A Lesson on Sufferings
1 Peter 4: 12 – 19
The main theme of this Epistle is about sufferings. In the time Peter is writing this letter, Christians are being blamed by the Roman government for the burning of Rome. As punishment, believers were burned by covering them with pitch and used as living torches to light their royal gardens at night. Christians were tortured, persecuted, killed, abused and stripped off their rights as a human being. Suffering can be defined as trouble; pain; persecution; sorrow; distress; injury; hurt; loss; misery; problems. Trials is a time of suffering during which one’s faith in God is tested. I would say that trials and sufferings can be synonymous. The sufferings referred to by Peter here is suffering of Christians due to their love and faithfulness to Christ.
I. The truth about Suffering
A. The Bible plainly says that trouble and suffering will be experienced by every child of Adam (Job 5:7). The Christian is subject to the normal afflictions connected with this sinful world, and is promised that he will also suffer for his faith (Acts. 14:22; Rom. 8:18; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 4:12).
II. How does suffering come?
A. Through our own mistake and sin. Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. The man who has committed murder can be forgiven by God, but he must still suffer prison for his crime.
B. The mistake and sins of others. A drunk driver killing a child or an entire family who are happened to be on site. However, no trial or affliction can reach you without His permission.
C. Through Temptations – 1 Corinthians 10:13. God knows your “load limit” – the amount that you can endure.
D. Through God’s providential dealings –These can be incomprehensible to the troubled soul and in desperation he calls out “Why, why?” God does not promise to give us the reason for His actions. He is sovereign. Even in deepest affliction, rest assured that He is the loving heavenly Father.
Illustration: It Is Well With My Soul
Having lost in a fire virtually everything they owned, the Spafford family made new plans, including a move from Chicago to France. Horatio Spafford planned the trip for his wife and four daughters to be as trouble-free as possible. To transport them from America to France, he booked passage on a huge ship, and made sure they had Christians with whom to fellowship in route. He planned to join them a few weeks later. In spite of much careful preparation, Mr. Spafford’s plans suddenly dissolved when the ship carrying his loved ones was rammed by another vessel and sank, carrying his four beloved daughters to the bottom. Anyone who has ever had their plans disrupted by the hand of God can understand Spafford’s plight. The next time you are in church, turn to the words of the great hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”—words he penned as his ship passed over the watery grave of his four daughters!
III. Types of Christian sufferings
A. Financial – most if not all will have monetary problem of some sort. (1Tim. 6:6-8).
B. Physical – we all get sick. Paul were given “thorn in the flesh”, Timothy has stomach problem. (2 Cor. 12:7-10; Ph. 2:25-27; 1 Tim. 5:23; 2 Tim. 4:20).
C. Emotional sufferings. (2 Cor. 1:8; 7:5; Ps. 119:25, 28, 82-83,143).
D. Persecution (Mk. 10:30; Acts. 14:22; 2 Cor. 11:23-27; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 4:1-4). Lots of Christians are persecuted for their belief in Christ.
E. Loss of reputation. (1 Cor. 4:10In Acts 26:24). Paul was accuse of being mad when he testified to Festus a Procurator of Judea in AD 60.
F. The elements. The Christian must endure pain and hardship along with the unsaved in the storms, famines, pestilences, wars, and other tragedies of life.
G. Lack of visible success. God’s people are not promised any certain standard of visible success in this life. Many of God’s choicest saints laboured throughout life with very little outward success. Noah preached for 120 years and won only his immediate family. Jeremiah saw almost no visible results from his preaching. The crowds turned away from the Lord Jesus Christ (Joh 6). Adoniram Judson laboured in Burma for decades with little outward success.
Illustration: The More Iron Is worked the More It Is Worth
F. B. Meyer explained it this way: “A bar of iron worth $2.50, when wrought into horseshoes is worth $5. If made into needles it is worth $175. If into penknife blades it is worth $1,625. If made into springs for watches it is worth $125,000. What a ‘trial by fire’ that bar must undergo to be worth this! But the more it is manipulated, and the more it is hammered and passed through the heat, beaten, pounded, and polished, the greater its value.”
Christian, are you wondering about the trials through which you are passing? With impatient heart are you saying, “How long, O Lord?” The heat of the flame and the blows of the hammer are necessary if you are to be more than an unpolished, rough bar of iron. God’s all-wise plan, though it calls for the fire, produces the valuable watch spring of maturity. His very best for your life has behind it His perfect timing.
IV. The Purpose of Suffering
A. To prove our sonship – we have to suffer as children of God (Heb. 12:8, 2 Tim. 13:2).
B. To test our faith, God uses suffering to test the Christian’s faith. Will you still be faithful to him in the midst of suffering and pain? (Jas. 1:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:12-13).
C. To produce godliness (Rom. 5:3-5).
D. God uses suffering to produce humble dependence on God (2 Cor. 1:8-9; 4:7-12; 12:7-10).
E. Sufferings allows us to comfort others who suffer. (2 Cor. 1:4)
F. Suffering displays God’s strength through our weaknesses. (2 Cor. 12:8).
G. To silence Satan – Remember Job? Satan wanted to prove God is wrong about Job that he served God only because God had blessed him. Job’s patience under suffering silenced Satan.
H. Chastening. God uses suffering to correct the Christian (Ps. 119:67,71,75; Heb. 12:5-11; 1 Cor. 5:5; 11:28-32; Jam. 1:13-15; 1 Tim. 1:20).
I. Suffering teaches us to pray – when in trouble and need, we turn to God in prayer.
Illustration: Blessings of the Gospel
The supreme blessing in which one can truly know the goodness of God is not temporal possessions, but the eternal blessing that God has called us to—His holy gospel. In this gospel we hear that God will be gracious to us for the sake of His Son, will forgive and eternally save us, and will protect us in this life against the tyranny of the Devil and the world. To someone who properly appreciates this blessing, everything else is a trifle. Though he is poor, sick, despised, and burdened with adversities, he sees that he keeps more than he has lost. If he has no money and goods, he knows nevertheless
that he has a gracious God; if his body is sick, he knows that he is called to eternal life. His heart has this constant consolation: Only a short time, and everything will be better.”
Martin Luther, quoted in Closer Walk, July, 1988, p. 9
V. The length of Christian Suffering – “awhile” (1Pe 5:10); “a season” (1Pe 1:6); “this present time” (Ro 8:18). The Bible promises no time limit to suffering. God promises to be with us in our suffering, but not necessarily to remove the suffering. Psalm 88 is interesting in this context. From beginning to end the Psalmist complains of his troubles and nowhere is there a hint of relief. There are circumstances in life like this. The Christian is sometimes faced with lifelong trials of various sorts. He cries often to God for relief, but no relief is given. He must trust his loving God and by His grace endure.
VI. Possible Responses to Suffering.
1. We may despise it, rebelling instead of submitting; this leads to hardness.
2. We may faint under it (Heb. 12:12-13).
3. We may acquiesce and bear it, but not joyfully; this is the lowest form of victory.
4. We may happily yield to the will of God; this is the highest form of victory.”
Suffering will always be part of our life. We will all get hurt, we will all cry. The question is will you be faithful to Christ when things go rough and difficult? Always remember that the trial of your faith today is the assurance of glory when Jesus returns.