Worship in Suffering

Do you find it difficult to worship God when life is difficult? If yes, then you are not alone. When reading the Psalms we observe that at least one-third are songs of lament. They teach us an honest and raw worship of God when things are falling apart or when we experience suffering.

Peter’s letter is no different nor does he skirt around the subject of suffering, rather he has straight talk for those who are suffering. What we learn from Peter and the Psalms are how to worship God in suffering.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” – 1 Peter 4:12-19, ESV

God has a plan for suffering so don’t be surprised by it.

There are two scenarios of suffering we shouldn’t be surprised by: when we suffer because we sin or we suffer because we follow Jesus (vs.12, 17-19). Both types of suffering are meant to draw us near to God for either repentance or reliance. It is far better to suffer for following Jesus than for doing wrong. And suffering, especially for the gospels sake allows us to share in the suffering of Jesus and that worships God.

Peter knows what it is like to suffer for wrong and feel the shame of it. When Jesus was imprisoned he denied Jesus three times. Jesus restored Peter afterwards and from then on Peter joyful suffered for the sake of Christ.

God is most glorified when we rejoice while suffering.

Rejoicing seems like the opposite response while suffering. More often people become bitter against God or to complain against God. However, when we complain or become angry we miss out on God’s primary means of draws us to himself.

Our deepest worship of God occurs is when we rejoice in him in spite of pain, trust him in the trial, surrender in the suffering and love him when he seems distant or unclear. No matter how difficult the situation may appear God is still good and he is good to us. Suffering has it’s good purpose and therein is a reason to rejoice because God is trustworthy (vs.13-16, 19).

Peter says that when your life is difficult and people are making fun of you for being a Christian it is more important than ever to trust God. This includes trusting that he exists, loves you, will help you, is ultimately in control of your life, and in eternity will sort everything out and make it right. When suffering we can worship in three ways: through honest lament, a resilient hope in Jesus, and a stubborn trust in God.

 

Questions for Reflections:

  • How are suffering and worship interrelated?
  • When you can expect suffering how does it prepare you to suffer well? How did Peter fail in suffering when Jesus was imprisoned? How does shame play into suffering?
  • Why does Peter tell his readers not to be surprised by suffering? What is the difference between suffering for good and suffering because of sin? How are the consequence of sin and following Jesus different?
  • How can you rejoice in suffering? Why is rejoicing in God harder when life is tougher? What reasons do you have to rejoice in God in suffering? How has suffering drawn you to God?
  • How do you see God a trustworthy and faithful? What does it look like to entrust your soul to God?
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Helping Hand of Suffering

There is a suffering common to all—suffering in the flesh. In other words, we suffer from an onslaught of temptations that our hearts are drawn to like a magnet. Our hearts are bent towards the flesh. C.S. Lewis described the heart inside himself as, “a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds.”

Suffering is not something to be done in isolation or at least it shouldn’t be. Suffering, especially in the flesh is best fought in community where there are many helping hands to lift you up. If you are suffering it is a time to allow the community to serve you. Here is how to suffer well from 1 Peter 4:1-11:

Be Prepared

Suffering is normal for Christians because Christ suffered. Therefore, we must not be surprised by it, but be ready to for it. Christ knew when he came into this world that he would suffer. He prepared for it. He fought through it with spiritual weapons (cf. Ephesians 6:10ff). And if he did, so must we.

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” – 1 Peter 4:1, ESV

Break from sin

Sin is essentially idolatry. In other, words sin substitutes God with a greater love. Often idols are good things that turn bad because we love them much and love God less. In times of suffering our hearts cling to either our idols or God for security (vs.2-3). Many will ease suffering by sinning rather than break from it. Sadly, idols don’t keep you safe nor do they love you in return. God is the only one that truly loves you, serves you, and will bring you lasting joy.

Ready yourself for rejection

It surprises the world when Christians don’t participate in their wiles (vs.4-6). Sometimes we think we are missing out by not participating, but what we miss out on is greater misery. While rejection is a consequence for not participating, it is better to miss out on a little fun this side of heaven than to miss out on the great feast the other side of heaven. And though the world rejects you, God accepts you.

Give grace to others

When we suffer we don’t first think about others. We think about how we can get out from under suffering or how others can serve us. However, suffering is an opportunity to help and be helped by the community of Christ. There are many ways to express grace to one another while suffering and Peter shares a few: First, pray maturely (v.7). Second, love earnestly (v.8). Third, show hospitality (v.9). Fourth, serve with your gifts (vs.10-11).

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:7-11, ESV

Suffering is a part of the will of God because Christ suffered. Suffering is a precious gift from God that he uses as a helping hand to pull you toward himself. It also an opportunity for you to push yourself toward others who are suffering and offer a helping hand.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How has Jesus give you an example of suffering in the flesh? What does it mean to suffer in the flesh like Jesus?
  • How is God’s will less about where you live, who you marry, what job you take, and more about what kind of life you live? How does this help you understand God’s will? Why is it best to listen to God’s will?
  • What is our temptation as Christians when it comes to our ‘old ways of living’? What parts of culture and society do you need to reject? How will this set your apart from your friends or family? How can you do this in a loving way?
  • How does love cover a multitude of sins? (cf. Matthew 22:36-40) Why does Peter command us to love one another?
  • How will those who malign you be held accountable for their actions?
  • How does your understanding of the gospel inform your condition about community with other Christians? Is community optional for Christians? Explain.
  • How does hospitality show grace? How is God hospitable? (see Isaiah 25:6-8) What does it mean to be hospitable without grumbling?
  • Why does God give us spiritual gifts? How is God glorified when we serve one another? Why does serving bring joy? Where are you serving and helping in the community?