Today on Summit Life, J.D. Greer talks about suffering. What Peter's showing you is that it's almost like a thermostat.
You know, a thermostat, it's the cold that kicks on the thermostat, makes the heat come on. Peter's saying the cold of suffering is what kicks on the heat of your faith. There is a kind of joy, inexpressible joy, some of you have never really felt because you've never been through the pain of despair. Happy Friday, and welcome back to Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer.
I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. You know, a lot of people come to Jesus with the expectation that He'll make their life better. I mean, let's be real. We hear it all the time, right? In fact, it's not even that they think things will be perfect, but they still sort of expect some improvements, a happier family, financial stability, and a help line when things get sticky. But the problem is the Bible never promised us an easy life. In fact, Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble.
So how should we respond when life gets hard? Let's join Pastor J.D. in 1 Peter as he answers this question from a biblical perspective here on Summit Life. 1 Peter, if you got your Bible open to 1 Peter, Peter writes this book as a normal guy to normal people, and he writes it to people who are in the midst of suffering. All right, so let's begin in verse 1.
Here's what Peter says. Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Elect exiles.
That's a very important name. Elect means that they're the chosen people of God. Exiles means that they're not in their home territory. Some translations may even say aliens there. What makes them odd is how they don't listen at all to the things that the world says is important, and primarily that shows up, Peter's going to show you, with the question of suffering. What separates, listen, the people of God from the people of the world most distinctly, you'll see this in 1 Peter, is how they respond to disappointment, how they respond to pain, and how they have hope in the midst of suffering. All right, verse 3. Blessed be, he says, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to his great mercy.
According to his great mercy. Peter starts out reminding them of the mercy of God in their lives. In God's mercy, he has made us be born again to a living hope. A living hope is what you look forward to on the other side of pain. It's what tells you that everything's going to be okay. It's what tells you that it's all going to be worth it.
Where does this happen? Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfady, kept in heaven for you far away from anything that death or disease could touch. Peter says, I see this inheritance through the resurrection of Jesus. Think for a minute about what the resurrection of Jesus meant for Peter. The darkest day of Peter's life had been when Jesus died on the cross. Peter had left everything to follow Jesus. He'd left his business, he'd left his home, and now Jesus had died and it threw him into a despair. In fact, you know, scholars tell us that the reason that Peter denied Christ three times in the space of an hour is because he was disappointed.
He was disappointed that Jesus had not become what he thought Jesus would become. And in Friday and Saturday, Peter is in utter despair, but then Sunday morning, he goes and there's an empty tomb and he looks into that empty tomb and then he sees Jesus face to face and he realizes that the whole time, even when Peter thought that it was the darkest time you could imagine, God had a plan. Here's another thing I think Peter probably means by the resurrection, and I bring this up with you a good bit because it's kind of deep, but it's really important. Peter saw in the resurrection that the time that it looked like God was most out of control, the cross, was the time when actually God was most in control. Because it wasn't just that God fixed the problem of the cross, right? It was that the cross actually was the thing that God was using to be good to mankind.
It looked like God was out of control, but that was actually when God was doing his greatest work. What if you saw your life through the lens of the cross and the resurrection? What if you saw and believed that there was a glorious Sunday morning coming when every sad thing would come untrue? When there would be an inheritance that death and disease could never touch and you saw how even the most painful parts of your life God was working toward that glorious end. If you saw that and you could just grasp it and live in it for just a second and you believed it, what would that give you?
What would it give you? Say it, hope. So Peter says, verse six, in this, in this, in what? In this promise, you rejoice though now for a little while if necessary you've been grieved by various trials. Here's something really interesting about the two verbs in that sentence, rejoice and grieve.
First, they're both very intense verbs. Rejoice means intense rejoicing. Peter will in just a few verses say joy that is inexpressible. Have you ever been so overwhelmingly happy about something you just couldn't speak? That he's talking about a joy that's not just, hey, I'm happy. He's talking about a joy that, that is so intense that words can't, can't flesh it out. Grieved, grieved is the Greek word lupao, which means an intense grief. It's the same word that was used of Jesus when it says he was sorrowful unto death when he was on his way to the cross. All right, so that's, you notice they're both intense verbs.
