Peninsula Community Church
Don’t be Surprised!
September 24, 2017
1 Peter 4:12-16 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.
Peter writes this passage to those who had been dispersed from Jerusalem. In those days, one of the ways the Roman government dealt with Christians was to disperse them throughout the known world. As a result Jewish Christians lost everything. They had to move to a new home. They had to take on new jobs. They had to make new friends. That is why Peter deals with this issue of suffering to the extent that he does. Listen to his words. Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes to test you as if something strange were happening to you.
If you are like me, when I first read this I wanted to respond. Wait a minute Peter! What are you saying? What are you asking? Are you kidding me? Have you lost your mind, Peter? Don’t you know what I am going through? Are you serious, don’t be surprised? At first glance, this word seems to be so contrary to our life experiences and expectations. It seems like an insane proposition, but it comes from a heart that understands pain and understands the trials we face. How many times are we set back and sent reeling at news we receive or by the actions taken by those around us? It is not uncommon even for the best of Christians to falter when they receive bad news or confront trials that seem to destroy them emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
There are several reasons why we face trials. Through Peter’s writings we are reminded that we are in a war. There is a battle for our souls. In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter states that we are to Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. What is Peter saying? We need is to have a right perspective about the problems we face. We are in a battle against an enemy that wishes to take us out and our mindsets make all of the difference.
In our passage, Peter uses the words “fiery trials.” This was not a mistake as the culture and political environment of his day caused the Romans to brutally assault the Christians. History tells us that a fire broke out in Circus Maximus in Rome in AD 64. Nero the ruler of Rome, accused the Christians of starting the fire. As a result, he rose up against the Christians. He followed through with this false accusation and made an example of the Christians. He burned them at the stake and he used all kinds of torture and brutality against them. Just as the Christians in Peter’s day, we all face trials and issues in our life. None of us are being burned at the stake but it feels that way at times, doesn’t it.
Not only do we face trials because we have an enemy, but we also face fiery trials because sin is alive and well on planet earth. Can you imagine what life would be like if there was no more sin in this world? Imagine how different things would be? Everyone would be kind, considerate, and loving. Everyone would be patient. People would never do hurtful things or say things that cause pain. There would be no more pain or sickness due to a person’s actions that are contrary to God’s will. A life without sin would be wonderful but that is not the case nor is it the reality in the world we live. We are all impacted by the power of sin that causes trials in our life.
Thirdly, we face fiery trials because of our own issues and decisions. The fact is, there are times when we make poor decisions that cause trials in our life. The worst decision we can make is to try and live life without God. Too often, we choose to follow our own whims rather than the teachings of Christ. Our decisions always have consequences. For that reason, we need to have our decisions aligned with God’s word and aligned with His will and His purposes. This comes from a relationship with Him.
The fact is most of us know why trials come but the key to navigating the trials of our life is to know how to respond when trials come. First of all, as we have already stated, we should not be surprised by the trials we face. What you are going through is not a surprise to God and does not need to be a surprise to us either. The truth, however, is that is easier said than done, so that is why Peter outlines other responses we need to have as we face trials.
The second response he suggests is that we are to entrust our souls to the faithful Creator. In 1 Peter 4:19, Peter says Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. As we look a the word “entrust” it is noteworthy that this is the same word Jesus used in Luke 23:46 when He cried out on the cross, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit! And having said this, he breathed his last breath. This is the same word Peter used to express how Jesus handled his own personal suffering. Listen to this. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23). Through His example, we learn how to suffer without retaliation, even when being treated unjustly. We entrust the justice of our cause, and we entrust our souls to a faithful creator who loves us and desires the best for us. In so doing, we focus on God and not the trial.
Our third response to the trials we face is that we should not be ashamed. If we are honest, this is one of the greatest battles we face. Somehow, when we face trials our first inclination is to believe that we have failed and too often that comes with shame and ridicule. Through shame our inner most being is attacked and our identity is tarnished. Once again Jesus is our example. In 1 Peter 2:4, Peter describes the Christian life as coming to him, a living stone rejected by men… We have come to a rejected Christ. He was despised, hated, slandered, spit on, mocked, stripped naked, and nailed to a cross. 1 Peter 2:21 says, To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
What did Jesus do? What should we do? Hebrews 12:2 says, For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame. Listen to that, He despised the shame. Jesus looked to the joy that was over the horizon, and he entrusted his soul to a faithful Creator. He looked shame in the eye, and said, “Shame, I despise you. I despise you so much I will not give you a place in my soul. Jesus would not give his protractors the satisfaction of being stopped from suffering and dying for His people. We too can deny shame its place in our hearts and not give the enemy of our souls the satisfaction of wounding our hearts through the guilt of shame.
This leads us to our fourth response which is to respond with joy. In verse 13, we see that we are to rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. Jesus said it. Luke said it, Paul said, and James said it. Joy was a pervasive teaching in the early church even though they faced great suffering and unimaginable trials in their life. What these authors were saying is that the best response to suffering is joy. To understand this, we need to be clear that joy does not come from the suffering, it comes from acknowledging God and recognizing that He will take care of us as we entrust our souls to Him.
The fifth and final response is that we need is live a life that overflows in good deeds. This is best applicable when our joy overflows into good deeds to those who do not deserve it. In verse 19 we find that Peter exhorts us to Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. Too often when we face trials we want to get even. We want justice even if it is false justice. But that is not what we are called to do. We are to live a life that overflows in good deeds, especially when we are going through trials. This is a testimony to the world around us, especially those who despitefully use us. These folks will question why you are experiencing their mistreatment and you are not retaliating. They will question why you are not walking in self-pity, miserableness, and a mopey attitude. They will question why you are rejoicing and you are returning good for evil (1 Peter 3:9). In our trials we must respond with good works that honor God.
The result of responding in these ways is that in the end we glorify God even in our pain. Peter stated, Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. When you suffer and you are not surprised, you trust God, you do not allow shame to rule your heart, you are filled with joy, you overflow in good deeds, the result is that you show that your treasure is not in this world but is in God. The result is that you show that He is glorious and His name endures forever. And perhaps, by God’s mercy, 1 Peter 2:12 will come true. So that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. All of this works together to show the world that your treasure is not in this world but in the all-glorious God.
So whatever form your fiery trial takes, God calls us not to be surprised, but to entrust our souls to him, to despise the shame, to rejoice, and to overflow with good deeds. The one thing we know is that we might be surprised but God is never surprised. He already knows the outcome. So the fiery ordeal that is coming upon you to test you is not strange. It is necessary. It is God’s refining judgment so that your faith may bring praise and glory and honor to His name.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom