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Weekly Word

Entries in Evil (4)

Tuesday
Nov182014

The Blessing of God's Word

Today we are going to look at the passage in Luke 11:27-32.

Have you ever noticed that it is easy to see the blessings that others have and overlook our own?  Whether it is self-pity, or the ignorance we have of the lives of others, we get stuck in blindness towards what true blessing is.  In fact, that is the case even when we have the best of motivations.  However, we often are envious of what others have and too greedy to be content with what we have.  This only makes the situation worse.  May God help us to be thankful for the portion we have received from Him and to put it to good use.

The context of this passage involves Jesus ministering in miracles and in teaching the Word of God.  His powerful command over an evil spirit and knowledgeable teach about how evil spirits operate amazed the crowd.  This leads to a woman in the crowd crying out how blessed Mary, the mother of Jesus, must be.  She is so smiled on by God.  She is so lucky.  I wish this was my son!  Of course, I don’t know what all is in this woman’s heart.  But the greatness of Jesus caused her to think about how nice it would be to be his mother.  Jesus takes advantage of this interruption to teach them and us something about what really makes us blessed by God.

We Misunderstand God’s Blessings

This woman and her outburst is a good illustration of the natural condition of our human hearts.  We so easily overlook the blessings that God has given us.  Yet we have “hyper-sight” of the blessings of others.  This spontaneous exclamation gives us insight into what is happening in our hearts as humans all the time.  Although we may have learned to control our words and outbursts, we all have the same visceral reactions to life.  “How lucky that person is!  I wish I was even half as blessed as them!  God sure blessed them.  Why doesn’t He bless me?”  When we think this way we are truly thinking foolishly.

This woman ends up comparing and contrasting her situation with that of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  When she sees Jesus she sees what she doesn’t have- a son who is amazing the people of Israel.  Even if her sons had turned out great and had good reputations, they couldn’t compare to Jesus.  “What must it be like to have such a great son?  That Mary is so blessed!”  Yet, the truth of Mary’s blessing is far more complicated than that.  In Luke 2:35-36, when Joseph and Mary brought the eight day old Jesus to the Temple, the prophet Simeon said to her, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  Mary had good times.  But she would also have extreme soul-piercing times as well and most likely far more than this woman would ever have.  In 2 Corinthians 10:12 we are told that we are not wise to compare ourselves to others.  We can’t know the half of what it is like to walk in their shoes.  We need to learn to focus upon our self and not by contrast with others.

James 1:17 tells us that every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of Lights.  He is the source of our blessings.  The “woe is me” attitude causes us to look down upon the blessings that God has given us, which is looking down upon Him.  This woman misses the reality of her own blessing.  In fact, we today can be envious of the fact that she got to physically see and hear Jesus.  Yet, later Jesus would say, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Please catch the fact that we do not understand what a blessing is.  We look to all the wrong things and say that is a blessing.  Yet, Jesus corrects us and points us back to what our true blessing is.  This woman misses the reality of her own blessing because she is looking at Mary’s lesser one.  We focus on what we think are big blessings, when all along we are overlooking those that really are big.  Mary was blessed, but not any more than her.  Even to this day groups within Christianity will look to Mary in awe because she was the “Mother of God.”  Of course that statement misrepresents the reality that Mary only mothered the physical flesh that God took upon Himself in Christ.  Mary was not near to God because she birthed the Messiah.  In fact, we can end up with a heart that has to have a son who is Jesus in order to be content.  Does God have to do such and such in order for you to believe that He has blessed you?  Does God have to bless you with a certain something in order for you to be happy?  Be careful, because that thing has become an idol in your life.

Jesus answers the woman with the truth about who was blessed.  The Word of God is the greatest blessing that we can receive.  In that sense they were all just as blessed as Mary.  Many who have had material blessing in this life will go into eternity lost and ill prepared for judgment.  Don’t envy the material blessings at all.  They cannot save you and are not proof that God loves those people.

Yet, the Word of God must always be mixed with faith; belief.  Think of it this way.  Was Judas blessed?  Yes, in that God gave him a great position in His band of followers.  Yet, in the end Judas wasn’t blessed because he failed to trust Jesus.  Thus Jesus emphasizes hearing and keeping the Word of God.  The word “keep” means to guard, watch over, and nurture.  It is also in the present tense.  Blessed are those who are hearing the Word of God and keeping it.  Are you guarding God’s Word to you this morning, or are you allowing the evil one to use every manner of tricks to plunder it?  Get this deep into your heart.  When you truly understand blessing, you will understand that the greatest blessing is simply receiving the Word of God and then doing it.  This is what brings us near to the heart of God.

