How to Live in a Hostile World (1 Pet 3:13-17)


Ben Tellinghuisen - July 27, 2014

How to Live in a Hostile World (1 Pet 3:13-17)

Transcript: We live in a hostile world. Just ask the Israelis and the Palestinians. Families on each side of the border are terrified for their lives as we enter the 20th day of conflict; I just saw that there was a cease-fire, or at least a momentary cease-fire. Just ask the Ukrainians, the Sudanese, the Nigerians fighting Boko Haram, the Iraqis, and the Syrians and we will find out that we live in a world that is hostile; a world full of hostilities, hostilities against human flourishing, hostilities against governments, against education. The Bible definitely knows this to be true. You can listen to a couple of passages – Isaiah, chapter 8, verse 22 (Isaiah 8:22) says this: “And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish, and they will be thrust into thick darkness.” Job describes this earth in this life like this in Job 14:1: he says, “Man, who is born of woman, is few of days and full of trouble. Comes out like a flower and withers, he flees like a shadow and continues not.” Solomon even said that life was meaningless. He said, in fact, that he hated life in Ecclesiastes 2:17. He says, “So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me. For all is vanity and striving after the wind.” Here Solomon is the richest man who lived at the time and he said, “I hated life.” And so it becomes quickly evident that we live in a world that is hostile, not just today but has been for centuries and centuries and centuries. But we also live in a world that is not only hostile to one another, but a world that is hostile to God. We live in the suburbs here and we face little of what we traditionally would call hostilities, but the hostilities of our own hearts against God are constantly on display. Since birth we are by nature selfish, by nature prone to do what we most want to do at any given moment, what makes us feel good, prone to ignore what God tells us to in His Word and instead insist that we know what is better. We are prone to lie, we are prone to gossip, we are prone to outburst of anger, and prone to pursue perverted sexual lust. Just look at the systemic struggle with pornography we see in this generation. And all of that: that’s just within our own hearts. But then you look around and you begin to realize that these inward personal struggles that we have struggled with for our whole lives really, if we’re honest, are increasingly being celebrated by the culture. Just look, for example, at the rise and fall of the Hollywood Production Code. It was adopted in the 1930’s after some film producers pushed the envelope, including nudity and some of those debased things in their films in the 1920’s and the Code essentially created an across the board standard that ensured no movie could be produced in Hollywood above what we would now have as a PG rating. There was no explicit sexuality, no vulgar language, and very, very little violence, but that was all abolished in the 1960’s – due in part to some of the racist elements contained in the code, which was a good thing to abolish it, but also because of the willingness of many at that time to celebrate and to depict what had previously been constrained to the private struggles of our own hearts. You fast forward today and some PG-13 movies and many rated R movies contain pornographic scenes. Revenge and violence; those are just normal. And all sorts of sinful lifestyles are celebrated at the cinema. We see even in our culture, what we see is we’re experiencing a moral revolution and they’re calling the normalization of homosexuality, the legalization of marijuana, and the growing acceptance of polyamory – that’s kind of the new version of polygamy – is a great moral and wonderful revolution. It’s to be celebrated. It’s no wonder then that parents worry. Parents worry about what type of world will are kids grow up in. What type of world will they live in and become adults in? Will they be persecuted for their faith? Will they be swayed to reject God’s ways and follow their own or the cultures? How can I protect them from these things? Some couples even wonder, “Should I even have kids?” It’s such a hostile world. And yes, there are some legitimate concerns, as Christians are seen as increasingly ‘out of step’ with the culture around us, and many who stand up for what we believe are mocked, belittled, and ostracized by our society. But what we fail to realize is the biggest threat to our kids isn’t the hostile world around us. It isn’t war, it isn’t global warming; it’s in our own sinful hearts. You can shield your children from the world for a time, but you cannot shield them from their own hearts. That’s why gospel transformation is central to our goals as parents, as we just talked about earlier, is the only way we can have lasting hope, that we can have lasting peace, and lasting joy. The gospel message is the only hope for a world full of hostilities. We’ve already