Learning to be a Suffering Servant at Work (1 Pet 2:18-21)


Ben Tellinghuisen - June 15, 2014

Learning to be a Suffering Servant at Work (1 Pet 2:18-21)

3 Lessons to Learn in order to Honor God at Work Transcript: We’re in 1 Peter, chapter 2, verses 18-21. If you don’t have a Bible, go ahead and just grab that pew Bible in front of you and it’s on page 1295. So, my voice sounds a little bit different, it’s because I’m a little bit under the weather and I want to make sure I don’t sneeze on you or sneeze too much. Pardon me if I don’t shake too many hands today. But, 1 Peter, chapter 2, verses 18-21 (1 Peter 2:18-21). Peter writes this: “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect. Not only to the good and gentle, but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing when mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. What credit is it if when you sin, you are beaten for it and you endure, but if when you do good and suffer for it and you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you might follow in His steps.” You may be seated. We should all know that the world does not like the gospel message. After all, Jesus was rejected for that very radical message that He taught. In Jesus’s life, we know that religious leaders rejected His claims to be able to forgive sins, rejected His claims that He was God, and therefor they sought to kill him. But many forget that basically all the crowds deserted Jesus at the end as well. They say he was a friend of sinners and tax collectors. Well, those sinners and tax collectors also ended up not following after their Lord and Savior. Jesus at the end of His life was despised and rejected by men. It’s no doubt that His followers continued to be rejected. As the gospel message goes forth it either saves and does a marvelous work of transformation in someone’s life or offends. There is no middle ground. Everything from the stoning of Stephen to the rebellion by the Silversmiths in Ephesus point to this same exact truth: The world hates the gospel message. They hate to be told that God loves them and requires them to stop living for their own selfish desires and instead follow Him with everything. They also hate this idea that God is in control of absolutely everything. They want to be in control and that ultimately God is the one who changes lives – it’s not you. The world wants to be its own authority and in control of its own destiny. That is why, from the earliest time, the world rejoices when it sees hypocritical Christians. They love to see a pastor who publically hammers on honesty, but then is convicted of embezzlement. They love to see this because accordingly they think that it disproves the gospel message that they hate so much. They might ask themselves, “If the gospel message has power to change and transform lives, why does that Christian live just like or worse than I do?” And so the world celebrates Christians that sin because it hates the Christian gospel message and it wants to discredit it at any point that it possibly can. Apparently there’s a website available that acts as a dating service for those who are married seeking to have an affair. I know it’s a crazy world in which we live in, but what makes it worse is that according to that website it gave a data point asking its members what religious affiliation they had and according to its members, the highest percentage of clients are self-confessed evangelical Christians. Of course that makes headlines, as does study after study that indicates that the divorce rate among evangelical Christians is actually higher than the average population’s divorce rate. And so we see time and time again the world rejoicing in the fact or in supposed facts that point to Christians as hypocrites. The comments that people leave in response to these articles on websites is really telling. It shows a world that is almost giddy with delight to find hypocrisy that disproves a message that they so detest. Now just as a caveat, part of the reason for the statistics like the one on divorces, the differentiation between, or even the one of those who go to this particular website seeking an affair, is the differentiation between nominal Christians and those who actually are true Christians - Those who say they are Christian because they were raised in the church or maybe made a decision one time to follow Christ and those who are in church every single week, seeking to find God with everything they are. And so we see if we take that in account, the divorce rate among true believers is actually much, much lower as studies have found. Those who are regularly in church, those who are regularly following after God want to serve Him and honor Him with their whole lives, divorce rate is indeed much lower than the culture. But nonetheless, those who fall into the ‘good soil’ category can fall into sin and malign the gospel that they so dearly love. This hypocrisy is absolutely crucial for us to fight in our own lives – no matter what form it takes. And in fact, if you see some ongoing, continuing hypocrisy in your life, you may be actually one of those ‘tares’ that Jesus said was sown in the midst of the church. He says that ‘wheat and tares,’ according to Matthew 13, would be in the same church so that you would have believers, true believers, and people