17 May Gracious calling
1 Peter 2:11-25
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Submission to Authority
13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 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. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
It has been months since we experience pandemic and it is almost 2 months that we have not met together physically. If we think 2019 is so quick, look at this year. It is almost half of the year already. Hope all of you are safe and sound. I can not wait until we can meet together physically. We can see that day is coming.
Today we will talk about gracious calling. Some of you are still wondering what the topic is. I have to admit this title is a bit misleading. It is like “click-bait”. You know when Youtuber or News put their title that not related to the content just for sake of people buy the magazine or click the link. But my title is related to content. Do not worry about that. The truth is if I put the complete title, I am afraid people do not want to listen to my sermon especially nowadays, it is easy to go to another church just by clicking in computer and watch online. Ok let me reveal the complete title of my sermon which is “Suffering is our gracious calling from God”. I hope you understand now why I don’t put full title. Ok, let’s see whether the view of people watching this sermon is going down or not after I revealed the full title.
Suffering is not a popular topic to talk about in the church but I am grateful that this church is the church that not afraid to talk about this topic. When we become Christian, it doesn’t mean that we are immune to problem or hardship. When we talk about the new lifestyle of Christian, we love talking about good thing such as blessing, protection; God takes you from darkness into light. God will not let you fall because He will pick you before you touch the ground. There will be a lot of people say AMEN with a loud voice to all those things but when we talk about suffering, it is not really same case.
Suffering is not a popular topic in Church, but this is something that critical in our Christian life. Suffering is a topic that hard to understand. People will ask “If God exists, why there is suffering in this world?” or “If God exists, why God didn’t stop suffering?”
I want all of us to learn today that so often God wants to speak to us through suffering; through the pain. But, no one love suffering. No one love pain. I hate pain especially needle. Whenever I go to my doctor, the Doctor always gives me the option of either medicine or injection shot. I always go to medicine. Most of us try to avoid pain. Through pain and suffering, so often God wants to tell you that He is with you. Many false teachings told us that if we follow Jesus, we will immune to suffering, pain or virus. Therefore, I want us to learn together from Peter in this scripture that God has a purpose in our suffering. Not only in this pericope, but we can also see Paul’s life is like full of suffering. Don’t talk about Paul, how about our saviour; Jesus Christ?
I divide my sermon into 2 points; the first point is “IF GOD IS GOOD, WHY DO WE NEED TO SUFFER?” and the second point is “WHAT IS ULTIMATE MOTIVATION TO GO THROUGH SUFFERING?”
If God is good, why do we need to suffer?
Before we talk about that, let’s have a look the context of this letter. This letter was written by Peter to Christians in the Middle East to encourage them. They are facing all kinds of difficulties as well like us. It was not just one thing. They are facing persecution. They are facing rejection. Some of these trials were happening to them because of their belief; their faith in Christ. And to put in context as well, during that time, Nero was the King. He is famous for persecuting and killing Christian. I read the crazy story about King Nero that he soaked Christian with a flammable liquid and lit them and using them to light his garden at night. Another his crazy story is King Nero intentionally clothed Christian with a skin of wild animal so that they would be torn to death and eaten by dogs. Suddenly this sermon becomes like a horror story.
Ok, let’s come back to scripture. But those things are a true story. In these verses, we can also see how Peter writes about a few sufferings that Christian suffered at that time. In verse 12 . 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation., it shows that Christians were being falsely accused by other people.
Then in verse 13-18, Peter talks about Christians were treated unfairly under unreasonable masters, not only that, but we also must submit to them. 13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants[c] of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. Peter says we will receive unpleasant rejection because of our faith in Christ. We will suffer from insult. We will be intimidated. We will be mocked verbally. We will be mistreated for doing what is right. It doesn’t matter how they treated us, we must submit to them.
That’s the reality of Christian at that time. In other parts of the world, this thing is still happening. Man and woman of God are arrested, beaten and killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. We may not have experienced the same thing as persecution or beaten for our faith, but we will face other types of suffering, trial or tribulations. It could be your battle against cancer, your grief of miscarriage, you lost your job, you have bills that you cannot pay, your children living in sin, you are facing divorce, or you are in endless waiting for what you desire. Or, some of you are rejected by your because of your faith in Christ.
Someway, it will affect you physically, mentally and, could be, spiritually. We start asking God “WHY?? WHY ME?” “CAN I TRUST GOD?”. I believe many Christian asks this type of question when we face suffering. “Where is my God?” Something that we don’t say out loud but many times, we say it in our heart.
The answer to this is not asking GOD to stop all suffering. The answer is to know meaning suffering from a biblical point of view. This is what Peter says in verse 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. Yes, Peter says that every Christian has been called to go through this. This is gracious-calling for every Christian. This is not my word or my understanding. This is the word of God. God says that we will share the suffering of Christ. Welcome to your Christian life, Church! Some of you say I did not sign for this when I gave my life to Christ. I only signed for blessing and protection. The Christian life doesn’t look fairy tale story in Disney.
