Suffering Strengthens the Church: PUSH Acronym
• Suffering Provides a Platform to Tell Others About Jesus
• Suffering Unites us to Christ our Savior
• Suffering Strengthens the Church
• Suffering Honours Our Savior
Why does the church in the global south seem to be expanding through hardship, poverty, suffering, persecution, while the church in the West seems to be faltering and flailing. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” - is sometimes the only answer we give, though we may want to look a bit more closely.
Suffering will only strengthen the church when we as individuals win the battle of the mind. Verse 1: Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, later in 4:7: The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
• Why do we need to arm ourselves?
• This is an arena of spiritual warfare – my mindset in suffering.
• My intent is to focus on the victorious ascension of Christ over all.
It is not a question of God allowing or not allowing things to happen. It is part of living. Some things we do to ourselves, other things we do to each other. Our Father knows about every bird which falls to the ground, but He does not always prevent it from falling. What are we to learn from this? That our response to what happens is more important than what happens. Here is a mystery: one man’s experience drives him to curse God, while another man’s identical experience drives him to bless God. Your response to what happens is more important than what happens. –Chip Brogden
Illustration: Objects in a microwave:
• Eggs: The pressure starts to cause cracking, then explodes
• CDs: immediately started sparking, consistantly
Every item reacted to the stress of the radiation, and every item reacted differently. This is why we need to arm ourselves with the manner of thinking that comes from the gospel.
Two effects of the heavenward thinking suffering fosters.
1. Suffering purifies the church by diminishing our desire to sin. for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
a. Very hard phrase (Peter seems to have a lot of them!) It is best rendered for “the one who has suffered in the flesh.” One the one hand, it is most natural to take this back to Christ, “who is preeminently the one who “suffered in the body”—or better, “suffered in this physical world”—right up to the point of death (which is more than these Christians have been called to do yet). The result was not a loss for Jesus, but rather a freedom that he has from the whole realm of sin and death. He is no longer subject to those things which he endured while living on earth.
b. On the other hand, though, Peter had been stressing how uffering unites us to Christ, “so likewise the Christian who has suffered has made a decisive break with sin” This happens totally when the Christian goes to the extent of Christ and dies; but it happens in part when the Christian suffers in any way. The act of suffering for Christ makes the attractiveness of sin hollow. The believer has put all his eggs in one basket, that of Christ, and has paid too great a price to turn back now. This explains why it is an attitude with which believers are to arm themselves. It is the attitude seen in Christ and expressed in the saying “He who has suffered in his body [or flesh] is done with sin.” If Peter’s readers have this attitude their own suffering will result in their “not liv[ing] the rest of [their] earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” That is, if Christ is really the one they are following, their great example, then suffering will separate them more and more from sinful acts, making them increasingly invested in heaven, until they come to that point when they die like Christ, and, like him, are totally finished with sin and all its effects in this world.” (Hard Sayings of the Bible]
c. Suffering strips away the passion for lesser things to focus on the greater.
i. Human passions: plural, stressing the diversity of human passions, contrasted to the singular will of God. Peter stresses the various immoralities in which his readers were surrounded. “living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” I mentioned a few weeks ago about the trade guilds of the Roman empire and the social and financial stigma attached to Chrsitians who would choose not to participate in such activities that were regularly connected to immorality.
ii. Frosh week tragedy at Acacia University: "This tragic accident is a reminder to all of us of how fragile life can be and how quickly future promise can be replaced by grief and sadness. This is, indeed, a loss shared by everyone who is part of our Acadia family."
iii. Suffering makes us face our mortality. Life is short and to not be squandered. Peter brings out that there will be an ultiamte judgement and that the gospel has been preached to those now dead, that even though they experienced that same judgement of death that all people do, those who responded to Christ during their lifetimes yet live.
iv. This is why it is so important for Christians to share the hope of Christ with those who are suffering. God may be using their suffering as that megaphone we talked about last week, to cry out to them to receive him.
2. Suffering motivates the church to serve one another through compassionate works. 1Pet. 4:7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
a. Again, Peter points us to the mindset that suffering engenders and encourages us to a mindset that again, places its hope in Christ, as we make intercession for ourselves and others.
b. So we pray for each other in suffering, and we care for each other in suffering.
i. Suffering is an opportunity to love one another, covering a multitude of sins. You ever notice how two brothers, or friends, or a married couple can be at odds with one another, and then they hear that someone close to them has been in an accident. Arguments get set aside.
ii. Hospitality: We talked about this again and again in our STWOFC series. The love of the stranger, the other. Take people in and care for them. Rodney Stark, expert on the early church attribute the spread of Christianity to soup: RS: It made it a lot more bearable. The Church didn’t clean up the streets. Christians didn’t put in sewers. So you still had to live with a trench running down the middle of the road, in which you could find dead bodies decomposing. But what Christians did was take care of each other. Their apartments were as smoky as the pagan apartments, since neither had chimneys, and they were cold and wet and they stank. But Christians loved one another, and when they got sick they took care of each other. Someone brought you soup. You can do an enormous amount to relieve those miseries if you look after each other … Among the pagans, you get the sense that no one took care of anyone else except in the tribal way. It’s what we’re seeing today in the Balkans—you take care of your brothers, and you kill everybody else. Christianity told the Greco-Roman world that the definition of “brother” has got to be a lot broader. There are some things you owe to any living human being.
iii. Spititual gift passage: but note, the means of finding your spiritual gift here is not by filling out a spiritual gift inventory or by volunteering for a ministry position, it is through suffering that the gifts and the gold come out.
1. Speakers speak as though they are speaking the oracles of god, with even more tenderness and grace and into the suffering of the community.
2. Serves: with the stregnth God supplies.
c. There are two and only two experiences in which the church shines. When we come together in mission, and when we support one another in suffering. Any other state than those two leads us to bickering and complaining, and trying to see our desires met over and against one another and politicing. This makes people jaded and give up on the church. But these two things fill us with wonder:
i. When the church moves forward in mission, and when we come together in one-mindedness. This is the normal state of the church.
ii. Yet at times, the intense focus on mission is set aside, because we hav to rally around the suffering of one or more of our members. This is an occasional reality of church life. During these times it may not be beneficial to drive forward in mission.
Peter finishes: in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Suffering Honours our Saviour. This is going to be the main point of next weeks sermon, but for now notice how Jesus is glorified through his church being strengthened through suffering. Our zeal for sin and energy to commit it diminishes even as our care for one another rises. We live at one and the same time differently from the mocking world, yet embody a community of support which they so deeply desire.
My friend told me of another thing they microwaved: an orange. Inside, yes they could tell that it was boiling; yet it never cracked or burned. Instead, after a while their was a sound like steam releasing and then a wonderful smell filled the room. It reminds me of this quote by Watchman Nee about the woman who broke her Alabaster box over Jesus’ feet.
The breaking of the alabaster box and the anointing of the Lord filled the house with the odor, with the sweetest odor. Everyone could smell it. Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered; been limited, gone through things for the Lord, willing to be imprisoned by the Lord, just being satisfied with Him and nothing else, immediately you scent the fragrance. There is a savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed, something has been broken, and there is a resulting odor of sweetness. --Watchman Nee
Set you mind on Christ: You may never know that JESUS is all you need, until JESUS is all you have. --Corrie Ten Boom