Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THINK IT NOT STRANGE”

First Peter 4.12

My text is in First Peter chapter 4. As you are finding that small New Testament book, keep in mind that the theme Peter dealt with in this first epistle is suffering. At the time he wrote, Christians were facing escalating persecution, so he wrote to them to teach them how to cope with the hostility without losing hope, without becoming bitter, all the while trusting the Lord Jesus Christ and looking for His second coming. Peter’s goal was to impress upon his readers that by living obedient Christian lives, even in difficult situations, they could bring sinners to Christ even under the most adverse circumstances. No Christian should ever yield to pressure from lost people when it comes to doing right and serving God.

What Peter wrote 2,000 years ago applies today. Christians, especially real Christians who are identified with others in a good church, are constantly and ruthlessly exposed to opposition from individuals, from groups, from employers, from institutions, and even from various levels of government. Of course, Satan is behind all this opposition and it is he who empowers and energizes the conflict. That is why the apostle John, in his first epistle, warns Christians of all ages to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world,” First John 2.15-16.

Why are we so warned about the “world,” which is John’s word for the cultures and subcultures that each and every one of us lives in? Because the cultures, even our seemingly safe ethnic subcultures that we feel so comfortable in, are all dominated and controlled by the devil, himself. In First John 5.19, the apostle writes, “. . . the whole world lieth in wickedness.” A. T. Robertson writes that the Greek New Testament literally reads at this point, “lieth in the evil one.”[1] Moreover, who is “the evil one?” He is none other than Satan, the god of this world.

You should have found First Peter by now, so turn to chapter 4, where we will consider verses 12-19. In these eight verses, “Peter explains that 4 attitudes are necessary in order to be triumphant in persecution: 1) expect it (v.12); 2) rejoice in it (vv. 13, 14); 3) evaluate its cause (vv.15-18); and 4) entrust it to God (v.19).”[2]

First, A CHRISTIAN SHOULD EXPECT TO SUFFER FOR CHRIST

12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.”

I will not say much here, since this is the text for my sermon this morning, but notice two things before we move on:

First, Peter is definitely directing his comments to Christians. We know this because the entire letter is directed to Christians, those “who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,” First Peter 1.5.

Second, the fiery trial, of whatever sort it may happen to be, is not something that is either unusual to the Christian experience or necessarily the result of wrongdoing. More on this in just a moment, but how very different this verse is from what most modern day professing Christians believe to be true.

Second, A CHRISTIAN SHOULD REJOICE IN HIS SUFFERING FOR CHRIST

13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

My friends, Peter begins verse 13 by commanding his readers to rejoice. The present imperative of the verb shows that rejoicing is required, and is to be continual. Christians should never stop rejoicing, even when they are suffering. This is precisely what Paul and Silas did in the Philippian jail, in Acts 16.25. Remember that they were arrested, severely beaten, and then painfully shackled in the innermost part of the prison in that Roman colony city of Philippi. Despite their intense pain, however, Luke informs us that “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” As well, the jailor heard them.

Of course, we expect super-Christians to respond that way in crisis situations. However, Peter informs us here that such is God’s will for every Christian who is suffering for Christ’s sake.

But on what basis can a Christian be expected (actually, directed) to rejoice, even in the midst of physical pain and suffering? Four things here:

First, when you are suffering for Christ, you are effectively suffering with Christ. In other words, you are experiencing hostility and opposition of the same sort and from the same source, from the world, that He experienced. And your suffering is because you are identified with Him. It is the world’s opposition to Christ that results in suffering for Christians.

Second, when you get to heaven, or when Jesus Christ comes for you, He will make it worth your while. As Paul wrote, in Romans 8.18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Third, verse 14 shows us that to be reproached for the name of Christ is an indication that the Spirit of God is resting upon you, something that should make anyone happy enough to rejoice. Sadly, so many professing Christians knuckle under to almost any threat of reproach, give in to even the possibility that someone might get mad at them. How sad.