who looked a lot like believers as tares look a lot like wheat sitting alongside right next to each other. And so, this is an exhortation to fight hypocrisy in your life and it’s also an exhortation to fight and evaluate whether or not you might be one of those tares that God has allowed to grow in our church. And so we need to be those who fight hypocrisy and Christians must be those who vigorously pursue then a righteous life, and as we’ve seen, according to Peter, this is one of his themes for this entire epistle. You see right at the beginning of 1 Peter 1 – you can just look with me – 1 Peter 1, verse 2 (1 Peter 1:2). He says that “Those who are elect exiles of the dispersion… They were elect according to the foreknowledge of the Father… In the sanctification of the Spirit…” Why? - “For obedience to Jesus Christ.” For obedience to Jesus Christ. That’s why we are God’s chosen, so that we can obey and follow and serve Him. Chapter 1, verses 14 and 15, make this very clear (1 Peter 1:14-15): “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance. But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all of your conduct.” It’s one of the clearest statements that we have throughout the entire epistle. You got to be holy as God is holy. You should be obedient, rejecting your former passions, rejecting what you used to say you loved and to serve, and instead follow and serve Him. Then what does it look like to reject the old and pursue holiness. Well, chapter 1, verse 22, says it this way (1 Peter 1:22): “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth, for sincere brotherly love, we are to love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” So Christians are to be those who are marked with the brotherly sincere love for one another. We also see in chapter 2, verse 1 (1 Peter 2:1), the Christian who is pursuing a holy life, well; that looks like those who put away all malice and all deceit and all hypocrisy and envy and all slander – rejects the sin that remains. And then we saw a couple weeks ago in chapter 2, verses 11 and 12 (1 Peter 2:11-12), that really acts as a hinge for the rest the book – Peter’s exhortation that says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your soul.” Stop living according to your old flesh, according to your old passions, you’ve got to reject that. Fight the passions that remain. Don’t embrace your emotional response to a situation. And in verse 12, “Keep your conduct then among the Gentiles honorable, so when they speak against you as evil doers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” And we remember talking about that passage; that verse is basically saying, “Your holy life that you live in front of the watching world, in front of unbelievers, is often God’s most important way that He instructs people about the truth of the gospel message. It validates the message that you’re talking about – your holy life. And so, because of your holy life, people, when they hear the gospel message will turn from their sin and follow Christ. There’ll be all sorts of slander against you, but if you live your life on purpose to show that God really is in the business of changing lives then He will allow you to live in a holy life. Well, chapter 3, verses 8 and 9 (1 Peter 3:8-9), Peter continues this theme of pursuing a holy life. Chapter 3, verse 8 and 9 says this: “Finally all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil, or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless. For to this you were called that you may obtain a blessing.” The context, obviously according to verse 8 is talking about within the church. Don’t have any fighting within the church. If someone reviles you, don’t revile in return. You want to bless when someone is mean to you. You want to be those who have a unity of mind, a unity of purpose, within this body of Christ. And so that is one of the most important ways that we can show the testimony of God changing your lives. Well, he continues. Chapter 4, verse 2-4 – another illustration. Chapter 4, verse 2-4: “We’re to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions,” or the old passions that we talked about in chapter 2, verse 11, “But for the will of God. For the time that is past that suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this, they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you [for it].” And so here we see again that the Christian looks totally different from the world, and when the world sees that you look different, they malign for it. They want you to come in and do everything that they are doing to validate how they live and how they want to live. And so we see again that Christians are to not look like the world, are to resist those temptations, and to live a transformed life. Ultimately we see even in verse 5 that God is the one that judges, but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. Well, we also know that Satan loves to get into churches and malign the gospel of Jesus Christ, and so we see according to verse 8 that, “Be aware because your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” And so we realize and recognize that Satan is alive and well and that he is fighting in this world and he is seeking to even tempt and to tear down those within the church. And sometimes he plants tares, or false