established that all of man is hostile to God within our own hearts. And we know this be true because God is absolutely holy, He’s absolutely perfect, He’s absolutely all powerful and knowing as well, and so you combine all those attributes and you realize that if He has an absolute perfect standard, we all fail and there’s nothing that we can hide from Him because He knows everything. And so, He very much knows that we are far, far from perfect. He knows our own hostilities against Him – as the psalmist says in Psalm 14:2-3, “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, any who seek after God. No, they’ve all turned aside. Together they have become corrupt. There is none who does good, not even one.” That is God’s evaluation of humanity. There’s none who does good. So God rightly promises punishment for those who are hostile to Him. That’s why the one certainty of life is what? – Death. Every one of us will die. And after death comes judgment, comes judgment and hell for those who reject God and continue in their hostilities. But for Christians, that’s where we have the hope. Because at the point of death comes eternal life. And yet, God loved us in spite of our hostilities. That’s the good news. He gave us some wonderful news. See, He sent His Son, Jesus, to the earth to live the perfect life that we couldn’t live. Every single one of us is guilty, condemned, in God’s eyes and we cannot live that perfect life and that’s why Jesus need to come. He came as a substitute to live in our place. Well, He also died the death in our place as well. You see, the punishment for our sins, of course, is death and eternal punishment, but God laid upon Jesus all of our sins. God said, “You know what? I want each and every one of my precious human beings that I have created to be in a right relationship with me and to come to know me and spend eternity with me, and so I’m going to send my Son and I’m going to put all of their sins onto Him so that they can have forgiveness of sins.” That is good news, brothers and sisters. That is wonderful news that we have to celebrate in the midst of a hostile world. And so what’s our response? What’s our response to this good news? It’s very simple; believe and trust that Jesus is the only way to be right with a perfect God. Stop trying to do it on what you can do. Stop trying to be the good enough person and turn from living in open hostility to the Creator of our universe and turn towards honoring Him in every area of your life. Give up thinking your way is better and pursue His ways. Those who put their faith, their trust in Jesus as their King, as their Lord, as their Savior, Peter described as those who are not citizens of this world. We are a new nation, a new people group – you should be open to 1 Peter, you can just look at 1 Peter 2 across the page verses 9 and 10 (1 Peter 2:9-10). Peter says this: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” We were aliens, we were hostile towards God, but now as a result of this gospel message, in result of those of who put our faith and trust in Him, we are God’s family. We are God’s people. We see also that we are His children and that we have a promised inheritance for us waiting for all eternity. 1 Peter 1:3-4 says that. Peter says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” And so we are those who have hope. We are those who, even in the midst of a chaotic world, we are those who know that God is in control. [It’s] like we read this morning in the Joseph narrative and have been reading for weeks and weeks now; when all seems to be chaotic, when Joseph is imprisoned, God has a plan. God has a reason why He’s doing everything that He’s doing – working to save and preserve and to work everything out for our good, as we know according to Romans 8:28. And even in the midst of suffering, even in the most brutal of hostilities, Christians have hope. So how do you live in a hostile world? It’s a question we need to answer. Well first, you need to turn from living for yourself and believe the good news that Jesus saves. Then, and only then, can we return to the main point of our passage, and that’s to see suffering as a blessing. You see suffering as a blessing. That’s the phrase and the concept that is repeated twice in our passage and so anytime you see it repeated in a passage you’re studying, you know that it is probably important and you better pay attention. And so we see that same thought in verse 14 and verse 17, but again we can only see suffering as a blessing if we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Well let’s look at what Peter says in verse 14. He says, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.” And then he says again in verse 17, “For it is better to suffer for doing good if that should be God’s will then for doing evil.” So we know that suffering and hostility are realities in this life. Sometimes it comes of our own sin, as verse 17 implies, suffering for doing evil – that’s not a good thing. Our sin often makes a mess of our life, and