AGCC Sun. a.m. 1/19/1997
TEXT: I Peter 5:6-11
INTRO: The subject of suffering and loss gets little positive press, either in the secular world or the spiritual world. Probably the hardest thing about suffering is the drain it is on our emotions and sense of well being. The
one thing that allows people to survive suffering is HOPE, the sense that there
is both purpose in it, and that it will not be forever. It is when people lose all
hope that suffering destroys their lives. This requires a careful focus in our
ILLUS: An evangelist told the following story in one of his campaigns. He said, "I have a friend who during the depression lost a job, a fortune, a wife, and a home, but tenaciously held to his faith -- the only thing he had left.
One day he stopped to watch some men building a stone church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock. 'What are you going to do with that?' asked my friend. The workman said, 'Do you see that little opening way up there near the spire? Well, I'm shaping this down here so that it will fit up there.' Tears filled the eyes of the heart-broken man as he walked away. It seemed that God had spoken through the workman to explain the ordeal through which he was passing."
Perhaps you have recently suffered a great
loss. Or maybe you are experiencing physical or emotional pain. The outward man
seems to be "perishing." Yet, if you know the Lord as your Savior, you need not
despair. All these things are under the loving hand of your heavenly Father, who
is using them to prepare you for heaven.
The Bible is full of stories of suffering, but in those cases where they never
lost their hope, they are stories of triumph of faith! One of the great truths
God wants us to know is that He promises to restore us when we go through
suffering...this gives us the hope to endure through those times!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that God has promised us restoring power when we find ourselves going through tough times, even in suffering and during
suffering He restores our soul as the Psalmist has said. Thank God there
I. GOD'S PLAN 5:6-11
A. Submission 5:6-7
1. Most people do all the wrongs things when a season of suffering strikes
a. they panic
b. they despair
c. they lose perspective
d. they become angry
e. they refuse to accept what is happening, much denial!
2. Peter teaches however that we need to SUBMIT when something happens,
to "HUMBLE" ourselves means to submit to the process and the God who is
a. Notice the reference to "God's mighty hand" in verse 6
b. the reason for this submission is that God might in "due time lift us
back up"....suggesting that He will teach us much through the process!
3. This kind of submission however is not abandonment of responsibility, it
is to submit to God's authority over each situation in our life.
a. it does not mean to ignore being active in the process of trying to end
b. it means actively trusting God until the suffering ends
4. Notice how we are to submit: "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He
cares for you!" 5:7 Word translated "anxiety" means "divide" or "distract"
a. When we are anxious it means we have taken ownership of the suffering
b. We are to give ownership to God of those trials we go through, and
submit our will and actions to God during such times.
5. To refuse to let go of anxiety will only damage what God can do through the
situation in our lives for it will keep us in bondage.
ILLUS: Monkey trappers in North Africa have a clever method of catching their prey. A number of gourds are filled with nuts and firmly fastened to a branch of a tree. Each has a hole just large enough for the unwary monkey to stick his forepaw into it. When the hungry animal discovers this, he quickly grasps a handful of nuts, but the hole is too small for him to withdraw his clenched fist. And he doesn't have enough sense to open up his hand and let go in order to escape, so he is easily taken captive.
This is a picture of many Christians. The devil
with his crafty devices tried to ensnare them. He appeals to the appetites of
the flesh which can lead to their spiritual downfall. As long as they hold on to
worldly bait, they cannot escape from Satan's trap. But he keeps on urging,
"Don't let go! Enjoy the pleasure of your sin just a little bit longer!" So,
listening to the tempter's alluring voice, they continue in their evil
6. To let go doesn't mean to sit around, it means to allow God to be in control
of the situation and your life during this time...
a. in fact it requires us to be quite active, not passive in such times!
b. You will notice in the next several verses several ACTION VERBS which
are in the IMPERATIVE...COMMANDS TO DO SOMETHING!
c. Submission is not a passive state, it is the state of obedience and
release of anxiety to God's control!
7. Those who fail to learn to do this will not endure well the trials of life...
the weight alone will break them!
ILLUS: Several years ago, the Wall Street Journal carried a story about Sally, an overly conscientious youngster who made herself miserable over the smallest failures and setbacks.
Early one fall, while the leaves were still on the trees, there was an exceptionally heavy snowstorm. Sally's grandfather took her for a drive and said, "Notice those elms, the branches are so badly broken that the trees may die. But just look at those pines and evergreens. They are completely undamaged by the storm. My child, there are two kinds of trees in the world, the foolish and the wise. An elm holds its branches rigid. As it becomes weighted down, eventually its limbs break. But when an evergreen is loaded, it simply relaxes, lowers its branches, and lets the burden slip away. And so it remains unharmed. Be a pine tree, granddaughter."
Christians who give up all their cares to the
Lord can face life's burdens much better than those who try to bear the weight
8. It is imperative that we learn how to handle suffering when it comes, for
it can literally mean the difference between growing faith and stability and
cynicism and brokenness with loss of faith.
B. Self-Control 5:8-9
1. If we hang on to anxiety we will find ourselves out of control, emotionally
spiritually, and even physically according to modern research!
a. People do crazy things when they hang on to their anxiety!
b. People will even seek out relief from sources they would otherwise
never consider just to end their pain immediately!
ILLUS: Did you know that there are more registered fortune-tellers
than pastors in Germany? People who worship Satan pray specifically that he
would destroy the marriages of pastors.