believers as we mentioned earlier. Other times hi simply successfully tempts Christians to live like the world. So Christian, be on guard against hypocrisy. One of the surest ways to fight hypocrisy is to then, of course, live a transformed life – a different life. We find ourselves in the middle of a section dealing with the crucial component of living that transformed life, and as we discussed last week, it is submission to authority - submission to all authorities that God put specifically in your life. We see all earthly authority, even unjust authority, is given to us by God and as we discussed last week, that includes the authority of the government in chapter 2, verses 13-17. And we’ll discuss in a couple weeks, an unbelieving husband has authority over his unbelieving wife in chapter 3, verses 1-6. So, what’s at stake in submitting to authority, and specifically as we’ll talk about this week, what’s at stake in submitting to your boss in the workplace? It’s you testimony to the watching world. Here’s a key statement. If you get nothing out of this message other than this, I’ll be happy. Your submission to your boss at work may be the clearest glimpse into the gospel to transform lives that your coworkers ever see. Repeat that: your submission to your boss at work may be the clearest glimpse into the gospel to transform lives that your coworkers will ever see. That is why it is so crucial for you to live a transformed life in the workplace, and that includes submitting to your boss and submitting to the authorities that God put in your life. Now the world gives you a steady diet of hypocritical Christians in TVs, movies, and musicals. Our own North Farmington High School put on a musical depicting a homicidal, suicidal student who was scared by the hypocrisy she discovered growing up in a conservative Christian home. Not much was different in Peter’s day. And so he says, “Don’t give the world further ammunition, but realize that the gospel should transform every area of your life, and you need to submit to authorities and you need to guard your heart against hypocrisy.” And since you spend most of your time and energy at work, your response to your authority there should reflect God’s will for you: To respect and be subject the authority that God places in the workplace. Remember, your submission to your boss at work may be the clearest example of a transformed Christian life that your unbelieving coworkers ever see. So why am I talking about boss? If you’ve read the passage, which we all have, you notice that verse 18 is talking about ‘servants and masters.’ Well, in order to understand why this is best applicable to our workplace situation, we need to get a historical understanding of slavery in the Roman world. Well, “servants” here can be also translated, “slave,” and it says a very specific word that refers to a specialized subset of slaves referring to “household slaves” or “household servants.” And the “masters” of course, would have been the owners of those household slaves. We cannot let our understanding of slavery be confused by our nation’s own checked past though. Let me explain, because of US history, when you think of slavery, you think of black/white distinctions. When you think of slavery, you think of shackles and a slave trade. And when you think of slavery, you think of slaves who were by in large, kept by all forms of education. When you think of slavery, you think of manual laborers who spent long hours in the fields with little to no respite from their work. And indeed, Christians were most definitely right to use all legal means to reject the unjust and inhumane treatment of men made in the image of God, represented by this very cruel form of slavery. But, ancient Roman slavery was much different. You see, any and all races could be found as slaves in ancient Rome. It’s estimated that as much as third of the Roman Empire would have been slaves. Although some slaves stolen and enslaved from a foreign land, many sold themselves into slavery, or sold by a family to escape poverty and provide economic potential even. Further, many slaves were highly educated, what we might call professionals today, would of often been slaves. You think of doctors, you think of nurses, you think of teachers, business men, musicians, skilled artisans, you fill in the blank – most of those people in the society would have slaves. Consequently, many slaves were active in society at large and were paid actually for their jobs and could actually own slaves themselves, as an irony of sorts, and eventually could purchase their freedom if they desired to do so. Now, this doesn’t mean that Roman slavery was totally void of any mistreatment – some masters beat their slaves, worked them unjust hours, reneged promised payments, and saw them as a sub-human property that could be despised. I’m not saying that Roman slavery was somehow perfect and ideal situation, but the Bible isn’t concerned with breaking down the institution of Roman slavery as much as it is helping Christian slaves and masters honor God within the society in which they live. The Bible never condones slavery, just simply recognizes it as a societal fact. Further, as one commentator wrote of Roman slavery, there is really “no comparable institution in the modern Western societies.” And the general