Second, they're both present tense verbs. You put that together and here's what you get. Walking, listen, walking with Jesus is often simultaneously great joy and deep pain. Some of you don't think that's possible. Some of you can't have joy in the midst of bad circumstances because your joy is in certain circumstances. You don't have joy, what you have is happiness. There's a difference in joy and happiness. Happiness is when the happenings of your life are where they should be.
Joy is something different, altogether they release this kind of joy. Some of you can't have joy in the midst of painful circumstances because your joy is a certain set of circumstances. There's other Christians, this is one of my pet peeves, where it's like you just kind of numb yourself to the reality that there is pain and you kind of put this like positive spin on it.
You know, where, where you just, you just never really fit. You walk around with this surreal look on your face, all chipper, you know, God is good all the time. I thought we'd never get over that one in the church. God is good, you know, and you're like, oh well there's, you let go and let God, don't worry, God will put a rainbow on that dark cloud.
There's a silver lining. When Jesus went to the cross, you know, and the father reveals to him that he's going to have to die on the cross, Jesus is not like, well, praise the Lord. It's just he was overwhelmed with sorrow, he wept, he cried out to God. Christians hurt, they hurt, but see their heart can only go so deep because their ultimate hope is in a God who brings back life from the dead, the God who turns tragedy into triumph, a God who takes us through the cross to bring us to the resurrection so they can simultaneously be filled with intense joy and deep pain. In fact, what Peter's showing you is that it's almost like a thermostat.
You know, a thermostat, it's the cold that kicks on the thermostat, makes the heat come on. Peter's saying the cold of suffering is what kicks on the heat on the heat of your faith. There is a kind of joy, inexpressible joy some of you have never really felt because you've never been through the pain of despair.
And when you go through the pain of despair, that's when God uses the cold of despair to kick on an intensity of faith and an intensity of joy that will become to you inexpressible because you will simultaneously be filled with deep sorrow and unspeakable joy. So he goes on, verse 7, so that, watch, the tested genuineness of your faith, faith that is more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire. Peter's saying God's purpose in this is he's allowing these trials to purify faith in you. He says it's like gold.
I know not many of you are goldsmiths, but what they say is that when you want to purify gold, you heat it up because what will happen is as you're heating it up, gold is one of the last things that would evaporate so all the impurities, what they call the dross, float to the top of the gold and they scrape them off and the remaining gold is much more pure as a result of it having gone through the furnace. Peter says that's what these trials are like. They are heating up your life so that the impurities of your faith, the places where it looks like you have faith but you don't really have faith, they'll be burned away. Trials reveal those places where you don't really trust God. Some of you don't trust God.
How do we know that? Because as soon as things start going wrong, you start thinking, oh God, you've forgotten me. God, where are you? God, I don't deserve this. You don't trust him. In fact, as I was preparing this message, I just had this really strong impression that there is a lady here, I don't know which campus he's at, but there's a lady who's about to give up on her marriage because you don't really trust God.
You don't trust God to continue to work in your marriage and to sustain you so you're about to take matters into your own hands. Trials reveal those places where you don't really trust God. Trials reveal where you love God's gifts more than you love God. I know of a guy, actually I know several stories like this, of people who grew up in those prosperity churches that basically teach you that if you serve God the way you should, that he's going to give you all the blessings of life.
He's going to drive the car, live in the right neighborhood. This guy for a while, man, he was super excited about God. He was the end of God, but then he got disappointed. Things started to go wrong for him, and now he doesn't believe in God at all. In fact, he's kind of gotten into the new atheism, looking for reasons to discredit the Christian faith. That's because his faith and his joy was never really in God.
His faith and his joy was in the things that God, he thought, could give him. That's the problem I have with the prosperity gospel. It turns God into a means to an end. It gets people excited about God.
