The Suffering Christ
Hey friends, this week we are wrapping up our reading on 1 Peter. I just thought it’s helpful to remember that Peter’s letter was addressed to the churches scattered over five provinces in the ancient Roman world. The churches were under the Roman empire, living under the political jurisdiction of another “lord” but at the same time figuring out how to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ their saviour. On top of all of this, they were suffering, very likely due to their faith being subversive to and different from the religious norm of their day.
Peter touches on hope, suffering, glory, and holiness as a way to help the churches to think about and live out their faith practically amidst difficult circumstances.
So let’s begin our daily reading. I’m so glad you’ve joined me.
1 Peter 4:1-6
1 So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. 2 You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. 3 You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.
4 Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. 5 But remember that they will have to face God, who stands ready to judge everyone, both the living and the dead. 6 That is why the Good News was preached to those who are now dead—so although they were destined to die like all people, they now live forever with God in the Spirit.
The writer Peter acknowledges two opposite ways of life: one in which we chase our own desires and the other being anxious to do the will of God. Well, first, let’s acknowledge that the “will of God” can be such a daunting mandate in our minds. You might think God is unreasonable and whatever you enjoy doing he wants you to get rid of.
I remember the late Dallas Willard taught that discipleship is the aligning of our will to God’s will. That following Jesus is ultimately wanting what God wants.
How does someone want what God wants? How does someone begin to do the will of God? Do I want what God wants?
The Apostle Peter pointed to the suffering Christ as a way to keep us focused on doing the will of God and from chasing after our own desires.
That is a huge statement that might confuse or even anger some of you.
Let’s remember that Peter was writing to churches scattered around several provinces. They were under pressure and being persecuted for their faith..
Let’s be clear, God is not the author of suffering, he does not make us suffer so that we obey him. Rather, Peter encouraged the churches by pointing them to look to the Christ who suffered. To know that even the Son of God, had to go through immense suffering. Be reminded that in an earlier chapter, Peter reminded the churches of the future glory to come when they will be with Jesus in glory.
Friends, you may still have lots of questions about suffering, about God’s will and your desires. I know I still do. The lesson for us is to trust in the God who loves us, to focus not on a method or a technique to solve this problem, but to focus on Jesus, who gave himself to us.
May I invite you to set your eyes on Christ Jesus who suffered and died on the cross?
Let’s listen to this version of the hymn that calls us to focus on Jesus.
As the intro of the song begins, take slow and deep breaths, begin forming a steady rhythm to breathe in the grace of the Lord, and breathe out the anxious thoughts, knowing that the Holy Spirit is here.
1 Peter 4:7-11
7 The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. 8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.
10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
What would you do if you found out that the world will end in six months?
“The end of the world is coming soon,” Peter wrote.
If you’ve been tracking with us, you’ll know that Peter has been addressing the churches who were under immense persecution and suffering. And when you hear about the imminent ending of the world. It brings to the forefront a couple of things.
First, it means the present suffering will soon end and the glory days are near. Second, it creates a sense of urgency, you ask yourself “what must I do before the end?”
Peter suggests a few things for the churches to focus on. He tells the church to pray, earnestly and with discipline. He wants the church to take prayer seriously and pray regularly. That is an interesting reaction to knowing the world will be ending. Prayers, it seems, is an ongoing task of the church, whether in good times or bad. So it’s simple, pray.
The one that trumps prayer to be the “most important of all” is to love one another deeply. You know sometimes prayer and love can seem abstract, they are not, but they seem to be so, probably because they are harder to measure. But Peter gets super concrete here: “share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.” Now that’s something all of us can wrap our heads around! Prayer and love is coupled with visible, tangible actions.
I just love how practical it is.
Peter gets even more practical by urging the churches to use their God-given gifts. Whatever you’ve been given you are to “do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies!” The gifts are many and each of us has been given a gift to serve others.
Have you discovered what your gift might be? Sometimes, it might help to ask a trusted friend to tell you what they noticed. It’s so important because knowing your gift opens up new ways to experience God and help others. I’d encourage you to look into it if you haven’t yet.
According to Peter these are the most important things to do in view of a world that is coming to an end soon. I think they are just as good to be put into practice for the long haul.
Some questions to think about:
- What would you do if you found out that the world will end in six months?
- Between 1) praying earnestly and with discipline, 2) sharing your home with those in need, and 3) using your spiritual gifts to serve others, which one have you been practicing already and that you feel you are comfortable with? Ask God to help you expand on it. Which one have you overlooked or need more insight on?
1 Peter 4:12-19
12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
14 If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. 15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. 16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! 17 For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? 18 And also,
“If the righteous are barely saved,
what will happen to godless sinners?”
19 So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
Today’s reading takes on a different aspect of suffering, and that is, the cause of the suffering. The writer Peter makes it clear that someone can suffer because they’ve murdered, stole, made trouble, pried into other people’s business (gossipping perhaps?). If someone commits such shameful acts, they will no doubt reap the consequences of them. That is not the kind of suffering we’re talking about here.
Peter was referring to a different kind of suffering. He wrote, “it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian.” One that was brought on because of your faith in Jesus.