The Evil Generation

Jesus then turns to speak about the generation of Israel in His day.  It was an evil or bad generation.  Of course, not every single individual was bad.  But overall they did not trust the Word of God.  Rather they trusted the word of men.  They lack faith in God and obedience to Him.  Are we part of an evil generation here in America?  Forget about Iran or ISIS.  What about us?  I think it is clear that we too have crossed a threshold where we as a people have decided that God has nothing to say to us.  We can figure it out for ourselves. 

Jesus says that an evil generation looks for signs and wonders.  They demand spectacular proof from God.  Now Jesus did many miracles, but they weren’t enough.  They always wanted Him to do something greater.  In that sense our desire for God’s miracles can come from a place of hypocrisy.  We want God to jump through our hoops in a very specific way and then we will believe.  However, we never get to belief because our unbelief keeps asking for something greater.  You can never please or convince a person who doesn’t want to believe.  Even if it takes a ridiculous argument, they will come up with reasons why your argument isn’t enough, or why God hasn’t done enough.

Yet, it is God who chooses the signs we will receive.  God will not put himself in a position of scrambling to please every whim and desire of those who refuse to believe Him.  He chooses the signs and gives enough to those who want to believe.  We are not in control He is.  If you want to be blessed then be quick to trust Him rather than continually challenging His love and care for you.  If His commands lead you to a cross then say, “Your will be done.”

Jesus tells them that the sign they are going to get from God is the sign of Jonah.  Although in Luke this phrase is not explained, in Matthew 12:40 we are told, “as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  Now the story of Jonah being swallowed by a large fish or sea creature is an amazing one.  When you read Jonah chapter 2 and the prayer that Jonah prays when he has been swallowed, you get the impression that Jonah may have actually died.   Whether he did or not, God miraculously causes him to be transported and regurgitated onto the beach.  Having spent 3 days in stomach acids he must have been a sight to behold.  He was probably pale and lacked any hair on his body.  Whether or not there were any witnesses to his projection onto the beach, he would have looked like he had been in the belly of a fish.  Thus he is a picture of a prophet of God coming back from the dead to proclaim the Word of God.  This picture corresponds to the Resurrection of Jesus.  That is the main sign that God would give to their generation and to ours.

Now Jesus then points to other generations that the people of Israel would have thought of as evil.  In the time of Solomon, the Queen of Sheba traveled a great distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon and believed in him.  But Jesus had brought greater wisdom to that generation and most did not believe in him.  Yes, they were amazed, but most did not mix it with faith.  Are we guilty of this today?  Do we scour the internet and the whole world for wisdom and yet look down upon the Word of God, or never even give it a hearing?  Jesus wasn’t in some far off country.  He had brought the Wisdom of God right to them and yet they were rejecting it.  Jesus said that the Queen of Sheba would be Exhibit A in the case against them.  Even if we try to say, “but God you can’t expect me to believe that,” He need only point to those who responded to far less.

Another example of this is the Ninevites.  The Ninevites repented when Jonah warned them of the coming Judgment.  Yet, Jesus was greater than Jonah and preached a greater message, yet few repented.

We are swimming in the blessing of God in this world.  The gospel has gone out to the world.  Especially here in the West, we have God’s Word everywhere.  God’s Word has never been more prevalent and more accessible to mankind, and yet we persist in demanding greater proof and refuse to seek it out; refuse to repent.  Even though we think our reasoning is air-tight, God need only point to those many people through each generation who believed with far less than us.  No, we truly are an evil generation.  Judgment hangs over us.  But you can be spared.  Jesus calls you to come, pick up your cross, and follow Him.  Join the band of people who not only heard God’s Word but also mixed it with faith.

 

Blessing of God's Word audio

Tuesday
Nov112014

A Clean House

Today we will be looking at Luke 11:24-26.  Here Jesus teaches on evil spirits or demons.  It is impossible to know how many evil spirits are operating throughout the world and in our society.  The Bible is silent on this aspect and so, Christians should approach this issue with balance.  On one hand we should not think that everyone is full of spirits and everything they do influenced directly by them.  Yet, on the other hand, we should not pretend that we know better than Jesus himself and that they do not exist.