Yeah, I mean, turn on the TV and watch the prosperity gospel services. You'll see people excited about God, hands in the air waving, screaming at God, but they're excited about God the way that I'd be excited about a winning lottery ticket. The actual lottery ticket, it's just a piece of paper. But if it's, you know, I can turn it in and get $150 million from it, it becomes valuable to me. I hang on to it.
I'm excited about it. But the moment I get that $150 million, I throw away the ticket because I wasn't into the ticket. The ticket was just a means to an end. They're excited about God, but not because of God, but because of what they think God can give them. The prosperity gospel creates idolaters who use God as a means to his gifts rather than lovers of God who would give up his gifts to possess him.
Trials show you both those things, and trials purify your faith. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. As we take a brief pause from today's teaching, I want to share with you about a fantastic resource that's available to you free of charge each day. Our daily email devotional is a great way to develop a regular habit of staying grounded in the Word of God. The devotionals even follow along with the current teaching series here on Summit Life, and they include a scripture reading, a devotional thought, and a prayer prompt to help you start your day on the right foot.
It's completely free, and you can sign up today at jdgreer.com slash resources. We hope that these devotionals will be a source of encouragement and growth in your walk with Christ. So go and sign up today, and remember, our resources are made possible by the generous support of listeners like you. Now let's get back to today's teaching with Pastor J.D.
Greer here on Summit Life. Little of you never really had your faith tested, maybe until now. You never had your faith tested. This has happened to me several times. One of the most distinct was when I served as a church planner. There was a situation, which I won't go into detail now, but this is when I was very afraid. Some friends of mine that were on our team had been put into prison.
It was a mob that had burned their cars. For two or three days it looked like our lives were in danger. You know, since the time I was 16 years old, I've been standing up in places like this one telling people that you need to be bold and to give your life for Jesus. I'm going to tell you something.
When you think somebody's about to take you up on that offer, it's an altogether different ball game. I just remember how terrified I was, how afraid. I wasn't ready to give up my life for Jesus. I didn't trust God.
If I could have dug a hole and buried myself in it, that's what I would have done. I remember how humiliated I felt during that time because the talk of my faith was revealed as dross and I saw how very little actual faith there was. Peter been through that. Peter got to a point where he felt humiliated because all this talk about I'll go die for you Jesus and then things start going wrong and he denies Jesus three times in the space of an hour. Peter feels humiliated. Peter says, I know what it's like to go through this, but don't resist it because God is actually producing something in you that is more valuable to you than gold and is something that can give you more joy than any blessing of God could ever give to you.
Can you believe that? Can you believe that in your dark moment, God might be doing it because he loves you and teaching you to trust him and have a joy in him that you probably couldn't get any other way? I was reading my Bible the other day, the Gospel of John, and I came across a story that most of you would be familiar with, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. I noticed something in this story that I'd never seen before. I've probably preached on this a dozen times, never seen it.
Basically, the story is this. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus is good friends with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. He genuinely loves them.
They're part of his circle. He hears that Lazarus is sick. Well, the great thing about having Jesus as a friend is when you're sick, Jesus comes and heals you, right? So they send a message like, hey, Jesus, Lazarus is sick. He might die. Why don't you come on down here, heal him, and go back to your business? So here's what it says, okay?
This is what I've never noticed. Now, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, verse six, so when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was and let Lazarus die. Talk about a non sequitur. If Jesus loved him, he would go heal him, but no, because. So because he loved them, he let Lazarus die because there was something about himself that they could not learn had he just gone to heal Lazarus. And the greatest act of love that God can give to us is not any blessing that he gives us, it's allowing us to see and know more of himself. You see, joy inexpressible doesn't come from any of God's blessings. Happiness comes from some of God's blessings. Joy inexpressible comes from God himself. Inexpressible joy comes not from any of his blessings, but from knowing him himself, because God is better than all of his gifts.
