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Colossians 1:28-29, “28) Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29) For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

My parents and doctors have said that our main two concerns are: 1) no pain and 2) the ability to breathe. Notice that this is all with the conclusion that I will die. The cancer has become very progressed, and I feel that my time is almost done. The doctors are beginning to say that I might not make it to the beginning of the next year. I’ve come to accept this, but some of the doctors are beginning to say that I should just give up. I’m currently doing three weeks of radiation, and some say that I should just go home, get hospice, and slowly die. Did the apostle Paul run away after he had been beaten, persecuted, and shipwrecked? Did Jeremiah give up because of the constant turmoil on his life? The answer to those questions is no. There will come a point where my body will eventually fail me, but I will fight to my death to proclaim the gospel.

In Philippians 1:19-26, Paul discusses the benefits of living and dieing. It can be summed up in verse 21 when he says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” The first part means that we live for Christ and spread the gospel. He later discusses how living will give him more time to preach the gospel and teach and encourage those who are already walking in the light, which is why he pushes on to live so that he can preach and teach. He also discusses the great benefits of dieing right now, and the great joy he will have when he goes to heaven. Living or dieing are ultimately in the hands of the Lord, which Paul understands, but this doesn’t stop him from fighting to leave to do as many good things before he leaves his despite his great desire to go home.

John piper gave a great sermon entitled, “What Happens When You Die? At Home With The Lord,” based on 2 Corinthians 14:16-5:10, and given on July 18, 1983. Piper pointed out the order of Paul’s desires (1 being the highest desire and 3 the lowest): 1) The Lord would return and that he would instantaneously be fully clothed and be with the Lord. 2) He would physically die and return to the Lord without his completely glorified body. 3) He would remain on this earth. We just saw in Philippians of how Paul’s desire was to depart, but it seemed to be God’s will for him to stay. He obeyed this call just as he submits to God’s will in 2 Corinthians passage, but they are different because in the Philippians passages he is only speaking of himself, while 2 Corinthians is encouraging all people to live this.

At this point, I am ready for death. I’m actually afraid of getting healed because then all my hopes for heaven will have to wait several years. My body is in constant pain, which isn’t completely true because they have given me some pretty strong meds and I almost have no pain when I have a comfortable position, I can hardly breath, and these are just a few of my symptoms. It’s hard, sometimes nearly impossible, for me to get up, walk, and lay down. I can do almost nothing on my own, but my loving parents are there for me whenever I need something. I am almost eager to die because most mornings I seem to say, “I can’t do this anymore,” but God is there to lift me up and help me with all of my struggles because of his mercies are new everyday and He is our portion (Lamentations 3:23-24). I am now living the idea of “Live Weak” to the fullest expression (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). The more my weaknesses are displayed the more God is glorified.

The verse at the top has been really important these last few days. Verse 28 speaks of doing everything possible to present everyone mature in Christ. The next verse speaks of toiling to do this. Toiling is not just helping people here and there but using everything that God has given you to complete this task. For me, since I will be unable to do almost all physical activity, I will toil by writing, speaking, when I can, witness to everyone, which I don’t see too many people, but that could make it easier to focus on some more than others, and finally offering any kind of counseling and encouragement to whoever needs it. I may not always have the strength to do these things, but that didn’t stop many of the early missionaries that would grow sick on the mission field and lose their children and wives. They persisted on because it was not their strength, but God’s strength with them. Some may say that I don’t need to push myself too hard, but this is looking at my strength rather than seeing it as God who strengthens me, “with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” Besides, if I push myself too hard, then I will get to go to heaven sooner. It is a win-win situation regardless of how you look at it. Praise be to His holy, righteous name. I rejoice that I have been chosen to suffer to for the glory of God.

“3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4) to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5) who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

As Christians we are called to face many different types of sufferings while we are on this earth. The one that calls to face these sufferings is God. He is even the one that has planned and predestined these sufferings to take place in our lives. With this knowledge, it seems like it would become easy to blame God for everything and turn our backs on Him. After all, if He is the one that brings so much suffering upon us, then why should we serve and worship Him. This does not sound like a God that is worthy of worship but one that finds joy in making people suffer.

The claim that God only wants the best for you at all times is wrong, but the claim that God desires for you to suffer with no meaning every second of your life is as well. He has given us many sinless pleasures to enjoy. There is a balance between God blessing us with worldly goods and with Him calling us to suffer and sacrifice, which mean that we sacrifice all the worldly goods He has given us.

These worldly gifts cannot be the main factor in our happiness and joy because there is so much more. He blesses us with spiritual blessings and even blesses us with Himself. We may be called to experience true physical pain, but He will always be there to give us spiritual support, as we need it.

Job, the Old Testament man who went through extreme physical and spiritual pain, seemed to have neither physical nor spiritual blessings. He would cry to God and find no answer, his body was starting to fall a part, and he had basically everything he had. Despite everything Job loses, He still held on to the Lord and said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” He still praised God despite his afflictions because he knew the full character of God. He knew that God both gave and took away, and if we praise God when everything is going good, then we must also praise Him when everything goes wrong.

Therefore, when we are faced with deep afflictions we must first remember that God is in control of these afflictions and that He is working them for good. Secondly, we must look at the full nature of God. He is not just a little kid frying ants with a magnifying glass, but a God that will also lead the ants to food sources and even provide shade.

1. Christ on the Cross

Verse 3 opens with, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” This opening is not new to Peter because Paul uses it as well (2 Corinthians 1:3, Ephesians 1:3). “This is a standard Jewish praise formula that introduces the tone and themes to come” (ESV Study Bible)

Peter is not saying that he has the power to bless God. This does not mean that he can bless God with words and God will become stronger. Rather this is praise for God, who He is, and what He has done. Peter is aware of all the wonderful things God has done for them, so He is praising and thanking God for all of the wonderful blessings He has poured out on them. He is uplifting God’s name above any other name on the entire earth.

The greatest thing Peter praises God for being the God and Father of Jesus Christ. The use of God shows how God’s total sovereignty and power. He is not only God over all things but even over Jesus. The trinity is always in agreement, and it’s almost a void point to say that God has more power because they will always agree on the same plan. It is significant to see that within the hierarchy God is above Jesus and that Jesus submitted to God’s will at the cross.

The use of Father indicates how Jesus was the Son of God and equal with God, but he is also speaking of the same Jesus that came to this earth and taught the apostles. His main purpose wasn’t to teach the gospel but to one day die on the cross for the sins of mankind.

Father does not mean that God birthed or created by Jesus. “The term ‘Father’ as applied to the first person of the trinity signifies not in any way that the Father created the Son or caused him to exist (for the Son has always existed and was never created, John 1:1-3, 8:58, 17:5, 24, Rev. 22:13) but that he relates to the Son as a father relates to a son normally: the Father plans and directs, the Son responds and obeys: the Father ‘sends,’ the Son comes from the Father (Gal. 4:4, John 3:16,18, 5:19, 22, 26-27, 30)” (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: 1 Peter, 59).

Here at the very beginning we are reminded of the greatest truth of all Scripture. The great love of God displayed through Jesus on the cross as he died for our sins. No greater love has been expressed than this. He didn’t lay his life down for the good and righteous but for the wicked sinners (Romans 5:8). This reveals our wicked, sinful nature, which in turn shows that we are unworthy of this sacrifice. We must also remember of Christ’s perfection as he did this. At anytime, he could have called on God for deliverance and been perfectly just in doing so. He stayed through it all because of his great love for the Father and for us.

We are also reminded of the intense suffering Christ endured in order to achieve. He was beaten before, forced to carry his cross, and then hung on the cross until his death. The open wounds would have been painful along with the nails and hands in his feet and slowly losing the ability to breathe. The greatest suffering he endured was the complete separation from God as he bore our sins. Since he had become our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and God cannot be around sin, God left Christ alone on the cross. This is what caused Christ to cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus experienced hell for us.

The reason this is so important at the beginning is because when we experience intense sufferings, all we have to do is look at the cross. We may want to say that our pain or suffering is unbearable and worse than what anybody else has experienced, but compared to what Christ did on the cross it is nothing. Jesus did not remain in the grave though, which means that our pain is only temporary and will be brought to an end in the next life of heaven..

2. Made Alive With Christ

Verse 3 continues with “according to his great mercy.” This is showing that it is completely by the great mercy of God that we are made alive with Christ. We all deserve to go to hell, but because of his great mercy, He has granted us the grace that leads to eternal life through Christ. Notice that this great mercy was completely based on the will of God rather than any work, decision, or choice that we have made. We are completely unworthy of this and have done absolutely nothing to deserve it, but God has shown us mercy. “No foreknowledge of the fact that we would no foreseeable of any desirableness or merit on our part, is mentioned here or anywhere else the ultimate reason for or salvation. ‘It is simply “according to his great mercy” that he gave us new life” (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: 1 Peter, 60).

This idea is seen throughout the first chapter of Ephesians as we see that it is God’s will alone that saves us regardless of our actions. There are phrases such as, “according to the purpose of his will,” (Ephesians 1:5) “according to the riches of his grace,” (Ephesians 1:7) “according to his purpose,” (Ephesians 1:9), “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” (Ephesians 1:11), and “according to the working of his great might,” (Ephesians 1:19).

It’s the mercy of a great king on a peasant. The king has granted the peasant land and all the food the peasant would ever need, but the peasant decides that he wants more. He sneaks into the king’s castle and steals from his treasures. The king’s guards catch the peasant before the king and throw the peasant to the king’s feet. The peasant doesn’t plea for his life or even apologize for his actions. Instead, he begins to tell the king that he should have given more to the peasants to begin with. The king responds by the merciful act of letting the peasant live, go free, and even keep the stolen treasure. This act of great mercy in turn changes the life of the peasant into a loving and merciful man.

Verse 3 then says, “he has caused us to be born again to a living hope.” Once again God is the causal action of all of this. It is only because he caused us to born again that we were. We cannot will ourselves into a physical existence. We cannot one day say that I’m going to start the process of growing in a womb and will come out in nine months. These things are impossible for us just as it is impossible for us to be born again in a spiritual manner.