we know from the Proverbs that the “way of the sinner is indeed hard,” from Proverbs 13. But sometimes suffering comes simply from a result of having Christian convictions, or just being alive, based on nothing that we’ve done. And that’s why he says, “You can suffer for righteousness’ sake,” in verse 14, and verse 17, “You can suffer for doing good.” Well, we can understand this idea that we can suffer for doing good and suffer for righteousness’ sake. Be honest, your gut reaction when someone points out sin in your life is what? Or when someone says, “Hey, you’re wrong,” “No, actually I’m not.” That’s what our gut reaction is. And our reaction is to say, “Well, it’s okay that I did that because you should’ve seen what the other guy did.” That’s our gut reaction. And so, simply by holding Christian convictions, we are condemning what many believe to be perfectly acceptable and perfectly normal if we simply follow what the Bible says. And some in our culture may shrug that off and say, “Oh, well that’s just that religious lunatic over there,” and go on with their day, but others, our convictions can result in serious persecution. It did for the early church. It did for the recipients of this letter. But instead of seeing that suffering is, “Woe is me. This is so terrible. I can’t believe this is happening to me,” Christians are called to see this suffering as a blessing. There’s one thing that goes against every fiber of my being; it’s this very truth – to see suffering as a blessing. Suffering is always hard, especially unjust suffering, suffering that you don’t deserve. And seeing suffering as a blessing doesn’t mean we downplay the significance of suffering where we tell people just to get on with the program and be happy in the midst of a trail. Put on a happy face? That’s not how we respond to suffering. And we can still cry in the midst of suffering, but we must view suffering as a gift from God nonetheless. Verse 14 says this again: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is a promise. And ‘blessed’ here is the giving of God’s favor. God wants to give you a gift, a wonderful favor, a wonderful blessing, and it takes in the form of suffering sometimes. 1 Peter 2:19 says it this way: “For this is a gracious thing, when mindful of God one endures sorrows when suffering unjustly.” So when you suffer unjustly, it’s a gracious thing. You realize what he’s saying there? It’s a grace gift. A gracious thing is a gift that you don’t deserve. Now when is the last time you said, “Suffering – hmm, that’s a gift that I don’t deserve. I’m sure glad I got it!” Verse 21 goes on to say that our right response to suffering is how we become more like Jesus. [1 Peter 2:21] goes on to say it this way: “For to this you have been called (suffering), because Christ also suffered for you leaving you an example that you might follow in His steps.” You see, suffering can be a blessing because it’s what God uses to build your character. It’s what God uses to make you more like Jesus. It’s what God uses to cement our faith and trust in Him, and to grow us into He’s called us to be. The only way that this provides hope for the Christian is that we know that God is always, always in control. Isaiah 46 says it like this: Isaiah 46:9-11, “For I am God and there is no other. I am God and there is none like Me. Declaring the end from the beginning,” in other words, God knows what’s going to happen at the end right away from the beginning, “And from ancient times, things not yet done.” You see that plenty of times in the Bible. Saying, “My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all My purposes.” Nothing can go against what God’s purposes are. And He says in verse 11, “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass. I have purpose, and I will do it.” Brothers and sisters, that is the only reason why we have hope, because we serve a God who is absolutely in control and who promises for those who know Him and who serve Him and who love Him to work all things out for our good (Romans 8:28). That is why suffering can be a blessing, and why we are called to honor Christ in our response to suffering. The main point, of course, is ‘suffering can be a blessing,’ and the main command is found in verse 15 of our passage. The main command is this: “But in your hearts, honor Christ the Lord as holy.” It’s not just the main command; it’s the only command in our text. Honor Christ as holy in the midst of suffering - Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. You are first to honor Christ as holy by becoming a Christian, and after you do, you need to learn to see that suffering, suffering is a blessing. And the rest of the verses now give us support for our primary command. It fleshes out how specifically the Christian honors Christ as we suffer and so we’re going to see three ways to honor Christ as you suffer in this hostile world. Three Ways to Honor Christ as you Suffer in this Hostile World It is easy to become fearful, to become anxious, to become irritated, even