Lordship Involves Suffering

Bible Book: 1 Peter  3 : 18
Subject: Suffering; Persecution; Resurrection Victory
Series: Lordship

Turn to 1 Peter 3:18

"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit..."

On February 15, 1947, Glenn Chambers boarded a plane bound for Quito, Ecuador to begin his ministry in missionary broadcasting, but he never arrived. In a horrible moment, the plane carrying Chambers crashed into a mountain peak and spiraled downward. Later it was learned that before leaving the Miami airport, Chambers wanted to write his mother a letter. All he could find for stationery was a page of advertising on which was written the single world "WHY?" Around that word he hastily scribbled a final note. After Chambers’ mother learned of her son's death, his letter arrived. She opened the envelope, took out the paper, and unfolded it. Staring her in the face was the question "WHY?"

All of us are prone to ask, "Why?" when circumstances come our way which seem incongruous or unfair. Today I want to talk to you about this subject. In reality, this topic is directly linked with Lordship, for Lordship involves the theme of suffering or testing. To fail to understand this, is to fail to comprehend the nature of God's dealings with us. We cannot serve Him as Lord without properly dealing with the subject of suffering in our lives and in the lives of those we love. In fact, many people who reject the idea of a loving God do so because they cannot accept suffering as part of a divine plan.

So, we now come to the third message in a five-part series on Lordship. Our theme text for the series is 1 Peter 3:15, "In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord."

Lordship involves Trust.
Lordship involves a Testimony.
Lordship involves a Theme.

The theme of Lordship is suffering, for that is exactly what our Lord did on this earth. He calls us to follow Him and you cannot follow Christ without some measure of suffering in this world. If Christ is Lord of your life, you will suffer! Look at 1 Peter 4:12-13, "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy."  So we see that suffering is part of the Christian life.

Suffering can create a pity-party attitude in a believer, and when this happens it is a sad and incorrect response to the circumstances the Christian is facing. I heard about a man who went to see a psychiatrist and shared that he was suffering from an inferiority complex. The doctor promised to help and proceeded to do a lot of tests. Later he called the man into his office to give him the results of the tests he had done. The doctor said, "I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is, you do not have an inferiority complex. The bad news is, you are inferior!”

Some of us assume that we must be suffering in life because we are in some way inferior to others who seem not to be suffering. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Look at great people in the Bible, like Abraham, Joseph, Elijah, Job, Esther, Mary, and even Jesus Himself! They all suffered and you would not dare call them inferior in any way whatsoever.

Our text today points out that Jesus suffered the greatest of all agonies when He bore the sin of the world at the cross for all who would believe upon Him as Lord and Savior. So, you can see from Jesus that suffering does not have to be in vain, and in fact may be a mere step in obediecne that leads to great victory for you and for the kingdom of God.

In our scripture passage for today, Peter is seeking to share a context for the purpose of pain in our lives. There are three specific things we need to learn from this text.

I. There is a Purpose in Pain

The believer does not suffer in vain, at least he does not if he properly, biblically and spiritually reacts to it. Jesus suffered, but His suffering was not in vain and He never intended for you to suffer in a meaningless way either.

Think with me about what suffering can accomplish in our lives.

A. Suffering may have an Upward Effect

Suffering may, in fact, result in our being brought into a closer relationship to God. The sign in a planetarium read, "Our Business Is Looking Up!" That may well be part of the business of suffering in the Christian life. Suffering causes us to look to God in deeper ways and to experience Him more profoundly as believers. There is only one way to look when you are in a deep hole, and that is straight up!

Even our Lord dealt with this as He faced the cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed in agony with sweat drops of blood dripping from his brow. He was coming to the crowning moment of His ministry, but the crown was going to be thorns. He prayed, “…Thy will be done.” What a moment that was as Jesus fully accepted the Father’s will – and that made all the difference for us.

Dave Dravecky, a former legend in major league baseball history, tells the following story in his book, ‘When You Can’t Come Back’:

“One night a woman came up to me and told me how she was once down‑and‑out with a drug addiction ‑ until someone told her about Christ, and she became a Christian and was healed of her addiction. She told me that God wanted all his children to be one hundred percent healthy. But does He? What would God's children grow up to be like if all the bumps in the road ahead of them were made smooth? Cancer introduced me to suffering. And suffering is what strengthened my faith. Yet that woman implied I was suffering because I didn't have enough faith. She seemed to be saying, have enough faith and get the life you want. But that struck me as making God into some kind of cosmic vending machine, where, if you pushed the right button, you would get a sweet life, free of suffering. Someone once said that the difference between American Christianity and Christianity as it is practiced in the rest of the world has to do with how each views suffering. In America Christians pray for the burden of suffering to be lifted from their backs. In the rest of the world, Christians pray for stronger backs so they can bear their suffering. That's why we look away from the bag lady on the street and look to the displays in store windows. That's why we prefer going to movies instead of to hospitals and nursing homes.”

Ah, what an insight Dravecky shared in that story. We must look for the rung on the ladder of suffering, for with the Lord He is often seeking to raise us to a higher level of spiritual living through our suffering. Thus, suffering can have an upward effect.