2 Corinthians 4:6 says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The light did not create itself or come bursting forth on its own, but God called into existence. The light that we know have own hearts has come about in the same way. God “caused” it to be in us. He created it in us and caused us to be born again.

Ephesians 2:5 also agrees when it says that we have been “made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved,” It was completely by His grace that we were “made” alive. What we have done or will do was not taken into account when God did these actions.

This rebirth is to a living hope. Before we had Christ, we had no hope and were without God in the world (Ephesians 2:17). We had no hope, much less a living hope. We may have had a temporary hope that got us through the day, but if we were to truly think of our purpose in this world and where we were going when we died, then we would realize that our hope was in vain and empty.

Once we have been made alive with Christ, we receive this new living hope. It is a living, vibrant hope that never abandons us. When times get hard or one is called to suffer greatly, this living hope remains alive and supports. Even when we are on the brink of death, this hope helps us to keep fighting until God takes us home, and this hope will finish the race with us.

3. An Imperishable Inheritance

Along with this new life and living hope, we are promised an inheritance. An inheritance is normally a sum of money or items given to those closest to a person that has passed away and moved on. The same idea can be seen here. When Christ died on the cross for our sins, we obtained the inheritance of heaven while at the same time we became Christ’s inheritance. We are Christ’s inheritance because we will praise His name for all eternity for what He has done for us.

This inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” “Imperishable” demonstrates that there is nothing we can do to lose it. Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” We are sealed with the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of this inheritance, which means that even holding onto our salvation is not dependant on us but on the Holy Spirit. We cannot lose our salvation because we do not hold the seal of our salvation.

“Undefiled” shows that we have been made holy and pure and have been washed by the precious blood of Christ, which is discussed later in this chapter. All of our former sins we have been cleansed, but Peter is also writting to people that have faith in God and have come to repentance. This means that our inheritance remains “undefiled” even as we sin after our conversion, but we are called to confess our sins and repent even then (James 5:15-16).

“Unfading” displays that our inheritance does not diminish or grow smaller the longer we live. Instead, as our faith and the good works done for the father increases, so does our inheritance. It creates a bigger jar for us in heaven that can hold more water even though all the jars are perfectly full. There is nothing that will make our inheritance any less shiny or precious.
Verse 4 ends with “kept in heaven for you.” This inheritance is not an inheritance of this world. We should not expect jewels or money or new house or car in this world because that promise is not made here or anywhere else in the Bible. Rather, this promise forces our eyes to heaven, where we will be with our Creator, Savior, and Helper. This is where our true inheritance lies, and it is far greater than any money-driven inheritance in this world.

This verse once again displays that our inheritance is “kept” in heaven. We cannot take away from heaven because some else owns it. If one’s father were about to die leaving everything to you, then there would be no way that you could change this because the will belongs to your father. It does not matter how you feel or what you do it will remain the same. The only way that the will could changed were if your father decided to change it, which God will never do because He never breaks His promises (Number 23:19, Joshua 23:14, 2 Timothy 2:13).

Finally, this inheritance is kept in heaven “for you.” It isn’t for your mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, or friend. It is for you. This means that if you have not repented of your sins and believe in Christ Jesus as Lord and savior their faith will not save you just as if they have not done the same, then your faith will not save them. If you do have this faith in Christ, then it means wonderful things for you. You will not have to share this ultimate pleasure with any because they have their own pleasures, and the mixture of your pleasure with theirs will only increase the overall joy.

4. God’s Power Through Faith For Salvation
Verse 5 opens with “who by God’s power.” What kind of power does God have? He has the power to save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace, and Daniel from the lion’s den. He has the power to change Saul, a persecutor of the church and of Christ, to the apostle Paul, a great leader of the church that wrote most of the New Testament. He has the power to give Abraham and Sarah a child even in their old age. He has the power to part the red sea and bring forth water from a rock. He also has the great power of saving you and me. He is a powerful God indeed!

If it is by God’s power, which is immeasurable, then this means it is not by our power. We could not save ourselves any more than a dead man could swim to safety. It was completely by God’s power that we are saved, but as we have already seen, this is a great power. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. This “come to me” can also be seen as believes or has faith because we could not come to Him if we did not first believe in Him. John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” This verse also demonstrates that it is by God’s power that we will come to Him, and this calling will not fail. It also shows that, as we saw in verse four, He will never cast us out. Ultimately, our salvation and even insurance of our faith are gifts from that we did nothing to gain and were unworthy of (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Verse 5 continues with, “who are being guarded through faith.” The tool God uses is faith. This is much like a craftsman using a hammer at times and a wrench for others. It is still the craftsman that uses the objects to do His will. The objects in themselves have no power or value if God does not use the tools. If the tools are used in an improper way, such as faith in a false religion, then they will only cause destruction rather than good. This faith then is from the one, true God and is totally His power and grace.

The “who are” now seems to imply a multitude of people rather than just one. It is now not just about one saint but about the entire multitude of saints. What an incredible truth we see revealed here. God has the power to not only watch over one of His sheep but the entire flock without losing one of them. This is once displaying the great power of God that He can watch over so many with ease.

The passage also tells us that we are “being guarded.” The one guarding us is the entire trinity for it by God’s power, because of Jesus Christ’s precious blood on the cross, and the guiding and guaranteeing hand of the Holy Spirit that we are saved. This incredible team that forms one God is powerfully working for us and with us. The “being” also represents that God is currently guarding us. This is a sure and active promise that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

Verse 5 concludes with “for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last times.” There is only mention of one salvation in this passage, so this may refer to the salvation that will come at Christ’s return rather than our initial salvation that comes at death. Before Christ returns, we will only have our spiritual bodies in heaven, but when he returns we will be clothed with our new, glorified physical bodies. The reference to is only “in last times” rather than “at the last times” or “when the last times” arrive, so this could be referring to our physical death on this earth and salvation when we go to heaven then. I don’t think both could be true because of the use of the article “a.”

This salvation will be revealed to us in a way that it cannot be revealed to us on earth. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” We will come to the full knowledge of God at this point (Ephesians 4:13).

This chapter may have seem much more theological or doctrinal. This is because it was intended to be that way. As we enter and endure times of suffering, we must always remember the type of God we serve. He is powerful God that has redeemed us and will never let go of us. Even when our troubles seem to be at our worst and we will feel abandoned by God, He is still with us and will not abandon us. Our hope is rooted in the character and nature of God rather than in our own ability.

How can I praise thee for what thou hast done?
How can I praise thee for sending thy son?
How can I praise thee for thy righteousness and love?
How can I praise thee for thy mansions above?
How can I praise thee for the blessings thou hast given me:
The gift of breath, movement, even the ability to believe?
How can I praise thee for a faithful, loving family,
Friends, and a church that will never leave?
How can I praise thee for the birds singing their songs?
How can I praise thee for the trees that grow strong?
How can I praise for this cancer that blesses my body?
As it makes me realize that thou art so holy.
I cannot praise thy Name properly or with full accord,
But I will praise thy holy name, the Name that I adore.

“14) Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15) And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

We will not be able to take any of our material possessions into heaven. We may not have much to leave behind, but even the smallest amount may help our friends, families, and charities. This can sometimes be used for the glory of God but not always. Those that leave their possessions only to their loved ones for no other reason than that they are now dead and have done nothing to teach them of the love of Christ, their treasures on this earth may be used be for God’s glory but that was never their intention.

We must evaluate how we will spend give away our money or if we should even wait for death. It would be seen as a very loving act to give away all that we have before we die. What if death may be far away from us? Would putting your money into a savings account that would inquire interest over time, which means you, could give more to others in the long run? We don’t know how long we have, and this may

What else will we leave behind besides our money? We will leave beyond the lessons we have taught and the love we have shown, but we will also leave behind the hate we have shown and the ignorance we have displayed. The way we have lived our lives will influence the way other people live their lives. If we shared the gospel with them in a loving and truthful way, then they may be one of God’s chosen saints. If we are constantly hateful and had never experienced the joy found in Christ, then we may have caused others to live this same way.

We might not be with our friends and families on this earth forever, but the lessons we have taught and the love we have shown will remain they will pass on. This love and knowledge will help them grow in Christ and become one of his faithful followers, but if we did not live this way, then they may never follow Christ.

We must live in radical obedience to God in order for our lives to have a meaningful impact on others. There are many non-Christians that have left a very powerful impact on this world, so what about them? They may have impacted people in this temporary world and given them hope for a small amount of time, but they have done nothing to help their souls. There was no preaching of the gospel from them, so they did not offer the one hope that truly matters. The hope they provided will only last on this earth, but we will all go to heaven or hell one day.

This may seem to be pointing at whether or not one is a Christian, but this is not true. One may be a Christian but still not following showing love to others. They may not be living a lifestyle that will truly shape others in a positive way even when they are gone. What lessons will you leave behind? Was the love of Christ displayed through your life? Did you boldly proclaim that you were a follower of Christ or did you hide in shame of his name?

This the last recorded message of Joshua. This is what he leaves the people he lives with. He sums up what God has for them and calls them to come back and serve this God alone. He wants to leave them with this last call because it is the most important call. This is what he left behind on earth for others to grow from and glorify God with.

Joshua is speaking to all of Israel (Joshua 24:1), but that does not mean that all of Israel will obey his call. We see the same thing in many of our churches. The call is made to the entire church, but only a few will adhere to this call. We could say that they are all still Christians, which may be true, but it may be true that those that are not following this call do not follow Christ. This act of unrighteousness reveals that their faith is empty.

1. Fear of the Lord
What we teach others will be very important to the way we live. When I was in elementary school, I remember a schoolmate of mine told that applesauce was made from bat droppings. I hadn’t each much applesauce before then, so after I inspected the texture and consistency, I concluded that they were correct. It was not until years later that I discovered that they were either very misinformed or just flat out lied.

This small bit of information changed the way I looked at applesauce, which affected my life. It was only in a very small way, but what happens with the bigger questions? Does God exist? What kind of a God is He? These kinds of questions go beyond a simple snack food and can determine the way they make decisions for the rest of their lives.

