Our Pathway To Holiness

Belows is a lightly edited transcript.

In what has become considered a cult classic film, one of the antagonists in The Princess Bride, Vizzini, is obsessed with his own intellect. For anyone to be smarter than him is inconceivable. In one of my favorite scenes the hero, Wesley – under the guise of the “Dread Pirate Roberts,” beats Vizzini in a battle of wits and saves the princess. The problem is she thinks he is the Dread Pirate Roberts and accuses him of mocking her pain. In response Wesley says “Life is pain highness, anyone who says differently is selling something.” 

For whatever reason that always makes me chuckle a bit. Maybe it’s my dark humor enjoying the cynical nature of the quote. Maybe it’s the blunt way he says it. Sometimes I use humor to avoid difficult emotions. Truth is, I don’t want it to be true. Coming to grips with the reality of suffering is hard because it goes against the Western idea that comfort is king. But consider the following verses. 

Acts 14:22 strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

Romans 8:17 and if children, also heirs — heirs of God and coheirs with Christ — if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,

I think most of us would prefer to ignore these verses. We wish they were not true. But to ignore them is to ignore a fundamental aspect of our faith. Which will lead us to our theme this morning which is… 

Suffering for Christ is the pathway to holiness. 

Last week we saw how suffering can lead to blessing. This week we will see how to navigate suffering so that we can become more like Jesus. 

If you are physically able I would like to invite you to stand as we prepare to read a portion of our text. We are working our way through 1 Peter in a series called Thriving In Exile. 

If you are our guest this morning, thank you so much coming! You can take out your smart phone and use the camera to scan the QR code on the chair in front of you. That will take you to FresnoChurch.info. You can fill out our Connection Card to let us know you where with us today. 

You can also sign up for a Connection Group at fresnochurch.info! Our groups will be resuming this week. So let me encourage everyone in attendance to be sure to register for a group. Even if you have been in the same group for years, jump onto fresnochurch.info and sign up. 

Read 4:1-6

The Reason Behind Our Suffering

– 1 Peter 4:1-6, 12-18 –

As Peter begins chapter 4 he once again calls us to consider the suffering of Christ. Since he walked this earth “in the flesh – as a man,” he knows what it means to suffer.

  • Jesus understands suffering. 
  • Jesus understands pain. 
  • Jesus understands being abandoned. 
  • Jesus understands being betrayed. 
  • Jesus understands temptation. 
  • Jesus understands humiliation. 
  • Jesus understands injustice. 
  • It was through suffering that Christ absorbed the wrath of God for us.
  • It was through suffering that Christ bore our sins and purchased our forgiveness.
  • It was through suffering that Christ provided for us perfect righteousness.
  • It was through suffering that Christ ultimately defeated death.
  • It was through suffering that Christ disarmed Satan.
  • And it was through suffering that Christ will bring us finally to God.

I can’t give you all the reasons for “why” you are suffering. But I can tell you that Christ will not waste your suffering. 

Suffering for Christ is the pathway to holiness. 

You have a Savior who not only feels your pain, but he takes that pain and uses it for glory. We can actually be confident in our suffering because of what Peter says in verse 12. 

Read vs. 12-14

Walking through difficulties makes us feel defeated. But Peter actually tells us that we can rejoice when we are suffering according to God’s will because that is what makes us like Jesus. This is why Peter tells us not to be surprised when it happens. Suffering isn’t strange. It isn’t abnormal. It’s not a once in a lifetime experience. Suffering is a regular tool on God’s workbench of sanctification. 

Suffering is a regular tool on God’s workbench of sanctification. 

And Peter says because of that we can rejoice when it happens. I don’t know about you, but I have quite a bit of growing to do before my default response to suffering is rejoicing. Usually, it’s a pity party. But Peter says we can rejoice. Why? Because the God of the universe is working on us. 

If you get ridiculed for your faith, Peter says you are blessed. Just like through suffering Jesus made our restoration possible. He will use suffering in your life to make you more like him.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.

Suffering is a regular tool on God’s workbench of sanctification. Sometimes God allows us to go through difficulties as a way of pruning us. 

In a sermon called “Chastisement Now and Afterwards” Pastor Charles Spurgeon used an illustration of his own trees to help illustrate the results of God’s pruning. “The apricot tree at 2828 Hill Heights Park was trimmed back so much I wondered if the branches would ever grow back, let alone the leaves. We ended up that next year having apricots coming out of our ears.”

