Be Ready to Suffer for Doing Good
1 Peter 4 vv 1-6
If you fill out your timesheet at work, honestly,
…well then your boss is going to know that your colleagues aren't,
…and they'll hate you for it.
If you actually tell the teacher what you were doing when she asks you,
…you and your mates will be in trouble, and that won't go down well.
If you tell the officer what speed you were doing when he pulls you over,
…you know you'll get a ticket.
If you're self-controlled and not greedy,
…you'll be teased and called 'boring'.
If you're kind and patient,
…you won't get promoted because your boss won't think you've got what it takes to be in charge
Sometimes it feels like we'll get punished, if we choose to do the right thing.
So what do you do?
Peter wrote this letter to Christians, and if you've been with us over the last few weeks you'll know that much of the letter so far has been him urging them to live good lives.
Back in 1 vv 3-12 he reminded them of all their privileges, and then in 1v13 – 2v3 he called the to 'Be Holy'.
Then in chapter 2 he reminded them that they were 'aliens and strangers' in this world.
But that didn't mean that they should live outside society or outside the law. Rather, 2v13 – 3v7 he told them that they should submit, to authorities, even when they're not good, to bosses, even when they're not fair, and to husbands, even when they're not Christian.
Because we ultimately submit to God's authority.
And generally, we saw two weeks ago in 3v8-12, if you do good, if you live in harmony and sympathy and love and compassion and humility, then good things will happen to you.
But not always.
And that's what we saw last week.
Sometimes, when we chose to do what is good and right, we suffer for it. Sometimes when we set apart Christ as Lord, and live our lives obedient to him, doing what is good and loving what is right, people hate us for it.
But, Peter said, even then you are blessed, because you're following Christ's example. That's what Jesus did, after all. He lived a perfect life, always did what was good, and they killed him for it.
So where does that leave us?
If you're a Christian, Peter says, you should follow Christ's example and
BE READY TO SUFFER FOR DOING GOOD.
That's his message for us this evening.
If you're a Christian, you should
BE READY TO SUFFER FOR DOING GOOD.
(Now let me say, if you're not a Christian here this evening, then it's great to have you here.
This passage of the Bible is aimed at Christians, but I hope you'll listen in and find out why Christians would choose to do good even if it means suffering.)
BE READY TO SUFFER FOR DOING GOOD.
In fact, Peter says in verse 1, if you're a Christian, then you should arm yourself with that attitude every day.
Every morning we prepare for the day don't we.
You get up, get dressed, eat breakfast and brush your teeth. Well Peter says if you're a Christian you need to add something to that list. Get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, and arm yourself with the same attitude as Christ, who was ready to suffer for doing good.
And then he tells us WHY and HOW
Why should Christians be Ready to Suffer for Doing Good?
That's my first point, because,
1. If you're ready to suffer, you will conquer sin, v1-2
Look at v1 again,
"he who has suffered in his body is done with sin."
What does that mean? Well, I think it means this. If you value obedience higher than comfort. If you care more about pleasing your Heavenly Father than pleasing yourself, then sin will start losing its power over you.
Why do we sin? The answer is…to please ourselves, isn't it?
We sin when we act as if we are the Lord of our lives, and we do whatever we want to do, whatever suits us best, whatever makes us feel good. Sin is when, in our hearts, we set apart ourselves as Lord.
But if you're a Christian, if in your heart you have set apart Christ as Lord, if he is the Lord of your life, then your greatest privilege is to obey him and your greatest pleasure is to please him. If, in your heart you've set apart Christ as Lord, then when the choice comes between obedience to God and comfort for yourself, you won't blink twice. You'll obey God, because Christ is Lord.
You see, it's easy not to sin when it's comfortable. It's easy not to be dishonest on your tax return when you've got 5 kids and you're on own, because you know the government will support you. It's hard being honest on your tax return when you've received a cash bonus and work, and you know that if you declare it your income support will be cut.
But if you value pleasing God with obedience, higher than pleasing yourself with comfort. If you're ready to suffer for doing good, because you've set apart Christ as Lord, well then you'll be done with sin, Verse 2 -
"because he who has suffered is his body is done with sin"
Perhaps one of the reasons that you and I still struggle with sin in our lives, is that we're not ready to suffer? Choosing not to sin, and doing good, sometimes brings suffering. So, every day, arm yourself with this attitude,
BE READY TO SUFFER FOR DOING GOOD.
