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Archive for the ‘The Pursuit of Suffering’ Category

“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.

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“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).

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“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
“In sorrow seek happiness” (The Brothers Karamazov, 78)

I once heard a story about an American pastor writing letters back and forth with a pastor in China. The American pastor told the Chinese pastor that he and his church were praying that God would stop the persecution of the church in China.  The Chinese pastor wrote back telling the American pastor to stop praying that prayer because persecution was spreading the glory of God and the church. He said that his church was praying that the American churches would see more persecution and suffering.

In our American culture, we do not experience much suffering. We may think our lives are hard or that we endure struggles, but the truth is that we all have incredibly blessed lives in the realm of our physical needs being met abundantly. The smallest trials are often considered the “worst days of our lives” because the rest of our lives are so easy and devoid of pain. It is not that the trials themselves are hard, but in comparison to what we normally experience everyday, the trial may seem unbearable.

The Internet has allowed many people to express their feelings of loneliness and pain for the world to see, and thanks to websites such as facebook, twitter, blog sites, and myspace, the angst and depression found in the majority of people, especially teenagers, is displayed for anyone that dares to look. I have seen countless statuses and notes about how everything is going wrong for people. They complain that they have to scrape the smallest bits of happiness out of the worst and hardest situations. Upon reading most of this, one would think that these people had been experiencing physical torture for years on end.

After some investigation and inquiry, the cause for this apparent discomfort is often very selfish and sinful. These people may have not gotten the car they wanted from their parents or their boyfriend/girlfriend that they should never have been dating in the first place has left them. We complain about suffering that is laughable and often unworthy of even mentioning. When we do this, we are focusing on our selfish desires on material objects and things of the flesh. This does not bring the fullest glory to God.

This is not to say that many of us do not experience real suffering. I have friends that have lost family members at an early age or have fought deadly, painful diseases all of their lives. The point is not that we don’t see any suffering but that we don’t see that much. The suffering we experience is often short-lived. It may even consume as much as a year of our life, but then we return to “normal” life.

What about those that their “normal” life is suffering? Instead of thinking of how they had certain occasions they must suffer, they instead saw that the norm was suffering and on certain occasions they were given reprieve. This lifestyle is so reminiscent of many throughout the Bible. If we look to Jeremiah or Paul, we see that their missions were dominated by suffering and persecution.

Diagnosing Our Problem: Fast-Food Culture
Sam, one of the members in my church, will often drive me wherever I need to go. He has driven me to treatments, lunch, and even to Mississippi College and back. He was born and spent some of his early life in Greece. He hasn’t been able to go back much, but we have often talked about his visits and what he has learned.

One of the things we talked about was the way the culture of Greece in regards to eating habits is far different than America. The Greeks take time to enjoy their food and fellowship with each other, but Americans are constantly busy and looking for the quickest, cheapest choice.

Our American culture is so engrained with this philosophy that it affects our entire lives, and every second we try to be more efficient and cheap. We do everything in our power to avoid any and every kind of pain and suffering. This is even seen in medicine. There is medicine to counteract the side effects of other medicines. The smallest bit of discomfort is cause for outrage and protest.

Fast food is known for being quick, cheap, and unhealthy. Some fast food may taste good at the time, but is ultimately very bad you. The irony of this mentality is that the short, easy route leads to the least beneficial outcome. Rather than eating healthy, which may not taste as good, cost more (often it costs less), or even take longer to prepare but will lead to a healthier, longer life, eating fast food brings temporary pleasure but does not result in our greatest happiness and life. It is the pursuit of a temporary pleasure.

The problem is ultimately the fact that it requires no sacrifice. We can get an entire meal without having to prepare it or even leave our cars. The result of this is an unhealthy joy and even a decrease in joy. When we work hard on a project, we feel joy at its completion, but when others do the work for us, where is this joy? It cannot be found because suffering is often the tree of joy. The end result of suffering is hope in God’s love (Romans 5:3-5), but if there was never any suffering, then there will never be this kind of unbreakable hope.