Wait! Before you are going to bail out as Christian or decide not to continue watching this sermon, I want to tell you this – the main reason many Christians does not want to suffer is that we don’t get a proper biblical perspective of suffering. We may only hear about good things about God; how God blesses us, how God protects us, How God brings us from the darkness. When we face trial, tribulation and suffering, we are not ready and, as a result, we blame God or we blame others. Or, we may hear promises from the Pastor which don’t even exist in the Bible. Preacher promises something that God never promises to His children. For example, if you are good Christian, you will not be affected by coronavirus. If you are good Christian, you will not lose your job.
Peter says in verse 21 that your suffering is not a bad thing. This is Gracious Calling from God. It is calling of God that we will suffer because God has a purpose in every suffering. Our suffering is not purposeless. Some of you say “Ok! Quick! Tell us what the purpose is?”.
There are two purposes that we can learn from this scripture
- To Become Like Jesus
The reason the Christian suffers is to become like Jesus. The cool word is sanctification. That is the reason God is calling us to be His follower. verse 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. Jesus Christ is calling us to be His follower; not supporter.
We are not a supporter of Jesus Christ, but we are His follower. This is what I mean. The supporter is like fans. It is like soccer fans. Even soccer fans have a different type. There is a loyal supporter who always supports their club during good and bad times. If you are Arsenal fans; I am talking to you. There is another type of supporter who only chasing for the trophy. Last year, they supported Manchester City. This year, they support Liverpool. They only want good times and do not want bad times. Either you are first one or second supporter, it doesn’t make you become the club itself. I have been following Manchester United since I was a kid and, now I am still Edrick as Manchester United supporter. It does not make me become Manchester United. You are fans of Captain Ri. It doesn’t make you Captain Ri even you want to spend thousands of dollars in Korean doing surgery. It still doesn’t make you become Captain Ri.
Jesus does not call you to be His supporter but He calls you to be His follower. What is the difference? Jesus wants us to be His follower – “Follow me, follow my steps!” because Jesus wants us to become like Him. That’s what we call sanctification process which we are being purified to be like His likeness and suffering is part of our sanctification process.
Some of us would say “But it is so hard!”. It is hard. But the good news is Peter says in verse 21 – “Follow His steps”. What does it mean? It is like you are walking on the beach and you daddy in front of you call you “Edrick come here!” and I ask “How to get there”. Your daddy answered “see there are steps on sands – WHAT YOU NEED TO DO IS JUST FOLLOW THAT FOOTSTEPS AND I WILL BE SEEING YOU IN EVERY STEPS! Remember when we were kid and first time learning how to write. It is like when you are learning for the first time to write a letter or number. What did you do? You follow the dots. One dot to another dot. Can you do it? Yes, you just need to follow every dots. It is important to realise when you are facing the suffering that God is in control and He has a purpose in every suffering and knowing that we are not alone.
Rankin Wilbourne puts this way in his book “Union with Christ” – do you know why to have Jesus who has been through those suffering is good news for us? Think of support groups for examples; support group for cancer patient or support group for parents who lost children or for the family of drug addicts. Why are these groups so helpful for them? Because great comfort can be found in the presence of others who have suffered in similar ways. They can sympathize and speak the same language as you because they know the pain.
That’s good news for us that He has suffered what we are suffering right now. Jesus Christ is not just give us direction what to do but He has been through all those things. He was rejected like we are rejected now. He knows our struggle and He knows every tear dropped. We have God when you turn to Him, He knows exactly what you have been through. If you lost a child, our God lost child. If you have been treated unjustly, Jesus was treated unjustly for us. If you have been betrayed or rejected, Jesus Christ has been betrayed and rejected by His people.
- To Glorify God
12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
The second purpose of our suffering is so that God’s name can be glorified. Peter reminded us in verse 11 that we are just sojourners and exiles in this world. It means that we are just foreigners or, I steal Ps Yosia words, we are just permanent resident in this world. There will be always many moments of “what should I do – should I do this as per my belief or follow the world”. It is like western culture people are going to the home of the Asian family for the first time. “Should I take off my shoes or not? “Because in some western culture, they don’t take off their shoes when going to the house. But in most of the Asian family, they must take off their shoes before going inside the house; even they may need to sanitise their foot and hands now because of the virus. It is like that. We have a different culture in this world. I have spoiler for all of you. In a few weeks, Ps Yosia will start a new series from the Book of Daniel. It is all about how we live in this world which has different value with us as Christian, has different perspective from us. What you heard today is just the surface. Ps Yosia will go to detail in that sense. Save the date! It will be the first week of June.