The first part of Joshua’s command in verse 14 is, “Now therefore fear the LORD.” He is calling the nation back to an appropriate fear of the Lord. They seem to have lost this fear and have abandoned God to serve other false gods. If they truly feared what God can do and will do, then they would have not been disobedient. The reason we have so many people that do not serve and follow God is because they do not correctly understand who is, and since they do not understand who is, then they see no reason to fear Him.

The main way this is done when people only understand God as a God love only. This is biblical but does not paint the entire picture of God. Instead, they craft a god into their image so that let’s them do whatever. This god is really himself or herself. When we begin to see the true character of God, this changes our views to the correct view and teaches us the proper way of loving and respect for God.

We do not only teach them lessons like these, but we also teach them the foundation behind these lessons. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The first lesson we must teach others is the fear of the Lord, and the way this lesson is best taught is by describing the true attributes of God. We tell them that He is a God of love but that He is a God of judgment and wrath. The type of fear speaking of here refers more to a deep reverence and true devotion. Matthew Henry wrote, “Reverence a God of such infinite power, fear to offend him and to forfeit his goodness, keep up an awe of his majesty, a deference to his authority, a dread of his displeasure, and a continual regard to his all-seeing eye upon you” (look up note on Joshua 24:14 in commentary).

True fear does not come mainly from His wrath but from His goodness. John Gill said, “Since he has done such great and good things, fear the Lord and his goodness, fear him for his goodness sake; nothing so influences fear, or a reverential affection for God, as a sense of his goodness; this engages men sensible of it to fear the Lord, that is, to worship him both internally and externally in the exercise of every grace, and in the performance of every duty” (http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/joshua-24-14.html).

This must be the first thing we leave behind with others. If they realize the fear they should have of God, then this will help to keep them obedient and away from sinning. We show our fear of the Lord, which will help others to have a fear of the Lord as well.

2. Service to the Lord

Verse 14 continues with, “serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.” Serving the Lord quickly follows the fear of the Lord. If we know the true attributes of God, then we will both desire to serve Him because of His great love but also work out of fear of what He can do. This idea of service or worship is seen as a dominant theme in Joshua 22-24. It is used at least sixteen times in the chapter 24 and four times in chapters 22 and 23.

Service is usually taught best by leading through example. As others watch you serve, they will learn that serving is important. This is less about just telling others that they may serve but living your lives in service to the Lord. This service is for the Lord specifically, which means that every service we do should be dedicated to His name and for His glory. This does not mean that we are to abandon serving others, but when we serve others, we keep in mind and tell them that this service is done for the glory of God. This will keep the gospel on the tip of our tongues throughout our times of service.

This service is to be done in “sincerity.” All of our service must in honest service to God without seeking earthly rewards for self. If the only reason we are serving other is so that they may look favorably upon us or pay us at some point, then we are not serving the Lord but ourselves. We will be serving selfishly for our names rather than for God’s Holy Name.
Ephesians 6:7 says, “rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man.” Looking out for our interests and our own selfish desires is how we seek to render service to men rather than God. If we serve in order that God may be glorified and storing up future treasures in heaven, then we are serving with true sincerity towards the Lord.

Service can be displayed on the outside, while there is not sincerity in the heart. Doing service with a begrudging attitude is not service done for the Lord. The Lord knows the secret intentions of our heart and will be able to see through the outward works to what we are thinking within. He delights in only the truthful service of His followers. Psalm 51:6 says, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”

Our service to the Lord is also to be filled with faithfulness. He only is sufficient to provide our needs. When we are called to go to a foreign nation or serve in a radical way, we look to God as our provider rather than looking at the costs. He is sufficient in providing for all our needs and for giving us all the tools we need in order to accomplish the mission set before us. To serve in Him in faithfulness is to trust that He alone can provide for us even when our checkbooks and bank accounts say that we don’t have anything. This doesn’t mean He will give us an abundance of wealth in order to fulfill selfish desires, but He will give us whatever we need to complete His plan for our lives.

This faithfulness persists even in times of drought. When we begin to think that God is not able to provide for our needs, we must hold fast to His promises and His faithfulness. When we even start to think that He may not exist, we must have faith in Him to bring us through the period of doubt. Showing this kind of faith to others will dramatically shape how they will live. This type of service we show in our lives must be a thing we leave behind for others.
Small times must trust in God as well.

Lacking true faithfulness in God causes us to follow other gods. When we begin to think that God is not sufficient to provide for our needs in all situations, then we begin to look for other gods to help provide for us. Our service must be rooted in faithfulness or else this same service will be rendered as useless because it will be service done in the name of a false god.
We remain faithful because God remains faithful

3. Follow the Lord Alone

Joshua was well aware that much of Israel was not serving the one, true God but foreign gods as well. They had departed from the original covenant and Ten Commandments and were seeking to compensate for what they thought was lacking. They were trying to find fulfillment in other things.

This would pass on for generations throughout Israel. The families that practiced serving more than the one true God would pass this belief onto their children, which was then passed onto their children. The way the first family lived almost determined how the rest of the generations of that family would live.

Joshua address this issue in verse 14 when he says, “Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt,” He starts by pointing out that their fathers used to serve this god. Their fathers did not live a lifestyle for God, and those traits were then passed onto their children. They are an example of how we should not live and what we should not be teaching those closest to us. Because of their disobedience, they lead their family astray.

In our postmodern world, many are now claiming that there are many different gods, and they all offer the same thing. They do not worship the one true God and are leading many astray. Others claim belief in one God, but it is in the wrong God. This problem was not just a problem that Joshua and the Israelites faced but is a problem we all face.

Should we just let others live their lifestyles and live our own way? Joshua is speaking to the entire nation of Israel. He is not worried about being offensive, but He is concerned about glorifying God and saving His people. He tells them that they are wrong for serving false gods. He does not let the idea of a false tolerance creep in and say that it is all right for them to live the way they want to as long as they let them live the way he wants to.

If he did not speak out against this, then people would be corrupted and eventually destroyed. He was trying to stop their demise. It wasn’t that he just had to be right, but he saw what would happen if they did not follow the only God. Changing from one god to another with no restraint would lead to Israel’s destruction.

We may not think that this affects us. We do not serve Allah or Buddha. We claim that the only God that we serve is the Christian God, but is this so? Do we serve other gods that do not at first appear to be gods? The truth is that we often serve security, wealth, or our bank accounts. These things do not appear to be gods, which is why it is so easy to give into them. Satan has had a facelift for our times, so he is harder to recognize but just as deadly.

Even if we don’t follow other false gods, we must be careful that we do not make these worldly things into gods. When we do, others will learn that God is something important that we do on Sundays and Wednesdays, but our true trust should be placed partially in things of this world rather than totally in Him.

John ends his first gospel with, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). There is a great importance in avoiding idols and staying close to following the Lord. If we not serving and following the Lord alone, then the rest of our life will be meaningless and purposelessly. We must remain steadfast in our faith towards God alone.

4. Choices for the Lord
We all make choices everyday. God is sovereign over these choices, but we are still very responsible for them. These choices may be smaller like: what to have for breakfast, what clothes am I going to wear, etc. These choices may also be much more dramatic such as: will I sacrifice my day off of work to study God’s word instead of watching television, am I willing to travel to foreign country and possible die for the spread of the gospel?

Verse 15 starts with, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.” Joshua seems to say this in a mocking tone. He has grown tired of their disobedience and is addressing them with great sarcasm. Elijah seems to have this same tone in 1 Kings 18:21, which says, “‘And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ And the people did not answer him a word.”

He starts by addressing how if it is evil in their eyes or not to serve the Lord. This is such an interesting way to start this verse. How do we decide evil if not from God’s Word? I can imagine one of the Israelites thinking that it was evil in their sight to follow God, but how did they arrive at this? Did they see that other gods were more desirable than their own God? How is this a criterion for judging good and bad?

He was also addressing where the authority lies. He was saying that regardless of what they thought or decided, God would still be Lord over them. The same rules still apply whether they adhere to them or not. There would still be punishment for their sins regardless if they thought it was sin or not.

The way we view the Bible will greatly affect others. If we show that we get all authority from the Bible, then they will seek to do the same. Whenever someone asks a question, we must first ponder their question and search for any relevant scripture. This will both provide a great answer and show them to always rely and search scripture first for an answer.

He is not just speaking of if they view God as an evil entity, but if He is the source of their greatest joy and pleasure. If God is not the source of our true pleasure, then we should not serve Him. This does not mean if we are not happy every second of the day then we should give up on Him, but this a far deeper, true joy we are speaking of. He is the very source and creator of joy.

He then proceeds to tell the Israelites to choose whom they will serve. This is not a choice that they are supposed to do over and over again every morning, but he is calling them to a lasting covenant. He is telling them to a make a choice that they will remain committed too and will not change as their troubles change. This choice will define the rest of their lives and even how they will be judged. Joshua 24:22 says, “Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ And they said, ‘We are witnesses.’”

In the verses prior to this, Joshua speaks of God’s unending faithfulness and kindness through the years. Joshua reminds them of what all God has already done for them and what He will continue to do. He is showing them that this God is greater than any other god they could ask for. Why would they even play with the idea of serving and following another god when they already have such an amazing one? He is saying that the decision has already been made for them. 1 Samuel 12:24 says, “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.” When we consider what the Lord has done for us, this will fill our hearts with love and joy for this God.

The apostle Paul would open most of his letters with deep doctrine then give moral exhortations. He would tell them of what Christ had done for them by his death. He would do this before the exhortations because it would cause more joy. Joshua is doing the same thing here. He is reminding them of the great things God has done and gotten them through, and after he tells them of God’s great faithfulness and love, he gives them this admonition to be built of the solid truth of who God is.

Jude 21 says, “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” We have the negative command of staying away from idols, but we also have the positive command to keep ourselves in the love of God. It is not enough to just abandon all false gods, but we must also turn to the one, true God. If we abandon all false gods but do not turn to Him, then we have created a new idol, which is ourselves. The only way to stay away from all idols is to follow God and observe His ways.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary later says, “Let us resolve upon a life of serious godliness, not merely because we know no other way, but because really, upon search, we find no better” (look up reference in book). Choosing to follow Christ ends up being the best possible way.  No other way, path, or god can serve us and give us true joy than God. This joy in God is an important aspect we must display in our lives and show to others. If we follow just a system of rules with no joy, then we may more easily fall away from this system. When we shine the joy of following Christ, then we leave them with the same joy found in following Christ. We teach them that it is less of a responsibility and more of obtaining a greater joy in Christ.

