Ever since I was a kid I have hated to see good things wasted. For example, if I see someone whip up a bowl of icing or cookie dough, my wife will laugh at this, I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t use a spatula to clean it out and use all of it. Or if you give your kids a piece of steak, and they don’t eat all of it – I wouldn’t let it go to waste. The more valuable it is to us, the more we hate to see it wasted.

How many of us would enjoy working hard all day on a project only to realize at the end of the day that everything you did was a complete waste of time and needs to be scrapped and done again.

Or how many of us would enjoy the grueling workouts we put ourselves through if we never felt any better, lost any weight, or built any muscle? Probably none.

The fact is each one of us hates to waste what is valuable to us. And that’s why I’m certain that no one here is interested in wasting their suffering. Our physical comfort, our reputation, our finances, our routines, our families – they are all valuable to us. Suffering the loss of any one of these things, if necessary, had better be for something of greater value. No one wants to see it wasted.

This morning, God’s Word in 1 Peter is going to show us how to avoid wasting our suffering by showing us the ultimate purpose of our suffering. We are going to learn that the purpose of our suffering is to bring God glory.

Now that may seem obvious, but there is a catch. Not all suffering brings God glory. It’s not just enough to hear that and plough ahead into whatever suffering comes our way, respond however we want, and assume that God will get the glory. It’s not just about enduring through it and making it to the other side; it’s about how we endure through it. God has revealed his will for how we would suffer, and so we are going to look at 3 ways that we can suffer in such a way that God receives glory – so that our suffering is not wasted.

How do we suffer according to God’s will so as to give him glory?

We first embrace the right attitude toward suffering.

suffering is wasted when we have the wrong attitude toward suffering.

Turn over to 1 Peter chapter 4:12. The people that Peter is writing to lived in what is now modern-day Turkey. They were mainly Gentiles (non-Jews) who converted to Christianity because of early missionary activity in that area. Their conversion to Christianity meant a pretty significant change in lifestyle. They would have no longer worshipped the same gods that everyone else did, and since their gods were so tied to parts of their culture, it made the Christians stand out. For example, one commentator notes that they would have been seen as “unpatriotic” because they didn’t worship the emperor, “disloyal” because they wouldn’t take part in the civic ceremonies that included false idol worship, “unprofessional in their trade” because the trade meetings would take place in these pagan temples, and even seen as “haters of their families” – again because so much revolved around pagan worship. Not only that but they had a far different moral standard. They were no longer at the parties getting drunk and being sexually immoral, and that surprised their old friends.

Now they were different. People didn’t like that, and it cost them.

They were insulted, abused, pushed away from families, lost their jobs, their finances, their property. And, in the years after Peter wrote this letter, some would also be imprisoned and executed. Not a pretty scene, but it was their reality, so Peter wrote a letter to give them biblical perspective on what they were facing. And one of the major things he spends time on is their attitude toward suffering.

Starting in 1 Peter 4:12-14– he says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

Notice how Peter calls his readers here “beloved”? Check that out and underline it in your Bible. That’s significant because right after he calls them “beloved”, he tells them that suffering is not a strange experience for Christians, it’s normal. They shouldn’t be surprised by it. He knows that the very first thought so many believers jump to when they experience suffering is the lie that God must not love them.

Maybe you’ve believed that as well. It’s one thing to be told all of this on a Sunday morning. It’s another thing entirely to experience it in real life. To lose your family or your job or your reputation or your friends because of your faith may seem like God doesn’t love you at all, but that would be a lie. That would be one of Satan’s prowling lion tricks (1 Peter 5:8). If he can make you doubt God’s love with some suffering, then he has attacked the very core of your faith because in making you doubt God’s love for you, he is also making you doubt the very cross that Jesus suffered and died on to give you the free gift of eternal life.

If Satan can make you doubt God’s love with some suffering, then he has attacked the very core of your faith because, in making you doubt God’s love for you, he is also making you doubt the very cross that Jesus suffered and died on to give you the free gift of eternal life.

There’s a reason we end every worship service with the words “You are loved”. It’s because that is one of Satan’s chief strategies to undermine the message of the cross. There is absolutely nothing more that God could do or needs to do in order to prove his great love for you. The cross proves it. If you are in Christ, you are beloved. No matter the suffering. Never doubt it.