consensus is that the closest connection to today’s societal structure is the employee/employer relationship. You see, many of us are educated to do a certain job, aren’t we? Many of us have gone to school to get a trade of sorts, and once we enter the workforce, we sign a contract with an employer who agrees to pay us, we have to abide by company policy, agree to clock in at certain hours, and pay the necessary punishment if we don’t, and our employers have a lot of say over what we can and can’t do at the workplace, even how we dress. And just like ancient masters, some of bosses are better than others, aren’t they? Now, our passage is really from verses 18-25, but from verses 20-25 Peter changes the focus off of the servant master relationship and onto an extended illustration of what it means to suffer well, and of course that perfect illustration of what it means to suffer well is to look then at our Lord Jesus Christ. And we will look into greater detail about what Peter has to say about Jesus’ sacrificial suffering the next time that we get to study this text together. For today, we will constrain ourselves to verses 18-21 and we’re going to learn three lessons that we need to learn in order to honor God at work. Three lessons to learn in order to honor God at work, or picking up on the theme later in the passage: 3 lessons to learn about your role as a suffering servant on the job. 3 Lessons to Learn About Your Role as a Suffering Servant on the Job 3 Lessons to learn about your role as a suffering servant on the job – now, there’s no sense in which we could ever suffer as Jesus did – the perfect suffering servant, but as obedient employees we will undoubtedly face trials and suffer many difficulties. So Peter has a lot to say about our workplace, so; let’s dig in. I) Learn to Submit to Your Boss The first lesson we need to learn is: Learn to submit to your boss. We see that in verse 18 – learn to submit to your boss. Peter writes, “Servants be subject to your masters with all respect.” We’ve already covered what Peter means when we refer to servants and masters, and well, what is most applicable to today’s society speaking of employee/employer relationship. But here, he repeats his command that he made earlier in chapter 2, verse 13. Chapter 2, verse 13 (1 Peter 2:13) says, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” In other words, if God has put an authority structure in your life, in our society, in our culture, it is put there because He wants you to be subject to it, not so that you could rebel against it even if it’s unjust. That’s why we see that we are commanded to be subject to our government in verses 13-17. Well now, he applies this same truth to our workplace situation. The word “to be subject” here means to willingly submit yourself under another’s authority. It’s a willingness on your part to say, “You know what? I’m going to set myself under my boss, I’m going to listen to him, I’m going to respect him, I’m going to obey him, I’m going to serve him, and I’m going to be willing to follow him in whatever he tells me to do.” Last week we discussed that this does not come naturally for anyone, as we naturally want to be our own boss. We naturally think we know what’s best, basically in every situation. But, we also discussed last week, this idea of headship and submission and authority is a part of the natural, God-ordained relationships. We even see that it is integral to God himself within the Trinity. We see God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, all having a hierarchy of headship and submission. God the Son always submits to the will of God the Father, and the Spirit to the other two. And so we see, even built into the Trinity, this idea of headship and submission is a wonderful and blessed thing. Further in our text, we are called to respect those in authority, right? So we are to be subject to those in authority with all respect. The word can also be translated ‘fear’ in some places, and in the context has a sense of ‘act in such a way that you have a healthy apprehension of your boss’s displeasure.” In other words, you don’t want to do anything that would displease your boss or potentially get them angry. How hard is that in your workplace? Think about that. It’s so easy to say, “I know better. I don’t care if my boss doesn’t like it. I’m going to do it my way.” My former profession as teacher, that happened all the time. I can’t tell you how many teachers talked about that principal was just out to lunch, didn’t know anything, they’re talking about, “I’m going to do it the way I know how to do it and that’s the way it’s going to be, period. It’s my classroom.” Submission and respect are hardly a part of how I naturally want to respond to my boss, especially to an unjust boss. In fact, some are ever wondering right now in your heads, “He can’t be talking about my boss. You should see what she says to me. How rude she is. What she requires of me.” Peter’s pretty blunt: “It’s not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” You see that in verse 18? It’s the unjust bosses as well. He’s direct. The good and the gently, how many of you have bosses that would be described as good and gently? Probably not too many. In companies, these types of people often don’t climb the corporate ladder. Occasionally