The experience throughout history is that if an evil spirit is involved they will make it clear in one way or another.  Jesus was so successful in casting out evil spirits that his opponents accused him of being in league with the Prince of Demons.  It was in such a case that Jesus began to explain what is really going on when an evil spirit is cast out of a person.

Now, it is helpful to have this information regarding evil spirits because it will be a protection for ourselves and an aid against those spirits if we encounter them.  Yet, we must not let ourselves be made fearful in these things.  Evil spirits are real.  But, greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.  Jesus proved his power over evil spirits and if the Spirit of Christ is in you and the knowledge of Christ is too, then you can stand without fear.

Demons Can Be Made To Leave

The spirit that Jesus had just cast out had made the person it possessed unable to speak.  It is one thing to see a person go from acting crazy to being in their right mind.  However, it is quite another to see a person who has been unable to speak suddenly able and doing so.  As the crowds marveled over the power of Christ and others cynically accused him of working with Satan, we must not lose sight that people who are demon possessed can be set free.

So how did they become demon possessed to begin with?  Initially there needs to be some form of permission.  This can be in the form of curiosity with spirits, or seeking power through them, divination, fortune telling, occult arts, or even “white” and “black” magic.  Pursuing these things is essentially opening the door to the spirits that have promoted these things.  Although the Bible does not explain the detail of how all this works, it is clear that evil spirits can attach themselves to individuals in varying degrees of control.  The good news is that Jesus demonstrated that spirits can be made to leave and not just in rare cases such as the Jewish exorcists did.  Ultimately when one who is stronger spiritually confronts it, the spirit can be made to leave.  Jesus is that one who is not just spiritually stronger, but is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords (materially or spiritually).  He is the one that we lean upon.  Yet, Jesus gives us more information than that here.

They Are Restless When Cast Out

Two pictures are given of what it is like when an unclean spirit is cast out of someone:  dry places, and lack of rest.  For an evil spirit to be kicked out of possessing someone is like you and I finding ourselves in a desert.  The dry place has no fruit or shade or promise of such.  It is a barren place that will not grow what we would like to grow.  Of course spirits aren’t looking for “food.”  They are looking for a promising person that they can plant themselves in and do the evil works that they want to do.  Thus they are restless or without a place (person) in which to dwell.  Perhaps they desire possession because that is the only way they can impact the material world for evil.  Satan’s desire is to destroy the works of God and so through possession spirits are able to fight against and destroy parts of God’s work in mankind and this world.  Without this connection they are like a man who is stuck in the desert.

This raises a question.  Why were there so many cases of demonic possession in those days?  And, are there any less today?  Though Israel had the truth of God, they generally did not follow the ways of God because of unbelief.  Thus they were often mixing God’s commands with occult religion.  The accepting of the religious practices of the nations around them led them into the trap of these spirits.  If you look at America today we have a similar problem.  We started out with the Truth of Christ as a nation.  However, over the years our unbelief has caused us to seek out religious “truth” elsewhere.  This has opened the door for greater prevalence of demonic activity and possession.  You can scoff this teaching off today.  However, these issues will become more and more prevalent in our society.

They Will Seek To Repossess

Evil spirits are not content with “dry places” and “restlessness.”  They are looking for other easy targets.  Are we quickly becoming a “target rich” environment?  They last place you want to be, if you are messing with the occult or false religions, is at an exorcism.  That would be playing with fire. 

If the spirit does not find another easy target it will eventually return to the last place it had success.  Jesus says that the spirit finds the person to be “swept and in order.”  This by contrast helps us see what these evil spirits do inside of a person.  They clutter the internal mind and soul of a person with spiritual dirt and garbage and cause chaos.  We see this with the Gadarene demoniac.  He went from running around naked and acting crazy to being clothed and in his right mind.  Those who suffered sickness and disease in their bodies from evil spirits were healed when the spirit was made to leave.  Those who were dysfunctional and mentally broken became functional and in control of their own mind and actions.  Spirits use chaos and acts of sin and evil to breakdown the internal order and cease control.