angry in the midst of hostilities, and so we need to be reminded of how we honor Christ as we approach suffering and learn to approach it as He approached it. Well, the first way we can honor Christ as we suffer in this hostile world is to be zealous for what is good. I) Be Zealous for What is Good (v. 13) We see that in verse 13: “Be zealous for what is good.” Verse 13 says this: “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?” A very simple, rhetorical question, it presents a proverbial truth, something that is axiomatic, something that is self-evident, something that we know to be true, right? It’s generally true. If you are doing a good thing, someone doesn’t like to hurt you for that. If you’re always pursuing what is right, people don’t like to hurt the nice guy. They’re going to be nice in return. That is generally true, not always as we’ll see, but that’s a general, axiomatic truth. Now notice we are also to be ‘zealous’ for what is good, right? We are to be zealous for what is good. To put the word ‘zeal’ in mind, I think it’s helpful to look at a historical example; the zealots of Jesus’ day, the Jewish zealots, were those who were passionate for liberation from Rome. You see, they would put their lives in danger as they sought to kill, often at random, Roman soldiers with their Sicarii. That’s the little curved dagger that they would carry, and they would carry this and they would disperse themselves in the midst of a crowd and they would seek out where the Romans were, maybe officials, maybe just Roman centurions – Roman soldiers – and they would take that Sicarii, that dagger, and kill them and stab them and then run away and try to meld back into the crowd. Their zeal resulted in now what we call terrorism, and a complete disregard for even their own well-being, because many of these zealots – many of them were caught and crucified. And instead, the Jewish zealots, the Jewish zealots were consumed with the furtherance of their cause. So much that they didn’t care what happened to them. It is with this absolute outright abandonment that we are called to pursue what is good. We are to be zealous for what is good at all times, putting all of our energy, all of our mental capacity behind pursuing what is good and what is honoring to God. So Christian, disregard what you think you want to do or what is best for you and instead pick up the banner of what God says is good, what God says is loving and what God says is kind, and put on that type of behavior. When you are zealous for pursuing good as you are as you are at pursuing your hobbies or as zealous as you are at pursuing your career or your cause, you will both live a life honoring to Christ, and generally speaking, people will have a more difficult time doing evil against you, even if they disagree with you. But of course that was not always the case for these early Christians. Many faced intense persecution in spite of their zeal for what is good, and Peter knew this would happen and so he gives us another way to honor Christ as you suffer. First, be zealous for what is good and people won’t persecute you, but even if you do do good, you need to make sure you don’t fear in the midst of suffering. II) Do Not Fear (v. 14) Don’t fear – that’s our second way we can honor Christ as you suffer. Suffering is most definitely a reality in the Christian life, and to deny it or minimize the pain that comes from suffering is unhelpful, it’s un-sympathic, or if you simple act as if suffering is not a big deal is a recipe for strife in any relationship, and especially in the church. We see 1 Peter 3:8 that we are commanded, all of us together in church, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to have unity of mind, sympathy (or empathy), brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Remember what that means is to feel deeply for one another, we hurt for one another as if we were hurt, we cry with those who are crying, and we love each other enough to recognize the serious difficulty that a trial might bring. So naturally if you have the same sympathy, the same empathy, for your friend or your brother in Christ, there is going to be a closeness and an unbreakable bond that will develop. But that sympathy doesn’t mean that we simply let people respond however they’re going to respond in the midst of suffering. You see, many who go through suffering think that they’re suffering, or their trial, gives them freedom to respond however they want to respond. You might believe every emotional response is entirely justified, especially given your unjust suffering. And one of those sinful responses that often we have in the midst of a trial, in the midst of suffering, is fear. It’s anxiety. It’s worry. And so Peter says in verse 14, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.” Have no fear of them. Literally it would say, “Have no fear of those who provoke fear.” So those who are trying to make you afraid, those who are trying to persecute you, don’t be afraid of them. It refers to those