Through the course of this study we will have three main objectives: shake our culture of comfort, what righteous suffering looks like, and how to seek more suffering.

1. Shake Our Culture of Comfort
The first point is that we need shake our culture of comfort and realize how little we suffer. What we deem as suffering and what someone else deems as suffering are two complete different things. I have found that the more consumed with ourselves we are and the more spoiled we are, the more likely we will consider the smaller things great sufferings. If one has never experienced any pain their entire life because of being guarded and always getting their way, then a small paper-cut will seem like the end of the world to them.

During one Wednesday night at my church, we discussed how to respond to suffering. One of the responses given was to keep your situation in perspective. Whenever you are experiencing some form of pain, keep in mind how much worse it could be. We are supposed to remember how some people don’t even have to food to eat or clothes to wear.  Another member said that this doesn’t make them feel any better. This is the typical American response, which we are attempting to confront and destroy.

When was the last time you experienced any physical pain? It may have been this morning when you cut yourself shaving or last week when you stubbed your toe. How extreme was this pain? Was it unbearable or merely uncomfortable? Compare this physical pain with the children that suffer extreme hunger or the cancer patients that are on their way to their next treatment after receiving one the day before. Compare it to the pain Christ felt as he was beaten then hung on a cross.

When was the last time you experienced mental pain? This may have been the last time you studied all night for an exam, and you thought your mind was going to explode. Many of you in college may actually be experiencing some of the hardest suffering in this area. You will experience mental anguish as you try to figure out whether to bubble in A or B or possibly D. Do not forget the mental pain Christ experienced as he was faced with the decision of saving us or himself.

When was the last time you experienced emotional pain? This may have come as the result of breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend or having a strained relationship with a friend. Compare these relationships to families that have experienced pain after the death of a loved one. Some of you may have even experienced this type of suffering yourselves.
Finally, when was the last time you experienced a deep, spiritual pain? When were the last time you cried out to God as Job did? This is the deepest kind of pain one can experience.

After reading those questions, I’m hoping that many of you began to realize how little you actually have to endure. Once again, I am not saying that you have never experienced deep pain or are not currently experiencing it, but on average, our lives are pretty pain free. We have moments of extreme anguish, but these are usually short. Before long everything seems normal once again.

2. Righteous Suffering
I probably need to clarify that we will not be pursuing all types of suffering. 1 Peter 4:15 says, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” There are types of suffering that are unrighteous and must be avoided at all costs. If you go to jail for a crime you committed, then this may be a type of suffering, but it is not the type of suffering we will pursue because it is product of unrighteous living.

Therefore, righteous suffering is a product of righteous living. Suffering comes as a byproduct of following after God. If you are living for the glory of God and sufferings, such as persecution or poverty, come upon you as a byproduct of this lifestyle, then you are suffering righteously. This is they type of suffering that we will be pursuing.

This means that we need to correctly understand suffering just as we need to correctly understand ourselves. We should never use the pursuit of suffering as an excuse for any suffering that comes from something we have done wrong. If our teachers chastise us for not doing our homework, we cannot say that this righteous suffering because we are called to submit to their authority (Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 2:13-17). The last thing you should be sacrificing is your schoolwork. God has placed you exactly where He wants you in order that you may grow in a field that He wishes to use you in. You should place a great emphasis on your schooling and studying.

The problem comes in when we sacrifice things we don’t want to do anyway in order to do the things we want to do. We say that we are giving up on studying in the pursuit of suffering but that doesn’t stop us from spending time with friends or watching television. The righteous type of suffering involves giving up things that are not of God. Studying and staying focused in school is most often for God, so unless you receive a special divine revelation that can be confirmed with Scripture, you should not sacrifice in this area.

Many types of suffering can come upon us regardless of our choices. These types of suffering include things such as when a family member dies in a car crash or your home is destroyed in a fire. Does this mean that we should all go set our homes on fire? No! These are types of suffering that we cannot pursue, but that does not mean God cannot be glorified in them. The ways we respond to these sufferings determine if they are for righteousness sake or not.