a person in leadership possesses these traits and when they do, it’s easy to follow them. They present the Biblical model of servant/leadership. But this unjust boss, I think we understand this. That’s something I can identify with. A good translation is unjust here, because literally in the Greek, it’s “crooked.” It’s “crooked,” someone who’s unjust. This is the type of master or boss who is selfish to the core, who cooks the books, dishonest with their pay, who plays favorites, who makes employees work more to cover up his mistakes, who yells, who berates, and basically abuses employees. That’s not uncommon in the workplace. I’m sure some of you, I know some of you, have that in your workplace. And Peter’s pretty clear, “Submit to every type of master, the good and the bad.” If she’s your boss, obey and respect her even when it’s hard. Now, speaking of crooked employees, I found an illustration this week of a lawyer. Actually, it’s a positive illustration of a young Christian employee, but you get the idea. It’s a good illustration of submission and until one is morally obligated to follow God instead of man. Well, this young Christian lawyer was hired into a law office and as he quickly found out in this law office, the community or the culture of that law office was to live the highlife. Everyone had fast, expensive cars. Everyone would go out and party very hard, drink after work, and they would get together, there would be women, there would be infidelity, all of that happened and he was encouraged to do that. And as the lone Christian, when he declined the parties, when he drove his older, rather mundane sedan, he became the butt of the jokes in the law office. And he faced incessant degradation from his coworkers, from management, from basically everyone. Well his boss was definitely one of those who was leading his attacks on this Christian lawyer and his boss actually started to push him to do family law, because he knew that this Christian lawyer hadn’t studied family law, hadn’t had a passion to do family law because as you know, much of what family law consists of is working with divorces. And so he didn’t want to do that. He didn’t want to gain from, or profit, from something that went against God’s will. And so that young lawyer often rejected politely and said, “This is not something I’m trained to do. I feel very uncomfortable doing this. I’d rather do whatever else you hired me to do.” Well, one day the boss just wouldn’t listen to him and a couple came into the office, seeking a divorce at the end of the day. And he turned to the young Christian lawyer and said, “You’ve got this one. I’ve got to go home.” And he left him in charge of this young couple. Well despite protesting, the young lawyer consented and took this couple into the office. And now he takes this couple into the room and he begins talking about their situation and he finds out that they’re actually believers in Christ and there’s been a sad case of infidelity. And he’s actually able to talk them through a Biblical understanding of forgiveness and reconciliation and they leave the law office no longer seeking a divorce, but willing and excited to work through their problems within the context of their local church. The next day, when he was asked to give a report of what had gone on with this couple, the boss fired him on the spot. Some are like this young lawyer. Your patience is wearing thin. You’re under constant pressure to conform to the world ways. You’re subjected to slander. You’re subjected to verbal abuse – you name it, you’re subjected to it. Are you still doing everything you can to submit to your boss – to honor him, to respect him, to respect even if your boss is unworthy of that respect? Eventually, there may come a tipping point and you may have to lose your job. You may have to find another job if you’re asked to do something that goes against the Word of God, something that you can’t possibly do. But do you still honor and respect your boss? If you want to honor God at work, you need to learn how to have a posture of submission, honor, and respect towards your boss. Well, that’s our first point. II) Learn to See Unjust Suffering as a Gift from God (vv. 19-20) The second is: Learn to see unjust suffering as a gift from God. Learn to see unjust suffering as gift from God. We see that in verses 19 and 20 – 19 and 20. “For this is a gracious thing.” “For this is a gracious thing” is how he begins that. Do you realize what Peter is saying? Grace is a free gift that we don’t deserve and what is this gift? – Suffering, unjustly willing to submit to a boss, willing to endure hardships. That’s what the grace is. Listen to what he says, “For this is a gracious thing, when mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it when you sin and are beaten for it you endure? But if when you do good and you suffer and you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” He even repeats this thing – it’s a gracious thing for you to suffer. So, Peter is saying that when you suffer at your workplace, when you’re persecuted for doing right, this is a gift from God. What? Yes, it is exactly what he is saying – this is a gift from God for you to suffer. It echoes Philippians 1:29, it says, “For it has been granted to you, that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him, but