Stand Firm

5/24/20, 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

Good morning on this Memorial Day weekend. Let us never forget the reason for this extra day off. To pay homage and tribute to all those who have sacrificed so that we might do exactly what we are doing right now. Coming together to worship God. I just read where, since the virus, China is cracking down even harder on our Christian brothers and sisters in that country. Let us keep them in our prayers – because talk about persecution. They are really experiencing it! They are losing their lives for their faith.

This is our last week in the book of 1 Peter. First Peter is a letter that offered hope and encouragement to Christians who had been scattered throughout the Roman Empire seeking to avoid persecution. To those who were suffering as a result of their belief in Christ.

In chapter one we learned that no matter what we are going through we always have hope. We also learned that as followers of Christ, suffering and persecution for loving the Lord is to be expected.

In chapter 2 we see how we’re to respond to suffering. Just as Jesus responded to the suffering He endured – with no retaliation, no threats, nor seeking vengeance. Instead He entrusted Himself to the Father. And so should we.  

In chapter 3 we learn that we should always be stand ready to explain why, as Christians, we have the hope that we have. Why we are living differently from others. And yes, that as Christians we should be living differently.

Today we’ll look at a few verses from chapter 4 and then end up in the final chapter – 5. Here are the verses from chapter verses 12-14 from the NIV. Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

Chapter 5 verses 6-11 from the NLT state, Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And 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 the power for ever and ever. Amen. This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Let us pray……

Clearly Peter is making a very strong case for Christians in this letter that we should expect persecution for our faith! Why? Why as Christians do we need to be persecuted? Why does God allow that? Keep in mind that suffering brought on by sin has no merit. But suffering brought on because we love the Lord does. It signifies that the Spirit of God is upon the person thus we are told to rejoice.

One of the reasons why God allows persecution, or fiery trials as Peter calls it is because we are being tested to see if our faith will prove genuine. We are being tested to see if our faith is real, or will we walk away from God when the first sign of trouble hits? Thus, it’s very possible we will be put through a fiery ordeal! Why fiery?? Fire is used throughout scripture to represent purification – so fiery ordeals are used to remove all of our impurities. And yes, they help to give us Godly character!

Remember the parable of the farmer scattering seeds? In Matthew chapter 13 it states Jesus said, Listen a farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted. He goes on to explain the meaning. The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represent those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted.

Not everyone who hears the word of God receives it and lets it grow in their hearts. So it’s important to understand that yes God will test us through suffering and persecution and yes, it’s extremely important that we pass the test!! I don’t like tests either but they are a necessary part of our spiritual growth.

And remember, Jesus told Peter that Satan wanted to sift him and apparently Jesus gave him permission to do so because Jesus goes on to tell Peter that He has prayed for him so that his faith might not fail. That brings me comfort – to think that Jesus and the Holy Spirit pray for us!

Another reason we experience persecution is because Satan wants to devour our testimony. He wants to drown it. The word devour used in this scripture passage is actually the same word that was used in the scripture regarding what the Red Sea did to the pursuing Egyptians who were chasing Moses and the Israelites. Remember soldiers were swallowed up as they raced across the dry bed?

So Satan wants to devour us and thereby our testimony. But remember God uses tests to give us our testimony which we are to stand ready to share with others. We are to share why we have the hope that we have!

And just as a hungry lion will search out his prey among the weak, sick, or those straggling alone – Peter warns us to be alert and sober minded – to pay attention, to not be all caught up in our problems, instead of focused on Jesus, because that makes us easy victims for Satan.

I think we need to keep in mind that persecution often comes from within our own camp – from other Christians. For example – look at what’s happening today with the coronavirus. We have 2 separate camps, some who believe yes, the church should remain closed to protect the vulnerable. On the other hand we have individuals who believe that church should be open and that they perhaps should never have closed the church building. Fortunately, the church itself has not been closed, just the physical space in which we gather. Yet, some in each camp are strongly criticizing the other.

Satan loves that! He loves to create division and he is doing a great job of it right now in our country. I hope that we can all put aside our differences and realize that as Christians we all love our Lord and seek to obey Him and do what is right!

In closing I want to remind you to never forget that compared to eternity our time here on earth is very, short. It is temporary. This is not our real home. Rather we have an eternal inheritance in heaven, just waiting for us! Where there is no more death, or mourning or crying, or pain and where God dwells with us! And we are to share these truths with those who cross our path. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for that time! 

Let us pray…..Gracious God we love You and praise You and ask for Your blessings upon Your children. Thank You for meeting our needs. Thank You for loving us and being merciful to us. Thank You for being with all those in our church family who are morning the loss of a loved one in this past year and for all those who lost someone in battle. Thank You for being with all those who are sick and those who are dying. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the Kingdom and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend. Jesus loves you and so do I!

Pastor Cathy 

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