Our lesson last Sunday was “Equipped to Live” and Peter directed his readers (us) to resolve to live their (our) lives with Christ as their example when facing slander and other trials, realizing that they are following God’s will instead of the will of others. He reminded us that everyone will give an account to the Father, with the slanderers being condemned and the believers being vindicated. Finally, he tells us to work together in service to others to bring honor to God and to demonstrate God’s pure love. The passing of years since Jesus’ death and resurrection should not lull Christians into complacently thinking Jesus will not return.
Today our lesson is “When Ridiculed” from 1 Peter 4:12-19. Peter returns to the theme of suffering which we studied eight weeks ago in our first study of 1 Peter. Peter warns his readers (us) to expect opposition and ridicule as a result of their commitment to Christ and emphasizes that we should not be surprised by this treatment. Peter challenges us to live exemplary lives, finding joy if we suffer unjustly for the name of Christ. Peter then encourages us to depend on God even in the midst of persecution. In the last verses we study today, Peter identifies God as a faithful Creator, perhaps as a reminder from the first verse in the Bible of the infinite nature of God.
Read “Expect Ridicule” 1 Peter 4:12-14
Why would Peter tell us not to be surprised when “the fiery ordeal” (persecution) happens to us? If persecution is common to Christians, then we should not be surprised when it is directed at us. Look at Christian persecution from Peter’s perspective. Living as a Christian was not an easy life for Peter. There is no telling how many times he was arrested for preaching the gospel, how many times he was beaten and flogged. Two of his pals, Stephen and James were killed because of their faith. So, based on his life experiences and what was going on in Rome, I can see how Peter would think there was persecution of Christians.
Peter seems to be referring to his bible, our old testament, to explain how God used suffering to refine believers. Read Psalm 66:10, Zechariah 13:9, One-third will be refined and tested and “I will say, ‘This is My people’. Malachi 3:1-4. The second coming will be one of judgment and purification. The Savior King Himself will refine and sift all people to prepare for His reign. He will derive joy from the end result of His work.
What potential difficulties might a person face for simply being a believer in today’s world? We have all heard that a commitment to Christ requires us to “take up our cross”. Part of bearing that cross is the willingness to be misunderstood, judged, ridiculed, and persecuted by a world that does not appreciate or understand our values.
What should our attitude, as Christians, be when we face ridicule? As Peter has already stated, we should expect ridicule and because we expect it, there is no reason we should not be prepared. We should feel honored that we have been chosen to share, in a small measure, in Christ’s suffering. Ridicule is an indicator that we belong to God. It is a blessing with benefits that we may not immediately recognize.
Read “Represent Jesus Well” 1 Peter 4:15-16
What are the four character categories in verse 15? Murder, thief, evildoer and meddler.
What is the one character category in verse 16? Christian.
What is the difference between the first four and Christian? The first four are a result of your own poor choices or judgement. They are viewed as wrong in the eyes of God and the laws of man. Christianity may or may not be viewed as right by man, but it is certainly viewed as right by God.
Great question on page 86 of the PSG: How do you counsel people who protest as unfair the suffering that results from their own moral lapses? Did you ever want to tell someone in such circumstances that “it’s your own darn fault? Actually, that could be the perfect opportunity to pray for that person and help turn them toward Jesus so they can seek repentance.
How would persecution and ridicule ever be considered a badge of honor? If you were persecuted or ridiculed for being a Christian, would not it be brought on because others saw Jesus in your life. What an honor!owHo
Read “Focus on the Creator” 1 Peter 4:17-19
What purpose might be served by suffering in the church? One purpose of suffering in the church would be to differentiate those who genuinely believed in Jesus by standing firm and those who falsely professed faith in Him by falling away.
How should knowing that some type of judgment awaits both the believer and the unbeliever impact the way we live as Christians? We can witness to the lost through our suffering in the hope that they will see our hope and also look to Christ for salvation. We can accept suffering, knowing that at the judgment seat of Christ we will be spared condemnation.
If Christians suffer for serving Christ, what will be the fate of those who refuse to accept Him? Our sufferings on earth are nothing compared to the eternal consequences of life outside of trusting Christ as Savior. We are assured that, in the end, Christian behavior and allegiance will be vindicated and validated.
What can you do to hold up under Christian persecution? We must remember that God is always in control of our circumstances and will have the final say on the evil we face.
Verse 19, the final verse in our study today tells us exactly what to do, which is? First, we must commit to doing what is good. We want to avoid making poor choices in an effort to relieve suffering. Second, when suffering we should “entrust themselves to a faithful Creator”. Here we see Peter refer to Christ as the Creator. If God is our faithful Creator, then certainly we can count upon Him to care and provide for us even when things are difficult in our lives.
Plan ahead for the attitude you should maintain when suffering for your faith. (Praying is a function of planning.) Planning ahead will ensure the stand or action you take will bring honor to God.
· Ask God for the wisdom to distinguish between suffering for persecution and suffering for consequences of sin.
· If it is your own darn fault, repent and seek to reconcile the situation.
· If you are being ridiculed because others see Jesus in you, commit your well-being to God.
· Always remember God can change your circumstances any time He chooses.
· Always remember God has a purpose for your suffering as a follower of Christ.
Pray that God furthers your witness during any difficult situation, that our testimony will be thought out and that we will honor our Spiritual gifts.