also suffer for His sake.” And the word that is used in Philippians 1:29, “it has been granted to you,” it specifically, this word “grace” as well, it’s a grace gift. It’s been granted, its grace gifted to you. What? Accorded to 1:29, your faith – we love that, and your suffering. God is gracious to give you suffering. We see that also talked about in Romans, chapter 8. Romans 8: 17, it says that “we are heirs. Heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided that we actually suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glories that are to be revealed to us.” And so Paul reminds us again that the sufferings that we have and that the sufferings that we endure and go through in life prove that we are heirs with Christ. This is exactly what God wants you to go through. You are suffering because God wants you to suffer. In fact, it’s a grace gift to you. You see, God uses trials, He uses suffering, He uses persecution to make us into who we need to be. James, chapter 1, verses 2-4 (James 1:2-4), and if you want to turn with me there – James is the book right before 1 Peter. It’s easy to see, James 1:2-4. One of the clear statements on the purpose of trials and suffering, James writes this: “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” So why is it that you have suffering, why is it that you have trials – so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. It is God’s will that you go through that difficult situation at work so that you can be transformed into the image of His son. Look, we cannot escape trials. We cannot escape grief. We cannot escape pain, sorrow, or persecution. These things are all promised to us. When the persecution is at the workplace, don’t be surprised if your life ends up resembling a shattered windshield, more than just a little crack or a chip that you might have. Quite frankly, in this life we will not always be able to put the pieces back together from our shattered windshields. But God can, and ultimately the reason why this is such a gracious thing to suffer unjustly is because we know that it is a sign that we are truly heirs with God. We have the hope set before us, the wonderful truth assured to us, according to 1 Peter 1:3-4. “That according to His great mercy 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 unfailing kept in heaven for you.” This is our hope. This is what we have to look forward to – an inheritance that is eternal, that is unending, and so in spite of your momentary trials, in spite of you momentary sufferings that you’re going to go through, whether it’s at the workplace or because of your government or because of your spouse, in spite of these trials, in spite of these sufferings we have to look forward to an eternal inheritance. And that gives us wonderful peace in the midst of any and every situation. So, far from the Christian life being easy, full of success, we’re promised trials and difficulties because it’s how God grows us. Now, if you aren’t in the middle of suffering, you might be thinking, “How does this apply? Well, what’s the point? I actually live a pretty good life now. I’m comfortable. I eat plenty and I have family all around. No one’s sick. It’s a good life.” Some of you maybe there, praise God for that. But now is the time to start thinking rightly about trials, because trials will come. They will come in your life, they come to everybody. And so if you aren’t thinking rightly now about trials, when those trials come, you will not be able to respond rightly. For those who are in the midst of suffering and wallowing in sorrow, wallowing in persecution, you’re feeling like you can’t even go forward in life, if that’s you right now – God wants to remind you that these trials and suffering, it’s His gift to you. It’s what He wants to use to mold you into the person who you need to be. As hard as it is to see, that’s what we need to do. Get your eyes off the shattered glass all around you. Stop trying to pick it up and put the pieces back into order. Stop focusing on your emotions and the pain that you have and get your eyes fixed on God who’s promised you that you’re a son - that you’re an heir of the promises that He has promised to you. A pastor visited a man who was in the depths of despair. He had recently lost his job. He was financially ruined, and on top of that, it wasn’t just the man, he had a young family – a wife and two young girls. He was afraid that he was going to lose it all – his house, his retirement – he might even have to live on the streets if he couldn’t find any part-time work soon, if no one from the church could take him in, he didn’t know what was going to happen. Just as the pastor was about to counsel the man and begin to walk him through a number of different passages, his two girls came marching down the stairs after their shower, ready for bed singing, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do… for you.