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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Preached At:Pilgrim Canadian Reformed Church
 London, Ontario
 www.londoncanrc.org
 
Title:After You Have Suffered
Text:1 Peter 5:10-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith Tested
 
Preached:2015
Added:2015-11-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 16:1,5                                                                                              

Ps 119:1,2

Reading – Isaiah 43:1-7; 1 Peter 4:12-5:14

Ps 66:4,5,6,7

Sermon – 1 Peter 5:10-11

Hy 36:1,2,3,4

Hy 64:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved, a good many of us have made public profession of our faith. We have stood up and confessed Jesus as Lord. Maybe in the past couple years, or many years have passed. And some haven’t done so yet. But for all, the day of public profession is a special day. For we can tell of what God has done for us, and resolve to commit our whole life to his service.

Do you remember that day? Do you remember the promises you made? Do you ever read that Form again? And to those who haven’t been there yet, to the young people and even to the children, I say: Do you long for that day? Do you look forward to declaring, in the midst of his church, your love for Jesus Christ?

At that moment of making our public profession, we should listen carefully. Because right after we say “I do,” some powerful words are spoken. We hear this, from 1 Peter 5: “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be power forever and ever. Amen.” Seems a very strange text to be quoted in the Form, doesn’t it? On such a joyful occasion, to mention suffering! Wouldn’t a song of praise be more appropriate, or maybe a thanksgiving prayer? Why the downer all of a sudden, talking about hardship?

One of the marvels of God’s Word is how realistic it is. “After you have suffered a little while…” is in fact the way that the Christian life goes. It’s not easy. It’s not meant to be easy! This text is realistic, but overwhelmingly positive. This text is a fine blend of prayer and doxology, as Peter wraps up his first letter. It’s a declaration of the gracious power of God, a plea for God’s help, and a confession of his goodness. That’s our confidence as Christians, whether young or old—we trust in the God of all grace. I preach his Word to you from 1 Peter 5:10-11,

“After you have suffered a little while…”

  1. for the cause of Jesus Christ
  2. by the power of the gracious God
  3. with the purpose of eternal glory

 

1. for the cause of Jesus Christ: Our text is about suffering. And when we listen to what God’s Word says about this matter, we learn that not all suffering is the same. In fact, there are at least three different kinds.

There’s the suffering that God calls his loving discipline. These are the hardships that come upon us as we live in a broken world. Paul says we have bodies that are a lot like those tents we’ll take camping in the summer—tents that’ll eventually wear down and fade, or collapse in heavy winds. With bodies like tents, some of us suffer daily, with discomfort and chronic pain. Some wrestle with illness, like heart disease or cancer or something else. And then comes the grief of losing a loved one. Before long, we all experience the basic weakness of human life.

Yet these things aren’t for punishing, they’re for teaching. Through such trials, God teaches us about his power. He says, “You can trust in my care.” By them, He might urge us to re-number our priorities and get our life in good order. Of this teaching Scripture says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons… Such discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace” (Heb 12:7,11).

Then there’s also the suffering that God says is the just penalty on the wicked. The one who commits a crime might receive the punishment that’s his due, maybe in prison, maybe another way. About this kind of suffering, Peter already warned us, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal” (4:15).

Rather, says Peter—and here’s a third kind of suffering—“If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (4:16). This isn’t simply the suffering that comes while we are Christians, as a sidebar to our walk with Christ. No, it comes because we are Christians. There are hardships to be endured, precisely because we’ve stood up to confess our faith. They’ve come because we want to follow Christ, to go wherever He leads and do whatever He commands.

And for Peter’s readers, this was real. It was still early in the life of the New Testament church, maybe about 30 years after Pentecost. But the persecution of Jesus’ followers had already begun. In fact, the Jews opposed them from the word “go.” The book of Acts tells us how the apostles had been thrown in jail and flogged, even in those first months. Still, this persecution was localized—the haters could reach only so far.

