suffering

Through It All…

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Life had been no bed of roses for the Apostle Peter. He had witnessed firsthand the arrest of Jesus, was stopped when he tried to defend Him, saw Jesus carried away to trial, and ultimately watched from a distance as Jesus was crucified.

Earlier, Peter had proclaimed his love and commitment to Jesus, saying that he would fight and die for the Lord, (and to his credit, he tried). Jesus replied by telling Peter that he would deny the Lord three times before the rooster crowed. It happened.

Faced with accusations and pressure from those around him, Peter told the crowd that he didn’t know Jesus. The rooster crowed. Peter’s heart broke, and he went out and wept bitterly. He failed. He failed the Lord. He failed himself.

Peter would go on to be imprisoned, sentenced to death, and ultimately executed for the Lord. Yet, through it all, Peter praised the Lord, and proclaimed His goodness. In the midst of so much suffering, how could Peter say that the Lord is good?

Because through it all, Peter saw the blessings that the Lord showered on him.

In 1 Peter 2:1-3, Peter wrote:

Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Focus on that last part, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” In other words, “If you have experienced the graciousness and goodness of the Lord, do this!”

Peter told his readers that if they tasted (experienced) that the Lord is gracious, lay aside all malice, deceit and hypocrisy, and desire the sincere milk of the Word. The sincere milk is the Gospel, God’s love expressed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins according to the scriptures.

If we have tasted that the Lord is good, if we have experienced His salvation and His love, then we should desire the teaching of the Gospel from the scriptures. We yearn to be comforted by reminders of God’s love toward us, and the redemption we have through Jesus Christ.

You see, the central theme of the Bible is the Gospel, Christ dying for us to redeem us, and giving us eternal life through His resurrection. The deeper you dig into scripture, the more you find the Gospel, the deeper understanding you have of the Gospel, and the Gospel becomes sufficient for your happiness.

But how can Peter, who saw so much suffering in his life, say “The Lord is gracious?”

If all I told you about Peter was how he saw Christ die, how he denied the Lord, how he was beaten and imprisoned for the Lord, then I would have only told you half of the story.

You see, after Peter denied Christ, and after Christ rose again, Jesus appeared to Peter and the other disciples on the shores of Galilee. In an exchange recorded in John 21, Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to reaffirm his love for Christ, and Peter did all three times. Jesus then reaffirmed Peter’s call to the ministry, telling him to “feed His sheep.”

As time moved forward, Peter learned to see the Lord’s blessing through all the suffering. He wrote in 1 Peter 1 that the trials of faith refine us like gold is refined by fire. In 1 Peter 2, Peter wrote how the Lord is building us all up together into a Spiritual house, implying that the fellowship that we enjoy as Christians is a gift from the Lord to give us comfort, encouragement, and a purpose. That purpose being to share the good news of the Gospel with the world, and by so doing to see lives changed by the Lord.

Peter concludes 1 Peter 2 by reminding us that the Lord suffered for us in order to save us, therefore we should be willing to suffer for Him to glorify Him and further His Kingdom.

In this life, we have a multitude of troubles. Sometimes, trouble converges upon us from all sides. But peace and Spiritual security come from us learning to see God’s blessing in the midst of the pain. Through it all, God is good.

To learn more about how to see God’s blessings in hard times, and to be inspired to live your purpose, listen to Pastor Leland Acker’s sermon below:

When All Your Problems Hit At Once

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Sometimes it seems that every problem hits you at once. The car breaks down, the washing machine breaks, your hours get cut at work, and the mortgage is due. That’s hard enough, but sometimes the problems hit you in your very soul. You lose a loved one to death, a close friend turns against you, or there is conflict in your marriage. Sometimes, all of those problems hit at once. 1 Peter 1:6 calls these “manifold temptations.”

The Apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter to Christians who were scattered by persecution. These people had been driven from their homes, families, jobs and hometowns by a government that was openly hostile toward them for their faith. Peter’s goal in this epistle is to comfort those Christians by showing them how their suffering mirrors the suffering Christ endured for us, how suffering refines us, and by reminding them of the blessings of salvation in Christ.

He begins this endeavor in 1 Peter 1 by reminding us of who we are in Christ, by referencing our suffering in relation to our transformation, and by encouraging us to move forward in faith.

1 Peter is for any Christian who feels as if the world is collapsing upon them. It offers hope to those who face a multitude of problems, who see no way out. This book helps us put everything into perspective.

Peter starts out by reminding us of who we are in Christ.

In verse 2, he says we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

The word “elect” simply means chosen. We are chosen according to God’s foreknowledge.

Scripture is clear. God chose to save us. Salvation and redemption were His ideas, His values, and His work. It was He that had the idea to redeem man from sin and give us hope of eternal salvation. It was not our idea. Mankind did not have a global summit and elect to request salvation from God. Instead, God authored salvation without even consulting us.

