Suffering now, glory to follow

1 Peter 1v6-12

Six Nations Rugby.  Let me take you back to 2009, when Ireland ended a 61-year wait for Grand Slam glory and landed their first RBS 6 Nations title after dethroning Wales 17-15 at the Millennium Stadium  in dramatic fashion because they were forced to hang on amid a nerve-shredding climax as Wales fly-half Stephen Jones missed a 50-metre penalty with the game’s final kick.

Hibernian football team, won the Scottish Cup in 2016 after a wait of 114 years, the last time they won that trophy was in 1902.

Sports Journalist Tom Adams, wrote an article on the Rio olympics and said that for team GB, Rio 2016 was their ‘Glory Games’, because they enjoyed their greatest ever Olympics

We love the glory of sporting success – especially if concerns who we are supporting.  But we know that before that glory of sporting success, there would of been a lot of suffering, a lot of pain, a lot of disappointments for those athletes, which made the sweet smell of glory all the more wonderful. 

On September 2, 1945 the documents of surrender officially ending World War II were signed by the Japanese and designated representatives of allied nations. General Douglas MacArthur officiated the ceremony aboard the USS Missouri and was the last to sign on behalf of the United States.

MacArthur, flanked by his military colleagues, took his Parker fountain pen and simply signed his first name “Douglas.” He then passed the pen to General Wainwright, who signed “Mac.” MacArthur then handed the pen to General Percival, who signed “Arthur.”

This unusual procedure was MacArthur’s way of honoring the two United States generals who had suffered severe persecution as prisoners of war. They had persevered, and now they were allowed to share in the glory of victory.

 

Last time, we looked at God’s great salvation in Jesus.    For those who have accepted that salvation, we said that our salvation was a sure hope, because it holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past.

We said that:

Our hope is anchored in the past because Jesus rose

Our hope remains in the present because Jesus lives, and

Our hope is completed in the future because Jesus is coming again.

And as we come into this passage, Peter tells us, verse 6, that in all of this you greatly rejoice.  

We have hope to shout about!   That hope in Jesus is a sure hope – He is our past, our present and our future.  Praise be to God for His great salvation.  Praise be to God for Jesus.  May we know the joy of our salvation.  Not only have we been saved from the wrath and punishment of God for our sin, but we have been given new life and saved into an inheritance that is kept in heaven for us.  Glory to His Name!

Now I would love to stay on this theme of rejoicing in the salvation of God that is Jesus, but like Peter we need to move on very quickly from exuberance to agony; from rejoicing to suffering.

He says that in all this you greatly rejoice, through for a little time you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

And here Peter, starts to introduce the heart of his letter.  He alluded to it in his opening introduction when he said he is writing to God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces.   They were scattered because the church was being persecuted, and Peter is writing to them because they are suffering grief in all kinds of kinds.

Peter lives in the real world.  Peter says he is writing to God’s elect – people who have been selected by God to live for Him – that’s great news – that’s encouraging news, but they are people who are dealing with the realities of the real world.   Peter says while it’s important to rejoice in God’s great salvation – he is also aware that they suffering grief in all kinds of trials.

One of the challenges of being a pentecostal church is that we may be branded with the term of being ‘Happy-clappy’.  According to Wikipedia this is a style of worship involving joyful congregational songs, often accompanied by acoustic guitars and drums in which the congregation clap along to the rhythm of the song, or raise one or both hands in the air, and occasionally dance. 

And I suppose the impression that we can give in our services is that we are somehow detached from the realities of life.   We are here in a Sunday morning celebrating and rejoicing in Jesus, rejoicing in our God – for who He is and for what He has done – and we make no apology for that – but we also people who experience the realities of life. 

Just because we are bouncing around at the front, rejoicing in Gods salvation does not mean that I have no trials to face as soon as I walk out that door.

And this is the heart of the letter that Peter is writing about – He is writing about the practicalities of living this Christian life in the realities and challenges that face us – about living a godly lifestyle in a world where there is so much suffering.  And it’s not easy.

All of us face suffering, grief, trials of many kinds whether we believe in Jesus or not, but for those who know God’s great salvation, these sufferings, griefs, these trials of many kinds, come with the hope of Jesus to take us through.  And the first thing that hope gives us is our suffering and trials is

Joy.

Yes, we can know joy in our suffering. And let me be clear because joy is something entirely different from happiness. Joy, in the Biblical context, is not an emotion. . . . Happiness is an emotion and temporary; joy is an attitude of the heart, so please do not misunderstand me and think I’m telling you to be happy in suffering and trials. Im not talking about emotions, I’m talking about attitude.