Yet within a couple decades, the church had grown. It had spread all the way to the empire’s heart, the great city of Rome itself. People knew now that it was more than a Jewish sect, and not just a passing fad. The church became large enough to attract the attention of the authorities, even of the Roman emperor himself. The history books tell us that Nero, the emperor in the late 50s and 60s, had a hatred for all things Christian. Just that name “Nero” probably brings up mental images of Christians being torn apart by wild beasts in coliseums.

We don’t know exactly how these Christians (that Peter writes to) were suffering. But whatever the case, their suffering was real. Says he in chapter 1, “You have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (v 6). Whatever the form of it, they were suffering for one reason: it was because they confessed Jesus as Lord.

Things haven’t changed. We’ve all heard of Christians who suffer for the faith in places around this globe. Not that long ago, Muslims in Egypt again attacked the property of Christians. Or in Pakistan, a 14-year-old Christian girl was abducted and raped, and then those responsible threatened to attack various churches if the family laid charges. And in China, seven Christians received sentences ranging from three to seven-and-a-half years, guilty of so-called “cult-activity” like distributing pamphlets about the gospel.

If you read a magazine like Voice of the Martyrs, you’ll know that stories like this are all too common. Yet to us it still remains foreign. These events seem a world away from us: sitting in a comfy church building on a sunny Sunday morning, and then leading our quiet lives throughout the week, just as we please.

But this is the truth, just beneath the surface: All Christians, everywhere, will suffer. Recall Peter’s words in 4:12, “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” As Christ’s people, there will be hardship. If we live as bold Christians in this city; if we don’t shy away from our calling in this world; if we don’t clam up when it’s time to defend the faith; if we make the sacrifices God calls us to make—then there will be hard times. No, this is what’s actually strange: if we’re Christians, and we have not suffered in some way!

That’s because true faith can’t be inactive. True faith can’t be kept behind shatter-proof glass. Your living confession of Christ can’t be reserved for Sundays, or kept to a quiet corner of your life. Faith transforms a person, fully and completely. “So let it come,” we need to declare in God’s strength, “May in my life—even to the point of suffering—may I show how serious I am about following Christ!”

It happens, when you deny yourself those sinful pleasures for the sake of being holy. It happens, when you realize you have to make personal sacrifices to be a better parent, or a better spouse, or a better office bearer. It happens, when you strive to become a more active member of the church. Because it hurts to give things up. It hurts to swallow your pride. It hurts to witness for Christ, and submit to his Word. If we’re serious about putting Christ’s words into practice, the suffering will come. We can be sure of it.

One thing we shouldn’t do is exaggerate our sufferings as Christians. Sometimes we might do that, when we say, “Those Christians in Muslim countries are oppressed—but we’re oppressed here, too. Think of what I’d had to surrender: my leisure time so I can serve in church office, or on a committee. We’ve also given up loads of money to support the church and school.” Or we say, “Think of how the media makes fun of Christians today, as if we’re a bunch of irrational bigots. Or how our neighbours quietly laugh at us when we head off to church for a second time on a Sunday afternoon.”

These things are real. But it’s not right, to compare this to the violence and danger faced by so many other Christians. Imagine holding one of our Bible studies, and fearing a raid by the police. Or sending your kids to Catechism, worried about grenades coming through the windows. We give thanks that this isn’t what we’re called to suffer, so let’s keep our hardships as Christians in perspective. Let’s also keep the persecuted church in our prayers!

Even so, we have a calling in this country, at this time, where Jesus has called us to take up our cross for him. Today it means thinking about the question: Are we glad to endure suffering for the Lord? Do we profess the name of Jesus, even to those who’d roll their eyes at us? Would we serve Jesus, even if the cost was much higher than it feels right now? When it came down to it, would we be willing to give everything up for him?

Peter, the man behind our letter, knew what it was to suffer. He faced opposition for years. And Peter knew the day would come to die for his Lord. Writing this letter from Rome, he might’ve been only a short time from such an end. An old tradition says Peter was killed there, just like Paul. The story goes that Peter was to be crucified, but he asked to be crucified upside-down; he didn’t want to die in the same way as his Lord. For Peter, following Christ meant taking up his cross, even to a terrible death.

