This is a condensed transcript of my May 15, 2011 sermon.
Many new parents are often totally surprised at how tired they are. Babies wear parents out; they did for me and Michelle! Our two youngest children are only 13 months apart, and when they were babies, we had 2 cribs, 2 car seats, diapers everywhere, and our house was permeated with the smells of babies (both good and bad!). We were exhausted, and like most young parents, we were surprised at how tired we were. We now refer to that period of time (which began in 1995) as “the baby years,” and we don’t remember much because it seemed as though we were walking around in a fog. Babies are wonderful, but they are exhausting. So, parents: Don’t be surprised at how tired you are…as if something strange were happening to you!
Parenting babies and exhaustion go hand in hand. The Apostle Peter reminds us that following Christ and suffering go hand in hand too.
1 Peter 4:12-14
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
Not only should we not be surprised by suffering, but Peter says that when we suffer with and for Christ, we should REJOICE AND BE GLAD. Understand what Peter is saying…
- Lose your job for Christ’s sake: rejoice and be glad.
- Lose your social status for Christ’s sake: rejoice and be glad.
- Lose your friends for Christ’s sake: rejoice and be glad.
- Lose your family for Christ’s sake: rejoice and be glad.
- Lose your life for Christ’s sake: rejoice and be glad.
We rejoice and are glad even in our suffering because we are looking forward to that day when Christ’s glory will be revealed. We are living with our eyes fixed on a day when all suffering will end, and we will see Christ face-to-face. This enables us to live in anticipation…anticipation that helps us endure the temporary sufferings we face in this life.
I’ve married many couples, and I’ve seen first-hand the anticipation they experience as they await their wedding day. As a matter of fact, I came across a fax my wife sent me on February 10, 1993 letting me know how many more days we had to wait until our wedding day: 136!
There are many trials and hardships for couples as that magical day approaches like: the mine-field of wedding planning, the struggle of dealing with in-laws and outlaws, the hardship of watching their bank accounts drain quickly, the stress of finding a place to live, and so on. But, in the midst of it all, there’s still rejoicing and excitement because that day is approaching when they can finally be together for good.
This is what Peter reminds us to live in light of. Even in the midst of suffering, there is a day coming when all will be made right; a day when we will finally partake in the full glory of Christ. So, in the meantime, we are to rejoice as we await that day – no matter what we face.
When Peter wrote these words, he was writing to Christians who were suffering greatly under Roman rule. Our modern context is much different. Praise God that we live in a country where we are not persecuted by our government for following Christ. Few (if any) of us will ever lose our jobs, be beaten, be disowned by our families, or not be able to eat because of following Christ. However, there are many Christian brothers and sisters around the world who are severely persecuted for following Christ. One application of this text is to remember to pray for them.
But what about us? We are not persecuted like the early Christians were or like other Christians around world are today. But, if we truly follow Christ and His teachings; if we really allow the Holy Spirit to shine in and thru us, then we will experience criticism and loss to some extent. Loss of status, honor, prestige, and position in our culture. As we follow Jesus radically, we should expect criticism and loss, and based on Peter’s words, we should not only expect it, but welcome it with rejoicing, knowing that our temporary suffering is a mark of a true follower of Christ and knowing that one day we will be full partakers of Christ’s glory.
Have you suffered criticism and loss for following Christ? For making a stand for your faith? For loving those who others don’t? For responding in a biblical way to conflict rather than joining others in responding sinfully? For ordering your life according to God’s Word rather than the world’s word?
If so, then let me encourage you with Peter’s words: Beloved, don’t be surprised as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.