Once again he is coming back to the question of authority when he asks them to choose. How will they decide what god is best to follow? The God they currently serve seem to be the best possible option, but other gods may seem more appealing if they promised more. These gods had not provided anything for them or shown his faithfulness yet, so why should they trust him? How would they make such a choice without a standard to make a decision? Joshua shared with them the great standard that God has lived up to and is challenging them to find such a god as he for they will not be able to.

His mockery continues as he begins to offer them other such gods to look into. He says, “whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.” He says what about these gods? Are they not good enough? Then how about you look into these gods? Our God is still greater than these gods? I’ve been saying that all along.

5. Leading the House in the Lord
Verse 15 ends with the famous line, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua has just spent all this time trying to convince the people of Israel to turn from their ways and to completely follow God, but now he is saying that regardless of what they do, he will stay faithful to God and that his house will as well. Even if all of Israel abandoned them, they would remain and serve the Lord.

First, he shows his authority over his family. He was saying that they would serve God to the end with all that they were. Deuteronomy 10:12 says, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” He knew the commands of God, and he and his house would obey them with all of their heart and soul.

This choice to follow God and lead our household has been chosen by God. Genesis 18:19 says, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

This was not just the choosing of Joshua or Abraham but of the entire household. He has chosen them as leaders of the household. We should model our lives around men that are leading their house in a biblical manner. This may sometimes mean making choices and decisions for children (put in the story of talking about Derek and how if we should allow children to decide when they are ready to date). The children do not always understand the consequences of certain actions nor do they see the full picture. When we instruct them to live in a certain way and even restrain some of their freedoms, this will cause them to realize the benefits of obeying and listening to the wisdom of those that are older than they are.

We will often not be able to deeply influence strangers. We may share short moments of displaying the love of God with strangers, but we will have a much greater impact on those that are closest to us. Joshua is leading by example, which is displayed in his life, how he leads his family, and how his family leaves. We may not be able to reach many, but the lessons and love we have left behind with those closest to us will help spread the gospel of Christ.

What was the weight of Joshua’s impact? Joshua 24:31 says, “Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the LORD did for Israel.” They listened to his message and were changed. Israel turned from worshipping pagan gods, and they began to worship the God of Israel once again.

Sadly, this devotion to God did not last. Judges 2:10 says, “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.” The first generation obeyed the call of Joshua, but the second generation did not. I wonder if the first generation may have practiced the ways of the Lord but did not pass on these lessons to their children. They obeyed the commands in their lives but let their children do whatever they felt like doing.

Deuteronomy 4:10 says, “Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.” It is important that we both live in obedience to the Lord in our life, but we also share with others, especially our household, how we are to be obedient to Him. The things we learn from God we must teach to our children. This is the lesson we must leave behind with our children.

“16) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17) If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18) But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Many today claim the Christian faith. They claim to believe that Jesus is their Savior and that they obey God, but when they are faced with challenges or temptations they give up this faith. They only claim faith in Christ because of its culturally value. When this faith requires that they sacrifice, then their faith is no longer existent, and they give into the values and morals of the world.

This faith is not a true, saving faith, but a faith that is only superficial. It is a faith that only sees God as a way to get things that they want. When they do not receive the things that they have requested, then they abandon God. When their faith is being tested by fire, they desert God and cling to themselves and their lives. Luke 9:24 says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

There will be many times are faith is tested in this life. This is even a promise found in Scripture. 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” These tests are used to purify our faith and build our perseverance. We may not always resist every temptation, but God is there to forgive us when we fall and able to keep us from stumbling again in the future (Jude 24).

These three verses come in the middle of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We will be focusing on them because there would be too much to say if we focused on the entire passage, but we will be using the rest of the passage in its context in order to understand these verses.

The story begins with King Nebuchadnezzar building an image of gold then declaring that everyone must bow down before this image or they will be thrown into a fiery furnace. Once the music sounds, which were the signal for the people to bow down, everyone began to bow down. Everyone bowed except Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Certain Chaldeans brought the information of their disobedience to King Nebuchadnezzar expecting him to throw them into the fire. Upon hearing this message, Nebuchadnezzar grows furious and commands that they be brought forth immediately. He demands that fire be heated seven times hotter than it normally is and ordered that the three be bound and thrown. The extreme heat of the fire killed some the men that threw the three into the fire. The three are not killed but are rather unbound and standing with a fourth man. Nebuchadnezzar sets them free from the fire and even declares the greatness of their God.

The faith that God granted the three was what lead Nebuchadnezzar to change and delivered them from the fire. God’s great power was displayed through the faith He had worked in them. Their faith was a true, saving faith that delivered them from the furnace. It did not back down when confronted with challenges but remained committed and consistent with their beliefs that God would deliver them. This is true faith that we should all seek to have. This is a faith that stays standing.

1. Faith Responds

Verse 16 opens with Shadrech, Meshach, and Abednego giving an answer to King Nebuchadnezzar. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were prepared to disobey Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship the idol of him. They knew what awaited them for their disobedience. Daniel 3:6 says, “And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” The command to worship the golden image of God contained a punishment for not obeying it, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew this. They did not walk in there unprepared but had already decided how they would responded.

Whenever possible, we must have an answer prepared for all situations. They were ready for the initial action of disobeying his command, but were they prepared for a response to what he said? 1 Peter 3:14-15, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego most likely knew what awaited them if they did not obey King Nebuchadnezzar’s command. They probably also had prepared to both deny his command and a response to what he would say. They most likely did not know exactly what he would say, but they had a general answer prepared nonetheless.

This response came from living faithfully in their ordinary life. God may give us His special grace in certain situations to make decisions such as these, but it is far better if we live our lives dedicated to Him and a faithful response will flow from this. In Daniel 1, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego decide to eat waters and vegetables rather than meat and drink in order to remain obedient to God and separate themselves from others. The three have a past history of remaining faithful, so when the time comes to be faithful again, it is easier for them than if they had not been faithful in the past.

There will be many times that we will have no answer prepared because we had no way to be ready for the situation. We cannot see the future, so we cannot prepare for every event. This does not mean that God not help us and give us an answer in such events though. Luke 12:11-12 says, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Whenever we need an answer, we will be granted a special token of God’s grace for that situation.
This response must always align in a scripturally manner. Others may treat us with evil, but we do not return this evil to them. If someone slaps us on the check, then we could fight back, but this is not the biblical response. 1 Peter 3:9 says, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” They answer Nebuchadnezzar in a straightforward manner without trying to attack him or get away.

A responsive faith does not always mean that there must be some form of extreme outward action. There are times that the most faithful response is to keep silent and bear the unjust dealings of others. 1 Peter 3:1 says, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.” We do not always have to give a verbal answer but being obedient to Christ is our response.

I have found that having a great knowledge of the Word of God will help grant us a great answer as well. This text does not talk about this, but I have learned this from personal experience and how the Bible speaks of itself as a mighty sword (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12). They may have recalled the second commandment, which says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

2. Faith Does Not Conform

In verse 15, Nebuchadnezzar asks them, “And who is the god who will deliver you out my hands?” This question is steeped in arrogance. He begins with the presumption that he is the greatest god and that no one is more powerful than he is. He does not seem to think that any god could stand to his power.

They see right through this arrogance and don’t even answer his question at first. They don’t conform to what he is demanding, but respond with reliance in God. They know that God is far stronger than anything Nebuchadnezzar could even imagine, so they do not lower their standards to His evil. They avoid his evil question by showing how absurdly arrogant it is. They recognized that he had become hubris.

They respond to Nebuchadnezzar’s question by saying, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.” They do not need to answer this question because God will answer it for them. He will deliver them from Nebuchadnezzar’s hand and that will show him how powerful their God is. God will be the one that answers Nebuchadnezzar’s question. They do not conform to the demands made upon them but have trust in God.

This idea of nonconformity runs throughout this story. Daniel 3:7 says, “Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.” All of the nations, peoples, and tongues bow downed to the golden image. It was only Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that defied the norm.

Imagine how intimidating this would have been. There is not a number given for how many people were there, but it was probably a very large amount. In this story, the three are portrayed as unwavering and resolute, but there may have been a hint of fear in them as they saw everyone around them bow down to this golden image. They were only three that remained standing in the midst of so many around them that did not.

There were also many Jews present that bowed before the image. Notice that Daniel is not mentioned in this passage. I do not know if he was not present at the time or if he was one that bowed to the image as well. If he was one that bowed before the image, then this would have given them even greater reason and excuse for bowing. They defied even their countrymen because of their hope in God alone.

Our faith often does conform to the world around us. There is nothing wrong with getting shoes or clothing that everyone else is or getting, but when the norm is something sinful, we often justify our actions by saying, “everyone else is doing it.” We think that just because the world has given into premarital sex we can join in them with them. After all, if everyone else is doing it, there must not be anything wrong with it. These three men stood apart from nations. We may worry about a few of our closest friends think, but they were being set apart from many different people groups. This is a peer pressure that we cannot even imagine.

They could have bowed down but told themselves that they were really bowing and worshipping their God. They may have told themselves that this was only an external act that didn’t mean anything, but they didn’t. They didn’t even want the appearance of serving a false God. Even the external reality of their faith was shown to remain dedicated and not conforming. How often we will give in on the outside telling ourselves that we will remain true on the inside? How often will we sing loud and swing our arms in praise to please others and appear religious while we are really dead on the inside? The external appearance should always reflect the inward reality of our faith.

They could have even told themselves that this was only a temporary sin and that God would forgive them. All they would do was bow this one time so that they could go on living and telling others of God. They would seem to be bowing for the right reasons. The could have convinced themselves that God may still have many great plans for them but that they needed to live in order to fulfill these commands, but they did not give into this. They saw that the great power of God could save them, but even if He did not, their witness would still shake the nations.

