God’s Glory In Suffering

Good morning! Let’s get right into the text that we’re going to look at this morning. I know that we’ve confused some of you with the preaching schedule over the last several weeks. For clarity, we were going to jump back into Mark last weekend, but with our guest preacher and wanting to make sure we stayed synched up with Red Tree, we’re asking for one more week of grace this morning.

The plan is to jump back into Mark next Sunday. But, for our purposes this morning, I want to look at a text with you that God has been using to awaken me to a greater understanding of how His mission goes forward in the world through His people. And, as we look at this today, I want you to think specifically about what persecution & suffering for the mission of God does in the life of the believer.

It’s interesting, Open Doors (https://www.opendoorsusa.org) just released their annual report for 2019 on the most persecuted countries in the world. This is a list that looks at a wide range of factors in determining how believers are treated for their faith in a county. India has been climbing the list every year for the last several years and is currently ranked #10. This is a very relevant topic for believers living in India!

And, if we’re going to think about what it looks like to live for the glory of God, especially in the midst of persecution & suffering, I can’t think of a better text to look at than 1 Peter chapter 4. If you have a Bible with you this morning, I’d invite you to turn there with me. We’ll look specifically at verses 12 – 19. Before we read this, let’s go to the Lord in prayer to ask for His help this morning.

“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. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:12-19)

If we’re being honest, this can be a very difficult text for most of us. Just think about the things that we tend to idolize and chase after. We’ve been conditioned to pursue comfort, safety, and security. And here you have Peter saying that, “fiery trials should be seen as normal.” He’s saying that, “we should rejoice when we suffer.” He’s saying, “if you are insulted, you are blessed.” He’s painting a picture here of suffering for the name and fame of Jesus as something that we should desire in our lives or, at the very least, something that we should embrace when it happens.

But, none of that sits well with the idols that we tend to embrace. In fact, our idols train us to dismiss Peter’s words. That’s why this is a hard word for many of us to read, and it’s exactly why we need to hear it. We need for God’s Word to come in and root out the things in our heart that we’re pursuing over and above God.

Regardless of how you view suffering & persecution, and regardless of how much suffering & persecution you might be facing right now as a believer in Mumbai, I want to challenge you this morning on a deeper principle at work in this text. Because, there’s something at work here that transcends culture and context. In other words, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, this applies to you. I could summarize it like this:  Our aim is to live for the glory of God no matter the circumstances that He brings into our lives.

It is not up to you and me to determine the circumstances of our lives; that’s God’s job. And, by the way, this is why idolatry is so wicked. We set up things in our heart above the pursuit of God’s glory, and then we try to control and shape our circumstances around the pursuit of those created things. And it’s all a lie! The truth is that God is completely sovereign over the circumstances of our lives. He’s the One who determines what we experience. Look again at verse 19 — “Therefore let those who suffer ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are. It doesn’t matter if you’re just suffering the general effects of the fall (with things like a serious illness, or a damaged relationship, or the death of someone close to you, or a situation where you’re not being treated fairly at work). Those are all effects of a fallen, sinful, broken world. It doesn’t matter if you’re facing those circumstances, or if you’re being actively persecuted for your faith in Jesus, or if you’re suffering from both at the same time. The principle is the same; we are called to glorify God in those circumstances.

Will I respond to my circumstance (whether it’s persecution or cancer) by turning away from God, or by turning into God? Will I renounce Him (either with my lips or my actions), or will I give Him glory through this trial? Will I trust Him, or will I grow angry and bitter? This principle is universal in suffering & persecution; no matter the type. And the result is the same as well. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, if you suffer, if you are persecuted, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Isn’t that an interesting phrase? When you suffer, “the Spirit of God rests upon you.” In other words, we experience the Spirit in a different way, He ministers to us in a unique or more powerful way when we are suffering for the name of Jesus Christ and for His glory. Now, I don’t know about you, but I desire to have the Spirit more at work in me. I desire for more of His presence, more of His power, more dependence upon Him. I want to be used in greater ways by Him. So, when I read that the Spirit of Glory & of God will rest upon me, I want that! Do you want that? Of course you do!

But, here’s what we need to remember:  That is tied directly to how we respond to suffering in our lives. You want more of Him? You have to live for His glory in the midst of your suffering, whatever that suffering looks like. Again, suffering is all to common in a place like Mumbai, and even more common throughout the whole of India. We read the news, we hear stories. Some of you in this room have stories where you have, or are currently, being persecuted for your faith. And we all certainly have examples of suffering the general effects of the fall.

Our tendency, because of what we idolize, is to see suffering, persecution and difficulties as bad things. We’ll hear of a situation and talk about how terrible it is. But, here’s what we must remember:  God is getting glory for His name. God is using the suffering of His people to glorify His name. But, if we’re going to be honest, it doesn’t look like glory or feel like glory in the moment, does it? When someone is suffering mightily, it doesn’t look like glory. But the Cross didn’t look like glory either. But, oh was Christ’s work on that Cross glorious!!!!

It’s the same thing when we suffer like He suffered. Just as the cross wasn’t the last word, God doesn’t allow the suffering of His saints be the last word either. Glory will be the last word! “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” You might be in a situation right now that’s terrible. It’s dark and it doesn’t feel like there’s any way out. It feels like there’s no end in sight and that nothing good will every come of that circumstance. It’s so easy to allow that circumstance to define you.

Let me encourage you:  God is accomplishing far more abundantly than we could ever ask or think. What looks like defeat to you right now is actually God paving the way for the revelation of Christ’s glory in the world through you. Do you hear that church? We get to be a part of what God is doing in the world to reveal His glory. And, never are we more a part of that work than when we respond in faith in the midst of difficult circumstances. When we refuse to be defined by the world, and by our sin, and by our circumstances, and by our suffering. When we are steadfast in our commitment to be defined by God’s eternal glory, by His righteousness, by His faithfulness, and by the fact that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

Church, in all of this we rejoice! So, here’s how I’d like to end our time this morning. In light of everything we’ve considered, I want to make a few observations from the text of why we must rejoice in our sufferings. My hope is just to give you these points for further reflection as we leave this place.

1. Our suffering has divine purpose
Verse 19: “Let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.”

2. Our suffering shows that we are united with Christ
Verse 13: “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings…”

3. The Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us when we suffer
Verse 14: “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

4. Our suffering glorifies God
Verse 16: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”

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