Welcome to the In Touch Podcast with Charles Stanley for Wednesday, July 27th. Let's continue studying how God uses difficulty and hardship to build strong character. It's interesting that our adversities in life are God's universities to teach us some principles that we'll never learn any other way.
We'll never learn as long as there's ease, comfort and pleasure and everything is going our way. And when Peter wrote this first epistle, he knew or at least had a great idea of what was coming. He knew that persecution was coming and so what he was doing is trying, he was trying to instruct those believers that when it comes, they'll know how to respond.
They'll know how to act. And the primary thing he was concerned about was that their personal testimony be without blemish, that their conduct and reactions would be such that when persecuted, when criticized, that their good conduct would win even their enemies. And so in the third chapter of 1 Peter, this is where we begin tonight, he says beginning in the 13th verse, And who is there to harm you, if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.
And keep a good conscience, so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who reviled your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right, rather than for doing what is wrong. Now, I want us to look at this passage, and I want us to see two very important things here. And the first one is this, and that is the possibility of suffering for doing what is right.
And that's really what he's referring to here. Look in verse 13. And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? Now, the word zealous here is where we get our word what? Zeal, and the word zealot. And the truth is, if you'll think about all that God has promised to be in us, all that God has promised us, and all that we are in Him, isn't it amazing that some people are so apathetic and so indifferent, and somehow so absolutely lazy about the things of God. When he says we're to be zealous for the work of God, that is, we're to be enthusiastic about it, committed to it, engaged in it. When many, many people who attend church are not zealous for the Lord's work, they just attend church and hope that they'll enjoy a sermon or get a little something that may help them. But he says, and who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?
So let me ask you something. What is it that you are genuinely excited about tonight? What is it that you are genuinely excited about, committed to, involved in, other than, and something bigger than yourself?
Most people, the biggest thing that they're concerned about is the big I. But a Christian should be committed to, zealous for, involved in, that which is bigger than himself or bigger than herself. We are a part of a cause, a part of the kingdom of God, and our ministry is to evangelize the world of our day.
You can't get anything any bigger than the world. And he gave all of us a great commission. He says, we're to be zealous for those things that are good. And then he asked the question, who is there to harm you if you prove zealous of what is good?
Now, what he's simply saying here is that your suffering's going to be limited. When he says, who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? When he says harm, surely you and I can be harmed, but not harmed ultimately. We are going to be ultimately protected from anything anybody can do. That is, they can touch our body, but one thing they cannot do, they can't mess around with our spirit.
The Bible says, we sit in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. The physical body may suffer harm. But he says, who is there to harm you that is to do you permanent harm if you prove to be zealous for the work of God? Did he not just finish saying in the verses before, for the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, his ears attend to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. So no matter what may happen to us, ultimately, nobody can harm your spirit because you have been born again by the Holy Spirit. And your spirit and God's spirit have been joined together and now we are one. So he says, this suffering, whatever it's going to be, it's going to be limited. And does he not say, for example, in the thirty-fourth Psalm, he says, the angel of the Lord does what?
The angel of the Lord is encamping about. That is, he has surrounded every single one of us so that the only thing that can touch you and me is only that which God allows. Now somebody else may think that, well, who cares about your belief in God? Nobody can touch the believer apart from the permissive will of Almighty God. And so he moves on to the second verse or the fourteenth verse to say, but even if you should, he's not saying that you won't ever. He says, no one can harm you ultimately.
No one can destroy you. You belong to God. And even if God should allow, listen, even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, which is his way of saying, it's possible, it may come. And he knew that they were going to suffer because of their faith.
He says, even if you do, here's what I want you to notice. Even if you do, he says, you're blessed. Now, how in the world can you be blessed while you're bleeding? How can you be blessed while you're being persecuted?
Well, there are several ways. First of all, whenever God in his permissive will opens the door and allows some form of suffering or hurt to come, God does it for one of several reasons. Sometimes it's because he knows that is exactly what we need to teach us a principle that he is committed that we learn. And so he allows us to be persecuted in some form or fashion. Sometimes it is the burn that is to burn the dross out of us, to get our attention and to so work in our life that we recognize that we find ourselves driven to God.
