Sermon: What Believers Do When Suffering

What Believers Do When Suffering
1 Peter 4:12-19
December 7, 2014

Over the past couple of months Keith and I have been preaching about some basics of church ministry — church membership, corrective discipleship (church discipline), the roles of elders, deacons, and members, and then last Sunday the nature of marriage and gender.

There are several reasons we have preached this series:

  • We are prone to forgetting what church is about and why we do what we do; one goal of this series was to remind us of our divinely given purpose.
  • We want to clarify our biblical position on some of these issues and update our church constitution so that it more accurately reflects what we believe and teach on these subjects (e.g., there was no clear statement in the constitution about church discipline, though we have always taught and practiced biblical discipline and correction).
  • We want to clarify our constitution to solidify our legal position so that we can practice discipline and marry and refuse to marry according to biblical perspectives.

As has already been demonstrated this fall in Houston, if a church holds to a biblical position on marriage and gender, that church will be out-of-step with the culture and will almost certainly face legal consequences and quite possibly personal persecution for failing to uphold the world’s positions on marriage. I’m not an alarmist and I am not a prophet, but it is not difficult to see the 10-year trends in our cultural transformation regarding homosexuality, homosexual marriage, sexual “ethics,” euthanasia, and more. And the church that desires to be biblical and stand against the culture will almost certainly be in for a legal conflict over the next one to two decades. Our upcoming proposed changes to the constitution are, in part, designed to prepare for that.

Now the question is, “what if, despite the changes to the constitution, the government still compels us to perform homosexual marriages or recognize polyamorous relationships or allow access to bathrooms for transgendered individuals, or more?” What if our constitutional changes, “don’t work?” What then? What if we still suffer in spite of our best legal planning?

Two responses:

  • These changes are for legal purposes, but even more we want to be biblically clear. The primary reason for the changes is to clearly articulate what we believe Scripture says the role of the church is in these kinds of circumstances.
  • Whether it is over the issues of marriage, gender, homosexuality, or something else, we should expect to suffer and be persecuted. We need to prepare for suffering. The American church is generally soft and ill-equipped for and afraid of suffering. But suffering and persecution have always been part of the expectation of the church. Many biblical passages (as we will see) affirm this truth; and it has also been expected throughout church history. Consider the words of Thomas Watson:

“The way to heaven is by way of thorns and blood.…Set it down as a maxim, if you will follow Christ, you must see the swords and the staves. Persecution is one of the surest and most tangible evidences of salvation. Persecution is not incidental to faithful Christian living but is certain evidence of it. Put the cross in your creed.” (Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes)

So as we thought about this series, it seemed to me that it would be wise to conclude with a sermon on a biblical perspective on suffering. If we are going to stand against the culture (and we are going to), then we need to prepare to endure suffering. And 1 Peter is a book that is primarily about suffering and the passage before us this morning establishes particularly well how a believer is to think about his suffering. Here is Peter’s two-part thesis:

Faithful believers will suffer for their faith.
Faithful believers must think biblically about their suffering.

In addressing this topic, Peter will offer two possible responses to suffering, five truths that must be remembered in suffering, and one person to trust in suffering. Let’s start with the possible responses.

  1. Two Ways to Respond to Suffering (vv. 12-13)
  • “Something is wrong!” (v. 12)
  • “Suffering is joy!” (v. 13)
  1. Five Truths to Remember about Suffering (vv. 14-18)
  • There is blessing in suffering for Christ (v. 14)
  • There is no blessing in suffering for sin (v. 15)
  • There is no shame in suffering for Christ (v. 16)
  • There is purification through suffering for Christ (v. 17a)
  • There is something worse than suffering for Christ (vv. 17b-18)
  1. One Person to Trust in Suffering (v. 19)

Download the rest of this sermon on 1 Peter 4:12-19.

The audio will be posted on the GBC website later today.

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