classroom of suffering

Suffering happens. It happens to all of us. However, it is in the suffering that we draw near to God and understand Jesus own sufferings. Jesus didn’t come into the world as an insurance salesman offering safety and security from suffering, but he shows us instead how to suffer well. While in the classroom of suffering we have a lot to learn.

See and study the suffering of Christ

‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey” – 1 Peter 3:18-20a, ESV

Jesus suffered once—for sins. When Jesus suffered once, it didn’t mean that he only suffered onetime in life, but that his suffering was unrepeatable. In other words, his sacrifice for sin was only needed once. What is interesting is that Jesus didn’t suffer for his own sins. He didn’t sin or bring suffering upon himself as a consequence of his sin. He was righteous and perfect, and died for the unrighteous and sinful. His suffering was undeserved. Rather Jesus is the hero and example.

See and study the suffering of Noah

“when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.” – 1 Peter 3:20b

Like Jesus, Noah was rejected by people. For 120 years, he built an enormous boat believing God would send rain even though he lived in the desert. Could you imagine the ridicule? The flood eventual came and only Noah and his family were saved.

When you express faith in Jesus coming to save people from their sins, you express a faith many think is unfounded, foolish and farfetched. So if you are rejected by others for following Jesus, you’re in good company.

See and study your baptism

“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 3:21

Baptism itself is a symbol. Jesus died, was buried, and rose from death to cleanse us from our sins. The symbol of baptism is your salvation. Through baptism one shows their belief in Jesus that he cleanses them from sin like water cleanses one from dirt. And since Jesus resurrected from the grave this guarantees that those who believe in him will one day be free from all suffering as Noah was safe in the ark.

See Christ as your victor

“[Jesus] who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” 1 Peter 3:22

In order to ace the exam of suffering we need Jesus. It is impossible to pass tough times or survive without him. Jesus suffered greatly and he was victorious over evil. Today, Jesus is seated in heaven at God’s right hand. Everything is subject to him and nothing can thwart his power.

By remembering these lessons and learning them well you will be able to bear under the brunt of the suffering. When you suffer with Christ you are not suffering alone. The Master suffered for his students too.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How is Jesus the greatest hero of all time?
  • What was the result of the suffering of Jesus?
  • What does it mean to be ‘put to death in the flesh’ and ‘made alive in the Spirit’? What does this look like in your life?
  • What is the connection between the Noah story and baptism? How is baptism connected to Christ’s suffering? (See Romans 6:2-4) How does baptism remind you of Jesus? Does baptism make you a Christian? How does Jesus cleanse you from sin?
  • How have you faced ridicule or reject for your faith like Noah?
  • What does it mean that Jesus is at the ‘right hand’ of God? Who and what is subject to Jesus? What are the implications of this? How does your life reflect the fact that Jesus is on his throne? What other things compete for the throne in your life?
  • How does the resurrection give you hope in the face of suffering? How does the victory of Jesus encourage your faith?
  • How does verse 22 inspire you to worship God?
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blessing in suffering

Have you ever been slandered, bullied, or made fun of for doing the right thing? For being a Christian? Suffering for doing good or not being like for being a Christian is normal. The hard part is responding well to this kind of suffering. This is why Peter shares some ways to bless to others while suffering.

Respond in the way others least expect

Sometimes people are mean, they say mean things and do mean things. Even people in the church may treat you wrongly, but contrast their meanness by expressing a unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, tender heart and humility (vs.8-9). When you respond this way it will deflect evil and show others the attitude of Christ.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 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.” 1 Peter 3:8-9, ESV

Responding by blessings those who inflict suffering doesn’t come natural to us. However, you are called to bless, even in suffering. Our suffering is a picture of Christ’s suffering. It is an occasion to proclaim the gospel, not always in words but in the way you walk through suffering.

Remember what God has already said

The Scriptures are chalked full of promises, even in the midst of suffering (vs.10-12). In Psalm 34, David pens a song while he was on the run from from King Saul. The song helps us to reflect on truth and promises already spoken over us. They are good reminders to rest in while suffering.