who are intentionally persecuting the Christians here. So don’t fear specific individuals, and it also says, “Don’t be troubled… Nor be troubled.” This idea of ‘troubled’ here is ‘anxious,’ is worry; don’t be filled with worry or terror about what is to happen. See, this is the fear that mothers have for their children as they think about the uncertainties about the future of the world we talked about earlier. This is the fear we all have when we aren’t quite sure how long you will be able to hold down you job, when your boss clearly has it out for you. Regardless of the exact situation, the command is rather simple: don’t be afraid and don’t worry. You guys might remember the movie Back to the Future – classic 80’s movie – you also will remember if you remember the movie that George McFly was rather spineless in his approach to Biff, the town bully. And it wasn’t until he stopped being afraid of Biff that he was able to stick up for what was right with his bride-to-be. He ended up finding the courage within and his future son, Marty McFly, inspired him not to fear what was fearful. Now, if just have to think positively and build up our own self-esteem to fight fear, that might work for high school bullies, but that’s hardly good enough when faced with much more substantial and systemic fears and anxieties. As Christians, we have something so much greater than ourselves to place our hope and trust in, and that of course is what we’ve already talked about, our sovereign God. We can often lose sight of God and His control in the midst of great storms of life and simply get wrapped up in our anxieties. So many of us need this gentle reminder at times; even though you might be suffering, even though life is terrible, you can’t lose sight of suffering as a blessing. You cannot lose sight that God has made plans for you since before you were born, He always wants what’s best for you and He has the power to bring about His good purposes. So even though your suffering is terrible, don’t be afraid of this hostile world. Now this is one of the more difficult things to tell people who are suffering, isn’t it? But, it’s one thing that we, who are suffering, need to here. Here’s how our conversations with those who are suffering often go: We find out there’s a trial, there’s a struggle in their life and we say, “Well, what’s going on?” And you here their story, and you begin to realize that they’ve gone through something absolutely, utterly horrifying and terrible – that they’ve been raped, maybe they lost their dad and mom in the same car accident, maybe they lost their job, maybe they got cancer immediately after they lost their job with no way to get another job or pay for the treatment, all of which I’ve heard. And you see them respond in fear and you just don’t know what to say because their situation’s terrible. And so we sit in silence, maybe we shed a tear, give them a hug, and those things are appropriate, maybe we cook a meal and then we go, but the most loving thing to do is gently, graciously help this brother and sister suffering a terrible tragedy to not fear and to see fear as something that is to be ran from and to point them to a sovereign God. Well, another common sinful response we have when we suffer is be completely and utterly self-absorbed, isn’t it? You’re going through a terrible time and all you can think about is you; the pain, the emotions of it all is crippling almost. It’s so easy when this pain is unbearable and when you are so desperately trying to stay afloat in the water that you simply keep your focus and your eyes only on you and your problems. Well, Peter addresses that wrong response next. III) Make a Defense of your Hope in Christ (vv. 15-16) The third way we can honor Christ as you suffer is: you need to make a defense of your hope in Christ. His response to that self-absorbed way that we suffer: focus on others, specifically sharing the gospel with them. The surest way to honor Christ in suffering is to see your suffering as an evangelistic tool. You see, this of course is impossible when you are self-absorbed, when you’re only thinking of yourself, and Peter actually assumes here that the Christians are responding rightly to suffering, that they see their suffering as a blessing and he assumes that they are zealously pursuing what is good. He also assumes that these Christians are not anxious, troubled, or fearful, and in fact that they have great and visible hope. Look at verse 15: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Peter’s assuming here that Christians have a visible hope. Something’s different about your suffering and you’re not distraught. Clearly, Peter expected non-Christians to see the terrible plight of Christians and their terrible suffering and the trials the Christians were going through and to be amazed at the hope that they still exhibited, in spite of these trials. Christian, do people look at you and see hope when you’re suffering? Do they look at you and see peace? Do they look at you and see a settled trust in God no matter what situation you’re in? Or do you freak out when things don’t go the way you expect them to? I pray that there is some semblance of hope that you’re able to exhibit, even in the midst of suffering. And God wants to encourage you in the midst of this suffering and in the midst of your right response to suffering to be able to make a defense for that hope that is in you, not to be self-absorbed. Now the rest of the verses in our passage in 15-17 tell us how we are going to make a defense of the hope that is in us. [The] first way that we can make a defense for the hope that is in us is that we can prepare. We prepare. 