And trials produce that. They produce joy. They produce the faith that produces joy almost the way the cold kicks on the thermostat and makes the heat come on. Verse seven, so that your faith, he says, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Here's a question. Praise and glory and honor. Is that praise and glory and honor that we give to Jesus? Or is that praise and glory and honor that Jesus gives to us? Or is that praise and glory and honor that Jesus gives to us?
Don't answer because you'll probably get it wrong. Well, we think praise, glory, and honor, that's always things that we give to Jesus, and that is true. But in this case, every commentary that I consulted said this. This is praise and glory and honor that come from Jesus. Peter looks forward to that and says, I am willing to be exile, a stranger.
I'm willing to be nobody here because the joy of that is so intense that I don't care about anybody else's opinion any longer. You see, Peter had been a guy who depended, like many of us, on the opinions of others. There's that awesome, ridiculous, stupid scene in the gospels where, you know, Jesus and the disciples were walking on the road. Peter and a few of them are up there arguing, and Jesus says, hey, what are you arguing about? They're like, I don't know. We're not saying. He's like, no, no, no. You were talking about something, and they're like, oh, you know. And he's like, hey, you know, I'm a sovereign God, so I pretty much know I just want to hear you admit it.
And so they're like, okay. We were arguing about which one of us is going to be the greatest and which one of us is going to sit at your right in your left hand at the kingdom of God. That was Peter. Peter always thinking about how am I looking in front of everybody else. And now Peter's at a place where he's like, I don't care about praise and honor and glory from you.
Why? Because I'm getting it from Jesus. And what good is the high opinions of a bunch of no account earthlings, which is all of you, no offense. What difference does the high opinions of a bunch of no account earthlings matter if I've got the approval of the only God whose approval is the only one that really matters anyway?
I'll be despised by everybody if I know that I'm looking forward to that with you. I haven't told you this story in a while, so I'll give you a cliff notes version of it because some of you have been around here long enough you haven't heard me tell this story. One of the greatest moments of my life happened when I was 22 years old, and I think it was my first year seminary, last year of college, I can't remember, but I was coaching a soccer team. So I coached this 12-year-old boys soccer team. I can't remember what league it was, but I remember that they were awesome. And they were awesome, you know, partly because they were great athletes, but partly because I was a great coach. And we made it all the way through the season undefeated, undefeated.
We made it to the Harnett County semi-finals. Our guys walked on that field. It was a night game, our first night game. It was a big deal. A lot of people were there.
I don't know, I remember again, I can't remember what league it was, but it was, there was a lot of parents there and our guys walked on that field. They had this little ritual. I won't tell you where they learned it, but they would take off their shirts. They would spit on the ground.
This is before the game started. They would wipe mud, make little piles of mud, and they would wipe it on their faces and on their chest and put their shirts back on before the game ever started. They looked like they'd been in an Irish potato war or something like that, where they just, I mean, it was, they were, because, you know, 12-year-old boys are starting to go through that change. You know what I'm talking about?
The little, the voice change, everything. And so, I mean, these guys, they went through their ritual. They walked on that field so cocky. They got killed. The final score didn't reflect it. They only lost three to one, but that was just because I'd set up such an awesome defensive strategy that the other team just couldn't score. But the other team dominated the game, and they really did. It was one of those ones where we just hardly got any shots on goal, and they must have gotten, you know, just tons of them. And so they had this one player on their team.
Listen closer to this. They had this one player on their team and she was awesome. Oh, yeah.
My little chauvinist had no category for this. They had no way to process that the most awesome player they had dealt with all season was a girl. I have no idea who this girl was. In fact, it was about the time that Mia Hamm would have been 12 years old.
I went back and looked it up. She played nowhere near Harnett County. But she was like, she was like Michael Jordan with a soccer ball.
Anything a girl wanted to do, she could do. She was the best player we had encountered all season. She must have gotten 50 shots on goal.
10 minutes left to go in the second half for losing two to one. I pulled out one of our fullbacks, a kid named David, and I said, David, I am sick and tired of that girl getting shots on goal. He said, me too, coach. I hate that girl. I said, David, you don't need to hate her, but we need to stop her. David, that girl cannot get another shot on goal.