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. This man hugged and kissed his two little girls. There’s no better counsel that could have been given to replace worry, anxiety, than childlike trust in our big God. And a God who has a plan and purpose in mind even in the midst of trials and suffering. That’s why Peter says in verse 19, “It’s a gracious thing, when mindful of God, that one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” So when you’re mindful of God, when you’re always thinking Godward, when you’re able to remember the promises of God, who God is that He’s in control, that He’s sovereign, that He’s going to take you and guide you and mold you into the person that He wants you to be. When that is you, and when you’re mindful of God, it is gracious thing. It is a wonderful thing to encounter trials while suffering unjustly. So we must always be mindful of the Book of Job and the sovereign hand of God in the life of Israel and the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11 who give constant testimony that God is at work in everything in this life. Now, lest we blame God for all types of suffering that we might encounter in our life and think that it is such a blessing to receive any and all suffering, Peter wants to stop that line of thoughts right there, and that’s why he gives us verse 20. He says, “For what credit is it if when you sin, you are beaten for it you endure?” Thankfully, not to many of you are beaten at work, but I think we understand this basic principle. If you sin and are fired for it, if you have an affair, an adulterous relationship on the job, and you’re fired because you have been embezzling funds, you don’t bemoan say, “Oh, woe is me. This is such a terrible, unjust suffering and God is going to use this for a good thing.” No, this is God’s punishment in your life. There are due consequences for you sin. Now granted God may use that discipline to grow you and mold you into His image and God may use that suffering, but you by your sin were the cause of that suffering. We need to be aware of that. Don’t cry about injustice when you’re getting what you deserve – that’s his point. Then he says in the rest of verse 20, “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” That’s why unjust suffering is reiterated again to be a gracious thing in the sight of God. If you don’t deserve that suffering and we can’t figure out why it is that we are going through this difficult time in our life, we have to trust in God that it’s His grace gift to us. So change that mindset in your mind right now. If you’re not going through a trial, if you’re not going through suffering, that is how we need to look at suffering. So, if you constantly submit yourself and respect your boss, you will most definitely honor God at your workplace. But there may be times that even in spite of that respect, you will be persecuted for your belief in God, for your refusal to go against His word, and so prepare yourself now for persecution. Learn that unjust persecution is a gift of God for your growth. When you have that mindset, we will most definitely persevere in the midst of trials and honor our great God on whose sovereign hand we rest. III) Learn to See Jesus as your Primary Example (v. 21) Well, the third lesson we need to learn in order to honor God at work is: Learn to see Jesus as your primary example. Learn to see Jesus as your primary example. We see that in verse 21. Now, we all have historical heroes, don’t we? If you’re a Christian, you may look to some of the great men of the past, men like Calvin or Martin Luther. You might have heroes in your field of study. You might have an amazing engineer that you learned about in college. I don’t if many engineers have that, but maybe that’s you. You might have a teacher or you might have somebody in your mind that’s just your hero, somebody that you want to follow in your life as you purse that particular line of work. You might see someone like Ghandi as a hero, as he sought political change through non-violent means. You sometimes hear also those whose lives were cut short in their prime, people like JFK, people like John Lennon, and so as we look at heroes in our lives, we have to recognize though that each hero that we have will ultimately fail us because human heroes are flawed human beings. Just look at Martin Luther for example; on the positive side of Martin Luther, a great magisterial reformer, it was only after intense deliberation that he went against the authority of the church, the government, and his employer because they were trying to force him to recant and deny Biblical truth. They were trying to force him to go totally against what the Bible said. And so we can rejoice and see that positive example that he had to side with God rather than with man. He desired the praise that came from God, more than the praise that came from man. But negatively, we know that Martin Luther had a sharp tongue. He tried to throw out the Book of James from the Bible and he tried in vain to see the Book of Revelation fulfilled in Germany at the time in which he lived. All of these things were wrong things that he did. And so, we cannot take someone’s life and say, “This is exactly who I need to be.” And so, if we model our life and ministry after men, we are aiming too low. Even after great men, ultimately Jesus is our only perfect example. He’s the only one that we should set our sights on as our ultimate example. And so that’s why we need to learn to see Jesus as our primary example in life. Verse 21 begins like this: “For to this you have called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you might follow in His steps.” Now, it’s interesting how it begins, verse 21: “For to this you have been called.” What is this referring to? What is the context? Suffering unjustly in your workplace. “To this you have been called. This is exactly what God has called you to do, in other words. We like this idea of ‘called’ in chapter 2, verse 9, because here it says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and people for His own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. We love that type of calling – that God called us to come into His marvelous light. We also love the calling that we see in chapter 5, verse 10. Look with me there: “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who has called you into His eternal glory in Christ will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” We love this type of calling that God calls us to be believers in Him, that He will restore us, He will confirm us, He will strengthen us, that He will give us eternal glory – we love that calling, but here we see a different calling. Here we see, “To this you have been called, to suffer unjustly…” To be persecuted for no good reason – that’s exactly what Peter wants to get across to us. As terrible as it is to suffer with the very real emotional turmoil that accompanies rejection, slander, and abuse, we need to look at what Peter’s saying and trust that God has called us as Christians to go through exactly what we are going through – that suffering is all a part of God’s sovereign plan. Just as He calls us to glorification, just as He calls us to have a future reward, so too has God called us to suffer. Of course, this is exactly what Jesus has called us to do as well. It’s exactly what God has called Jesus to do. God has called Jesus to suffer for us and that’s why He is our perfect example. 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.” The difference is Christ suffering, it wasn’t for His growth. He was perfect. He didn’t need to grow. He’s God. Christ’s suffering was for you. It’s for me. It’s for every single one us. Your suffering is in some sense more bearable. It’s how God is working in your life and that’s a blessed truth, but Christ suffering, that was for the sins of His worst enemies. It was for the sins of you and I. Talk about amazing love. This is at the heart of the good news, one that Peter continues in the rest of our chapter, as we’ll study next time, that Jesus suffered and died to forgive us of our sins. Why did he have to suffer and die? Why was it important for Him to do that? It wasn’t because He needed to grow, but is because God needed to punish sins. It’s ultimately because God is just. God requires punishment always for sins and so He called His son to be this substitute punishment for us because we couldn’t take that punishment and survive. We couldn’t take that punishment and enter into His presence and God wanted us to be in His presence. God wanted to adopt us as sons and so He said, “I’m going to put all of my wrath, all of my punishment on Jesus so that we could have forgiveness of sins.” And so Christ suffered, suffered unjustly for us and He faithfully set His face like a flint to the cross. He willingly submitted to His fathers will to crush Him for us. He never complained, he didn’t have angry words towards those who abused Him nor to those whose sins He covered, and so He is a perfect example, isn’t it? That’s not the way I respond when I suffer. So He left us an example that you might follow in His steps. The often overused phrase “What Would Jesus Do,” well; He willingly suffered, He submitted to authority, He saw suffering and persecution as a gift from the father, as all part of God’s righteous plan. He did it all without anger or complaint. And that’s why Jesus is our highest example to follow. As you find yourself in the midst of suffering, look to Jesus. Respond as He responded. Recognize where you fall short in your emotionally charged responses to suffering and turn from that sin, turn from those emotions, turn from that anger, and turn toward forgiveness in Jesus Christ. The quicker you look to who you are in Jesus, the quicker you reject that passions of your flesh as we talked about in chapter 2, verse 11. Those “passions that wage war within your soul,” those emotional, visceral response that we have to suffering, we need to fight those and we do that by turning to Jesus Christ and looking to His example. The quicker you are able to embrace peace, hope, and joy, even in the midst of suffering, will come when we look to Jesus and when we see Him as our highest example. So, how are you doing at work? Is there cause for people to see supernatural joy, peace, hope, even in the midst of adversity? I pray that you are the different one, the one who’s not like the rest of your coworkers, the one that rejects the lunch-room chatter, the one who’s transformed life shines brightly through your respect for authority. So that when you suffer, they might just get a glimpse, not of a whiney Christian not getting his way, but of a disciple of Christ who is constantly trusting God, having a peace that comes only from your settled trust in your great and sovereign God. That’s my prayer for all of us this week as we go to our workplaces.

Scripture References: 1 Peter 2:18-21

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

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