The point is if God is leading you through a season of suffering he is wanting to produce fruit in your life that will far outweigh the pain you are experiencing now. You might be in so much pain right now that it seems like your life will never be the same. (And it might not be.) But God is pruning things from your life so that you can grow in your holiness and produce fruit that you never would have been able to otherwise. 

From the end of 2018 all through 2019 I felt like all I did was funerals. Some were for some very close friends. We were also walking through some very difficult situations with some very dear friends. This was the same period of time the roof of our house blew off. It was bad 14 months. 

As we were walking through that year a lot of pride and selfishness was revealed in my heart. I started looking at everything through the lens of my wants, desire, and preferences. That became the standard for how I interpreted everything. 

When you are hurting it’s very easy to get selfish. But the difficult truth is, pain does not create selfishness, it reveals it. My hurt didn’t make me proud, it just gave my pride a chance to express itself. God was using suffering to prune me. At the beginning of last year I was operating with this low grade annoyance. Then COVID. 

I was supposed to go to a conference last spring, but like everything else, it got moved online. I can remember listening to a sermon by a pastor to pastors on pride. Through that sermon God revealed my pride. He showed me all the arrogant lens I had on and slowly and graciously took them off. I actually got on the phone and apologized to some people. Told some friends about what God was doing in my heart so they could pray for me. God used a difficult season to prune me so that I could be more like him. I learned to trust that God knew what was best for me. Like Spurgeon, we must learn to say, “I have learned to kiss the wave that strikes me against the Rock of Ages.” 

Following Christ means we follow him through pain and suffering because it is the pathway to holiness. We see at the end of verse one that Peter tells us those who suffer are finished with sin. Now suffering does not produce sinless perfection. Peter’s point is, if we say no to sin and suffer as a result, that is an indicator that we are in Christ, that we are saved.

We will continue to struggle with sin until the return of Christ. Suffering for Christ in that struggle is an indication that we have risen with Christ. If you suffer for Jesus, you are blessed. God’s Spirit is on you. Often when we are suffering we feel abandoned by God. So Peter reminds us that suffering means God is actually with us. God is working on you. God is conforming you into the image of his Son. Don’t be ashamed, glorify God. Walk in confidence that God is working in you. 

Peter helps us to understand the reason behind our suffering – it drives us toward holiness. Now in verses 7-11 Peter is going to get really practical and show us what holiness in suffering looks like. 

The Endeavor Through Our Suffering

Suffering well does not mean we sit idly by. We are to maintain our unity while doing everything for the glory of God. This is how we are to live in light of that reality. 

Endeavor In Holy Living

In verses 3-6, Peter calls us to no longer living for human passions, but for God! Because we are strangers and exiles Peter is telling us to separate ourselves from sinful lifestyles, but he also warns us that separating yourself from sin is difficult and often brings its own unique type of suffering.  When we choose not to live for the will of man the world will not be happy. 

Peter wants his readers to know that if you follow Christ, suffering is part of the deal. So he warns in verses 15-16, don’t suffer for sinning. When we consider the lengths that Christ went to redeem us, we will gladly choose to leave all the world behind and cling to Christ. He saved us from having to follow the will of man. He saved us from all the evils of the world and the judgment that comes as a result vs. 17-18. 

“The world’s verdict concerning Christians is of little value.”  – Pastor Charles Spurgeon

We don’t have to worry about what the world thinks when we pursue holiness and turn away from sin, because we are secure in Christ. We will live forever with him. God has guaranteed our security. No one can take away our eternal inheritance in Christ. THIS is the hope that we are too arm ourselves with. No amount of suffering we face can take away the reality that we have an eternal, incorruptible inheritance waiting for us in eternity.

No amount of suffering we face can take away the reality that we have an eternal, incorruptible inheritance waiting for us in eternity.

Verses 5, 17, & 18 tell us, those who do not know Christ will stand and give an account to God. This is why we preach the gospel. This is why we share our faith with unbelievers so that they can be saved and dressed in the righteousness of Christ and judged by Christ’s righteousness instead of the faulty “righteousness of man.” Peter tell us judgment and salvation are coming. Cling to the hope of Jesus. 

Endeavor In Your Thinking

Peter wants us to have the truth that suffering is the pathway to holiness front and center in our minds. He uses a military term in verse one to help us understand what we are to do with this truth and says “arm yourselves with this thinking.” This is a fitting word because the Christian life is a battle. We don’t battle people, but against an enemy who seeks to destroy our faith. 

