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Monday, December 19, 2016

Called to Unjust Suffering (1 Peter 2:20-21)

"But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."

Suffering. I'd rather not. No, really, I shouldn't have to. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll give it a pass.

How can anyone endure hurling insults or in modern terminology, verbal abuse and wounding, especially when Christian psychologists tell us we don't have to and that we must draw boundaries in order to prohibit abusers access to our lives? Try telling that to Joseph who endured constant sexual harassment in the workplace, experienced character assassination, and false imprisonment. Or to Christ, who suffered unjustly as he "bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."

Peter offers several keys to enduring unjust suffering:
  • Practice the presence of God - (verse 19) "if a man bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God". Peter quotes from Psalms 34:14 to remind the believer that "the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer"
  • Know that doing good provokes suffering
  • Surrender to God - (verse 23) "he entrusted himself to him who judges justly"
  • Trust God to work redemptively - God will retribute your suffering in his own time - God "judges justly" and "his face is against those who do evil"
Your view of God will determine whether you trust him during times of suffering and whether you endure seasons of suffering. Suffering becomes useless in our lives if we allow bitterness to creep in, anger against God to form a wall around our hearts, and when we attempt to bail out of our suffering (much suffering is inescapable) through escape mechanisms (drugs and alcohol, etc.).
It is no surprise then, that Peter plops the subject of suffering into the middle of his teaching on submission. No one has a problem with submission as long as things are going well; it is when difficulty arises that we rebel. That's why he instructs wives to submit to their husbands, just as Sarah did with Abraham. When does Sarah practice submission? During two-fold suffering:

(1) When they travel to Egypt to escape famine
(2) When Abraham uses her as a shield instead of trusting God to keep His promise of shielding him (Genesis 15:1).

How does Sarah respond? She "puts her hope in God". And God comes through for her. Not once, but twice. He sends a plague on Pharoah and he awakens and threatens to kill Abimelech if he doesn't release Sarah.

Yes, we will suffer unjustly. But God works redemptively in the midst of our suffering if we will trust Him.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Peter 2:13-5:14
  • Why should believers practice submission to governing authorities?
  • How does suffering affect relationships?
  • What happens when we respond correctly in the midst of suffering (3:15)?
  • How does Peter describe "the suffering of God" (3:20)?
  • Why do those of the world "heap abuse" upon believers?
  • What hope do those who "share in Christ sufferings" have to sustain them?
  • How will Christ Himself minister to suffering saints?
  • Why must an believer address anxiety? What is the context of anxiety and the antidote?
Jude 1:1-16
  • How does Jude describe believers? Do you struggle with believing any one of these descriptions?
  • What warning does Jude give the church?
  • How are godless men described?
  • What promise does Jude give regarding the godless?
  • With whom does Jude compare the godless leaders?
  • What does Jude promise will happen to those who are ungodly?
  • What does this tell you about God?
Turning truth into prayer
Are you in the middle of unjust suffering? Thank the Lord! Ask Him to help you to trust Him to use this suffering in your life to conform you to the image of Christ.