Fourth, when you suffer for Christ’s sake, no matter what the enemies of the gospel are doing, you are glorifying the Savior. Therefore, you see, many good things are happening despite the unpleasantness and the pain associated with suffering for Christ’s sake.

How tragic it is, then, that so many who name the name of Christ live lives that are geared to avoiding conflict that might lead to suffering, rather than living lives that are pleasing to God.

Third, A CHRISTIAN SHOULD EVALUATE THE CAUSE OF HIS SUFFERING

15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

There are two reasons why a Christian might suffer; either because of sins that he has committed, or because of having the kind of Christian testimony that the world reacts against. Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with lost people getting mad at a Christian for doing things that are pleasing to God. What are we to expect lost people to do?

The judgment that is referred to in verse 17 speaks of the kind of severe trial that exposes the true nature of something. In other words, What are you really made of? What kind of a Christian are you when the chips are down and the fire of persecution or distress is really hot? Does it really take something to stop you, or does the threat of suffering stop you? Or are you determined to be the kind of Christian who cannot be stopped.

Verses 17 and 18 imply that Christians will go through the fire of persecution first, but the unsaved will go through the fire of God’s judgment last. Christians will barely make it (and then only by God’s grace, with the lost falling to the wayside), so what do you think will happen to the unsaved? Fire for the Christian is purging and beneficial, but fire for the lost is punitive and damning.

In the midst of whatever comes your way, Christian, the last phrase of verse 16 show us that God’s children are once more commanded to “glorify God on this behalf.” In other words, God tells us what we are to do when He tells us what is going to happen to us. You will suffer, and in your suffering you are expected, you are directed, to glorify God.

Finally, A CHRISTIAN SHOULD ENTRUST HIS SUFFERING TO GOD

19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

This does not mean that you should not try to extricate yourself from the suffering if you can honorably do so. No one would expect the three Hebrews in Daniel chapter 3 to remain in the fiery furnace when they did not have to remain. Likewise, no one would expect Joseph to have remained in Pharaoh’s prison if he had a way out that did not dishonor God. That said, to suffer according to the will of God means that your suffering is not the result of sin in your life, but is the result of godly living and a spiritual testimony. When such as that happens, continue to trust God.

Don’t fold.

Don’t quit.

He is a faithful Creator.

He will not fail you.

Let us learn from Paul’s example, in Second Timothy 1.12, written while he was facing imminent execution without any hope or expectation of rescue. Knowing he was about to die he wrote, “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

Christian, do not be fooled by the bad theology that is so evident on so-called Christian television and radio these days. What they offer viewing and listening audiences is always some form of prosperity in this life. However, God’s Word has always been rightly understood to promise suffering for the Christian in this life, with prosperity guaranteed only in eternity.

Those of you who are not Christians need to understand that the message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is not the keys to a better marriage, it is not raising kids you will be proud of, it is not the secrets to a prosperous career, or the guarantee of a comfortable old age.

The message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is a message about redemption, about the forgiveness of sins, and it results in a spiritual conflict in which God requires that His people suffer in this life, while anticipating such glory in eternity that it will be worth it all . . . when we see Jesus.

SERMON:

My text is First Peter 4.12: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.”

When Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain at the outbreak of World War 2, he did something that modeled what the apostle Peter has done in this verse by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Politicians call it “low balling,” preparing people for the worst. In reality, it is simply being truthful.

When I was converted 32 years ago, my first exposure to organized Christianity was the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, that have come to such prominence these days that there are few congregations anywhere in the world that are not affected by them in some way.

Three things chiefly distinguish the charismatic and Pentecostal movements:

First, they are movements within Christendom that are entirely subjective, using their feelings and personal experiences as authoritative standards to interpret God’s Word, rather than using God’s Word to authoritatively interpret their feelings and personal experiences. “I know this to be true because of what happened to me” is the frequent statement of Pentecostals and charismatics defending their beliefs.