3. Faith is Rooted in the Power of God
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do not immediately answer King Nebuchadnezzar’s question because they do no not wish to lower themselves to his standards, but they still feel it necessary to proclaim who there God is. Verse 17 says, “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.”
They tell Nebuchadnezzar of the wonderful, powerful God that they serve. Their faith is rooted in how powerful God is rather than how strong they are themselves. They do not say that they can deliver themselves, but that God can deliver them by His mighty power. They do not trust in anything of this world to save them, but on God.

A faith that stays standing is a faith that is rooted in God. It sees God as the source of all power, joy, and love, and it faces all situations with that knowledge. This implies that we must have a proper understanding of who God is in order to have proper faith. If we do not believe in a God that can deliver us from the furnace, then we do not have a complete faith. Our faith will bow down just as the other nations did because our God cannot save us. A faith that is rooted in the power of God will remain standing because it sees that God is infinitely more powerful than anything that can be done to our bodies.

First, this faith correctly understands that we were created for God rather than He created for us. The three first say that this God is a God “whom we serve.” We are the servants of the relationship, and we exist to glorify His name. We can only serve Him because He first served us and gave us His grace. Before a servant can serve his master, he must first be given the proper tools and objects, such as land or buildings, to work on. We are very weak servants that can only serve Him with what He has given us, but the position of servant implies that He has a greater authority and power over our appearance of power and authority.

Second, this faith sees that God is able to deliver us. The three recognize the capability and power of God by saying that He is “able to deliver [them] from the burning fiery furnace.” They recognize the great power of God to deliver them. Jude 24 says, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.” Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” Philippians 3:21 says, “who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Realizing the great power of God, they also correctly saw whom they must fear. Matthew 10:28 says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” They knew that God could deliver from a physical death but that this may not be His will. They also knew that a greater awaited them if they did not have faith in God. This does not mean that we are sentenced to hell for one sin disobedience because we still make faults even as Christians, but they know that this may prove that they did not have true faith at all. They feared the coming judgment for not remaining faithful more than they feared the power of anything that Nebuchadnezzar could do to them.

They also saw that this was all part of God’s plan. Whatever happened to them would only happen because God had declared it to happen. Nebuchadnezzar could do nothing that would catch God off guard because God had already seen and planned exactly the way this event would end. God’s plan will always be worked for our greatest good (Romans 8:28), so even if it meant their death, there was a reward that awaited them in heaven.

Third, they recognize that not only does God have the power to deliver them, but that he will deliver them. They continue by saying, “he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” They trust that God will deliver them from this fiery furnace. They may not have known how he would do so. They may have imagined that they would be delivered before they ever entered the furnace. It may have even been somewhat of a surprise to them that they were put into the flames without dieing. This is not to say that they lacked faith, but they may not have thought that God would deliver them in such a manner. We can trust that God will deliver us from all situations even if we do not see a way out of the situation.

Nebuchadnezzar even realizes later the power of their God. He declares, “There is no other god who is able to rescue in this way” (Daniel 3:29). He saw their great faith and the great power of God and recognized that their God was greater than all other gods. Our lives should reflect the power of God and that will become our witness to a lost world of the mighty saving work of God.

Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” He will deliver us through all situations because of the plan He has for our lives. Does this mean that we will never suffer or always be rich? No because that may not be His plan for our lives. Whatever He has planned for us will come to pass. Deliverance does not always mean that we will be delivered in the manner we wished to be delivered. The three even recognized that God may not deliver them when they said, “but if not.” We also know that a far greater deliverance awaits us. It may seem that God has failed to deliver us when we die, but we are delivered from all pain and suffering in this world but an eternal dwelling with God in heaven, which is where we find true deliverance.

“But if not” always strikes me. They were so committed that even if God did not deliver them from a physical death, their hope and trust will remain in Him. They were not dependant on what God would do with them or for them on this earth but only concerned with the reward that awaited them and glorifying God. What happens on this earth determines the reality of our faith in God. Even when it seems like He has abandoned us and left us to die, we can still trust in Him knowing that He will deliver us in the end.

There is no longer a “but if not” for us. There may be in this world but not in the world to come. We were in a state of spiritual death on a direct course for hell until something even greater happened. “But God” (Ephesians 2:4) the great fighter of the “but if not.” We no longer have any doubts about God’s deliverance because we know we have a future deliverance awaiting us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Even as they approached the fire, their faith remained steady. This was once again because they believed in the power of God. They knew that God could deliver them from the fire, but many of us would have been thinking that it would have happened already. We may think that God would just strike the ones dragging them to the fire and rescue them. When we try to figure out how God will deliver us, we are limiting God and His power. He may still intend to save us but in a way that we do not expect. If we believe that God is powerful, then we must also except that this power will work according to His plan rather than ours. Believing that God can deliver us calls for a submission to His will.

4. Faith Remains Committed

In verse 18, they repeat the answer that they have been giving all along. Nebuchadnezzar seems to be offering them one last chance to change their ways. He reminds them that they will be thrown into the fire if they do not obey and bow down before the image. This is their last opportunity to escape and to change from what they have done.

Notice their repeated use of “O king.” Nebuchadnezzar was very aware of his earthly authority and shared it with many. They seem to be mocking his arrogance by repeating his title. By focusing on the power of God, they see the weakness of man in comparison. They see that God’s power is so much greater than man’s, so they have no fear of Nebuchadnezzar. Romans 8:31 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

They refuse to bow to both the golden image and any other false god. We sometimes reject one temptation to give into another. Smokers will often give up smoking, but pick up another habit to replace it. We must resist all false gods rather than just some.
We also think that we can resist the big temptations but fail to resist the smaller ones. We believe that we will not bow down even if it means death, but we give into smaller temptations everyday. How can we expect to resist a greater temptation if we do not resist these smaller ones. God may grant us grace to overcome bigger temptations, but if we do not resist the smaller temptations that do not lead a physical death, then we should not expect to overcome the larger ones.

Later, the three remain committed to their cause as they are carried to the furnace. There are many times that we will speak of doing great things or having faith in God during hard times, but when the time comes to do these things or have this kind of faith, we do not follow through with it. Our words were only words that did not bring forth any action. The three were not just speaking to hear their own voices or appear brave, but they carried out what they said. Their faith was not just based on words, but it was lived out by what they did.

This reminds me of so many people that speak of following Christ, but their lives do not reflect it. Earlier, I wrote about how these people do not have a true faith but only a faith that talks. They may deny Nebuchadnezzar to his face, but when the time comes to be thrown into the fire, they back away and seek comfort elsewhere. They run from God because it costs too much to follow him. They are worth more to themselves than the eternal riches of being with Christ in heaven.

There are many challenges and fires that we face in our Christian life. These fires will test us and purify our faith. We will be tempted to bow down to false gods in order to save ourselves. There is not just one trial we must face but many. The temptation to give in will increase each time we are tempted. We will know of the suffering we experienced in the past and will want to give in so that we do not have to face any greater suffering, but our assurance and strength lies in the Lord. He will be the one that delivers us and gives us the grace necessary to face the trial.

What about when we fail God? Some of us may think that we would stay standing in a situation like this, but many of us already know that we would not. We know that we would conform to the world and bow down like everyone else. Let us be thankful that faith comes to us through the precious blood of Christ. Faith is a gift from God, and He is always there to see us through the good times and the bad. When we are struggling with great temptations, He will be there to help us. He will be there because Christ demonstrated a perfect faith by fighting and resisting all temptations. His righteousness is even granted to us when we are adopted into the family.

Not everyone has this faith. For those that do not have it, something far worse awaits them. If we do not repent of our sins and have faith in Christ, then hell is the only thing that awaits us. Christians may face many fires while on this earth but a greater fire awaits those that do not have a faith that stays standing. They may avoid many of the fires we face in this world, but the fires of hell will be far more painful than any fire on this earth. These fires will last for all eternity unless we repent of our sins and have true faith in Christ. This will require suffering and sacrifice on this earth, but we will not face the utter suffering of hell.

“19)Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! 20) My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. 21) But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22) The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23) they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24) ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”

The growth of internet social networking sites such as facebook and twitter along with the creation of blogs have allowed millions of children to post their teenage angst and depression for the world to see. There is always someone saying that they are going through some trial. Some of these trials are very legitimate, but I have realized that most these trials are often about not getting the car the person wanted or something even more trivial or meaningless than that.

The Internet is not the only place that people express such selfish feelings. I remember sitting in the waiting room of a hospital one day. I needed to get my blood work check, and I waited to be called back. As I sat there waiting, I overheard a conversation between to girls. One of them asked what was wrong, and the second girl responded, “I’m dieing.” She was not literally dieing but was claiming that she was in so much pain that she thought she was. I wanted to tell her, “No you’re not, but I am”

Whenever I hear stories like these, I usually want to tell them two things. The other day when I saw one such status on facebook about how nothing ever good happens to this person and that they are in constant pain, I was tempted to ask, “Do you have a terminal cancer and going through treatment for that cancer?” This may be appropriate at times to help people put things into perspective, but it may not always be the right thing to do if I say it out of unrighteous anger, annoyance, or pride.
The second, and more important, point I like to make is about Christ. How can we complain about anything knowing that Jesus Christ died for our sins and reconciled us to God? This gives us a fruit-filled life on this earth and the promise of an eternity in heaven. We get to know and meet with the God that created us through the mediation of His loving, merciful, and faithful Son.

Jeremiah, also known as the “weeping prophet,” is the author of this book. The book does not specifically indicate who the author is, but there are some other clues that lend themselves to this conclusion. He was called the “weeping prophet” because of his love for Israel and how they had not repented of their sins, so God sent judgment upon them. He endured great suffering throughout his life.

In the Hebrew Bible, Lamentations is called Ekah, which means “How” and is the first word in the book. It is also mentioned in 1:1, 2:1, and 4:1. The name “Lamentations” speaks of a lament or of a great mourning. Lamentations is not an uplifting book, but a book of distress and sadness.

Lamentations is filled with depressing language devoid of hope, yet halfway through the book, this amazing passage fills the pages. The Lord was displaying His wrath against Israel’s unfaithfulness, but this passage shows that God is faithful and loving through it all. Even when everything seems to be falling apart, God is still there to sustain us and help us through.

