Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19
Who is the most important person in the Bible?
Because the Bible is written in order to ask us to be Christ-minded persons on earth.
It is a joyful journey to follow Jesus.
But sometimes, it can be a painful journey.
The first disciples soon learn that believing Jesus and following his way was not easy.
Just like Jesus suffered, the 1st century disciples also suffered.
At that time, the religious leaders and government leaders persecuted them and asked them to abandon their faith in Jesus.
If they don’t listen to them, they wanted to kill believers.
They falsely accused them.
They executed some of believers.
So, some believers went to prisons.
Some of them had to leave their home country, because of constant dangers they are facing.
They were suffering like Christ.
Many believers wondered how to handle these sufferings.
(1) So, Peter, one of their leaders says this in 1 Peter 4:12-14, 16.
“When life gets tough, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job.
But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.
Then you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are fortunate, for the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God rests on you.
If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
Peter wants to see these sufferings through the eyes of faith.
Then facing tough situation because of their faith, he asks people to try to rejoice because they participate in the sufferings of Christ.
Even though not everything is going well, he asks people to rejoice as if everything is going well.
In this way, they can show their faith.
He asks them to praise God because they are known as followers of Christ.
Then they would live victoriously with Christ.
(2) Another 1st century believer, James says: (James 1:2-4)
“Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops endurance.
Endurance must finish its work so that you may be mature and well-developed, not lacking anything.”
James says, consider it pure joy facing trials or suffering.
Because then we mature.
We mature through them.
Endure this testing of our faith, we will be well developed.
Through trials and sufferings, we learn that we are not lacking anything.
Enduring, we enter into the land that God promised to us.
This present suffering may also force us to understand the cross of Jesus.
It also forces you to think about your faith.
When we suffer for Jesus, we think seriously about whether we are right about believing Jesus.
Doing so, you may understand how Jesus might have handled his suffering.
(3) Paul, a 1st century pastor/apostle suffers so much preaching Jesus.
Then he says to the church in Colossians 1: 24:
“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, because I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in the suffering of Christ for the church.”
He learned that it was tough to serve the church.
He learned that he needed to suffer to share the story of Jesus.
Then he tried to rejoice in his suffering for the church of Jesus Christ.
Christ has to suffer to share gospel now.
But Paul wants to share that suffering with Christ for the church.
He decided to suffer for his generation.
Then he learns something that he cannot learn without suffering.
Because he suffers, he learns of Jesus and is able to teach others better.
He experiences many miracles of Jesus.
He learns Christ Jesus more and more.
So, he experiences Christ in his own suffering.
He shared this faith.
It is good to know the story of Jesus.
It is good to suffer for the story of Jesus.
It is good to spread this story.
It is good to give our life for the story of Jesus.
Then in the power of the Holy Spirit we will live well.
Then we may change the world for the better.
We may change the minds of people.
Anyway, in his suffering, Paul encouraged others with these words: (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
(4) “If we died with Jesus, we will also live with him.
If we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him, he will also disown us.
If we are faithless, God remains faithful, for God cannot disown himself.”
Paul was saying to himself:
“Paul, suffer with Jesus. Then you will live with him.
Keep on try.
Then know that if you can not be faithful, God will be faithful to you.
God cannot be unfaithful.
God cannot be unloving.
God cannot stop loving.
God has to love and be faithful because that is the character of God.
God cannot help but to be faithful.
To this God, be faithful.”
Then Paul, who wrote this, really died like Jesus.
Now he lives in God, forever.
Because Jesus was willing to suffer, he experienced a breakthrough.
He suffered but experienced the resurrection: the experience of rising back.
Because Paul was willing to suffer, he experienced a breakthrough.
He suffered but experienced his own resurrection as a result.
But it is still difficult to say it is better to die in Christ than to live without Him.
But because of this faith, many had died.
Many had decided to die with Christ.
Because of this faith, they were able to truly live their lives in Jesus.
Because they were willing to suffer for the love of God, more people get wondered about their faith in Jesus.
They asked “Who is this Jesus anyway?”
Then eventually, more and more people learned who Jesus is.
Not all those who suffer die.
Those who feel meaninglessness really die.
Those who have any good purpose survive.
Those who have a reason to suffer survive.
Those who have a good goal to die for survive.
It is a good thing if we have found something to die for or suffer for.
The early Christians have a conviction, facing such a persecution.
So, they try to fill up in their own bodies the sufferings that Christ might have endured without them.
They try to rejoice in it.
What about today?
Even today, in North Korea, and in some Middle Eastern countries, because they follow Jesus, they lose their life. (John 12:25)
Some could not dare to recognize their faith, before their family members, relatives, or village people.
Then they may be persecuted or put to death.
So, some of them are secret Christians in the land.
Some of them have been persecuted in the land.
Some of them are in a prison camp.
Some North Koreans learned about Jesus in China, and tried to go back to North Korea to tell their family, risking their lives.
As you know, North Koreas have been suffering from drastic food shortage: famines.
You may have seen it. This picture was taken at night. It simply shows that they live with almost no electricity at night.
The thing is that they have some natural resources.
But they cannot sell them because they don’t have a good relationship with many other prominent nations.
(6) So, let’s pray for one minute.
Pray for those who are persecuted and live such a difficult condition.
Pray that they may have enough food and spiritual food.
Let’s pray that they may know freedom in God.
Let’s pray that they may be free.
Pray that all the North Koreans may have a chance to listen to the story of Jesus.
Pray that they may experience Christ right there.
In one minute, wait and see how God is guiding you.
Then say something to God for them. OK.
Our church has been supporting a ministry that helps North Korean.
But still we pray that something good had to happen in that land.
Pray that some good project may continually happen for them.
Pray that more people can learn about the story of Jesus.
Let’s pray about that.
Now let’s talk about you.
You don’t experience this kind of suffering.
You may suffer in your mind.
Let’s talk about how to handle some tough times that you may experience.
The Bible says:
Don’t be surprised.
Doing all the right things, and preaching the truth, you need to endure it and win it.
Try to give praise to God and rejoice.
We should try to do good.
Try to continually live for God.
Then you will bear eternal fruits.
Then we may experience the victory of Jesus.
We pray that our life may be meaningful and fruitful.
Even if we experience some tough time, because we made some bad choices or we were too proud, we need to humble ourselves and ask God to guide us and lead us.
God blesses the humble.
So, God purifies us and help us mature, so that God can use us.
Let’s learn and grow through some tough times/opportunity.
In those tough times, we learn a lot and grow a lot.
So, let’s ask us: What is it here to teach me?
And learn as we go through our life.
Let’s try to sing praise God.
During those times, we evolve.
We grow up in God.
We grow up as God's chosen ones.
We grow into God's favor.
Let’s decide to continually follow Christ even during those tough days.
Let’s try to rejoice because we participate in the life of Christ.
We will experience Christ right there.
God will be more real in your life.
Don’t worry about anything.
Through prayer and petition, offer our request to God in thanksgiving.
We will learn that this kind of a live of prayer is better than a life of worrying.
Christ Jesus has lived this life already.
If we come and seek God honestly and truly, we may experience this.
Then we may also comfort those whom we meet at our school and workplace.
We may pray for your classmate and your teachers.
We may pray for our coworkers.
Find someone may struggle.
Pray for them and with them.
Fundraising for some good cause
Have you ever felt like you were suffering for Christ?
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5,18)