Sunday August 21, 2005 | Annie Perdue-Olson
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
In July, Annie shared with us how God gives each of us a unique design and gifts to further the Kingdom of God. This week she was back to share a little more about what God’s “Kingdom Challenge” for us involves. The text Annie used was I Peter chapters 3 and 4 where the author is writing to Christians in Asia Minor who are suffering under intense resistance from their culture.
In July, Annie shared with us how God gives each of us a unique design and gifts to further the Kingdom of God. This week she was back to share a little more about what God’s “Kingdom Challenge” for us involves. The text Annie used was I Peter chapters 3 and 4 where the author is writing to Christians in Asia Minor who are suffering under intense resistance from their culture. They suffer in this way because of their radical Christian lifestyles.
Annie started off with a very important distinction between suffering that results from loss of some sort and suffering that results from persecution. As painful as it can be, every human being suffers losses. This is not the specific suffering that is being addressed in I Peter, or in Annie’s sermon. She is focusing on the second kind of suffering. This second form can easily be avoided in one way. Stop doing what God has called you to do and be. Scripture speaks of this second form of suffering frequently. Christ is our example. Most of what he suffered could have been easily avoided if he would have just played along like a nice Jewish man doing carpentry the first century. But that is not what God required of him—or us.
Annie offered helpful thoughts on how to relate to both of these kinds of suffering.
Consider I Peter 4:12-16. We see here that opposition to the Church is expected. But notice also the deep sense of hope and conviction about how to live that is expressed here as well. This is God’s challenge to us. Do we accept this or do we hesitate because of what it might cost us? What might get in our way?
Sometimes we are fooled into believing that only certain people are really needed to advance God’s Kingdom. We may think we cannot be used effectively because of our past mistakes. Or perhaps we think we have nothing to contribute. These are lies that will disable the church. Consider I Peter 4:10-11. Notice how each of us have been given gifts so that God’s will can be done on Earth.
As we saw above, persecution is the result of living a radical life in a world that doesn’t share our Kingdom vision. The messages we get from the world are to be “normal” and comfortable. If we listen to this message, we will make the church ineffective. Fear can sometimes keep us from taking risks for our faith. Consider I Peter 3:13-15. Scripture anticipates this fear and encourages us to press on despite the suffering that will result.
Annie shared with us Barna’s survey findings which reveal a paradox that we find ourselves in. One of the greatest fears that people have is that their lives will not count in the grand scheme of things. But the only way to insure that this doesn’t happen is to be bold in the face of fear and take risks for the Kingdom!