That’s why Romans 5:8 says that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While we were still lost in sin, rebelling against God, and doing our own thing, God conceived the plan of redemption and sent Christ to the cross to purchase our salvation.

Hebrews 12:2 puts it this way:

Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus is the author of our faith. Our salvation was His idea, and salvation began with Christ. He is the finisher of our faith, the finisher of our salvation. He completed our salvation. He did the work. There is nothing that we can do to complete, or enhance our salvation. Jesus Christ did it all.

The only thing we can do is to accept that free salvation by trusting Him to save us by the work He did on the cross.

God saw us. He loved us. He redeemed us. It was His choice. Whenever you feel discouraged, hurt, or anxious, remember that the God who created the universe loved you, and chose to redeem you.

God loves you.

It’s a simple phrase my Christian classmates from high school would write on the blackboard during down time. “God loves you.”

When I was a lost teen in the 1990s, “God loves you” was a pithy saying Christians would say in an effort to influence you to be like them. At least, that’s how I interpreted their words. It wasn’t until I turned 24 in the early 2000s that I came to understand God’s grace as I turned from sin and trusted Jesus Christ for salvation. At the age of 41, I am still learning about God’s inexplicable love toward me, and toward all people.

It was the love of God that prompted His choice to redeem us. Thus, in 1 Peter 1:2, Peter writes that we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

That word foreknowledge has a two-fold meaning. It means (1) God knew us before we were ever created, and (2) He loved us. This concept is perfectly illustrated in God’s words to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:5, where God says, “Before I formed the in the belly, I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

God loves us, and chose to redeem us. In times of trouble, remember that the God Who loves and redeemed you will not leave you to be crushed by life. Remember who you are in Christ.

1 Peter 1 goes on to say that we are begotten again to a lively hope, thus telling us that we are new creations once we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. Peter continues by explaining that the sufferings of life refine our faith and transform us into people who glorify God. We are then encouraged to move forward in faith.

For further encouragement from God’s word, listen to the audio posted above, or click here. Both links will play audio from this Sunday’s sermon from 1 Peter 1 at Life Point Baptist Church.

Smiling through the pain

1554446_10202778076678833_64181163_nLet’s be real. Sometimes life just stinks. Pain is real. Problems continue to pile up, and you get to the point where you are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

When life stinks, it can be hard to find comfort. No one understands your pain, and the trite little phrases like “too blessed to be stressed” only compound the agony. How are you supposed to just “speak victory” into your child’s cancer diagnosis, your wife’s passing, or the foreclosure of your home.

Yet, society expects us to just put on a smile and fake it through the day. “Fake it till you make it.” However, when the day ends, you’re right back at home, face to face with your problems.

Pain and suffering, grief and bereavement are not foreign to the Christian experience. In fact they are a real part of the Christian’s life. Christians face problems, feel pain, and experience periods of hopelessness. You’re human.

When the Apostle Peter authored his first epistle, he was looking at thousands of Christians who had been displaced by severe persecution. Roman Emperor Nero had allegedly set Rome on fire, then blamed Christians for the devastation before burning many of them alive.

He made sport of Christians by drafting them to be gladiators. He fed them to the lions. He executed them in ways he found entertaining. Imagine having your wife kidnapped from your home, and brutally murdered by being tied to the horns of a bull for the entertainment of Roman nobility. This is what 1st Century Christians faced.

Can you imagine the pain and grief that one would naturally experience under those circumstances.

Peter, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could not sit idly by and just watch this persecution happen. And he wasn’t in a position to mount a successful civil rights movement. The best Peter could offer would be a word from the Lord to the persecuted saints. Thus, we have 1 Peter.

In reading 1 Peter, you will notice that he directs your attention away from the things happening in the world, and toward the coming Kingdom of God. His words of hope center around the fact that Christians have been redeemed by God, and He is coming to put an end to the suffering and usher in an eternity of peace and prosperity. If you know Jesus as your savior, you will see that day, regardless of what happens here. If you die, Christ will resurrect you from the dead so that you will see that day.

In chapter 1, Peter reminds us of how God chose us for this redemption, and how He purchased this salvation through Christ dying on the cross. He then encourages us to stay faithful and to trust the Lord even through those hard times. In Chapter 2, he points out how Christ suffered for us, pointing out that God isn’t allowing us to go through anything He Himself hasn’t endured.

There are no magic words to make the pain go away. What scripture does accomplish is reminding us of what God has done for us, giving us a purpose for our experience, and encouraging us to make a difference in the world around us.

If you would like to know more, join us for Bible study Wednesdays at 6 p.m. at our office at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E Industrial Dr., Early, TX 76802. If you’re unable to make it, consider reading 1 Peter on your own. It would make a good devotional for those experiencing hard times.