It is not always easy to have this hopeful mindset during times of troubles, but sometimes we must force our view to the cross. It is very easy to let our troubles weigh us down and to give into them, but if our focus goes to the cross, then troubles almost seem to disappear. We have to make the conscious act of taking our eyes off of our troubles and ourselves and putting them on God.

Realizing God’s amazing love for us and the way He displayed that love makes this task significantly easier. How can we focus on our small problems when we know that the God of the universe came to earth in human form to die on the cross to redeem us and reconcile us to God? If we hold on to this truth rather than complain about the trivial trials we face, then we would be in state of unending worship.

1. Consumed by Afflictions
Jeremiah says that his “soul continually remembers it.” Every moment he is aware of his “affliction and [his wanderings], the wormwood and the gall!” He cannot rid himself of the thought, and it torments his every waking second. His pain is so harsh that he is constantly reminded of it. His soul was “bowed down within” him. It had given up and submitted to the pain and afflictions he was facing.

When his soul bows down, it not only bows down to the afflictions but to God as well. Times of hardship in our lives are often used to break us of our pride and rely on God. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 says, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

This passage reflects a few Psalms. Psalm 42:6 says, “My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.” Psalm 44:25 says, “For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.”

Where do these afflictions come from? They come from God either directly or indirectly. Lamentations 3:5 says, “he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation.” Lamentations 3:15 says, “He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood.”

God controlling our afflictions is a great comfort. It shows us that God has given us these afflictions for a noble purpose. He has shaping us through suffering in order that we may come to perfection in Christ. He uses these afflictions and hardships to mold us in the image of Christ. Everything that we go through is controlled by God, and He is working these things for our good.

God working out our afflictions also reveals that He can remove our afflictions at anytime. We may be suffering from a deathly sickness one second, then completely restored the next. God can completely remove our afflictions at anytime because He is in complete control of all of them.

I remember one day realizing that I think about cancer everyday. There hasn’t been a day since my first diagnosis that I didn’t have some thought about the pain, treatments, or effects. Some days it was only a passing thought, but other days it conquered my body, mind, and soul. Even during the months of remission, I would still be reminded of it from the scars and residual side effects. Seeing what I could no longer do or had missed brought it forcefully to the forefront of my mind. I could not rid myself of the thought of this affliction.

We must be aware of our afflictions in order to properly defend against them and use them for the glory of God, but we must avoid dwelling upon them. When they conquer our thoughts and consume us, we lose sight of God and fail to fully glorify Him. The progression continues until we are consumed by these afflictions and see almost no way out. We must not dwell on our afflictions and let our souls be wrapped up with them, but we should look to God to deliver us from our afflictions and know that He is our portion throughout our afflictions.

We must also realize where we would be if God had not provided new mercies every morning and remained faithful. We would be a downtrodden people with no hope in this life or in the next. There would be great cause for complaining because we would not have the loving promises of the Lord to sustain us. Our lives would be continual misery and shame, but these things are not true and we are not consumed by our afflictions because God has provided for us and sustained us and provided hope.

2. Calling God To Mind
“But this I call to mind” displays how Jeremiah had to force his thoughts to God. Just as Paul exhorts us to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), Jeremiah was taking his negative, painful thoughts captive for the glory of God by reflecting over the grace of God.

Psalm 43:5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Notice how the Psalmist confronts his soul in this passage. He calls out his soul asks why it is so downcast. He does not let it grovel in self-pity but addresses it with strong words. He tells his soul that there is no reason to be in turmoil because of the Hope found in the salvation of God.

We must stare down our souls and remind them of God’s love. We must remember the price Jesus paid on the cross because of the great love God had for us, and we must remember that because of that sacrifice we have been forgiven and redeemed. It is easy for us to be overcome by self-pity. We can look in the mirror with tears-stained eyes and ask, “Why me?” Why are we the ones that suffer so? Why are we the ones that face so many tribulations?

In the same breath, we can vanquish every last one of these thoughts by asking the very same question, “Why me?” Why would God love me so much to save me? Why would Jesus come to this earth to save me? Why would God save this unworthy, undeserving sinner that has rebelled against His holy name to an eternity with His divine presence? We must confront our souls and command them to repent of their sins of self-pity and turn to Christ. Within Christ our hope is found, and Christ dispels all notions and thoughts centered on our suffering.

Many of our afflictions are a result of not properly placing our desire, trust, and hope in the Lord. If we kept our focus on God, then losing any worldly possession would only be a small affliction. If we have invested ourselves in these worldly possessions, then the loss of such a possession would be devastating. Our focus must remain on Christ to both combat affliction and prevent the power of afflictions consuming effect.

“It is daylight and the sun is shining bright and I have a candle lit, but someone blows it out. Shall I sit down and weep because my candle is extinguished? No, not while the sun shines! If God is my portion, if I lose some little earthly comfort I will not complain, for heavenly comfort remains” (Spurgeon, Memory-The Handmaid of Hope).

3. The Lord is My Portion
God’s mercies are “new every morning.” We go to bed and wonder how we will ever accomplish everything that needs to get done the next day or bear the pain of upcoming trial, and we wake to find the mercy of God that provides the strength needed to face the day. It is not the same mercy He gave us the day before, but mercies that are new and invigorated. This mercy replenishes us and sustains us throughout the trials we face through the day.

Arising and getting out of bed is a mercy itself. It is mercy that you have been granted a bed to sleep in and a house to live. It is mercy to get up rather than be paralyzed or dieing. If we have food to eat for breakfast, then this is a mercy. If we have job to go to or school to attend, then these are because of the mercy of God. We may have been going to the same job for years, but it is still a new mercy because we could have lost that job numerous times. There are so many small mercies that we overlook and do not give God the proper thanks for.

Psalm 30:5 says, “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” We may face trials today, but we know that tomorrow holds new mercy and great joy. We must bear the hardships by looking to Christ and never taking our eyes off of him.

Each new day bring with its mercy, forgiveness. We may have failed God time and time again, but the new day brings with it the opportunity to repent of our sins and live for the glorification of God. We were once dead in our trespasses and sins but were made alive with Christ. That was a past day but a new day of life has dawned for our spiritual life. His grace and mercy has been poured out upon us and granted us new life.

If we cannot see these new mercies everyday, then we look to God’s Holy Word. The Scriptures reveal to us the promises and assurances of God. God provides His mercy and displays His faithfulness through His word. We can read the stories of saints who were in hopeless situations being rescued by God and know that God will do the same for us. Scriptures reveal His power and might that working in all things for God, which gives us the ability to look to God. He is the source and provider of our courage and our strength.

These mercies are something that we do not deserve to receive. We did not deserve to receive yesterday’s mercies much less the new mercies we have received today. These mercies are a precious gift of God’s grace, which is something that we did nothing to earn. Therefore, these mercies are all the more precious. They are both new every morning and completely a gift of God, which we did nothing to earn.

Do we recognize these new mercies? Do we give thanks to God and praise Him for the mercies He has poured out upon us. Let us not overlook the new mercies God lavishes over us each morning. Without these mercies we would not survive, and they are completely a gift from God.

Just as each morning brings new mercies, each morning brings with it the remembrance of past sins and the temptation of future ones. Let us praise God that because of His grace and mercy He has forgiven us off our past sins, and let us thank God that He will provide sufficient mercy to overcome the trials and temptations that we will face today. We may say that the next day will hold a host of troubles, but let us not forget that it holds many more new mercies with it.

The new mercies are given to us so that we may perform the new duties of the day. God does not give us mercy just so that we can survive but in order for us to spread and glorify His name. If we are not using the new mercies that God has poured out upon us each day, then we are wasting the precious gift that God has given us. Working diligently the day before does not excuse us from working diligently today because we have received new mercies, so we are expected to perform and complete new duties because He has enabled us to do so. As God grants us new mercy each day, let us praise him with new praise, new thanksgiving, and new actions.

The hope Jeremiah finds in the Lord now stands in stark contrast to his sentiments only a few verses earlier. Lamentations 3:18 says, “so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” We can go from a state of hopeless despondency to a state of utter and complete praise because of the love, mercy, and faithfulness of God.

The hope is found in the attributes of God. It is not found in what God has done or given us but on who God is. When it speaks of His love, mercy, and faithfulness, these are all just characteristics of His divine nature. Many people read the Bible looking for ways to live their lives, but our true hope is found in understanding God. When we read and study the Scriptures let us look for what the Scriptures reveal to us about the character of God and that is where our hope lies.

We can exclaim, “Great is your faithfulness” because of God’s unchanging faithfulness. He has never left us and never will. His faithfulness remains throughout times of tribulation and times prosperity. His divine nature is to remain faithful and keep the promises He has promised for He does not change. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” If God were to change or be unfaithful, we would have no hope, so let us thank God for His unchanging nature. As the great hymn says:

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Our wealth will not save us through its faithfulness. Money does not have any loyalty to one man any more than any other. Cars and houses do not know who owns them and will be driven and lived in by both their owner and the man that does not possess them.

Our friends and family may love us because of the love God has given them through Christ, but even they will leave us. They cannot see within us and know the faithfulness we need and require. Even we it seems they have done everything in their power to remain faithful, their faithfulness cannot be the faithfulness we need.

We can point our fingers at our wealth and our friends and family, but we have not remained faithful. While we were still rebelling against God, His grace made us alive with Christ. We would run and flee from if it were not for His faithfulness. He holds and keeps and loves despite our unfaithfulness. Even now we might rebel against God, but His faithfulness holds us close.

There is nothing that can make God be unfaithful. God remained faithful to Noah and His family even as the entire earth had turned against Him and was destroyed. God remained faithful to Israel as Hosea remained faithful to his wife despite her constant unfaithfulness. God will remain faithful to us even now as we rebel against Him and do not seek to faithfully follow Him.

The faithfulness of God is the same faithfulness that Christ had as he was tortured and crucified on the cross. He could have cried to God or summoned angels to rescue him, but he remained because of his faithfulness that does not change, his mercy that is new ever morning, and his steadfast love. He stayed not because of our love or faithfulness but because of His incredible, unchanging faithfulness, mercy, and love.