They Enlist Worse Spirits To Help

This aspect is critical in understanding why Jesus is telling us this information.  He had been accused of working with the Prince of Demons to cast out these evil spirits.  Yet, Jesus reveals that the way it really works is that lesser spirits will use their foothold in a person to bring in worse spirits.  The worse spirits are not kicking out lesser spirits.  Yes, the evil spirit could try to take over the person again.  However, it could end up getting kicked out again.  Thus it gets 7 other spirits more evil than it.  Look at it this way, people are more easily seduced by that which flirts on the edge rather than the outrageous in your face attack.  An evil spirit that operates through mere anger and bitterness is easier to embrace than one that operates through murder.  Yet, they are both evil and the embracing of one can lead to the other over time.  Thus Jesus warns that the person can end up in a worse state than previously.  Compare the Gadarene demoniac to the Slave girl in Philippi.  One could not function at all and was complete chaos.  The other operated in a way in which her masters could make money off of her and she didn’t need to be restrained.  These spirits have modes of operating that can be more or less evil and yet all are dangerous.

Don’t Leave The House Empty

Although Jesus leaves it at that, this information begs a solution.  How can a person keep from being repossessed and end up in a worse state?  Well it does start with the phrase swept and in order.  Though the evil spirit may be gone, we can still have a lot of paraphernalia in our lives that led to possession in the first place (occult books, pictures, symbols, books of magic, etc…).  We can also have a lot of habits and activities that the spirit used to keep us in slavery.  A person who is serious in being free needs to go through their house and life and do some heavy cleaning and “pruning.”  Certain places will cease to be our hangouts.  Certain people will cease to be our friends. 

Yet, more than cleaning needs to be done.  We need to invite the clean and pure Holy Spirit of God to take up residence in our soul.  Thus the people that Jesus interacted with received a lot of material benefit from Jesus.  But all of that would be little if they didn’t spiritually benefit.  Casting a spirit out is one thing.  But asking the Holy Spirit to fill us and live within us is a far greater thing.  Don’t leave the house empty.  Accept the invitation that Jesus has extended to you today.

Let me close this by laying it out in order.  When you are dealing with evil spirits the first thing that is needed is a strong believer in Jesus who will pray for the freedom of the person possessed.  Next they need to sweep their life clean of all the spiritual junk connected to those spirits.  Lastly, the person needs to put their faith in Jesus and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill them.  This is the path to freedom for those who have found themselves in bondage to evil entities.  May the peace and freedom of Christ reign in our hearts and minds.

 

Clean House Audio

Wednesday
Mar052014

A Good Disciple Builds On The Rock

After Jesus had taught His disciples to love their enemies and to be merciful in their judgments, He then challenged them to build their lives upon His words.  In Luke 6 it is clear that this is no call to try to look like God, but rather to change and become like Him within.  It is the nature of God that leads Him to the kindness of giving room for repentance.  Thus the problem of “goodness and evil” lies in the very natures of men.

In Luke 6:43 and following Jesus points us to the reality that good works can only come from a good nature and He does this with the picture of trees in verses 43 to 45.

The Fruit Of A Tree

Jesus uses an illustration from nature to bring home his point about man’s sinful nature.  The Spirit of this Age promotes the idea that men are basically good in their natures and that it is bad influences from society (i.e. religion, superstition, ignorance) that cause evil.  People are basically good.  Of course this idea doesn’t even pass the smell test of our everyday experience.  But, we have a powerful desire for this to be true.  Yet, it begs the question.  If man if only made evil by society then how did society become evil?  Isn’t it made of “good” men?  Clearly there is some slight-of-hand going on with the definitions of good and evil here.  People who are basically good could only build societies that are basically good.  Something is missing.  The Bible would agree that mankind was originally created with a good nature.  But, man also has the power to choose evil.  Through choice man has twisted and perverted his original nature.  Man is bent towards sin (other than God).

Thus Jesus points out that a tree produces fruit after its own kind, or from its underlying nature.  God has designed the creation in such a way that what is seen has a direct connection to that which cannot be seen within it.  In the case of a tree, it is its underlying DNA.  However, Jesus is speaking spiritually here.

Now over time men have learned to distinguish those trees and the fruit that comes from them.  In this we see that some fruit looks good to the eye, but is bad for the body.  On the other hand, some fruit doesn’t look good, but is.  In this analogy the “bad” tree is the one that cannot be eaten by man without ill consequences.  This is a picture of bad teachers and false prophets.  If you eat of their teaching you will be poisoned.  No matter how good their fruit looks there will be death in it.  Spiritually we need to be good at identifying bad and good trees.  There are many trees across this nation offering nothing good and people are clamoring to eat it up.  Only Jesus is the Good Tree that we can trust to give us life.  He is the only Tree of Life.  Do not listen to those teachers who rail against those who “judge them.”  It is the foolish man who eats fruit first before asking if it is poisonous.  Jesus warned us against the teaching of these religious charlatans.  Jesus is the good tree.