I also believe that our pride can corrupt our sufferings. If we begin to say that we were strong or that we endured, then we begin to take the credit away from God and apply it to ourselves. We must remain humble through our sufferings and remember that it is only by God’s power that we are able to get through them. This also means that we do not pursue suffering for the praise of man. We may have the tendency of thinking that if we can only do this or that then people will praise us. We must fight this sinful tendency and remember that it is completely by the grace of God we can do all things (Acts 17:28).

Acts 20:23 says, “except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.” Paul knew that suffering, affliction, and persecution awaited him wherever he went, but that did not stop him from going. He was pursuing God’s purpose for his life, and he knew that this purpose would entail great suffering. He did not only go places that were safe or comfortable, but he preached the gospel and received suffering for it. This is what it means to pursue suffering.

We pursue God’s with radical abandon of our comfort and safety to the point where suffering comes upon us. If we are not suffering in any way at all for the gospel of Christ, we may need to question whether we are following God as radically as we think we are.

Notice that in all of these examples it was not a direct pursuit of suffering but of God’s glory that lead to suffering. Hebrews 11:34 says, “For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” I am not saying just pursue suffering for the sake of suffering because that wouldn’t make any sense. I am instead saying to pursue the glory of God so much that it brings on suffering. Instead of pursuing suffering for the sake of suffering we will be pursuing the glory of God with an expectation and even joyful anticipation of suffering. Suffering for the Kingdom is the natural outcome of picking up one’s cross and following Christ. It is almost the definition of following Christ.

3. Seek More Suffering
Just as we saw the various types of sufferings, there are various ways of pursuing these types of suffering. The first is physical pain. We can pursue this pain by eating correctly and exercising properly, but these are only worldly ways of remembering that our bodies are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). Our physical health is not what we are tending to, but we are looking to nourish our spiritual health. Fasting calls for the sacrifice of physical health for spiritual health, which is why you should consider setting aside one meal a week to fast. If you do not eat breakfast because you wake up too late, then you cannot write this off as fasting. In order to truly fast, one must replace the time they would be spending eating with time in service or fellowship with God through prayer or the Word.

We have far more money than many of us realize and afford many physical luxuries that are not needed, so we can pursue this suffering by giving more money to others and sacrificing some of the physical comforts we normally enjoy. For some of us, this may mean starting to give to our local churches, but we should not stop there. There are many great Christian organizations that seek to help people all over the world, but they need money in order to function. We can sacrifice the money that we would normally use for our own comforts in order to help fund these organizations.

We pursue mental suffering by pushing our mental capacities beyond what we think we can take. I will be asking two things from each of you in order to pursue this. The first is that you memorize the entire book of 1 Peter. The way I suggest accomplishing this is to do one verse a day by reading it fifty times, which only takes about five minutes, saying it fifty times from memory right after reading it, and trying to say it fifty more times throughout the day. The earlier you start this the better. I will normally try and do the reading before my shower and then say it fifty times as I take my shower, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, etc. Whenever you have down time or are walking to class, try to say it. The only time I am asking you sacrifice is the initial reading of the verse. Once you have read it fifty times, then you can say it from memory wherever without having to sacrifice any extra time. If you have to wait in line at the cafeteria, then you may as well be productive will you do so. Do this for six days and on the seventh day review the previous six verses. At this rate, it should only take a little over four months to memorize the entire book.

The second way to pursue this type of suffering is to read an average of twelve chapters in the Bible a day. If you read this much, then you will read through the Bible an average of three to four times a year. I say an average of twelve chapters because some books will call for different amounts. Mark and Romans may best be respectively read all at once even though they are sixteen chapters apiece. 1, 2, 3 John and Jude can all be read together because they are only eight chapters added together.

This is a bigger time commitment, which is why it is flexible. Set your own pace according to your schedule, but try to fit in a significant amount each and every day. If you get behind or have to drop to a smaller number of chapters, then this is fine. If you do this so that you can have more “free time,” then first examine what you do during your free time.