The dictionary defines the word shame as “the feelings of sadness, embarrassment, and guilt that you have when you know that something you have done is wrong or stupid.”
The Christians in Peter’s time were insulted by others quite often, likely because of them practicing the way of Jesus: maybe it was their hospitality to the poor and widowed, or their belief that there is only one true God and he is Jesus. So the insults might have made the Jesus followers to feel sad, embarrassed and guilty as if they have done something wrong or stupid.
Can you recall a time when you suffered because of your faith? Have you ever been made to feel shameful, or sad, or embarrassed by others because of your faith? As if you’ve done something wrong or stupid when you knew it was the right thing to do?
If you have, Peter says, “be glad!” When I read it I thought how strange it is to rejoice and be glad for suffering for Jesus. Peter gave the reason to be glad: it’s because our suffering makes us partners with Christ in his suffering. I love the Message translation:
“Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.”
It’s a spiritual refining process that will mature us to be more like Jesus! If your desire is to be more like Jesus then this is the great reward, isn’t it?!
Some questions to think about:
- When was a time when you suffered because of your faith? How did it make you feel?
- Is being matured to be more like Jesus a desirable goal? Why and why not?
- Take a minute to sit in the presence of God, tell him about what you recalled and ask him to show you what it means to be more like Jesus.
1 Peter 5:1-7
1 And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: 2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. 4 And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.
5 In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
Ok, please don’t think of me as weird for what I’m about to share with you. Sometimes when I read scripture and after my first pass at it, I’d read the verses in reverse order. I find that it helps me understand what the writer was trying to get to.
Let’s try this together, after you’ve read this passage in its normal flow. Read it again, beginning with verse 7, then verse 6 and so on and so forth.
Here’s what I got out of it:
v7 God loves and cares for you
v6 Be humble, don’t worry about the needs to get ahead of the pack
v5 God lifts the humble and opposes the proud
the younger must accept the authority of the leader
v4 When the Shepherd of shepherds appear, he will reward you
v2, v3 Here’s an example of a good leader, someone who willingly cares for the flock because it is God they are serving. They are also someone who does not serve out of their self-interest or because they want power over others
v1 Peter is a leader too, he knows what it’s like to be a leader of others and a follower of Jesus
I certainly hope reading it this way helped you as much as it helped me. Peter wants the leaders and followers alike to form their leadership motivations based on the fact that God loves them deeply. They don’t need to earn from God or others. This is not why they are leaders (or followers for that matter).
The temptation for leaders and followers as they interact with each other is to distinguish themselves among the group for the sake of status, accolades, or self-interest. Those are not to be your reward, says Peter. The “crown of never-ending glory and honor” is to be your reward in Christ. Remember that as you lead others, that you are also to follow Jesus’ lead.
Let’s take some time to reflect on your leadership and followership (yes, It’s a legit word!) through a variation of the Prayer of Examen.
- The Presence of God – First, slow down your breathing. As you do, become aware of God’s presence around you. He knows you full well and he loves you with all of who he is. Pause for a minute here.
- Review your leadership – Choose an area of responsibility where you are either a leader or a follower (parenthood, work, school, community/neighbourhood, friend groups)
- Think about these questions*
- For what/who am I most grateful for?
- For what/who was I least grateful for?
- Where did I show God’s love and heart to others?
- Where did I fail to show God’s love and heart to others?
- What do I need to be thankful for?
- What do I need to repent of?
- What action, mindset, or rhythm should I try to repeat with intention?
- Think about these questions*
- Renew your heart and posture before God
- Where there is lack, pray and ask God for the renewal and restoration of your heart towards him and others.
- Where there is joy, give thanks to God
- Look Forward
- What are some of the opportunities (or threats maybe) today, tomorrow or this week where you can practice and live out the prayer you just prayed. Invite Jesus into those opportunities. The meeting you’ll have, the people you’ll meet, the conversations you’ll have.
Be blessed my friends.
1 Peter 5:8-14
8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.
10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 11 All power to him forever! Amen.
Peter’s Final Greetings
12 I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace.
13 Your sister church here in Babylon sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark. 14 Greet each other with a kiss of love.
Peace be with all of you who are in Christ.
We have come to the final stretch of the letter of 1 Peter. If you’ve been reading with me and Tony for the past weeks, you’ll know how Peter was so intentionally guiding the early church to set their eyes on the living hope they have in Jesus. That although the suffering is great, the future is glorious because of what Lord Jesus has done.
Before parting, Peter had a stern warning to the churches. Look out for the devil, when you’re not on your feet, when you let up he will devour you.
That can seem quite scary and threatening! That on the way to becoming more like Jesus, we can be eaten by the roaring lion, the great enemy.
So I thought I’d pray protection over you and your family today.
Pray with me will you?
Oh God, let your faithfulness bring calm and peace into this day.
Let me be aware of your presence right here, right now
Let your love fill my life and your goodness fill the void left behind by any fears I might have.
Protect me and my family, keep us away from the enemy
For you have place me on the firm foundation that is Jesus
Thank you God
I have been listening to this song that reminds me to rely not on what I can do but what Jesus has done and will continue to do. I’d like to share it with you as a way to encourage you as we wrap up our reading of 1 Peter.
Thank you for joining me in this reading.