Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 September 10, 2017
“Be Ye Not Surprised”
Text: 1 Peter 4:12-19
As we being today’s sermon, we again look at the twin thrusts of this letter. First, in this world we are exiles, strangers, and so forth. We are not Home. Second, we are called at times to suffer for Jesus. These themes stand well established. Now note something else related to these themes. First, we are not away from Home for long. Either we go to Heaven at physical death, or we meet Jesus when He returns. Second, our sufferings are not forever. Many times they end for a season here on earth, and they end forever, never to return, either at Jesus’ coming or at our going Home. We get great teaching from the Lord today about how we are to endure these trials when they come. Let’s hear from Him in His Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Note in today’s text that certain things are true—in view that the end of all things draws nearer all the time. First, the outcome for the ungodly and the sinner is dire indeed—to wit, eternal endurance of God’s wrath in hell, the place reserved for the evil one and his host. The way to avoid all of this, happily, is to place your trust in Jesus Christ as Savior from sins and as Lord of life; I urge you to do this very thing today if you have not before now. Second, even we who believe on Jesus must endure from time to time some fatherly chastisement—or temporal judgments, to use the theologians’ term. God’s righteous discipline of His sons and daughters occurs here and now, on earth, not by and by in Heaven. Moreover, our fatherly chastisements are temporary. They do not last forever. Also, these loving disciplinary actions from our Lord come with no wrath appended—for all God’s righteous wrath for sin is poured upon His Son, and there remains no more for His redeemed. This salvation—so great a salvation—frames our endurance of trials when they come.
The Apostle Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, gives us four things to do or to remember when we meet fiery trial because of Christ. First, Peter tells us, in effect, “Be ye not surprised.” Jesus Himself promises that His followers would suffer because of Him: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20). We read of similar suffering intimated in Paul’s writings. He likens the Christian life to a war (Ephesians 6:10-20)—where we must don the armor of God daily. He also likens the Christian life to a race or to a fight (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, 2 Timothy 4:7). Of particular poignancy are Paul’s Spirit-led words to Timothy—words among the last that Paul ever wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Such suffering occurred even in certain members of God’s Old Testament covenant family—and that centuries before the Messiah in Whom they believed appeared. Consider the Word of the Lord in the letter to the Hebrews, “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews xi.35b.-38). Suffering is the providential lot of the Christian, but precious truths now rush onto the scene to aid us greatly to endure suffering.
Second, Peter tells us who suffer to Christ, “Rejoice.” We rejoice in our sufferings for Him, because we shall rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. Though we fear that our trials threaten to consume us utterly, the trials do not in fact consume us. Rather, our trial serve to refine our faith, as Peter declared earlier (cf. 1 Peter 1:6-7). Our sufferings for Jesus purify us—and they strengthen us as well. Remember the hymn “How Firm a Foundation,” which assures us that the Lord only designs, “Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.” Again, rejoice, for as we share in Christ’s sufferings, we shall share in His glory
Third, let us glorify God in our sufferings for Him. Let us not be ashamed of His Name. Paul certainly was not (Romans 1:16); let us follow suit. Let us not be ashamed of the suffering we undergo for Him. He takes great pleasure in our endurance of hardship for Him, and He conveys that pleasure to us in the right measure at just the right time. Peter warns us not to suffer for wrongdoing (for that is the just result of our wrongdoing), but we are to accept suffering, should it come, for well-doing as a Christian. The glory of God in all things is our highest aim as Christians. Let us, therefore, aim to glorify Him as we bear His crosses for His glory.
Fourth, the Apostle tells us to entrust our souls unto Him. Though all circumstances seem to speak otherwise, God knows—and knows exactly—what He is doing. Moreover, His plans for us are good. Here God’s Word in Jeremiah’s prophecy, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). In view of God’s infinite knowledge and perfect goodness, it is better by far to entrust ourselves to Him—even when we suffer for Jesus—than to trust ourselves. Solomon through the Spirit says it well, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Our joy depends not on our outward circumstance. No matter whether we be in plenty or in want, in peace or in conflict, or in presence of trial or its absence, we may know the joy of the Lord, which is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Our joy rests in the Person and work of Christ Jesus: Who has loved us to the death, Who lives that we may live, Who sustains us—even in suffering—along life’s way by His Spirit, Who prepares a place for us, and Who comes to take us there. Let us, then, rejoice in Him, entrust ourselves to Him, and glorify Him in all things. AMEN.