Paul says in Romans 5v 2&3 that we boast in the hope of the glory of God; Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings

In the book of James, he says in chapter 1v2 that we are to count it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds. 

And Peter in writing to those facing the realities of life, says that we can find joy in suffering for 2 reasons

Reason 1: It is for a little while.

Our hope in Christ points us to beyond our trials. Our troubles last a little while, but our hope in Christ lasts forever. 

Jesus is our ultimate example of suffering for a little while for the glory to come where the writer to the Hebrews says in chapter 12 verse 2 that Jesus endured the cross and despised the shame because of the joy that was set before him.

Paul tells the Corinthians that ‘our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us and eternal glory that far outweighs them all

That’s in 2 Corinthians 4v17

And this leads me onto the. Second reason

Reason 2: It strengthens our faith

Peter declared in verse 5 that is is through faith, shielded by God’s power, that our future inheritance, our glory if you like, is kept

Our faith then must continue through our life-long pilgrimage.  If our faith is to endure it must be purified and stress-tested.  Like gold it must past through the furnace.  Trials should not surprise us, or cause us to doubt God’s faithfulness. God allows trials to strengthen our trust in Him so that our faith will not fail.

Our trials keep us trusting; they burn away our self confidence and drive us to our Saviour. The fires of affliction do not reduce our faith to ashes, for fire does not destroy gold, it only removes combustable impurities.  gold will one day perish, but Peter says your faith is more valuable, is of greater worth than gold

I was listening to a church leaders podcast and Joni Eareckson Tada was being interviewed.  As many of you will know she had a diving accident when she was 17 and is now as quadriplegic.  She plunged into despair and depression, but a Christian friend spoke 10 words to her that changed her thinking.  The 10 words were ‘God permits what He hates, to accomplish what He loves’.  Let me repeat that: God permits what He hates, to accomplish what He loves’.   Wow. That’s powerful.  The point she was making and she suffers every day is that God does not like our afflictions, whether that’s quadriplegia or a sore back or mental health issues or whatever. But in his sovereignty he allows it in order to accomplish what he loves – and he loves for Christ to be formed in us.  Christ in you, the hope of glory.

And in church we sometimes pray against suffering, we want rid of it, we don’t like it, but we also need to balance that and remember ‘God permits what He hates, to accomplish what He loves’. 

Think of it this way, you don’t get faith by sitting in a Bible study group or just talking about it. Faith is like a muscle; it develops by being used. The more you use your faith, the more it gets stretched. And the more it gets stretched, the more God is able to bless your life.  If you like the tent pegs that Isaiah talks about are expanded. We call the circumstances that God creates to stretch our faith “trials”.   So in the bible studies that kick off this week – remember growing your faith is not just about sitting in a bible study talking about it, and learning from others. Yes that is part of it, but faith  also grows through your daily time with Jesus, with your witness to Jesus, and it also grows through your circumstances – especially if you find yourself in a “trial”.  All of these things together grow faith.

So you can count it joy when you face trials because God is using your adversity to form more of Christ in you, the hope of glory.

And what happens then is that joy gets joined to suffering, because as verse 7 says these sufferings that we experience in the realities of life – result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Our tested faith does not earn any glory that will be given to us, but as those whose future hope is in Christ and His return, as those that are joined to Him in his death and resurrection, so we will also share in His glory, and if we receive any glory through that it will be our joy to cast those crowns before Him.

And for those who know God’s great salvation, sufferings and griefs, trials of many kinds, our hope in Jesus gives us joy that can take us through for he is growing our faith, he is forming more of Christ in us. And the second thing, very briefly, is love

Love

Verse 8 says, though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.

And this is an incredible thing.  You see finding that inexpressible and glorious joy in trials is only possible because of your love and your belief in Jesus.

To say it in another way, if we do not have that inexpressible and glorious joy in our trials, then maybe we need to look at how much we love and believe in Jesus

Our love for Jesus is our tribute to Him in our suffering.  Our belief in Him for this great salvation that is in Jesus testifies that our faith in Him is genuine.  It’s real.

Our love and belief in Jesus is where the cruel realities of this world collide with the great hope of salvation that we rejoice in.  This, if you like, is where the rubber hits the road.  Because your love and belief in Jesus, in this great salvation, determines your attitude of joy when suffering and grief, when trial of many kinds come our way.

And in those times of suffering, grief and trail a verse you can turn to is Psalm 119 v 50 says ‘My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserve my life’.  So in our suffering we trust in his promise. We can declare them:  He’s never going to leave us or forsake us;  He has won the victory; he is my shield and fortress, underneath are the everlasting arms, You could go on.  And as we declare there promises in our suffering, in our trial, then The suffering may not depart but you know a strength from the Lord that lets us go on when we cannot in ourselves. In other words Gods power is made manifest in our weakness.   It’s living out what we believe.