That's the WHY, but what about the HOW?
Well, Peter gives us two ways we can arm ourselves with that attitude, and first of all he says that we need to remember that,
2. The World Wastes its Worship, v3-4
Look at verse 3
The world loves having a good time, doesn't it?We all love having a good time.
All of those words, "debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies and carousing…" some of them might sound a bit old fashioned, but the idea behind them is bang up to date isn't it? All of them are about getting as much as we can of what we want, fun, excitement, sex, experience…
Now, none of those things is wrong in itself.
But look at what Peter calls them at the end of verse 3,
All of those things…the constant pursuit of pleasure for ourselves, is really a form of worship.
You see, your friends and family might look at you a bit funny when you tell them that you worship God, and live with Christ as Lord. But the truth is we all worship something.
We're all worshippers.
We all look to something to fulfil our lives, and give meaning to our lives, and give us a reason to get up in the morning.
We all look to something to save us.
That is worship.
The most ardent atheist in the world is still a worshipper. And debauchery and lust and drunkenness and orgies and carousing, those are the actions of someone who worships pleasure, who has set themselves up as Lord.
That is the worship of the world.
And if you or I stop doing that, if we stop worshipping ourselves and bowing down to the gods of money and sex and experience and excitement, well, verse 4, the world will "think it strange…"
They won't understand why we don't worship what they worship, but the truth is, their worship is a waste.
I had to look up what that word 'dissipation' means. It means self-indulgence, as you might imagine from the context,
but it also means waste.
The world around us worships pleasure, it looks to sex and alcohol and all sorts of other things to give it meaning and purpose and excitement. They look to those things to save them, but they don't save, they can't save. They feel good at the time, but they leave you empty.
And many of you know that from your own experience, and the Christians Peter was writing to knew it from their own experience, and the writer of Ecclesiastes in the passage we read earlier knew it from his experience.
"I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man's heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun."
Christian, every morning, when you are arming yourself with the same attitude as Christ, to be ready to suffer for doing good, remind yourself. That the world that causes you to suffer, your class mates and colleagues and family members who scoff, and laugh and tease and cut you out, remember that they are worshippers every bit as much as you, only they have wasted their worship.
Suffering at their hands for doing good is worth it, because you're not choosing to please yourself, but choosing to please God, who really is worthy of our worship, and will honour those who worship Him.
And that leads us onto the second way to arm yourself to suffer for doing good. Remember, Peter says,
3. That Judgement will Bring Justice, v5-6
Look at v4-5 again
If you choose always to do good, then you will, at times, suffer for it, down in v12 Peter tells us that should be no surprise. But when we suffer at the hands of others we should remember that one day justice will be done.
This world doesn't love God or worship God, and so, sometimes, if you do, you will suffer. Sometimes goods guys and good girls will finish last…in this life. But on that day, when all of us stand before Almighty God and give an account of our lives, justice will be done.
Wrong will be punished, right will be rewarded.
And we need to remember that every morning when we're getting ready for the day. Arm yourself with this thought, be ready to suffer for doing good, because you know that one day, and forever, justice will be done.
And I think that explains the slightly confusing verse 6.
It seems that the Christians Peter was writing to were struggling with the idea that Christians die. That might seem strange to us now, but remember this was only 30 years after Jesus, almost everyone who was a Christian had become a Christian recently, and so Christian funerals were a new thing.
And a puzzling thing for them too. After all, if these people were worshipping God and lived their lives obediently following him, why did they still suffer and die? Well, says Peter, they may have died now, they may have even died at the hands of men for being Christians, but that doesn't mean that their lives have been lost or their worship was wasted.
Because when Jesus comes back to judge the world they will live again, according to God's promises and by the power of the Spirit. Judgement will bring justice.
Perhaps right now, this evening, you're aware of a decision you have to make, and you know the right thing to do, you know what God would have you do, but you also know that doing the right thing in God's eyes will cost you.
Or perhaps you'll face a decision like that this week, or this month?
Well, Peter says, be ready to suffer for doing good. In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord, and put pleasing Him with obedience above pleasing yourself with comfort.
And don't just hope you'll make the right choice when the time comes, arm yourself with the same attitude as Christ.
By reminding yourself that the world that stands against you are worshippers just like you, but they have wasted their worship on things that will not last. And remind yourself that one-day judgement will bring justice.
Keep those truths in your heart, remind yourself of them every day.
And you will be ready to suffer for doing good.