And that’s the call of our Lord. Even if we never face death for our confession, at the very end we have to be able to say: “To my utmost, I have lived for Jesus Christ. By his grace, I’ve given him my all, and now I’ll die in him.” This kind of faith-in-action is possible for all,

 

2. by the power of the gracious God: Closing with prayer—that’s something you and I might do without thinking. At the end of a day, at the end of a meeting—a class, a meal—we close with prayer. It’s a habit we have, and it’s a good one. When we look at the letters in the New Testament, we see that many of them too, close with prayer. After giving instruction and encouragement, the author will often pause and direct some words to heaven.

Peter’s letter is no exception. After hearing the call to be holy, after hearing the call to suffer, after receiving our mission for living in this world, it all needs to go back to God in prayer. For it’s He who can make it happen. And for good reason Peter begins his prayer by calling on the “God of all grace” (v 10). As we live out our faith in this world, the one hope and strength we have is God—our gracious God, of steadfast love and abounding mercy.

Notice that Peter includes a little word: He is the “God of all grace.” That is, his goodness is manifold, varied, full and complete. In every changing situation of life, in every circumstance, God is able to show his grace. As Paul was able to confess in his own struggles, “God’s grace is sufficient.”

When you struggle against temptation because it’s so hard to resist, depend on it: God’s grace is sufficient. When you suffer with shame because of insults and abuse, depend on it: God’s grace is sufficient. When you struggle for the right words to speak in defense of the gospel, when you wonder how you’ll be able to make this sacrifice, God’s grace is sufficient.

Peter prays for God’s grace to be upon his readers, and he does with confidence. This prayer is even put in the form of a promise: This is what God will certainly do! In all our struggles as Christians, we know the greatness of the God we profess. For this all-gracious God  will “restore you, and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (v 10). We’re given the sure promise that God will perfectly complete us.

And what a precious promise that is! For as Christians, we sometimes feel inadequate. “Who am I, anyway? How do I measure up?” You feel like you can’t do anything worthwhile for God. There’s no way you can make a difference for God’s Kingdom, because you’re just too weak or just too sinful or your place in this world is just too small. But here’s his promise: God is at work within you!

Today God is restoring us (v 10). This verb is used to describe the repairing of ships after a storm. We can be blown about and battered, even broken by our hardships, yet God always makes us whole. If we’ve been badly defeated in the past, this doesn’t mean that we’re doomed forever. If we’ve failed once or twice, or even countless times, it doesn’t mean we’ll always fail, or that now it’s time to give up. If we ask him, God restores us, so that we can face up to whatever lies ahead.

Peter too experienced this restoring grace. He’d committed a terrible sin: denying his Lord. But the Lord restored him. That morning by the seaside, the risen Christ spoke words of comfort to his apostle. And Christ will do the same for us. He is restoring us, bringing us to the place He wants us.

Today God is making us strong. We don’t have to fall apart under the pressures of this world. In him, we receive the courage to speak. In him, we find a way out of sin. For our God is far stronger than the devil, that roaring lion who is so active in this world. Peter saw this too, how Christ could rescue those who’d been possessed by the devil. He saw how Satan had to bow before Jesus, trembling and defeated. The same God is on our side, helping us answer the call, establishing us for everything we need to do.

And today God is making us firm. That’s good, because on that day we profess our faith, none of us are really ready to stand fast. Even the most mature Christian, with the strongest faith, is only a moment from falling away, if it depended on him. So being strengthened in the faith is a life-long process, day by day. Like slowly-setting concrete, we need time to be made firm. But God is doing it, daily making us more resolute, so we can be strong.

And today God is making us steadfast. He has set us on a solid foundation, the cornerstone who is Jesus Christ. In him we can find our stability. In him we have our future, even when this life draws to a close.