Do not give up or drop to a lower number of chapters without reflecting over the ways you spend your time. Remember that this study is all about suffering for the glory of God, so we are looking at ways to make sacrifices. This may mean limiting how long you get on the computer or television each day. It may mean stopping them altogether. Before you begin going at a slower pace, take time to seriously reflect over how you spend your time and see if there is anything that you could go without.

Then there is emotional suffering. Breaking friendships that are not profitable is one way to pursue this type of suffering. I do not mean to break any friendships with others that need to hear the gospel of Christ, but we all might have friends that claim to follow Christ but are bearing no fruits. These people are bringing down our relationship with Christ and should probably be avoided (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).

Another way to pursue emotional suffering is to listen to others problems before complaining about your own and help them bear their burdens (Galatians 6:2). It’s so easy to complain about our days and tell others of what we have been through, while forgetting that they have endured struggles throughout their day as well. Use some of the time that you would normally spend complaining to your friends and listen to their concerns and struggles.

For some people it may mean the exact opposite of this. Instead of listening to others you may need to be open with your weakness and even boast in your weakness in order to display the glory and strength of God (2 Corinthians 11:30, 12:7-10). If you struggle with being open with others and displaying your weakness, then now may be the time to begin to display your feelings and tell others of the hardships you bear in order that they may see the strength of God working in your life.

As I began reflecting over these, I realize that most of these suggestions should not even be called types of suffering because they should be part of the normal Christian life. Our American culture is so consumed with being comfortable that we need shocking truth to awaken us and viewing these things as suffering to awaken us from drunken stupor may do the job.

To call some of these suggestions sufferings would also be somewhat unbiblical. For example, we are to delight in studying and meditating God’s Word (Psalm 1:2, 112:1, 119:25, 47). This is actually a call to pursue joy rather than suffering, but much of this will seem like suffering at the time. Hebrews 12:11 says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Suffering, just like discipline, may seem painful at the time, but it has a greater purpose than the pain itself. Eventually, these sufferings will even become joy rather than sacrifice.

The object of this study is that by the time we finish everyone should be thankful for the things God has given us and how little suffering we face. The goal is to make us realize that we need suffering in our lives and to pursue suffering for the glory of God. I want each and everyone of us to be able to say, “I have not suffered enough. God give me more suffering.” I want us to plead with God not to give us reprieve from suffering but for us to plea that He may increase persecution and hardship and that His grace would be sufficient through it all in order to display His might. Our prayer will become, “Lord, let me suffer for your glory and make me a martyr for the gospel of Christ.” We pray this for the spread of His name rather than the comfort of ours.

The Pursuit of Joy
The Declaration of Independence contains the famous line, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” What type of happiness is this? Is it a worldly happiness or an eternal joy? In order to increase our eternal joy, we must endure suffering. We must receive suffering as a blessing and rejoice in God’s wonderful grace. In the pursuit of our eternal joy, let us pursue suffering in reckless abandon with our eyes on the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).

I have come to realize that the reason so many of us do not have true joy is because we do not know true pain. Various people have told me that they would have been unable to go through all I have gone through, but in looking at the pain alone, they miss the great joy I have. They may not have experienced the depths of my pain, but they have also not experienced the depths of the joy found in this pain and as a result of this pain. The reason so many people are not truly satisfied in Christ is not because they do not have their wishes, dreams, and pleasures fulfilled but because they haven’t suffered enough. Those that suffer the most are usually the ones that complain the least.

What if the only way to pursue true and complete happiness and joy is through suffering? That to truly pursue happiness we must first suffer? The kingdom of heaven is the place where we will find true happiness, but we enter the Kingdom after much suffering and tribulation (Mark 10:30, Acts 14:22, Romans 8:17, 1 Thessalonians 3:3, 2 Timothy 2:12, 3:12.) We must lose our life in order to save it (Matthew 16:25). In order to pursue joy we must pursue suffering in order to achieve greater joy, but the pursuit of suffering is ultimately done in the pursuit of great joy.