Second, they are movements within Christendom that are wildly inconsistent, claiming that God is sovereign and claiming that Jesus is Lord, but obstinately insisting that God’s will conform to their desires and that the Lord Jesus Christ’s salvation meet their expectations. Thus, in many respects, God and Jesus Christ are fashioned from their own imaginations and expectations of what the Father and His Son ought to be like, rather than what is declared in God’s holy Word.

Finally, they are movements that are characterized by extremely poor study and understanding of God’s Word. Pentecostalism came into existence at the beginning of the 20th century as a holiness movement of several denominations characterized by vigorous preaching, and by what they claimed to be supernatural signs, wonders and spiritual gifts, which beliefs could only be the result of a failure to study God’s Word. The charismatic movement came into existence in the 1960s as a more urbane movement of people who dressed more casually than Pentecostals, featuring rather low keyed teaching rather than the energetic preaching found in Pentecostalism, with the charismatic movement not even pretending to be a holiness movement.

Though the differences between Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement are mostly blurred now, the erroneous doctrines they have in common have adversely affected nearly everyone. The one matter our text brings before us today is the matter of Christian suffering. Most professing Christians these days, since Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement have influenced their beliefs, believe God wants them to be successful in their careers or in their business ventures, healthy in body, possessing a high self-esteem in the area of emotions, and presumptuously looking forward to comfortable golden years.

I am here to tell you that while such may be the experiences of some Christians, God’s general plan for most of His people is quite different from what Pentecostals, and charismatics imagine.

Perhaps you are a new Christian, or at least you are not a Christian with a great deal of wisdom or experience. It is possible that you have already begun to experience, to some degree, what this verse is designed to prepare you for, suffering in your Christian life. It may be the foreman at work who has suddenly begun to make scheduling demands upon you that are unreasonable and outrageous. It may be an unsaved spouse who has come to feel threatened by your newfound faith, and is set on making life miserable for you. In some countries of the world, and what we see on the horizon in Canada and here in our own country, storm clouds developing that suggest the use of laws and ordinances to criminalize Christianity and reclassify righteousness as dangerous and subversive behavior.

I remember Assistant Chief Vernon of the Los Angeles Police Department some years ago and at that time a prominent evangelical Christian, ordering pain compliance techniques to be used on elderly women and Roman Catholic nuns. Nun chucks were used on those old women by LAPD officers on Vernon’s orders, and for what reason? They were sitting in front of an abortion clinic and refused to get up.

Have such pain compliance measures ever been used at a so-called pro-choice rally? Never. At an antinuclear power protest that resulted in damaged property and violence? Never. At any antiwar protests conducted during the Vietnam War or to protest the current war in Iraq? Never. Nevertheless, they just had to prevent a violent outbreak by nuns and elderly Christian women trying to prevent unborn babies from being murdered.

So you see I expect that it will be in my lifetime that law enforcement will be used to persecute Christians for Christian behavior, for behavior that is no real threat to anyone, but for behavior that is hated by the world system and its institutions because it is Christian behavior.

No matter what kind of suffering you may endure now or in the future, be it emotional pain or physical torment, be it financial hardship or being socially marginalized, be it marital discord or parental opposition, there are some things you need to understand. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord of glory. He is the Holy One of Israel. Moreover, because He is holy and righteous, this wicked world, along with the god of this world who provides the general directions this world follows, hates Him. And because they hate and oppose Him, they will also oppose you.

In John 15.20, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” So you see, the notion that because you are a Christian all will be well and you shall enjoy nothing but peace and prosperity in your Christian life is utter nonsense. You will suffer, my Christian friend. Some of you will suffer more, while others of you will suffer less. However, each and every Christian will suffer. That is what God’s Word promises you. So, what are you to do in the face of suffering? How do you prepare yourself to make sure that suffering or the threat of suffering does not stop you from doing right, does not stop you from serving God, and does not stop you from glorifying Him?

