinions are allowed, or do those on the Left simply not want to hear opinions they don’t agree with?

Ted Kluck has written on this subject and it’s worth a read. You can read his article here.

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Hebrews 12:14 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” J.C. Ryle makes this statement:

Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. In the habits of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man.”

(Holiness, p. 34)

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I had the privilege this morning of preaching on 1 Peter 4:12-14. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: We respond to persecution – which is sure to come – by not being surprised and continuing to rejoice.

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