Now when Jesus points out that good fruit can only come from a good tree it would be easy to think he is telling his disciples that they are good trees.  Here we have the fact that only a tree with a good nature can give good fruit.  In Luke 18:18-22, a rich young man came to Jesus seeking to know what he needed to do to be saved.  However, he greets Jesus as “Good Teacher.”  Now the man was not wrong to call Jesus “good teacher.”  However, he didn’t understand the importance of what he was saying.  So, Jesus pulls him up short in order to make him think about what he was saying.  “No one is good, but One, that is, God.”  Here Jesus disqualifies all men as a source of good fruit.  The rich young man wanted answers, but the only reason Jesus could help him was because Jesus was the Son of God.  To hear the words of Jesus are to hear the very words of the Father himself.  That is why Jesus ends this discussion by telling the man to sell all his goods and follow Him.  Yes, the rich man lacked treasure in heaven.  But more importantly he lacked The Treasure of Heaven; Jesus himself.  Jesus is good because by nature He is God.

The good news of the Gospel is not that we have a new and improved list of good things to do that are better and simpler than the old ones.  Rather, the good news of the Gospel is that in Jesus, God is now sharing His nature with mankind.  If I am going to be a good tree that produces good fruit, then I am going to need to have my nature changed from me to Him.  God does this not by making us all gods.  Rather, He puts His Spirit within us, which makes our spirit come alive to the “good things” of God.  We still have a fallen human nature that fights against this.  We see this in John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”  If I am going to truly love my enemy and be merciful then I am going to need a new nature working within me to produce such good things.  Trying to do this without inner change is not only futile, it will also become a twisted, perverted, and evil thing in the end.  Titus 1:15-16, “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.  They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.”

In the name of social justice, brotherly love, helping the poor, and unity, the world has been deceived into thinking that man can be good without being transformed by Jesus.  Even more insidious is the parallel working inside the Church to deceive believers into thinking that we can transform Jesus and His Teaching without affecting the fruit it will produce.  Thus the world thinks good can come without Jesus.  The false Church comes to believe that good can come with a new and improved Jesus (read that “another Jesus”).  This is the spirit of antichrist.  Just as the Spirit of God is preparing the chaste bride to be ready for the coming of Christ, so the spirit of this age is preparing the unchaste and adulterous bride for the coming of The Antichrist.  Have you been born again?  Has the Spirit of God taken up residence within you and is the transforming nature beneath what you do?  Don’t settle for a profession alone.  But, rather, believe in your heart upon the Jesus of Scripture and what He said.  In this you will be saved and changed.

The Good Foundation

In verses 46-49, Jesus challenges the notion that people who outwardly look like they are following Him, really are.  Those who call Him “Lord” or “Good Teacher” often do so without really knowing what that means or believing it.  Jesus uses the picture of building a house for the living of a life.  Both need a good foundation upon which to build.

The word “Lord” refers to one who is master.  Thus the disciple is put in the picture as a servant.  The wise servant of Jesus is the one who lives their life by what Jesus said.  This servant will have built a life that will survive the judgment of God.  Digging down to the rock in this parable represents getting down to God’s Word.  It alone is strong and solid enough to hold up our life.  Jesus is The Solid Rock.  Though it may seem like a lot of extra work, and there are plenty of others who offer us short cuts intellectually, the wise servant is the one who digs down to the real Jesus and the real words of Jesus, rather than rely on the words of others.  Your life and the way you have lived it will be tested.  It is tested periodically throughout our life and it is ultimately tested when we stand before God at the Judgment.  Those who actually listened to Jesus will be saved.  They will not be shaken or destroyed by divine judgment.