First, WITH RESPECT TO YOUR ATTITUDE AS A CHRISTIAN

First, notice what Peter calls the Christians who are being prepared for suffering. He calls them “beloved.” This is a term of intimacy. It is a term of tenderness. Peter recognizes something so many do not recognize these days, that God does not less love you when you are suffering. Understand that when you are reconciled to God through the death of His Son, when your sins are washed clean in His precious blood, when you have been brought nigh through the blood of Christ, you are as close to God as you will ever be, whether you are suffering or not. Thus, you do not become more or less close to God by suffering or not suffering, though you likely will become more consciously dependent upon God and His grace when you are suffering than when you are not suffering. So, if you are a Christian, you are the beloved of God. When someone is yelling at you, you are the beloved of God. When someone is ridiculing you, you are the beloved of God. In addition, when someone is inflicting physical pain upon you, you are still the beloved of God.

Listen to what Paul wrote, in Romans 8.31-39:

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Is it important to you that God loves you, that He cherishes you? Then understand that whatever suffering you experience does not affect or alter His love for you in any way, though it may greatly affect and alter your love for Him.

Second, notice that the suffering of the Christian has meaning. Think about this: What does the suffering of the atheist mean? It means nothing. It is purely a mindless accident, by his way of thinking. What does the suffering of any lost man mean? It does not mean good, since he is by his rejection of Christ an enemy of God. But what does the suffering of every Christian mean? It means something. It means good. It means benefit. That is why Peter urges us in verses 13-19 to rejoice in suffering. That is why Paul and Silas rejoiced in their suffering. That is why Paul wrote, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” in Romans 8.28.

My Christian friend, your suffering (of whatever kind) is never without meaning and without purpose. Even if God allows the suffering rather than instigating it, He still accomplishes His purpose in your life with it. The verse begins, “Beloved, think. . . .” This reveals that the real battleground of spiritual conflict is in your mind, and what you think determines your attitude. So, as long as you keep in mind that you are loved by God and that His purpose is being accomplished in your life (even in the midst of suffering), you have the great advantage of experiencing what God has for you with the right attitude,

WHICH ENCOURAGES YOU TO CONTINUE WITH RIGHT ACTIONS

The actions that Peter encourages are found in verses 13 and following, so I will not look at them now. But, obviously, Peter does not tell his readers why they are experiencing (or are about to experience) suffering as an enticement to do wrong. He wants them to do right, and to continue doing right.

You are going to suffer. Nothing that you say or do will in any way guarantee that you avoid suffering. If you do not suffer for this reason, then you will suffer for that reason. So, since you are going to suffer, why not purpose in your heart to suffer for godly living rather than ungodly living, for righteousness rather than unrighteousness, for obedience rather than for disobedience, for trust in God rather than for distrusting Him, and with a clear conscience rather than with a guilty conscience?

Joseph could have griped and bellyached the entire time he suffered from an unjust imprisonment, but he chose instead to be industrious and faithful.

Paul and Silas could no doubt have moaned and groaned after suffering their brutal beating and imprisonment, but what they did instead, praising and praying, was a testimony to the prisoners, as well as the jailor, that led to who knows how many sinners coming to Christ.

What are you to do while suffering? You are to rejoice, according to verse 13. You are to be happy, according to verse 14. According to verse 16, you are not to be ashamed for your suffering, and you are to glorify God. And according to verse 19, you are to commit the keeping of your soul to God. That is, decide afresh and anew to place your life in God’s hands.

The one thing you do not do because of the suffering, or in anticipation of suffering, is to stop serving God. You do not stop serving God to keep a lost husband from yelling at you, to keep an unsaved child from getting mad at you, to make a wicked boss who wants you to work Sundays from getting mad at you, or to prevent an evil cousin from voicing his disapproval because you participate in your church’s Saturday night evangelism.

Christians suffer. But so does everyone else, to one degree or another. A Christian’s suffering, however, comes upon him because of his identification with the Lord Jesus Christ. So, when suffering comes into your life, think it not strange. Rather, rejoice that you are one of God’s own, that you are bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, that you are a partaker of His sufferings just as you are a partaker of the divine nature, and that God really does have everything under control.



[1] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol VI, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1930), page 245.

[2] See footnote for 1 Peter 4.12 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1947.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org