Peter says that trials come our way, verse 7, so that the proven genuineness of your faith may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

Genuine faith, a faith that is real.  A faith that does not give up when the going gets tough.  A faith that shows a love for Jesus that says I’m trusting you in this Lord.  A love for Jesus that comes to him when we are weary and heavy laden.  A belief in Jesus that knows He has the answer.  A love for Jesus that knows that His abundant grace is sufficient and His abundant peace is there in times of trouble. 

A love for Jesus because we believe in Jesus to bring us to that end result of our faith – the salvation of our souls.  That hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past.

Finally, the third thing that hope in Jesus gives us to takes us through trials is knowing glory is a promise

Glory is a promise

Peter wants to encourage us that when we are suffering now, glory will follow.   Its the pattern, it’s the way.  The Christ of the cross is the Christ in glory. The sequence of our lives in Christ follow the life of Christ.  He suffered before He entered His Glory, and so must we. 

Peter misunderstood this.   When they came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword to try and rescue Jesus from suffering.  Peter was not alone in this misunderstanding – the two disciples win the road to Emmaus, also did not understand and Jesus had to explain to them from the scripture why the Messiah had to suffer first before entering His glory.

The Old Testament spoke of it – like David fleeing from Saul’s presence – a picture of someone who was innocent and a king, suffering prior to the glory of being King of Israel.  Because he was A man after God’s own heart.

The prophets in the Old Testament pronounced God’s judgement on the sin of His people but they did not stop at judgement. The final vision is not of dry bones in death valley, rather it is renewal beyond conceiving.

Job’s anguish has an astonishing answer – after the suffering came even greater glory than he knew before.

And this pattern of suffering then glory has profound meaning for the church.

Our suffering is not a sign that Christ has betrayed us, or that He is no longer Lord, rather it is a sign of our fellowship  with the risen Lord who first suffered for us.   Suffering therefore predicts that there is a glory to come.

You see Jesus is not just one example of suffering and glory among many. His is THE suffering that brought salvation. His is THE glory that brings the new creation.

And when we love Him; when we believe in Him, even though we do not see him now, the suffering that we face tells me that one day we will.   For this great salvation in Jesus is what the prophets all pointed to. Christ is the fulfilment of all prophecy and we have the privilege of looking back to the fulfilment of the prophecies regarding His suffering, and we can trust in his promises of the glory to come.

Conclusion

Are you experiencing suffering and grief and trials of many kinds. I know I am. 

But as I have studied this passage, I am encouraged.   Because this trial in my life, is only for a little while, it’s strengthening my faith, because it’s driving me to Jesus;  burning up what not important.  And this gives me joy, because as James 1 says, trials produce perseverance – and I need to let perseverance finish it’s work.  And if I lack wisdom, I should ask God.  And in the trial, I cry out for wisdom.  I cry out to Jesus, the wisdom of God.  I come to Him.  I put my trust in Him, because I love Him, because I believe in Him, because I know there is a glory to come.  

Because that’s the pattern, suffering now, glory to follow. 

And this morning if you are facing suffering and grief, experiencing a trial of many kind, then if you don’t know this great salvation in Jesus then what do you have that gives you hope through that trial. 

Self help books will tell you that to find hope, your mind can create a world of possibility, in the present, which will give you the positive momentum to create the future you want. Add to this, moments of happiness and you will naturally strive forward with no doubt.

That may be all well and good, but it’s not a sure hope – it’s a wishful thinking kind of hope – it’s a hope that things can only get better, can only get better if you see it through – that’s not a sure hope.

But suffering and grief and all kinds of trials knowing Jesus, knowing his great salvation, you can have a sure hope – because it’s a hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past.  It is a hope in which we can rejoice.

It’s a hope that means we can have an attitude of joy because it is only for a little while, and it’s strengthening our faith, it’s showing that our faith in Jesus is real because our love for him in the trial is a tribute to Him, our belief in Him is based on the assurance that there is a glory to come.  

With Jesus we recognise that he permits what he hates, to accomplish what he loves.  

For God allowed Jesus to suffer and die on the cross for our sin.  He permitted the devil to have his way.  But God allowed that to bring about that which he loves. The means by which we can be reconciled to God.  The greatest suffering became the greatest glory.

Suffering now, glory to follow. 

Suffering and grief and all kinds of trials happen to us all.

The difference is Jesus. 

In your suffering and grief. In your trial of many kinds, where is your hope this morning?

I know where mine is.  It’s in Jesus and my prayer is that yours will be too.

Amen.