Sometimes he sees us drifting and it's criticism and persecution and all kinds of insults and things that are not right. I mean, they're wrong in what they're saying, but it drives us back to God, forces us back to him to rely upon him and recognize how deeply we need him. But sometimes when he says we are blessed, God knows that's one of the finest ways in the world to grow us up because what does persecution and hardship and heartache do? But it forces us on our knees to cry out to God and we begin to grow in ways that we're not going to grow any other way. And then also we are blessed in our persecution and our suffering sometimes because God will allow us to go through some form of difficulty, heartache and persecution, and he turns right around upon this side and gives us something that's as if he just sort of balances it off. It's not that God's paying you off his suffering. It is God in his loving kindness and goodness and mercy, knowing that you're going through difficulty.
What does he do? He just balances it off with some form of goodness and love and mercy. It may be something material.
It may be some relationship. I don't know what it may be, but God has the most beautiful way of balancing off our hurts with those things that will bring happiness and joy and peace in our life. And does he not say in the Sermon on the Mount, and you know these verses by heart, blessed are ye who in men shall persecute you and do all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Great, he says, is your reward in heaven. He says so even if you're persecuted, even if you are, he says, here's what you can expect.
He says you can expect to be blessed. Now you go to work tomorrow morning and I mean somebody gives you a terrible time. I mean they just let you have it. What are you going to do?
Let them have it back? You say, well, I feel like it. God understands that. God isn't up in heaven checking you out to see, I'm going to check him out to see how he feels.
No, he's checking you out to see how you respond. But you see, believers, the whole book, here's what Peter's saying, I want you to respond in the correct fashion when you find yourself being insulted, gossiped about, criticized, castigated, insulted, you name it. No matter what happens, no matter what the criticism is, he says you're to respond in the proper fashion. He says even if you should suffer for righteous sake, so what?
You're blessed. Then he says here is the way we ought to respond. The attitude is one of zealously serving the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that persecution will come and can come, the possibility of it's always there. But he says here's how we're to respond when it comes.
Now listen. Do not fear their intimidation and do not be troubled. Don't be disturbed or shaken, listen, or shaken because did he not say the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous?
His ears attend to their prayers, the faith story is against those who do evil. He says our response is to be one of fearlessness and not being intimidated. You see, you and I as believers obeying God don't have to be intimidated by anybody because of who you are and your relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. He says we're to be fearless. Now what does the believer have to fear if first of all ultimately you cannot be harmed? Physically, we may suffer some things, but ultimately nobody can touch our spirit. What is it we have to fear?
Losing something? Well, if we've already given it to God, it's his business to protect it. And besides that, does he not say in as much as you've done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, you've done it unto me? Anybody who harms you, God says it is on the same level of harming the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Same level. He says if you've done it to one of these who are mine, you've done it to me. Now, my friend, that ought to say something to us the way we treat each other likewise. Not only how your enemies may treat you, but how we treat each other. The way we treat each other, he says the way you treat the other person, they're one of mine, he says it's like you're doing it to me. So he says we're to be fearless and unintimidated, that is, unshaken by anything that we may have to face. Now, how is it that you and I can face some things that are very, very difficult, unintimidated and fearlessly? And here's what he says, verse 15.
This is the way it happens. Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. What in the world does he mean by that? Is it not true that we're the ones who ought to be being sanctified? We're the ones who have set apart for him and unto him. When he says be fearless and unintimidated, sanctify the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart. Here's what he's saying. He's saying that our devotion, that is, that Jesus Christ should have such preeminence in our life and our devotion to him should have such intensity that we will respond to difficulty with fearlessness, unshaken, confident and bold.
Why? Because our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ who is Lord of our life. And so our perspective is that no matter what touches us has to get his permission. If he gives the permission, then whatever's coming has to be for our good because God is committed, listen, God is committed to turning every single thing that happens in the life of the believer, he's going to turn it to good.