15 says, “You’re always being prepare to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Always being prepared – our motto should be like the boy scouts, “Be Prepared.” Always be ready to defend what you believe, why you believe it, and how you can have a right relationship with God. In other words, always be prepared to share the Gospel. Now the Greek word here for defense is apologia, and it’s from what we get the English term ‘apologetics,’ and if you’ve been a Christian for a while you may be familiar with that term. It simply means ‘the defense of the faith.’ It’s not akin to make an apology, “I’m so sorry I’m a Christian. I’m so sorry I believe something that’s irrational. I just can’t help it. It’s what I believe. It’s what I was born into.” That’s not what apologetics is. Apologetics is simple ‘defending the faith,’ rationally, logically, and reasonably. It’s the ability to do that. No matter what the situation, no matter what comes up, it’s defend the faith. Now, many today see religion as ‘speaking to the soul.’ That’s what the psychologist especially talks about and so the religion, well that’s good to influence how we feel and it’s completely subjective and it’s good to get your soul in line, but that’s not truth. Religion is all about the God who made us and the God who made us created us with the ability to reason and He created us and He chose to reveal Himself clearly in a written form which takes intelligence to read, to study, to understand in a logical manner. He has created the sciences, He has created order, He’s created logic itself, so it stands to reason that the God who created reason would be able to rationally be known and understood. And so this verse has created a whole subset of Christian theology, which is known as Apologetics; the rational defense of the faith. But as much as people use as a proof text for being prepared to defend your faith in every situation, the context says that Christians are to be able to defend their faith specifically in times of suffering. So before you even suffer, prepare your mind to use suffering for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of others, and not to be focused on yourself. Prepare to get your eyes off of you and onto others as your platform for the gospel increases exponentially when you are going through suffering. And when you give a defense for your faith, be prepared to clearly and logically explain why you have a hope in a hopeless situation. Be ready to clearly and explain the gospel. Well, when we suffer we must fight the temptation to be anxious, to fear, and so Peter encourages not to fear in verse 14. We also have the tendency to be self-absorbed, so he encourages us to be others focused, as we are encouraged to pursue evangelism. Another sin that so easily ensnares us when we suffer; what is it? – Bitterness, anger, resentment. That’s why Peter says to be prepared to give a defense, but to do it with gentleness and respect. See, it’s so easy to be angry at the world. It’s so easy to be angry with those who disagree with you, angry with those who wronged you, bitter with life, even bitter with God. That’s easy. That’s our natural response to suffering, and so when we defend our faith, we can often come across as angry, as bitter, as strident people who say, “You all got it wrong. You’re hurting me and I’m good. Listen to me and you will be saved.” That’s angry [and] bitter. No one’s going to listen to you. We are to be gentle and respectful. That’s why he says at the end of verse 15: “Yet do it with gentleness and respect.” If you remember from a couple of weeks ago when we looked at the word ‘gentleness’ was an attribute that women are to pursue as they interact with their husbands, you remember that gentleness means ‘not insisting on your own rights,’ not insisting that you are above reproach in every way. You’re not pushy, you’re not selfish, you’re not assertive, demanding that people treat you the way that you need to be treated. And so if you are defending the faith with gentleness, you are doing so without regard to defending yourself as much as you are making sure that this other person hears the truth of the gospel. You don’t want to make sure that you get what you want, you want to make sure that they get what they need. No, even in your suffering you’re to be focused on others, gently encouraging them to see the truth of the gospel. The second word that is used is ‘respect.’ So your goal is not to win an argument, but to win a person. And as we show a deep respect for others our love, or care, our concern for them should be vividly on display. We often can see this with street evangelists. Some are wonderful examples of this and some are terrible examples of this. I’ve seen some street evangelists who are incredibly winsome; sweet, kind, loving, and they tell jokes to get people in and they start talking to them and they do a wonderful job of explaining the gospel message. And God can most use street evangelists and even door to door ministry, but the majority of your conversions to Christianity happen through established relationships that you have with others, through your friends, through your coworkers, your neighbors, your family. Where gentleness and love can be expressed in actions and words maybe for a couple minutes, when you have that relationship with someone for months and years and years, your gentleness, your respect for them is on display over a long, long period of time. So is your suffering. They’ll see you go through suffering. They’ll see you go through trial and they’ll see how you respond. If you respond in a way which makes them wonder why you have so much hope, are you able to make a defense for why you have that hope? Well, the final way that we can make a defense for our hope is: return love for slander. We see this in verse 16. We are to be having a good conscience, “so that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” This echoes what we saw in verse 9 as well of chapter 3: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for revile, but on the contrary bless. For to this you were called that you may obtain a blessing. This is the same example that we saw in Christ in chapter 2, verse 23: “When He was reviled He didn’t revile in return. When He suffered He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.” So brothers and sisters, even if someone slanders you, spreads false lies against you, against your love ones, and then stirs the pot some more and aggressively persecute you, even those people we are tempted to hate the most, we’re called to love them, to be willing to selfless care more for them than even yourself. This type of love ultimately puts them to shame, doesn’t it? Even if the world doesn’t recognize your love as lovely, God does and His enemies will be brought to shame in the end. Your responsibility isn’t to worry about that, it’s to be like Christ and retune love for slander, even as you’re suffering. Look at verse 17 in conclusion: “For it is better to suffer for doing good if that should be God’s will. See, suffering is indeed God’s will. When you’re going through that trial, when you have that very, very difficult relationship with an individual - that’s God’s will for you. He has allowed you to go through that to grow you into the person you need to be. He says in chapter 2, verse 21 that it’s what we’ve been called for. Suffering you have been called to do because Christ also suffered for you. Do you see suffering like that as God’s will, as what you’ve been called to endure? The whole world faces hostility. That is simply a fact of life in a fallen world, but isn’t it comforting to know that if you put your trust in God to be your Savior, that your suffering isn’t meaningless. It isn’t just a precursor to eternal suffering and torment. I beg you, if you have not put your faith and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, that you might do so today. Come and see me after the service, come and see one of the pastors so that you too can learn to live life in this hostile world. Let’s pray: God, we thank you for your Word. We thank you for the encouragement that it gives us in the midst of suffering and in the midst of trials. You so clearly have outlined a way for us to respond that blesses us, that allows us to honor you and that allows us to be conformed into your image, and so we want to be mindful of that and to respond to suffering in these ways so that we can honor you, the great God who has saved our souls from sin. And Lord, I want to pray specifically for those who do not know you as their Lord and Savior. I pray that this morning will be the day that they turn from following their own ways of dealing with this hostile world and instead pursue your ways. I pray that they would see you as good and that you as the loving God that has graciously given a way of escape from eternal punishment and that way is only through Jesus Christ. And so I pray that you would help us as Christians to remember these truths to be mindful of the fact that we are those who are turn from living for ourselves and want to follow Jesus with all our soul. And for the unbeliever, I pray that would happen today. I pray all of these things in your Son’s holy and precious Name. Amen.

Scripture References: 1 Peter 3:13-17

From Series: "1 Peter: Standing Firm in this Shaky Life"

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