On the other hand, the foolish servant disobeys and perishes in judgment.  Notice that the foolish servant still builds a house.  In fact the house may look like the wise servant in many ways.  But what makes it a “good” house is not what it looks like.  It is a “bad” house because of the unseen underlying realities.  In this case the foundation is not on something solid.  It is built right on the ground.  We cannot just pick and choose what things of Jesus we want to follow.  Building on the ground is not good enough.  I know we are talking about “servants” of Jesus here, but the illustration works even with unbelievers and atheists.  They have a complete disregard for God and His Son Jesus.  Therefore they build upon a foundation of their own making and wisdom.  It does not matter what it looks like, in the end it will not be good enough to withstand the judgment of God.  However, complete disregard for God’s word is not the problem in this parable of Jesus.  The problem is a person who settles for building upon all the ideas of man that have accumulated over the years on top of Jesus (The Rock).  No matter how great and wise these people may be, their ideas and teachings are mere sand, gravel, and dirt compared to the rock of the words of Jesus.  Even though they are fine sounding religious ideas and traditions that are “based” upon Jesus, they will not hold us up.  We must dig down to Jesus and the testimony of His Apostles for ourselves and build upon that alone.  Though we can take the instruction and words of other disciples to heart, we can never let them come between us and Jesus.  Doing so is a recipe for disaster and ruin throughout this life and particularly at the Day of Judgment.

Thankfully, God part of God’s mercy is that He not only gives us time to repent, embrace Jesus and build our life upon Him, but He also sends periodic storms that will reveal our lack of a proper foundation.  Periodically throughout our lives He is faithful to test us and show us where we have been building upon something other than Him. In this mercy is the joy that we can repent and turn to Christ and be saved from ruin, whether in matters of this life or our ultimate salvation.  Yet, know this.  Like the Great Flood took the ancient world down in Judgment, but only Noah and his family survived, so there is a coming judgment that will expose the lack of foundation of many.  Only the life that is truly built upon Christ will be able to withstand the torrent of His judgment.

Today there is so much redefinition and deception regarding the things of Jesus that I would be remiss if I didn’t challenge all of us to make sure that we are building on the words of Christ and not someone who is twisting His words and misrepresenting His heart.

Good Disciple audio

Tuesday
Jan082013

The Problem of Suffering I

As we continue through the book of 1 Peter, we are now at a point where Peter speaks to the area of suffering.  Many believers were encountering suffering on a personal basis and often throughout a whole region.  Eventually, Caesars such as Nero and Diocletian would promote a persecution against Christians throughout the whole Roman world.  Thus these words from Peter were timely. 

In our own day and age, we still see large parts of the earth where persecution of Christians is the norm.  Even in America, where we have been sheltered for so long, we see a growing animosity against believers, along with incidents of clear persecution.  Thus these words are timeless and we need to pay attention to what God is saying to us.  Let’s look at 1 Peter 3:13-17.

What Kind Of Person Harms Those Who Do Good?

In verse 9 we are told to not pay back wrong for wrong.  However, this brings up the area of when others repay my good with wrong.  No matter how right and good you try to do things, there will always be some who resent you for it.  What kind of person does evil to those who do good?  That is the question that Peter puts forth in verse 13.  The main intention is to remind them that only evil people who do not belong to God will do such things.  God is against those who do evil and has gone on record that he is going to judge them.  Thus we need to remind ourselves, when we are suffering from wrongs that others do to us, that they are not doing what is right and God is against them.  That may not make you feel better, but suffering tends to get in the head of an individual.  We can begin to question all manner of things, even God’s favor for us. 

Another aspect to this question is that the answer is not just an evil person, but is the fact that they are only a human.  They are NOT God, even if they do command the power of government like Caesar.  Even if the whole world worships him as a god, he is only human.  He will stand before the true God and give account for the evil he has done.  That is why Jesus reminded his followers in Matthew 10:28 that they should not fear those who can only kill their bodies.  Rather we need to fear God who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.  When people persecute us we can be tempted to accept it as God’s punishment upon us, especially if it is ongoing.  We wonder where God’s blessing is and look for the reasons why we are so wretched to deserve this.  Thus in verse 14 Peter moves to another point.

The Righteous Who Suffer Are Blessed

How can God tell us that when we suffer for doing what is right we are blessed?  How can persecution be interpreted as blessings?  We so often only see blessings that are material.  However, we are missing the more important, eternal blessings.  In verse 12 Peter had told them that the Eyes of the Lord are on the righteous.  You are blessed because God is watching over you with affection and care.  Secondly, you are blessed because his ears are open to your prayers.  Now clearly the psalmist was not trying to say God literally has eyes and ears.  Yet, the One who created the eye and the light that makes it work did it so that we can “see” what he “sees.”  The same is true with ears.  As an aside, let me just say that even this point becomes moot in the light of Jesus and his incarnation.  God didn’t take on flesh so that he could see and hear, but so that we can understand that he has always seen and always heard.  So when you are suffering praise God that he sees your plight and pray to him with your petitions and your praises.