As Christian, we have a different belief and mindset. Our mindset is not about now-mindset but eternal-mindset. We should act and think differently than the people of this world. I hope, by now, we all realise that the world is watching us. They are watching our Christian life. They are looking for our mistakes. They say, “you guys talk a lot about your faith and your saviour, I want to see if your faith is real or not”. Some of them may be hoping to see us fail so that they can mock us. It does sound miserable and frustrating if we know this but, at the same time, it is a great opportunity for us to show who God is. How good He is. One of the keys to doing that is we live consistent with our faith and our belief. We don’t want to be Christian who is very good talking about Gospel but don’t want to live out the Gospel. Paul Miller put this way “so often Christian just want to believe in Gospel but does not want to become like Gospel”. Peter reminds us to show to the world God’s glory through how we respond to suffering, how we respond to unfair treatment or how we submit to our boss, our government. We show them what a difference Jesus can make in life.
Many Christians are mad at God when they face suffering. They put down their Bibles, they stop praying and they stop going to church. Why? Because their expectation is not met. They think that “Christian life in my mind is a good life; full of physical blessing which we can enjoy in this life”. In another word, when we don’t have the correct definition of Christian life or when we don’t have the biblical understanding about suffering, we will upset to God when we face suffering.
Do not ever think that your suffering surprised God. Whatever you are facing in this life, it has a purpose. During your suffering, God seems far far away but, without you realise, in these difficult times, He is closest ever that you could ever imagine. He is moulding and forming you to be like Him.
What is the ultimate motivation to go through suffering?
Let’s admit what we discussed just now is not an easy thing to do. Easy to say but hard to do. Come on, talking about “stay respecting people who treated you unfair” or “trust God in your cancer battle or virus battle”. It is not an easy thing to do. IF we rely on our strength, we will fail at the end because we are so limited. We have to rely on something that unchanging and has unlimited power that can sustain us. This is what Peter says in verse 21-25 – I love this;
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 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. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
If I paraphrase these 5 verses, Peter says look to the Cross. In the cross, you will find strength. In the cross, you will find joy and hope in your suffering. This thing is very consistent in the Bible. Whenever Paul in His suffering, he keeps reminding himself what Jesus has done on the Cross for him. If we go back to the context in this letter, Peter writes this letter to Christian facing persecution, suffering. They are under the amount of pressure and rejection from the public. Peter did not say to them “Christian, I can see this suffering will end at the of this month. Hanging there. I got this from God.” That’s what we often hear during this pandemic, people can easily say “I can see this pandemic will end at the end of the April.” Peter did not say that. He did not give false hope for a sake to give them temporary relief. Peter wants them to come to solid rock and solid foundation which is Christ alone. Peter says look to the cross!
The interesting point in this letter, no single sentence Peter says when this suffering will end. He does not mean all of us will suffer for the rest of our life. He does not say that. But Peter reminds us those things are not important or relevant compared to what we will get; knowing Him through the process that we are going through. There is part of knowing Jesus that you will only get when you embrace the suffering and look to the Cross.
Peter says “Look to the cross!” Why do we need to look to the Cross? On the cross, Jesus experiences the most suffering ever happened in this world. The most agony that ever experienced by a human. Tim Keller says Jesus experiences the infinite suffering on the Cross. Not just normal suffering but infinite suffering. Why? Yes, we know Jesus experiences many suffering during His ministry such as betrayed by his people, rejected, crowned with thorns on His head, beaten before going to cross and other terrible things. If you watch Passion of the Christ, you can feel His suffering. But Tim Keller puts this way that those suffering is nothing compared to what Jesus experienced on the cross when He took all our sins. What did He say on the cross? In Mark 15:24, Jesus says “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”. At that time, His hands are nailed to the cross. His head is crowned with thorn. Jesus does not say “O.. My hands.. My Hands.” Jesus does not say “My head my head.. or my friend my friend why you betrayed me”. No, Jesus did not say that. He says “My God My God…” why? Because at that very moment, He took your sin and my sin and in that very moment, He was separated from His Father. His God was taken away from Him. He feels the condemnation that we deserve. The pain that we feel when rejected or betrayed is nothing compared to what Jesus has experienced on the Cross. “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”. He took the condemnation that we deserve.
One of the most common response, when we face suffering, is that you think you are being punished by God. If you feel condemned, Peter reminds us “look to the cross!”. On the cross, all the condemnation and punishment fell on Jesus.
Or, suffering makes us wonder whether God is real, whether God loves us. We often ask, “Is God really good God?” Look to the cross! That Cross is the proof of God’s infinite love. Here what we need to understand God sent His own beloved son to suffer and to die for our salvation. God has given up the most precious thing/ His only Son/ His beloved Son to go through the most painful situation for us. If you don’t see that as evidence of God’s love for us, I don’t know what else can convince you. To save us, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to this broken world and live the perfect life and He suffers for our salvation. His suffering is millions of times worst that our suffering right now. His rejection is millions of times worse than our rejection. The more you understand the cost God must pay to love us, the more you know how much He loves us. Let’s pray.