We don't always understand why God allows what he allows. One thing about it, God Almighty, Jehovah God, always expresses love and always reaches down and if we're willing, he will bring something marvelously good out of the most difficult, trying, hard times that you and I face. So he says here, even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you're blessed. Don't be fearful or intimidated.
Do not be troubled. Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. That is, when he is the Lord of our life and we understand, listen now, when we understand that he is Lord of our life and we understand our intimacy with him, then we know that whatever he's allowing, God is expressing love, it's going to be good and in the outcome, we're going to be better off for it. And then he says, now, in our action, not only are we to sanctify the Lord Jesus Christ, but he says, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give a reason on account for the hope that is in you. When he says always being ready to make a defense, to make a defense, and that word in the Greek is apologia, from which we get our word apology and then apologetics, which is the area of theology of the defense of our belief, of the persuasion of why we believe what we believe and defending that. He says, always be ready.
That is, if you're going to be ready for trouble sometimes, one of the ways you get ready is to be, listen, to be ready to give two things. To be ready, first of all, to give a clear statement of your faith and secondly, to keep a clear conscience. So first of all, to keep a clear, to have a clear statement of what you believe. If somebody walked up to you tonight and said, would you tell me what you believe about Jesus Christ? And would you explain to me why you believe that? Could you give them a clear statement of why you placed your trust in Jesus Christ? Why, at some point in your life, you surrendered your life to Christ?
Could you give them a clear statement? Could you say to them, suppose they said to you, but why don't you just believe in God? Why all this Jesus bit? Could you explain to them the absolute necessity of the sacrificial, all-sufficient, atoning death of Jesus Christ?
Now, there is a tragedy that goes on in the body of Christ and that is that men and women could sit in church pews Sunday after Sunday, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, 40, 50, 60 years and cannot defend their faith in Jesus Christ. And see, you see, when suffering comes, of all the times we need to be ready to give an account, that's the time. And I want to tell you, brother, it's coming. It's not going to come 20 years from now. It's on its way. It's already here, but it's going to intensify in a fashion that most of us never dreamed of. Now, the believers better get ready.
If somebody should say to you tonight, you walk out of this building and some fell in the parking lot and said, hey, you know, I didn't come in that tonight and I don't know what all this is up to, but my life is about over and I wonder if there is any hope at all, what would you say to them? Listen to how Peter put this. He says, now, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you. Peter says, not as a suggestion, he says every single one of us should be ready, prepared to make a defense for our faith. Now one thing I'll have to admit, the one thing that sort of gets to me every once in a while when somebody says, well, you know, I've been a Christian about 40 years, but you know, I just never have understood the Bible.
40 years? Well, you know, I just never have, I never have read the Bible much. 40 years and never have read much the greatest book ever given to mankind.
Just never have read it much. Therefore, pastor, don't call on me. He says that you're to be ready. Now why? Because when persecution comes, more people want to know the reason for your hope than ever before.
Now listen to me carefully. If you walked into the hospital of one of your loved ones who was dying and asked you the question, maybe dying of cancer or anything, and asked you, is there any hope beyond the grave, what would you tell them? And if they said, well, how can I have that hope, would you know what to say? Did you know, my friend, there are a lot of pastors who would not know what to say.
You know why? Because they have cut out so much of this as erroneous and myth and fable. They don't have anything to say when they stand by the deathbed. They cannot offer any hope.
No hope. Friend, when all hell breaks loose, and I'm telling you, it's going to break loose. We who have hope within us, of all people, we need to be ready, ready, fully prepared to be able to give to anybody, everybody, anywhere, everywhere, a reason for the hope that is living and abiding within us. Thank you for listening to Believers Under Assault. If you'd like to know more about Charles Stanley or In Touch Ministries, stop by intouch.org. This podcast is a presentation of In Touch Ministries, Atlanta, Georgia.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-19 11:24:55 / 2023-03-19 11:32:20 / 7