Lastly you are blessed because your trust in God puts you on His side.  Here Peter quotes from Isaiah 8 when he says do not be afraid...nor be troubled.  Now if you go back and read this whole chapter you will see that God speaks to both the Gentile nations and the people of Israel.  God is a sanctuary to those who trust Him, but He is a stumbling block to those who do not trust him.  So, whether you are an unbelieving heathen or a waffling Christian, you are going to either come to faith in Jesus or you will trip over him.  When God doesn’t do things our way it is easy to stumble in our faith.  But if we trust him we are blessed because those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  God will bring them through every trial.

Those Who Suffer Should Do These Things

In verses 15-17 Peter lays out several things that we need to do especially when we are suffering for doing what is right.  The first is to set our heart and mind upon the Lord alone.  To “sanctify” means to set apart for a particular purpose.  We can’t make God holier or more sanctified.  But we can make our heart and mind a special place where God’s thoughts and his desires are set up as primary and special.  They are our sole focus.  This word is the same as is used in the Lord’s prayer: “hallowed be Thy name.”  The prayer is about God’s name (Jesus and all that he is) being set apart in the hearts and minds of people.  In Hebrews 12:1-2 we see this need again.  “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…”  If we are to run this race well we need to set our heart and minds upon the desires and thoughts of Jesus Christ.  If we are to run well we need to run in the footsteps of the only one who ran it perfectly, Jesus.

The next thing those who suffer need to do is to ready themselves to give reasons for their faith in Jesus.  Typically this verse is quoted to encourage people to study apologetics.  However the context goes beyond just defending the gospel.  This actually represents the suffering person going on the offensive.  When we do not pay back wrong for wrong it will open the door of the inquisitive.  We need to be ready to pour forth that inner communion of love and adoration of our savior to them.  We can only do this if we have been reading the Word, spending time in prayer, and meditating upon God’s Word and our life.  It is here that the Holy Spirit clarifies these things in our soul.  Why do you hope in Jesus?  Can you spend hours pouring forth why you hope in Jesus?  It is increasingly important in these days that we have a relationship with Jesus that is real and spiritual.  Peter also mentions the attitude we should go about giving those reasons.   Our attitude should first be meek.  This simply means to be gentle.  It doesn’t matter how strong you are.  Meekness is strength under control.  Sharing our hope in Christ should be done gently, but also in fear.  Not fear of people, but fear of the Lord.  I am representing him.  I need to have a healthy respect and speak out of pure motives rather than out of a hurt and embittered heart. 

Lastly we need to keep our conscience clear.  Improper motivations behind even good actions can cloud our conscience just as sure as if you through a clump of mud into your drinking water.  When we repent of impure motives and trust God that he forgives us and cleanses us from it, we will have a conscience that is clear.  Many believers today have a murky conscience.  Even when they repent they don’t fully trust the forgiveness of the Lord.  We need to stop such insanity.  Either God is a Truth teller or he is a liar.  But he is not both!

If we live through suffering in such a way it will cause some to be ashamed.  They will sense the guilt of their actions and perhaps repent.  But even if they do not “feel” ashamed, they are shamed nonetheless.  We need to keep the door open for the salvation of those who persecute us by responding in these ways.

Final Thoughts

It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  When we suffer for doing evil, we deserve it.  We need to suck it up, repent, and learn.  But when we suffer for doing right, we take our place alongside God himself.  We are able to stand next to Jesus and all the other saints who suffered with him.  We have the joy of having a bond with Jesus that others will not understand.  We’ve been through the same fire that he went through.

Also, remember that God’s will is never just about suffering.  It is about the ends to which that suffering will take us.  We not only will have a place next to Jesus, but we will be like him because we have faithfully traveled the same path as him.

Lastly, suffering in this passage is based upon the choices of others.  We need to remember that God is greater than the choices of others.  And, even though we may be caused pain because of their choices, God has promised to overturn the evil others do to us.  Let us keep our faith in Jesus to the end!

Probs Suffering I Audio