PHBC February 13, 2000

Series: First Peter, Sermon #89

WHY DO CHRISTIANS SUFFER?


Scripture:

TEXT: 1 Peter 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

INTRO: I would call your attention to this clause in our text: "after that ye have suffered a while." I want you to notice that Peter does not say, "If you suffer a while." He does not say, "You may have to suffer a while." Christian suffering is as certain as life itself. You will as surely suffer as you will be glorified. Your suffering as a Christian is as certain as the blessed fact that every believer in Jesus Christ has been justified before God.

I am aware that I have dealt with this matter rather extensively in another message in this series but since it has been a while, and since it has come up again, I want to deal with it again. Suffering is so certain in the life of the Christian that we need to be made aware over and over again of its causes.

As strange as it may seem to us, Paul even indicates that suffering is a blessing and gift from God. Philippians 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.

Peter, knowing that suffering, in the life of the Christian, is an absolute certainty does not hesitate to say, "after that ye have suffered a while."

My subject this morning is Why Do Christians Suffer? It is not, Will Christians Suffer? for that is an absolute certainty. It is Why Do Christians Suffer? I admit that I will not be able to give an all-encompassing answer to this question, but I will give you some things that are revealed. God may have some reasons for us to suffer that he has not revealed. Those, if they exist, come within the scope of the secret things that belong to him. I will deal with those things he has revealed in his words. Those belong to us and are written for our encouragement and our learning.

I. SOME SUFFERING MAY BE ATTRIBUTED TO THE CURSE OF SIN THAT IS UPON THE HUMAN RACE AND THE UNIVERSE

A. We have all been affected by the adamic sin. Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.

B. From the time of our conception in our motherís womb, we have been infected with sin. Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

C. We went astray as soon as we were born revealing this terrible infection from sin. Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

D. The imaginations of our natural hearts have been evil from our youth up. Genesis 8:21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for manís sake; for the imagination of manís heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

E. We have within us the sentence of death and should never trust ourselves for righteousness and salvation. 2 Corinthians 1:9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.

F. By nature we are unclean and there is no way that could be escaped. Job 14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.

G. Most, if not all of us, suffering from some effect of this curse of sin, for all disease and malady, ultimately may be traced to the root cause of the sin of our first parents and the resulting curse on man and all creation.

II. SOME SUFFERING IS TRACEABLE TO OUR OWN PERSONAL SINS

A. Peter admonishes Christians to be sure that they never suffer as and evildoer. 1 Peter 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other menís matters.

B. Some of the members of the church in Corinth suffered sickness and some were even killed for their conduct at the Lordís table. 1 Corinthians 11:30-32 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

C. Peter again indicates that we may suffer for our own personal sins. 1 Peter 2:20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

D. The church in Thessalonica was experiencing some problems from members who were doing harmful, sinful things. 2 Thessalonians 3:11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

E. Paul speaks of this problem that Godís children continue to have with sin even though saved. Romans 7:15-25 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

F. God lovingly chastens his children for our sins. Hebrews 12:5-11 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

G. Let us not despise the chastening of the Lord for he does it always for our good. Job 5:17-18 Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: 18 For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole. Proverbs 3:12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

III. SOME OF OUR SUFFERING AS CHRISTIANS HAS AS ITS PURPOSE THE REFINING OF OUR WALK BEFORE GOD AND THE WORLD

A. It is a real blessing and cause of happiness if we suffer for righteousnessí sake. 1 Peter 3:14 But and if ye suffer for righteousnessí sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.

B. Some of our sufferings give us the opportunity to identify with the sufferings of Christ. 1 Peter 4:12-14 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christís 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.

C. Sometimes we may suffer so that we may have the impurities removed from our life much as gold is refined to remove its impurities. Job 23:10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Zechariah 13:9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God. Malachi 3:3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

D. Sometimes the suffering has as its principle purpose that we honor Christ by and through it. 1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

E. As I pointed out in the very beginning of the message, God gives us this privilege of suffering for his sake. Philippians 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.

F. Sometimes we suffer so that God may reveal to us our weakness or strength. Deuteronomy 8:2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.

G. I have saved the first and root cause of our suffering to mention last. Let me remind you again that when we suffer, we suffer because it is the will of God that we suffer. 1 Peter 3:17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

1. Jeremiah new that he suffered for Godís sake. Jeremiah 15:15 O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke.

2. Jesus covered this in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousnessí sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

3. Jesus dealt with this same truth on another occasion. Matthew 10:39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

4. Again Jesus dealt with this matter of suffering fo rhis sake. Matthew 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

IV. SOME OTHER BENEFITS OF SUFFERING

A. Suffering often gives us the experience that is necessary to help others who are suffering. 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

B. Suffering has been used of God to keep his people from straying. Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.

C. Suffering is sometimes designed to show us Godís faithfulness. Psalm 119:75 I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.

D. Suffering is often designed to enhance the spiritual graces in our lives. Romans 5:3-4 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope. James 1:3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

V. THERE IS AN END TO THE SUFFERING OF A CHRISTIAN

A. Our suffering may end in this life. 1 Peter 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

B. It will most certainly end when we are with the Lord. Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

CONC: Right now God is preparing us for the glory-world and after we have suffered a while, he will perfect us, establish us, strengthen us, and settle us and, at the appointed time glorify us; let us patiently endure the suffering he has appointed.

When we consider that whatever suffering we experience in our pilgrimage through this life is designed by God for our good, the good of others and his glory, we should be able to join Paul in his wonderful declaration. 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.

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