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” – 1 Peter 3:10-12, ESV

Expect suffering for being a Jesus follower

It is not if, but when. The world currently and historically makes fun of Christians (vs.13-14a). It is normal. It started with Jesus and continues with his followers. The reason for this suffering is that the cross is foolishness to those who don’t know Christ.

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.” – 1 Peter 3:13-14a, ESV

Answer suffering with grace

Grace offers others what they do not deserve. When we respond to suffering and slander with grace, it puts our enemies to shame (vs.14b-17). The answer is not heaping more coals onto the fire, but to snuff it out with grace. It is God’s will that we suffer, but also that we suffer graciously. One who has received grace himself can freely give it to others too.

“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” – 1 Peter 3:14b-17, ESV

The blessing of suffering is not suffering itself or getting even with those who cause your suffering. When you become a follower of Jesus you put yourself in the way of ridicule and rejection. However, as a Christian you are in good company. The blessing in suffering is helping the world see another way. The way of Jesus and his followers.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How can suffering be a blessing?
  • How do people tend to respond when hurt by others? Why would Peter contrast repaying evil with blessing? What does repaying evil with blessing look like? How is this so countercultural? Why is it important to suffer well? How does our response put others to shame? What is the difference between shaming someone and letting your behavior put them to shame?
  • Which of the characteristics in verse 8 do you need to grow in? What are the opposites of these characteristics? How can the Holy Spirit help you to grow in these areas?
  • What does it mean to have unity of mind with other Christians? Does this mean you agree on everything? How is living with others, even in the church an exercise of unity of mind? What important things can all Christians agree on? How can we have unity of mind and what should we do when we don’t?
  • What is the relationship between doing good and suffering? Who receives the blessing for suffering for righteousness? How have you suffered for righteousness sake?
  • What are some temptations you face when suffering for righteousness? What are the consequences of giving into those temptations?
  • How does the gospel help you to understand and deal with suffering for Jesus?
  • How have you received blessing through suffering?

Marriage and the Husband’s Role

Marriage is bigger than life-long love and commitment to your spouse. Marriage is a picture of the gospel. As a husband loves and honors his wife he makes visible to the world around him how Jesus loved the church.

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7, ESV

It is interesting that there are six verses for women and one verse for men. Is it that men can only handle one verse? Is it that men need it said simply? We may never know. Admittedly, it isn’t a short verse. And from this verse we see two indispensable things every woman needs from her husband: understanding and honor.

Seek to understand your wife.

This means a husband is to consider his wife, consider her point of view, listen to her, and aim to do what is best for her.

Men and women are very different (duh?). Some men would say it is impossible to understand women, however, this verse says there is no excuse. We are are to live with them in an understanding way. Here are three simple ways how:

First, study her. Husbands are to get an education in their wives. As you study you will know best how to love and honor her. Second, spend time with her. Peter says, “live with her.” In other words, do life with your wife. It is not possible to understand your wife if you’re not intentionally spending time with her.

Third, sympathize with her. Peter says it is sin to bully another person, even if you are stronger and the other person is weaker. Sometimes men sin terribly by pushing around their wives or children. That isn’t strength, it’s sin. A husband is to protect his wife and be her attorney. Women are like a thermometer that can be sensitive to slight changes and they may not bounce back from hurt as quickly as men. This is why the text refers to women as “weaker vessel.” This isn’t negative nor does it mean women are lesser, but God made them more delicate and thankfully so.

Show honor to your wife.

This means that a husband should not be rude to his wife, speak in a mean way to her, threaten her or make her scared, abuse her or hurt her in any way publicly or privately. By honoring her you show respect to her thoughts, ideas and feelings. Treat her like a princess.

Why honor her? She is an “heir of grace.” She is a daughter of the King. Together you benefit from the grace of God. Although as a husband and wife you may be very different from one another, you are equal on terms of grace. God shares with us every good thing.