These same properties of God are displayed throughout the Old Testament. Exodus 34:6-7, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

If we doubt the faithfulness of God, we can look to how his mercies are new each day. Each morning brings the new mercies of God, which are the confirmation of His faithfulness and love for us. We know of how He has provided for us with new mercies in the past and we can look forward to the future mercy of heaven, but we can also see the new mercies He pours out each morning. We can see His faithfulness through how faithfully He provides for us and sustains us.

Jeremiah sees that the Lord is his “portion.” He is the bread of life and living water that sustains Jeremiah each day. He may lack in food, health, or shelter, but the Lord will graciously provide His sustaining, life-giving presence through every moment of every day.

“Portion” may give the impression that this is only part of the Lord or insufficient to meet our trials. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” His fullness fills us all completely. Ephesians 1:19 says, “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” This power that he works in us and fills us with is described as “immeasurable.” God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” He gives more than we can take, which is completely sufficient to meet our needs and overcome our trials.

“The Lord” is Jeremiah’s only “portion.” There is nothing else that he has or possesses. Numbers 18:20 says, “And the Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel.” He does not have a portion of land or wealth, but the Lord is his only portion.

When we fail in our attempts to be a portion for others, or ourselves God does not fail to meet all our needs Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” We will glorify His name in heaven, but He will not cease to be the portion that sustains us and keeps us in His presence.

He is “the portion” of our destiny. Psalm 16:5 says, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” He holds our future in His hands, and He knows exactly what we need and will give it to us in order that we may fulfill the destiny he has planned for us. This is not a destiny of accomplishing things but of coming to know Christ.

This “portion” will never decay and will never be destroyed. Our investments may fluctuate being very profitable one day and almost nonexistent the next, but the portion of the Lord will last forever. It is a spiritual portion, which means that we should not expect earthly gifts and that worldly decay cannot affect it or destroy it.

He is our “portion” right now. This verse does not speak of a future portion, but it says, “The Lord is my portion” (emphasis mine). We can look to the future of heaven or to the past when Christ was crucified, but we also can look at the present and see that God is providing and sustaining us even now. He is constantly our portion and providing for every need we have in order for us to accomplish the purpose He has planned for our lives. Until we accomplish the purpose God has destined us to do, we are immortal and invincible. We may not know what this path is, so we should not act as if we are guaranteed tomorrow.

Our struggles and pain may always be pressing against us with no end, but the love of God never ceases and his mercies never come to end. All pain, no matter how bad it is, will one day come to an end, whether on this world or in the next. Even the chronic diseases that afflict our every joint will one day be dispelled when we are reunited with our loving Savior that has conquered sin, death, and pain. The cancer in our bodies and souls will be eradicated. The pain in our arms and legs from these frail bodies will be destroyed. Every sinful passion will be annihilated by the grace of God.  Any and all suffering will be gone when we return to our glorious Father that has redeemed us through the suffering and blood of His precious Son, who displayed a love that nothing compares to. For all eternity we will praise this God who has saved us from death itself by the death of our Savior, who rose again victoriously. Psalm 36:5, “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” There is no pain that can stand against us because there is nothing that can stand against our God. It might war within us, but God will one day bring forth complete dominance.

These things were purchased on the cross of Christ as he suffered and died for us. The Lord is not our portion and not our hope if we have not come to faith repentance. Instead our lives are filled with never ending suffering, and a fate far worse awaits us at our death.

If we have not repented of our sins and believe in Christ, then we are destined for hell. There is no hope for such people unless they repent of their sins. All that awaits them is an eternity of separation from the blessings of God and the presence of His terrible wrath. The Lord is not our portion and we have no hope either in this world or in the next. I urge you to repent of your sins and have faith in Christ now because there is nothing more important. God’s providence may afford us a few privileges but this is not true life. It is life without hope.

He has saved us from suffering and sin therefore we have a great hope residing within us. We can passionately proclaim, “The LORD is my portion…therefore, I will hope in him.”

1 Peter Introduction

“1) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”

“This excellent letter of 1 peter, full of evangelical teaching and apostolicauthority, is a brief and yet very clear summary both of the consolations and of the instructions needed to encourage and direct, is a brief and yet very clear summary both of the consolations and of the instructions needed to encourage and direct Christians in their journey to heaven, elevating their thoughts and desires to a higher happiness and strengthening them against all opposition from corruption from within and from temptations and afflictions from without.
The main doctrines in it are many, but the three dominant ones are faith, obedience, and patience, in order to establish them in believing, to direct them in doing, and to comfort them in suffering. Because faith is the basis for the other two, the first chapter is taken up with persuading the addressees of the truth of the mystery they had received and believed—that is, their redemption and salvation through Christ Jesus, the inheritance of immortality bought for them by his blood, and the evidence and stability of their right and title to it” (The Crossway Classic Commentaries: 1 & 2 Peter, 19).

The reason I have chosen the book of 1 Peter is because it has much to say about suffering. References to the word “suffer” or “suffering” appear around sixteen times, which is equal to how many times it is used in Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined. Words like “afflictions” and “tribulations” are used throughout these books as well, but our primary focus will be on suffering. There will not be a big distinction placed between the terms.

“The First Epistle of Saint Peter- the most condensed New Testament résumé of the Christian faith and of the conduct that it inspires – is a model of a ‘pastoral letter’” (Spicq, Epitres, p. 11, quoted in The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, 15). After this quote Clowney goes on to say, “Pastoral – Peter’s letter is surely that. The apostle seeks to encourage and reassure Christian churches in Asia Minor as stormy seasons of persecution begin. Those storms rage on today – in India where a Hindu mob destroys a Christian church built at great sacrifice in the poorest slum of Bombay; in many Communist lands where to confess Christ brings the loss of educations privilege and job opportunities, and often results in imprisonment. In much of the English-speaking world such threats may seem distant; perhaps we fail to read the signs of the times. No Christian avoids suffering, however, and no true Christian escapes a measure of suffering for Christ’s sake. Peter speaks to us all when he tells of suffering now and glory to come” (The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, 15).

Clowney points out that these type of sacrifices may seem to distant to us because we fail to see the signs and do not experience these kinds of suffering ourselves. We cannot forget the extreme types of suffering our brothers and sisters in Christ endure across the country, and we must do everything we can to help them in their time of need. As we saw last week, this should help shock our culture of comfort and call forth radical action.

In order to properly understand this great book given to us by God, we must understand the author, audience, and background. If we cannot trust these opening words, then how can we trust anything written within it? Last week we looked at what the study will be on, and this week we will be looking at understanding 1 Peter before we begin to dive into some of the text. We will be using the first two verses as a basis for our study of the introduction. I find that incorporating the Bible itself into the introduction is the best approach rather than just having pure history with no biblical reference. This introduction will be much more technical and less expositional than the other sections.

1. Authorship

This epistle opens with the name, “Peter.” This is a claim that Peter is the actual author of this book. All scripture is God-breathed, inerrant, and infallible (2 Timothy 3:16-17), Even the word “Peter” was planned by God to be in this verse, so we have it from Divine authority that Peter is the actual author of this book. This first word is the greatest argument and confirmation of the fact that he is the author.

The early church seems to agree that Peter was indeed its author by entitling the epistle 1 Peter. “The title of the letter, The First Letter of Peter, functions as early external evidence for the view that the letter was written by Peter. Indeed, in the early church there was no dispute over the authenticity of the letter, for it was regularly ascribed to Peter by the early church fathers” (ESV Study Bible, 2340).

Some more modern scholarship believes that this letter is a pseudonymous and is falsely ascribed to Peter even though he didn’t really write it. Their arguments include: “(1) the cultivated Greek of the letter could not have been written by a Galilean fisherman like Peter; (2) the theology is too much like Paul’s to be ascribed to Peter; (3) the OT citations come from the Greek OT (Septuagint), but the genuine Peter would have cited the Hebrew OT; (4) the background of the letter reflects the reign of the Roman emperors Domitian (a.d. 81–96) or Trajan (98–117), both of whom reigned after Peter’s death; and (5) the genuine Peter would have referred more to the historical Jesus.” (ESV Study Bible, 2340).

Just as the ESV Study Bible so accurately presents the reasons some distrust that it was Peter that wrote this letter, they also provide compelling reasons for rejecting these views. “(1) Peter was a middle-class fisherman who very likely knew Greek from his youth. There is significant evidence that Greek was spoken quite commonly in Galilee. Furthermore, Peter may have used a secretary, namely Silvanus (cf. note on 1 Pet. 5:12), to assist him in composing the letter. (2) Although the common elements in the theology of Peter and Paul should not be exaggerated (for there are distinctive themes in Peter; e.g., the particular emphasis on suffering), it should not be surprising that Peter and Paul shared the same theology. (3) It is hardly unexpected that Peter would cite the Greek OT in writing to Greek readers. (4) There is no clear evidence that the letter was written under the reign of Domitian or Trajan (see Purpose, Occasion, and Background). (5) The reader must be careful of saying what an author “must do”; i.e., although one cannot demand that Peter refer to the historical Jesus in a short letter written for a specific purpose, there is significant evidence that Peter alludes to some of the sayings of Jesus (e.g., Luke 12:35 in 1 Pet. 1:13; Matt. 5:16 in 1 Pet. 2:12; Matt. 5:10 in 1 Pet. 3:14). (6) Finally, there is no historical evidence in early church history that pseudonymous books, especially letters, were accepted as authoritative and inspired. Indeed, writing in someone else’s name was considered deceptive (cf. 2 Thess. 2:2; 3:17).”1

It is interesting to note, “ a number of other works claiming to be written by Peter were rejected as not apostolistic” (The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, 18). 1 and 2 Peter were not the only works that were claimed by someone to be written by Peter, but God’s in His sovereign power did not allow these books into the canon. This is further confirmation that it was Peter who actually wrote this letter.