Jonathan Edwards wrote, “Every vessel that is cast into this ocean of happiness is full, though there are some vessels far larger than others; and there shall be no such thing as envy in heaven, but perfect love shall reign through the whole society. Those who are not so high in glory as others, will not envy those that are higher, but they will have so great, and strong, and pure love to them, that they will rejoice in their superior happiness; their love to them will be such that they will rejoice that they happier than themselves; so that instead of having a damp to their own happiness, it will add to it” (Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, 95). The struggles of following Christ in this world are what make the cup bigger. Afflictions carve a dipper hole just as a shovel digs deeper into the ground. When we say we are pursuing Christ, we are saying that we should expect suffering as the byproduct on this earth but eternal joy in heaven. The more we follow him the more we suffer, but at the same time, the more joy we will have in heaven.

When I ask you to pursue suffering, I am really asking you to pursue your own eternal joy and even happiness. Many will make a clear distinction between happiness and joy, which there is, but I do not believe that this difference is too large. My father once told me that a man is happy when his desires are fulfilled, and a man is joyful when God’s desires are fulfilled in that man’s life and the man’s acceptance and submission to that fulfillment. This means that the unregenerate can experience tremendous happiness but can never experience true joy. The regenerate, on the other hand, can experience both true happiness and true joy because our desires can be transformed and conformed to the desires of God (Psalm 37:4).

God’s desire for our lives is to glorify His name (Isaiah 43:7) and complete the process of sanctification, which is often accomplished through suffering (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5). Suffering and being “utterly burdened beyond our strength” is used to break our reliance on our own strength and put our faith in God’s grace (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). Because of the tremendous benefits that come from suffering, we are called to rejoice in our suffering and even pursue it to increase our eternal joy.

Love The Lord Your God…Through Suffering
Luke 10:27 says, “And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’” The way that we obey this commandment is by giving of ourselves. Giving is synonymous with sacrifice and sacrifice often is a form of suffering. Loving God is not just an emotional feeling but action.

Luke 9:23 says, “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” These are two of the most quoted Scripture, and we must realize that they go together. Jesus was saying, “If anyone loves me…” In order to love God with all our selves we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him.

What is our cross? Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic, writes, “My wheelchairs is not my cross to bear. Neither is your cane or walker your cross. Neither is your dead-end job or your irksome in-laws. Your cross to bear is not your migraine headaches, not your sinus infection, not your stiff joints. This is not your cross to bear. My cross is not my wheelchair; it is my attitude. Your cross is your attitude about your dead-end job and your in-laws. It is your attitude about your aches and pains. Any complaints, any grumblings, any disputing or murmurings, any anxieties, any worries, any resentments or anything that hints of a raging torrent of bitterness—these are the things God calls me to die to daily. For when I do, I not only become like him in his death (that is, taking up my cross and dying to the sin that he died for on his cross), but the power of the resurrection puts to death any doubts, fears, grumblings, and disputings. And I get to become like him in his life. I get to experience the intimate fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, the sweetness and the preciousness of the Savior. I become holy as he is holy. O God, ‘you will make me full of gladness in your presence’ (Acts 2:28)” (Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, 196).

Love is often determined and even defined by suffering sacrifice. If I say that I love someone but am unwilling to help him or her with his or her needs at cost to myself, then my love is either shallow or nonexistent. Christ displayed the greatest love at all by giving his life for us. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Great sacrifice entails great love.

These sacrifices eventually do not even seem to be considered suffering once we see that is in love. Giving up some of our free time in order to spend time with friends and family is no sacrifice at all because we enjoy spending time with friends and family. We sacrifice a lesser thing, which entails some pain, in order to obtain something far greater. The truth is that we do not sacrifice at all but merely trade earthly rewards for heavenly ones. Love transforms suffering and sacrifice into joy.

Ultimately, the call to pursue suffering is a choice to follow Christ. “Again and again he said that Jesus ‘chose suffering. He chose it. It did not merely happen to him. He chose it: ‘No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord’ (John 10:18). He asked us if we would choose suffering for the sake of Christ” (Desiring God, 253). How much are you willing to suffer for the cause of Christ?

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