This next section of the verse really hit home for me this week, “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) Have any of you shook your head a few times in the last year wondering, “what in the world is happening?!?” Today we have a pastor in Alberta sitting in prison – wrongfully charged – separated from his family – because he gathered to worship. We have people, even in this church, who have been demoted, insulted, alienated, lost family and friends because they took a principled stand for Christ. As crazy as this sounds, this really shouldn’t surprise us. This, and what the believers addressed in this letter were experiencing, isn’t abnormal.

This is actually the normal Christian life.

So many have been saying they would like to return to normal, and I get what we mean by that. But what if many of us were actually living abnormal Christian lives before all this? Perhaps we were being quiet about our faith, perhaps we were living a little too comfortably close to the world, perhaps we were slumbering spiritually and afraid of what people thought of us – going along with popular opinion. If that’s the case, then praise God for waking us up even if it meant getting a bit uncomfortable.

Trials and suffering are part and parcel of being a Christian. Jesus said to “come follow me” and then said things like this, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” (Luke 6:22).

We shouldn’t be surprised.

This past March a brother and I went to pray to end abortion out in front of MET hospital. During our hour long stay I counted 15-20 people who gave the middle finger or swore out the window as they drove by. The first time I participated in this prayer vigil a couple of years ago I was actually a bit surprised that people were so angry about us holding signs saying, “Pray to end abortion”. This time I wasn’t surprised at all. Now I’ve come to expect it, and it’s kind of gotten easier to endure. If you speak up the truth – even if it is in a very loving and compelling way – get prepared for hatred in return. That’s the norm. It’s actually strange to meet a Christian who never ever suffers for their faith. That’s strange.

It’s actually strange to meet a Christian who never ever suffers for their faith. That’s strange.

Peter doesn’t want believers to be surprised by the “fiery trials” because surprised people tend to be skittish – they tend to second guess themselves and back down – they tend to think they are doing something wrong. By normalizing the experience of suffering he is actually helping to galvanize their resolve to continue standing for Christ.

So, how do we make this really tangible for each of us here? Because if you’re like me, you were a little surprised by what we’ve seen in the last year. I knew it could happen, but I always thought it was “over there”. So how about this. How about we don’t be surprised when we lose a job over our faith. Don’t be surprised when you get pulled in front of a human rights tribunal for “hate” speech when you quoted Scripture online. Don’t be surprised when your kids get excluded from activities or opportunities or universities because of their beliefs. Don’t be surprised when judges pervert justice, and you still have to pay the unjust ticket or fine. Don’t be surprised if your pastors end up in prison. Seriously, we are going to need this mindset in the coming years. It shouldn’t shock us that following Jesus costs us something when church history records that 10 out of 12 disciples (83%) of Jesus, including Peter who wrote this letter, were martyred for their faith, AND when the very Lord and Saviour we are to imitate is describe as one despised and rejected by men. It should shock us if it costs nothing.

It shouldn’t shock us that following Jesus costs us something when church history records that 10 out of 12 disciples (83%) of Jesus, including Peter who wrote this letter, were martyred for their faith, AND when the very Lord and Saviour we are to imitate is describe as one despised and rejected by men. It should shock us if it costs nothing.

Sidenote. Sadly, and I say this to my shame, Christianity has probably never looked so comfortable, resourced, and lazy as it has in North America in our time. We have been given so much, and I’ll be the first to admit, that I have wasted some of the opportunities I’ve been given. I pray that isn’t the case for us, and that as suffering comes – perhaps as a gracious gift from God – we don’t waste it.

Suffering without rejoicing is wasted suffering. Look back at 1 Peter 4:13-14, Paul says “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

If you are suffering for Jesus without any joy, you are missing so much of what He offers. The more they turn up the pressure, the more Christians can find joy.

The more they turn up the pressure, the more Christians can find joy.

Suffering positions us to rejoice in a way that we otherwise could not. Here are 6 different ways that suffering is cause for rejoicing.