God himself will “restore you, and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” Peter piles up the terms so we understand how the faithful God will enable us in every way. Come hardship, come persecution, come pain, come death, we lack nothing at all in him. As Christians, we never stand alone, but stand on the side of God himself.

So it’s always been for the people of God. We read from Isaiah, the prophet who had lots of bad news for the church. He had to tell them about destruction and exile, deep sorrow and great losses. But he could also bring this message from God, “I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (43:1). That already says it all: we belong to the Lord, so we know that in suffering for him, we will be just fine.

But then God makes it even more clear, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (v 2). In the midst of all affliction, suffered for the sake of Christ, the LORD God is with us. Even when it overwhelms us like water, or burns us like fire, the LORD God is with us.

This gets confirmed in a marvelous way by the last line of Peter’s prayer, in the form of a doxology: “To [God] be the power for ever and ever” (v 11). Not only is He the God of all grace, He is the God of all power. He’s Almighty! He can do those things He promised us. He can give the strength, today and tomorrow and forever.

If you want to be faithful as a Christian—if you want to be faithful against temptation and persecution and tribulation—then go to the God all of grace, and seek his strength. You won’t make it apart from him. You’ll quickly fall apart, if you’re not held together in Christ. But if you rest in him, He’ll pull you through.

 

3. with the purpose of eternal glory: Peter makes it sound easy. He writes, “After you have suffered a little while…” Is that all it is, “a little while?” Yet Peter wasn’t naïve. He knew the good guys don’t always win. He knew Christians sometimes lose sight of where it’s all going. But he speaks this way, because he holds onto his hope. Already back in 1:4, he spoke of receiving an “inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade away.”

And so as he looks out into eternity (as much as a human can do), Peter sees a sharp contrast. There’s such a contrast between the eternal glory that awaits us, and the “little while” of suffering that we must endure.

It’s like our own experience of time. When we’re going through something unpleasant—getting a filling at the dentist, writing an exam—an hour can seem like an eternity, like it’ll never end. Then, when we’ve made it through, we look back and see just how short it really was. What’s an hour of our life? Compared to a whole week? Compared to a month? A whole year? Compared to the seventy or eighty or ninety years we might receive? And what’s that compared to time that has no end, everlasting life?

Though in the present we have trials, our sufferings, our sorrows, we have to remember how it looks on the scales of time. Like Paul writes, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what it seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:17-18). That’s the perspective we need to have.

For it would make no sense to suffer for Christ if He wasn’t coming back. Why would we ever go through it if Christ wasn’t returning? We might as well try to be agreeable to others, avoid discomfort at all costs, and reject making any personal sacrifice! But we know the end is near. God has called us “to his eternal glory [in] Christ” (1 Pet 5:10). That’s our destination: standing in the radiant presence of Christ. One day we’ll see the Lord whom we confess.

And on that day we’ll appear before him with great joy. For we know him as King of kings, and our Saviour. We know that He’ll claim us, He’ll vindicate us, together with all who’ve called on his Name. As we stand before Christ, we’ll rejoice, for He has invited us, He has called us, and He has done everything to make sure God accepts us.

We recall again what we promised on the day of our profession. What did we say? “I promise to steadfastly continue in this doctrine in life and death… I desire to serve him according to his Word, to forsake the world, and to crucify my old nature… I resolve to commit my whole life to the Lord’s service as a living member of his church.”

Powerful words. Words to be remembered. Brothers and sisters, are you committed? Are you a living member of Christ’s church? Is your entire life dedicated to him? Will you suffer for him? Will you sacrifice for him? Or is your biggest concern to fit your faith into some comfortable, low profile place? To put it somewhere where it doesn’t challenge you, where it doesn’t call you to do hard things? Do you find it strange that being a Christian is so easy? You should find it strange.           

Beloved, while we live, we have our calling, our mission. It may be hard—it will be hard. But let’s offer this prayer, and be encouraged by it: “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be power forever and ever. Amen.”




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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