You understand me? Yes, sir, coach. David, you got one assignment for the remaining 10 minutes of this game. Yes, sir, coach. David, she is your assignment.
Anytime that girl steps foot in the penalty box with the ball, I want that girl on her rear end. You understand me, David? Yes, sir, coach. I said, David, that's your only assignment. I don't care if the guy next to you burst into flames.
That's not your responsibility. She is your, yes, sir, coach. David turns around, starts running back on the field.
He gets about 10 feet from me. I was like, David, do it legally. Because we'd worked on this. It was called a slide tackle.
That's right. And so he goes back on the field. Two minutes pass by. I honestly forgot about what I'd said to him because I'm noticing this genius come down the left side of the field. She goes through, she gets down to the corner. She goes through the right fullback. Like, I don't know what, when she's done, he's in the fetal position crying for his mom. She comes back up to the middle and David played stopper. It was the sweeper and the goalie, the only two people that were there. And she does something with her. She pump fake or something, but they just disappeared.
I don't know where those two guys went. So it's just her and a wide open goal. And about that time, this thought crosses my mind. I'm like, doggone it. She has done it again. She got a wide open goal. This is going to be it. This is the end of the game.
Now the left side of my peripheral vision comes this blur. He's got this tractor beam on her and he just. He hits her from behind. I mean, full spread eagle attack.
I mean, it's beautiful. It's like a swan dive. He hits her big cloud of dust. And it was one of those moments where everybody was like, did that just happen? That just happened. And so the dust settles for a minute. And it was like everybody on the field, everybody in the field gets angry at once.
Right? Because they just realized what happened. Their team, all for different reasons. Their team is angry because they think, you know, we try to take out their star player. The referee's angry because he's like, can you give a kid a red card when he's 12 years old and throw him out for the rest of the season? Our team is angry because they knew they handed the other team a penalty kick in the penalty box. Our parents are angry because they think psycho coach sent this kid in to take this little girl out. And I'm thinking lawsuit. That's the only thing going on in my mind. That's one of my favorite pastor JD stories. We'll hear the conclusion of that story next time. So don't miss it.
Meanwhile, you can catch up on JD's previous messages by visiting jdgrier.com. JD, the book of first Peter helps us understand why we as Christians might not always feel like we belong, why we are and should be a bit different from others around us. Right? Yeah. Peter literally tells Christians that they're not of this world. They're outsiders. We're citizens of another kingdom who are, are on mission here in this kingdom in order to be able to accomplish the purposes of the King who sent us here.
Right. And so first Peter is about how to live that kind of life. And I love the themes of it because I think if there's anything that we Christians feel in the United States is that yes, we love our country.
I'm a proud citizen of this country, but also recognize that increasingly I don't really fit around in the society around me. And so you've got to learn how to live as the right kind of exile, the right kind of person who sent. That's one of the things I love about the resource we're offering with to go along with this series.
It's pairs very nicely with first Peter. It's a book called sent living a life that invites others to Jesus is by Heather and Ashley Holloman, who are a wife and husband team that do a lot of campus ministry. I found it very helpful, full of practical suggestions that regardless of your personality or what you're gifted at, it'll show you what it means for you to live sin.
It's our way of saying thank you. If you'll just be a part of supporting this ministry and helping us do what we do, we'd love to return that by helping you fulfill the role that you have of living sin and this resource could do it. We'd love to get you a copy of our latest resource called sent living a life that invites others to Jesus by Heather and Ashley Holloman to get ahold of your copy. We simply ask that you support summit life with a gift of $35 or more. So give us a call right now at 866-335-5220.
That's 866-335-5220 or visit us online at JDCreer.com. I'm Molly Vinovitch. Thanks so much for joining us this week. Please join us again next time for the third part of this teaching called I don't belong here, along with the conclusion of that hilarious story that pastor JD told. We'll see you Monday on summit life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
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