  1. It shows we are united with Christ. Verse 13 says, “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings.” To “Share Christ’s sufferings” doesn’t mean that we are somehow paying for our sins by our suffering, but rather that we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus and are thus assured that we are on the right path. 1 Peter 2:21 tells us that when we suffer for doing good, we are doing the thing to which we have been called, “because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you might follow in his steps.” Sharing the suffering of Christ is part of being united with him. There is a special fellowship to it. And if we are united with him in his suffering/death, we know we will be united with him in his glory/life. (Romans 6 elaborates on this).
  2. Suffering for Christ will be rewarded when Christ returns, and his glory is fully revealed. When we get to the end, it will all be worth it. Guaranteed. (“you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”)
  3. It enables us to experience his presence in a heightened way. Verse 14 gives a specific way the listeners might have suffered and then says they are blessed – why? – “because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” There is a sense in which God manifests his presence in a heightened way when you suffer for Jesus. This strengthens you and gives you joy and the ability to respond in radical ways. Just look to Acts 7 and the stoning of Stephen for an example.
  4. We can rejoice in sharing the suffering of Christ because it is a high calling. Acts 5:41 the disciples were persecuted and “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”
  5. It brings God glory by revealing our genuine faith. 1 Peter 1: 6-7 says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Think of it this way. The fire of sufferings and trials takes away all the excess and reveals the beautiful faith we have in God. And that beautiful faith is a gift from God in the first place that is there to guard our salvation. So God get’s glory when all that’s left in us holding on is what he gave in the first place.
  6. Suffering for Christ shows we are done with sin. 1 Peter 4:1-2 says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” If we do good, then suffer, and continue to do good anyway, we are showing that we have made a clean break with sin. It has shown that obedience is more important to us than simply avoiding consequences, and that’s powerful.

Now often times suffering makes people bitter, but suffering will only make you bitter if what you lost is what you valued most. Suffering will make you better if what is kept (faith) and gained (glory brought to God) is what you valued most.

Suffering will only make you bitter if what you lost is what you valued most.

If you are a Christian, you are going to suffer. If you don’t want to waste it and want to instead suffer according to God’s will so as to give him glory, then you need to embrace the right attitude: expect it and rejoice in what God does through it.

Suffering is wasted when we receive it for the wrong reasons.

Rejoice in suffering obviously doesn’t mean that we go looking for whatever suffering we can find. Suffering is wasted when we receive it for the wrong reasons. You are not “suffering with Christ” when you are suffering the consequences for doing evil. This is what Peter is getting at in 1 Peter 4:15 when he says, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”

There are good reasons to be in prison and there are bad reasons. A good reason to be in prison is for preaching Jesus. A bad reason to be in prison is for murdering someone.

Now, initially this might sound a bit out of place. Why does Peter have to bring this up? But think back to what the people are experiencing: unjust treatment, over and over and over again, property taken or financial hardships, alienated from family, etc. Most people have a certain threshold they can tolerate, but if you push them hard enough, they’ll snap and retaliate – often escalating things. This is written to address that. It’s hard to be insulted and to not get vindictive. But 1 Peter 3:9 says it clearly, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

Moral of the story is that we are to overcome evil with good – and generally speaking when you do that you will suffer less. “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). You still might suffer for doing good, but you will definitely suffer for doing the kind of evil he mentions here.

The specific evils that he lists are fascinating. Murder is probably not top of your list of sins you are most likely to commit (though hatred which Jesus addresses in Matthew 5 might be), but what about meddling – interfering where you don’t belong? How many of us have found ourselves suffering needlessly because we jumped into a conflict uninvited or poked around where we had no business? I feel like this would make a good verse for a social media banner….

Or how about theft. Now you probably won’t believe this, but let me share a story from this week about some theft on my part. I had been linking to external news articles on one of the websites I manage, and I didn’t really clue in that the images from those news articles were showing up on the site. Well, this week I got an email that we were violating copyright rules for using these images. As a result, I had to take the images down, and we had to pay a penalty fee. That wasn’t persecution or suffering for Christ, that was suffering because of an unintentional mistake on my part. That… was a waste of resources.

If we do stuff like that intentionally – we should be ashamed of it. But Peter tells us what we don’t need to be ashamed of. “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Peter 4:16).

You don’t need to feel even an ounce of shame for standing for the things of Christ. Sure, the world will try to make you feel ashamed for holding to a biblical view of marriage, for believing that Christ is ruler of the Church, for believing that the Bible is true – but you don’t have to feel even a bit of shame. Just think who is saying this though. Peter… who denied Jesus 3 times and certainly felt shame for that. He is now boldly declaring that we should not feel ashamed for bearing the name “Christian” (“Christian” was a name first given to followers of Jesus by outsiders).

1 Peter 4:17 continues. “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

In calling believers not to suffer for doing wrong, Peter reminds them of the outcome of those who do not obey. They will not only suffer now but also in the future. This section isn’t meant to say that our righteous deeds somehow just barely save us, but, in quoting an OT passage, Peter is using a Jewish argumentation style meant to draw attention to how awful the punishment will be for the ungodly.