2. God states here that there are two things we must guard and practice
when we face a trial:
b. "staying alert"
3. We often feel anxious because we feel our lives are out of control, that we
can't control the situation that has brought the suffering....however, we
can always have control over ourselves even when we can't over circumstances!
a. We need to let God control the stuff while we control ourselves!
b. This makes suffering a more manageable situation for it limits the
area of control to one thing.
4. Please note the very strong action verbs here:
a. BE SELF-CONTROLLED! 5:8
b. BE ALERT! 5:8
c. RESIST THE DEVIL! 5:9
d. STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH! 5:9
5. Submission to God is not inactivity...in fact quite the opposite, it requires
real work and effort!
a. If we don't actively fight the toll suffering can take on our lives the end
result is that Satan is able to "DEVOUR" us!
b. The word "DEVOUR" here is from the same word that is used to describe
what happened to the Egyptian army in the middle of the Red Sea when
it closed up over them...literally, "SWALLOWED THEM UP" or "DROWNED THEM"
c. Satan's goal is to "OVERWHELM US"...this is how he "DEVOURS" us!
d. too often Christians allow themselves to "DROWN" in anxiety and it
saps all the lifeblood from them...this means they are still retaining
too much control and not yielding it up to God and focusing more on
II. GOD'S PROMISES 5:10-11
A. Strength 5:10
1. Where then does our strength come from during a time of suffering where
we can't see the end of it!?
a. It comes from realizing that God is in control and will restore us in
proper time...His time, not ours!!!
b. This is where we lose the program....we want God on our schedule!! This
only indicates that we still want to control and not submit!
c. This type of failure robs us of the strength spiritually we can have in
such circumstances....and we lose hope!
2. Our strength does not come from the lack of suffering, but from doing the
right things when we suffer!
a. suffering does not have to be a negative experience in life...it is up to
us to decide if it will be or not
b. Trials can actually make us more vibrant in our faith and much more
durable in this world!
ILLUS: Some time ago a fascinating article appeared in the Reader's Digest telling about a most unusual tree called the "Bristlecone Pine." Growing in the western mountain regions, sometimes as high as two or more miles above sea level, these evergreens may live for thousands of years. The older specimens often have only one thin layer of bark on their trunks. Considering the habitat of these trees, such as rocky areas where the soil is poor and precipitation is slight, it seems almost incredible that they should live so long or even survive at all. The environmental "adversities," however, actually contribute to their longevity. Cells that are produced as a result of these perverse conditions are densely arranged, and many resin canals are formed within the plant. Wood that is so structured continues to live for an extremely long period of time. The author Darwin Lambert says in his article, "Bristlecone Pines in richer conditions grow faster, but die earlier and soon decay." The harshness of their surroundings, then, is a vital factor in making them strong and sturdy. How similar this is to the experience of the Christian who graciously accepts the hardships God allows to come into his life. In Hebrews 12:11 we read that such chastening produces "the peaceable fruit of righteousness."
Are you in a difficult place today because the
winds of trial are sweeping over your life? Instead of complaining, thank God
for the assurance that "after ye have suffered awhile," He will "establish,
strengthen, and settle you." Rejoice in the added power and grace that comes
through adversity! (1 Peter 5:10)
3. Note the reference in the text here to a "little while" 5:10
a. In the light of eternity, any suffering in this life is just a "little while"!
b. It is God Himself that will come to us and restore us when we have been
battered by suffering!
c. God keeps His hand on all trials of our lives so that they do not run
longer than they should....He is always in control and will restore at
some point...this gives hope in every situation!
4. When we have handled suffering correctly by:
c. casting our anxiety on Christ
d. resisting Satan
e. standing firm in faith
5. THEN...God will not only restore us, but leave us with 2 gifts that will serve us well the rest of our lives:
b. "Firmness and steadfastness"
6. The fact that this promise is stated in the future tense in Greek and not as
an "optative" means it is promise, not a wish! It is a sure thing!
a. the end result of a trial handled correctly is a stronger, firmer Christian, not a broken one!
b. The triumph of men and women who suffered greatly but kept their faith is throughout the Bible as well as those stories of those who gave
in to anxiety and bitterness!
B. Stability! 5:11
1. The quality of our life is largely dependent on how well we learn to handle
trials and suffering...and we have more control over our lives than we often
a. we may not be able to control the things around us
b. but we can control how we deal with them!
2. Victory is often a choice, not a chance thing!
ILLUS: A widow who had successfully raised a very large family was
being interviewed by a reporter. In addition to six children of her own, she had
adopted 12 other youngsters, and through it all she had maintained stability and
an air of confidence. When asked the secret of her outstanding accomplishment,
her answer to the newsman was quite surprising. She said "I managed so well
because I'm in a partnership!" "What do you mean?" he inquired. The woman
replied, "Many years ago I said, 'Lord, I'll do the work and You do the
worrying.' And I haven't had an anxious care since." We could all profit by
following the example of that mother. When we carry our part of the load, we
need not be disturbed by the demands of life.
3. Notice in this final verse who has the POWER?
a. "To Him be the power for ever and ever...AMEN!" 5:11
b. Ultimately God is in control of everything...He has all power
c. all we are responsible for is our reactions and control over our own
lives and will.
4. Because God has all power, He who promises to restore us can and will,
that is HIS promise to us when we go through trials and suffering!
CONCLUSION: The ability of Christians to remain strong in suffering rests on the promise of God to restore us and make us strong. Suffering is used as a tool of destruction by Satan, but God uses it as a means to build godly character. Suffering handled wrongly leads to weakness, handled correctly it leads to strength. Are you strong or weak?