There are many external sources that attest to Petrine authorship. 2 Peter 3:1 says, “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,” This is the earliest attestation and confirmation for 1 Peter, and this letter is claimed to be written by Peter as well (2 Peter 1:1, 16-18). Before the end of the first century, Clement of Rome quoted from this book, but he did not expressly use a reference. During the second century, Irenaeus both quotes from it and attributes the quote to this epistle. “The earliest definite citation of 1 Peter outside the New Testament is found in Polycarp (died AD 155), Epistle to the Philippians. Polycarp quotes 1 Peter several times: for example, in 1.3, ‘in whom, not seeing, you believe with unutterable and exalted joy’ (cf. 1 Pet. 1:8); 2.1, ‘not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling’ (cf. 1 Pet. 3:9); and 8.1, ‘who bore our sins in his own body on the tree, who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth’ (cf. 1Pet. 2:24, 22)…Although the writing of Papias (died AD 130) have been lost, Eusebius says that Papias ‘used quotation’ from Peter’s letter…There seems to have been no doubt anywhere in the early church that 1 Peter was written by the apostle Peter. Writing in AD 325, Eusebius includes 1 Peter among those books everywhere recognized as belonging to the New Testament” (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries 1 Peter, 23).

Peter also claims to be a witness to the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 5:1) and an eyewitness to Christ’s majesty (2 Peter 1:16). The real Peter was one of the twelve and knew Christ personally. If Peter did not write this letter, then these verses are explicit lies and the rest of letter cannot be trusted. 1 Peter 2:23 says, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” This verse can now be seen as the account of an eyewitness.

2. Audience
This is written to God’s elect, which means that they were both chosen for salvation and for suffering on this earth. They had the hope of eternal glory in heaven, but they also knew that this meant suffering while on this earth. Those that have been chosen have the greatest but must face the gravest of sufferings.

1 Peter 1:2 continues with, “according to the foreknowledge of God, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.” These elect were chosen according to God’s foreknowledge, which is based on His will rather than on our works or any decisions we make. God’s choice of us will never change or fail because He has also chosen us to be sanctified, which just means growing to be more and more like Christ, in the Spirit, which means that God will see us through everything we go through. There may be many times that we must face great

1. For a more full analysis to these objections see pages 25-34 of Tyndale New Testament Commentaries 1 Peter by Wayne A. Grudem
temptations and trials, but He supplies our needs through these times as well. In these times we have also been chosen to be obedient to Christ. Our obedience is not based on our choices or what we do, but because God first chose us. This choosing was even for sprinkling with His blood. This speaks of our justification and initial salvation. We see that God foreknow us before the foundations of the world, chose us for the first step of salvation, and has even given us His spirit to continue the journey through sanctification. He opens with this because when he starts to talk about the sufferings they must face, they will be able to look back and see the great promises of God and what He has done for us.

Romans 8:29-30 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” This same truth is displayed in these wonderful verses. Philippians 1:6 confirm this by saying, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” These verses are saying that when God starts a good work in us, He will always bring forth the end goal of what He began in us. As we go through trials and troubles, we may not be able to say that we will survive on this earth, but we will always have that future hope of glory.

He is writing to the true elect, but some may of thought they were the elect but were not. We have many in the church today like this that claim to be Christians, but their lives do not reflect this claim. This letter introduces many of the defining characteristics of what it looks like to be the elect. Dr. Whitaker said, “Either this is not the gospel or we are not Christians” (The Crossway Classic Commentaries: 1 &  2 Peter, 15).

The term “dispersion” is used in James 1:1 as well, which says. “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:” Both times the word is used is an indication that they are written to the Jews rather than the Gentiles. This does not mean that the Gentiles are not important or cannot be saved, but that both James and Peter have decided to focus on the Jews alone at this point. Galatians 2:8 says, “for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised.” Peter was set apart to witness to Jews, while Paul was set apart to witness to the Gentiles. God has given each of us a different ministry in which we must serve and follow him. We must not be jealous of what ministries He has assigned to others, but we are to work diligently in the ministry He has given us.

Some commentaries think otherwise and believe that Peter is writing to all Christians, including both Jews and Christians. He is using the Jewish language to show that all are now apart of the New Covenant, which implies both Jew and Gentile. 1 Peter 2:10 says, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” The Jews were also considered the people of God, even though many of the people within the country were not true followers of God. The nation as a whole was a considered God’s people. This means that this verse is speaking specifically of the Gentiles. I think it would be best to say that this letter was written to both Jew and Gentile but with a special emphasis on the Jew.

The destination of this letter is given within this verse as well, when Peter writes “in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” He is writing to the Christians that are in these areas. Once again, this does not mean that there are no elect outside of this area or that we are not called to listen to the words of this book just because they were written to someone specifically.
Why these places? “Hort  suggested in 1898 that these names described a travel route to be followed by the bearer of the letter as he traveled through four Roman provinces south of the Black Sea, in what is today called Asia Minor, mostly in modern Turkey” (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 38). This would end up being a circular route that would hit all the major centers of Christian influence in Asia minor, and the letter could have even been sent to churches such as Colossae and Ephesus. Copies could have been made at each of the centers and then spread to smaller churches in the area (Tyndale New Testament Commentary, 38-39).

It is also suggested that they are sent to these places because Paul did not visit most of them. “Paul was restrained from by the Spirit from entering Bithynia; was that region reserved for others? The early church Eusebius suggests that Peter himself may have had a part in the evangelization of the areas he names…It is attractive to suppose that he has in view areas of Asia Minor that had been more directly related to his own ministry than to Paul’s” (The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, 16).

3. Purpose
“Since many of the exhortations in 1 Peter concern faith and obedience, it may be suggested that the purpose of 1 Peter is to encourage the readers to grow in their trust in God and their obedience o him throughout their lives, but especially when they suffer” (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 40). Peter often points to what Christ has done for them and the sufferings and sacrifices he made for them, and asks them to apply these same things to their life. We are called to both live and suffer as Christ did.

Peter deals with remaining faithful and obedient to Christ but especially during times of trouble. He provides exhortations of how we are to live, but he also provides the great truths of how God will always be with us and see us through the trials we face. He shows us that God’s strength is enough for us when we are unable to get by with any strength we may think we have.
Not every verse deals directly with suffering, but many do deal with it in an indirect way. We will not force an interpretation of suffering in every verse we deal with, but we will also see that many texts that may not use words like suffering, trials, tribulations, or afflictions can be seen as types of suffering. Obedience almost always entails of type of suffering that must be faced, such as humility, which also leads to great rewards and is an attribute of following Christ.

What Christ has done for us lies at the center of enduring our suffering and even rejoicing in it. “The reality of what Christ has done makes sure the hope of the Christian ‘brotherhood’. Christians can not only endure suffering for Christ’s sake; they can rejoice, for in their agony they are joined to Jesus who suffered for them. Their very sufferings become a sign of hope, for, as Christ suffered and entered into his glory, so will they. The Spirit of glory and of God rests on them (4:14)” (The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, 24).

Since we have been saved by Christ and what He has done for us, we are called to walk according to his lifestyle Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Christ redeemed us so that we may do good works for His name, and in doing so; bring great glory to his name. One of those good works is to remain obedient, faithful, and patient in the midst of great trials.

Peter is also trying to tell them the reasons for why they must suffer. One of the reasons is that our suffering may be used to glorify God. God may even use those who are obedient to suffering as a tool to bring others to repentance. There are many purposes for our suffering and one is to be a declaration to the world of God’s amazing grace, but this suffering will accomplish this goal if it is a righteous type of suffering rather than a worldly one. This will discussed more as we begin to look into 1 Peter.

Another purpose shown in 1 Peter is that suffering is for our own good because it purifies our lifestyles and brings us closer to God. 1 Peter 1: 6-7 says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Suffering helps refine our souls.
One last reason presented is that it builds brotherhood. In verse 6 presented above, the rejoicing and suffering is done as a body. The call is for individuals because others faith in Christ cannot save us, but we rejoice and endure trials together, which builds our love and trust in one another. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” This brotherhood helps us face the times of struggle and even increases the strength of the brotherhood when we face trials.

These sufferings also result in praise for God and what He has done for us. Even the suffering can be viewed as a precious gift from God for the reasons we have seen. The results of suffering cause us to praise God even more. Even looking back to what his death on the cross did for us, we can be thankful in all situations because our greatest pain will never compare to what he has done for us, and he has given us salvation over these present troubles (Romans 8:18).

“The grace that already fills Christians with joy will be brought to them fully at the appearing of Jesus Christ. The Lord, whom the love but have not seen, they will see and adore. Knowing well the doom and darkness from which They were delivered, the new people of God sing forth his praises. Their hallelujahs ring from their assemblies, their homes, even from the prison cells where their fear of God has set them free from the fear of man. Their witness is a witness of praise. Nourished by the unfailing Word of God, they taste already the goodness of their Saviour. The true grace of God has called them to his glory: everything, even their sufferings, will serve his purpose who redeemed them at such a price” (The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, 24-25).

Finally, we are reminded that these troubles are temporary. 1 Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” We are to keep our eyes continually pointed forward to the coming of Christ and of future in heaven. 2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” The pain we are experiencing now will not compare the rewards and pleasures we will have in the future.

1 Peter 1:2 ends with, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” This is Peter’s prayer for the people. Notice that he does not pray that God would relive their sufferings. He does not pray for their healings or an end to their executions. Rather, he prays that God would give them grace and peace in the midst of their persecutions and hardships. How often do we pray that God would alleviate some problem rather than pray that God would give us sufficient grace and peace to trust in Him throughout the afflictions so that His name may be praised? This grace will always be enough for us. We will need nothing else. Even in the face of great pain and certain death, His grace alone will always be enough to get us through.

The account Armando Valladares ends his twenty-two years in Castro’s prisons in Cuba with these words:
“And in the midst of the apocalyptic vision of the most dreadful and most horrifying moments of my life, in the midst of the gray, ashy dust and the orgy of beatings and blood, the skeletal figure of a man wasted by hunger, with white hair, blazing blue eyes, and a heart overflowing with love, raising his arms to the invisible heaven and pleading for mercy for his executioners.
‘Forgive them , Father, for they know not what they do.’ And a burst of machine-gun fire ripping open his breast”  (Against All Hope: the Prison Memoirs of Armando Valladares quoted in The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, 25).