Don’t ever forget. God holds the scales of justice in the end and will pay everyone according to their works. Praise God, that, in Christ, we will be spared what we deserved for our sin. But don’t think that any of the wickedness done against us as believers will be forgotten.

That leads right into the last sentence of our passage: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” Our suffering glorifies God when we keep our focus.

suffering is wasted when we lose our focus.

Want a shortcut to wasting your suffering for Christ? Lose focus of Christ. Lose trust in him. Stop doing any good. Wallow in your misery.

There are two words I want you to make note of. “Entrust” and “Doing”. The final reminder to those who are suffering (and we are reminded that this suffering is according to the sovereign will of God meaning that God has allowed it for his purposes) is to first “Entrust”. Entrust the very most important thing – your soul – to the very most capable hands – the faithful creator.

How is your soul today? Perhaps that’s not a question we ask ourselves too often, but I’m asking it this morning. How is your soul? That deepest part of your being that will live on into eternity. How is it? Is it shaken? Is it distraught? Is it chaotic or unhinged? Or is it secure in the care of the creator and safe from the attacks of Satan?

We’ll talk in a moment about what we are called to do, but let’s remember what we are not called to do. We are not called to be God. We are not called to be sovereign. We are not called to know the future perfectly or to save our own souls or to bring ultimate justice in the here and now. All of that is God’s job. This word “entrusting” shows up in 1 Peter 2:23 talking about Jesus and says, “ When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly”.

God will take care of justice – you can count on it. Entrust your soul to the creator who is faithful. Daily remind yourself that the very most important part of who you are is the very most secure in Christ.

Daily remind yourself that the very most important part of who you are is the very most secure in Christ.

But then, as you suffer, don’t just sit on your hands. Don’t just react, be proactive. Do something. Specifically do good. One of Peter’s repeated pieces of advice to his listeners is to do good and not evil and there are several reasons he presents for this.

  1. God is a righteous judge and will judge our actions ultimately – so live in light of that (1 Peter 1:16-17). Do the right thing. God is going to see it.
  2. God ransomed us from our evil ways with the precious blood of Christ. Why would you live in the very thing that God paid such a high price to free you from. (1 Peter 1:18-19). This is seriously such a helpful reminder. When sin tempts you, think about the fact that Jesus died on the cross to pay for that sin. Every lash with the whip, every hammer of the nail, every jeer and mock – that was to pay for what you have done.
  3. You are going to get falsely accused of evil and one day when the score is finally settled even the unbelievers will have to admit you did the right thing and that’s going to bring glory to God. (1 Peter 2:12).
  4. Generally speaking, doing good will earn you favour in the here and now and will silence ignorant people and put to shame anyone who slanders you. (1 Peter 2:15, 3:16)

Honestly the world just doesn’t get it. When we return their evil with good with no kick-back expected – no favours in return – they have to wonder where that comes from. God’s Word tells us that everyone expects to do good to their friends or to people who can make our lives better (Luke 6:32-36). That’s the way the world works. But when we love our enemies then we are showing off Christ in a beautiful way.

So, what are some real specific ways you can do good this week? It’s not necessary to add 10 things to your to do list.

Sometimes it means stepping away from something. Maybe social media really isn’t helping you to suffer well and stay focused.

Maybe suffering has caused you to turn back to some old habits that need to die once and for all.

Maybe your Bible is sitting unread or your house hasn’t been open to strangers, or you’ve withdrawn and stopped thinking about or serving others.

Maybe that family member or former friend who lashed out at you could use a check-up phone call or some prayer.

Maybe you got stingy thinking the economy was going to collapse, and have forgotten that there are real people whose small businesses have been destroyed who are struggling to get by – maybe it’s time to support them (or support them again).

Maybe, after all we’ve been through this last year, you’re still thinking, “This isn’t a big deal for me” so you’re remaining silent in the face of horrendous injustice and lawlessness in our country. Maybe it’s time for you to make some phone calls and write some letters.

Whatever it is, don’t wallow in self-pity. You’ve been chosen by the God of the universe for the high calling of suffering for the name of Jesus Christ. Arm yourself with the right attitude. Expect it; rejoice in it. Don’t think the goal is just to suffer and then do evil things so you can get the suffering badge. Keep your focus on Christ, entrust everything to him, confident that he will take care of his role and then go do yours. Do good for his glory.

Keep your eyes on Christ! (Hebrews 12:1-2)