We need to arm ourselves with the truth that suffering is so intertwined with the Christian faith so that when suffering does come we are not blind-sided, but we can be ready to walk through that suffering with holiness, in a way that glorifies God, and puts his majesty on display. This is why verse 12 says “Don’t be surprised!”

So much of the battle that we face is in our minds and Peter wants us to be prepared. Peter is calling us to arm ourselves, to prepare ourselves for battle, with this Christ-like mindset. This is why in verse 7 he says to be alert and sober-minded for prayer.

“Fear of the end can cause many to ‘lose their heads.’ Because the end is near, Peter commands his readers to keep their heads about them, to be clear-headed.”  – Juan R. Sanchez

Christians should be the most level-headed people on the planet. But as we continue to see and have seen this past several years, we often are not. The panic and fear that the world thrives on has sadly infiltrated the church. But Peter cuts through the panic and tells us not to lose our heads, but think clearly. Take it seriously, but don’t panic—pray. Yes, the end is coming! The fact that the end is coming should drive us to our knees in prayer. 

Christians should be the most level-headed people on the planet.

When we feel anxiety rising in us because of our suffering and what is happening in our world, we need to take that to Jesus. We need to urgently pray that people would come to know Christ and his kingdom agenda would be advanced. Praying is an indicator that we are dependent on God and hopeful that he will work. Even though the end is at hand, we know that God is in control, so we don’t need to panic, because this means our exile is nearing its end.

Endeavor in Your Love

Peter goes so far as to say ABOVE ALL maintain constant love towards each other. This type of love that believers are to have for each other shows the unbelieving world that our faith is real. So it’s no wonder Peter says “above all, love each other.” When we are walking through difficult times it is so easy to stop loving others and get overly sensitive and become incredibly divisive. It’s easy to become only focused on ourselves in our suffering, but Peter challenges us to love others!

Often we go around looking for faults in others because we think that will soothe our pain, but it never does. Peter tells us that holy living is the opposite, it covers a multitude of sins. This doesn’t mean we don’t take sin seriously, but it does mean we seriously love people. 

We don’t go around looking for the faults in other people, but thinking the best of others. We don’t linger over people’s flaws, but we are quick to forgive. Peter was no doubt thinking of Proverbs when he wrote this. 

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses.

Endeavor In Your Service

In the New Testament hospitality was a vital part of living out their faith in Bible times. When a Christian missionary like Paul was doing work in a region, he would have to depend on the hospitality of the saints so he could do what God had called him too. They didn’t have AirBNB. 

Week in and week out Christians would open up their homes so the saints could gather. Fellow believers would inconvenience their lives to give someone, often a stranger, a place to stay, all without complaining. 

Too often we view our homes as a retreat from the mission of God instead of an outpost for the mission of God. Opening up our homes is an amazing way we can demonstrate our love for others and these verses challenge us to make it a regular part of our lives. 

As we endeavor to grow in our hospitality we also seek to serve others. Just like we have received grace from God, we should use that grace to serve the believers in our lives. 

God has entrusted each of us with unique gifts, but not so we could simply be gifted. He has gifted us so that we can bless others with that gift. When each member uses the gift that God has given them, needs are met and the mission of God moves forward. 

Endeavor In God’s Strength

Then in verse eleven, Peter wants to make sure that as we are endeavoring to live a life of holiness we do so in God’s strength. We couldn’t even begin to do all this in our strength.  It’s always vital that we serve in God’s strength, but we feel it more when we are suffering. We would burn out faster than a cheap match, especially when we are hurting. Serving can be exhausting, but we are not left to do it on our own. 

God has made us and gifted us for this and he provides his strength so that we can make a difference in our world for the glory of God. When we serve in God’s strength, he gets the credit and glory. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. 

Conclusion

Read vs. 19. 

The ultimate question that we have to wrestle with in our suffering is “do we trust God?”

You can trust God with whatever pain you are feeling right now because he is faithful. He is your faithful creator. He knows not only knows your pain, he knows you! He knows how to take that pain and lead you to growth. 

I know for me Im so thankful that God used a difficult 14 months to prune out a lot of pride and selfishness, so that I could serve my wife and kids as we walked through our miscarriage last year. 

God knows there is still so much that needs to be pruned from my life, and I have not handled everything perfectly the last few months but had we walked through that miscarriage two years earlier, it would been a lot uglier. 

Suffering for Jesus, makes us become like Jesus. 

So you can do what is good while you are suffering. 

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