There is a grave consequence for a husband who is doesn’t seek to understand or honor his wife to his wife. According to this verse, Peter says that a husband who is mean to his wife will not have his prayers answered by God. This means that a husband who do not lovingly serve his wife will not be lovingly served by God until stops sinning against her. God is concerned how we treat one another and how we treat one another affects how we talk to God.

Begin by praying for understanding. God will give it. Honor God and you will show honor to your wife. Your wife will blossom and the world will see Jesus brightly in you.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How does a husband understand his wife? If you are a husband, where do you need to grow in understanding your wife? How are you spending time with your wife?
  • What are the responsibilities of a husband toward his wife? What does it look like to show honor to your wife? How does a man’s attitude effect his ministry? How does your behavior preach the gospel to your wife and others? How does the way you treat your wife reveal your relationship with Jesus?
  • What does it mean that a woman is a “weaker vessel”? What doesn’t it mean?
  • What does it mean to be “heirs of the grace of life”? What does it look like to treat your spouse as an heir of grace? How does this passage support that men and women are equal but different?
  • How does your relationship with your spouse affect your relationship with God? How does it affect your prayers?

Marriage and the Wife’s Role

Is the Bible’s idea of marriage roles really archaic or is it wisdom for today too? Going all the way back to the creation of the first man and woman, God created them equal in his image. Although man and woman are equal in value and purpose, God created them to fulfill unique roles.

We will begin by talking about women’s role in marriage because Peter begins with women (1 Peter 3:1-6). Men don’t tune out here because this is just as much for you. Now, the women Peter writes to are Christian, but their husbands are not. Likely they became Christians after they married. These women are living in marriages where faith and values clash. This doesn’t make for an easy marriage. So how is a woman to live with her husband in this kind of marriage?

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” – 1 Peter 3:1-6, ESV

A woman can influence her husband most effectively by her way-of-life (vs.1-2).

Women have tremendous influence in the home and with her husband. This does not mean that she can change either of them for no one can force change upon another person. But a woman who respects her husband, even if he doesn’t love God or show her at times, will have his ear and eyes and heart. Consider the character of the wife towards her husband for it can preach the good news.

The word the Bible gives for respect is submit. Some may confuse this by thinking that the wife has lesser or inferior role and that the husband has a higher or infallible role. Women can find themselves in two extremes when it comes to submission: putting up with abuse from her husband or demanding to rule over her husband. These are dangerous misunderstandings of roles and the teaching of the Bible.

A woman’s true beauty is internal, not external.

This does not mean a woman shouldn’t buy a new dress or put on make up or be in style. What it means is that those things are secondary. The primary area of beautification is the heart (vs.3-4). An inner beauty of gentleness and faith is precious in the eyes of God and man. True beauty comes from a woman being like Christ and obeying Christ.

Internal beauty is illustrated in the Scripture by Sarah, the wife of Abraham (vs.5-6; cf. Genesis 18; 21:7). Sarah and Abraham were in their golden years. They were without children, but God promised them an heir. What was humanly impossible with God the odds were possible. After a quick laugh she trusted God (cf. Hebrews 11:11). Sarah’s actions actually called her husband to submit to God too.

A wrong idea of roles can cause tension in marriage, but God intended roles for harmony. When a husband and wife understand their God-given roles they will see true joy and harmony in their marriage. Although there is an “i” in marriage, marriage is really about a mutual living within one’s roles to serve one another.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • Why does “submission” stir up so much controversy today? How is submission distorted and perverted? What is the purpose of submission in marriage? What is the goal of a wife submitting to her husband?
  • How are foolish husbands “won” by their wife’s righteousness? What kinds of things are disrespectful for a wife to do? What kinds of things are respectful to do? How does respect make a relationship better?
  • What is the difference between internal and external adornment? What is a gentle and quiet spirit? How are these characteristics viewed as countercultural today? How does a woman’s character make her beautiful? How is submission more internal than external? Where do you spend your time more: on the internal or external?
  • How is the example of Sarah and Abraham good and fitting? What would have been frightening to Sarah? How is fear subdued by obeying God or heightened by disobedience? Who are some other godly women of the OT?