But, let’s look at another example of what suffering can do in our lives…

B. Suffering may have an Outward Effect

Adoniram Judson, the renowned missionary to Burma, endured untold hardships trying to reach the lost for Christ. For seven difficult and agonizing years he suffered hunger and privation on the mission field for Christ. During this time he was thrown into Ava Prison, and for seventeen months he was subjected terrible and continuing mistreatment. As a result, for the rest of his life he had the ugly scars made by the chains and iron shackles which had been forced to wear. Undaunted, when he was released, he asked for permission to enter another province where he might resume preaching the Gospel. The godless leader immediately denied his request, saying "My people are not fools enough to listen to anything a missionary might SAY, but I fear they might be impressed by your SCARS and turn to your religion!" [emphasis mine]

When we are willing to suffer, and in the midst of it continue to serve Christ faithfully, it has an outward effect upon those who see us and know that there is something we possess that is not normal. We then get the opportunity to tell them that it is not “something” that makes us able to deal with our heartaches with faithfulness and inner joy, but it is rather “Someone” who makes that possible. Suffering often opens doors of sharing Christ with others that success and comfort cannot produce.

We think here of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his bothers, was then made the servant of an Egyptian, was imprisoned due to false evidence, but eventually was raised up to be the prime minister of Egypt. His suffering was necessary in order for him to later save his own famiy from famine. Don't despise your suffering - it may be the rung on the ladder of success you've been trying to find!

Now, look at one more effect of suffering…

C. Suffering May have an Inward Effect

Almost everyone would rather have sunshine than showers, joy than sorrow and pleasure than pain, but just imagine what our world would be like if it never rained again. An example of such a place is in Northern Chile. Franklin Elmer, Jr., described a region between the great Andes mountain range and the Pacific Ocean where rain never falls. He wrote, "Morning after morning the sun rises brilliantly over the tall mountains to the east; each noon it shines brightly down from overhead; evening brings a picturesque sunset. Although storms are often seen raging high in the mountains, and heavy fog banks are observed far out over the sea, the sun continues to shine on this favored and protected strip of land. One would imagine this area to be an earthly paradise; but it is not. Instead, it is a sterile and desolate desert! There are no streams of water, and nothing grows there." Elmer then made this application: "Too often we long for total sunshine and joy in life. We have wished to be rid of burdensome responsibilities. But, like this sunny, unfertile part of Chile, life without its burdens and trials would not be creative, productive, or challenging. We need sunshine and showers."

The storm clouds of suffering may at times blot out the sun and threaten to engulf us, but the trusting Christian recognizes that in God's wise design and under His sovereign control the showers that drench us to the bone may in fact be bringing us showers of blessing. When we learn to love and serve God in our pain and hardships, the circumstances have the effect of sunshine and rain. The joys and sorrows mix together to help us bring forth a harvest of fruit in our lives.

There is a purpose to pain. We may not be able to grasp the full meaning of it now, but one day in this life or the next we will! The important thing is our reaction. That is what Peter is telling the reader.

Not only is there a purpose in pain, but note that…

II. There is Permanence of Person

Pray tell, what does that mean? It simply means that the person of Jesus was intact following His suffering. Suffering did not destroy Him and suffering properly as believers will never destroy our person – we are in Christ. We learn two things from this.

A. Suffering need not Defeat the Child of God

Suffering did not defeat our Lord. Sometimes we think of Jesus as being able to suffer more easily than we can, because He was the Son of God after all. Yet, we need to remember that Jesus lived without sin in His physical body. He underwent temptation in every way that you and I face it, yet He did so without ever succumbing to sin (Hebrews 4:15). He had no reason whatsoever to suffer, since suffering began in this world because of sin and He never sinned. But, suffer He did. He suffered for our sins and the sins of the entire world. We will never know the agony our Lord endured when He took upon Himself the darkness, the stench and weight of our evil deeds and thoughts. Words cannot tell of his suffering! No physical pain can match the awful anguish and torture our Lord endured when the filth of sin was upon Him.

The point is that all the agony the devil and the world poured out on Jesus did not make an end of Him. Suffering may be difficult today, but we will overcome it through our Lord. We will have every tear dried and every sorrow removed when we see Him face to face. Suffering cannot defeat you as a child of God.

B. Suffering cannot Destroy the Child of God

My body can be destroyed through disease and pain, but God has a new body for me. My mind may be ravaged at some point with a disease that makes it impossible for me to recognize my own wife or children, but God has a new mind for me, one that will receive when I meet Him. Listen to me, suffering cannot destroy you as a Christian because Christ has promised you a home in heaven. The Word of God promises you a new body.

Now, let’s look at the third thought concerning suffering…

III. There is Promotion following Persistence

Think about the death of Christ, which Peter is making reference to in our text today. Peter reminds us that Jesus overcame the dark world of judgment and look at His place today?

A. His Death was a Voluntary Death

Jesus did something amazing – he volunteered to die in our place. His suffering was purposeful and beautiful. When we can accept our pain and hardships as a part of God’s plan, He can do things with it that we cannot image. In fact, in this life we will not be able to make sense of many things that happen. Only in eternity will we see the full effect of our willingness to do His will, even though it brought us hardship and difficulty.

As a pastor, I often saw Christians seek to avoid uncomfortable and difficult situations. A lack of appreciation for service, a difficult member on a committe where they serve or seeing little results from hard work can make a Christian resign and back away from serving the Lord. What small trivials and frivolous problems trip up so many Christian servants. While many followers of Jesus are sent to prisons in foreign countries, are beaten, and in some cases put to death, many in America are rattled and give up because someone didn't speak to them properly. How shameful!

Jesus died willingly, and we must be willing to endure hardships in order to serve Him faithfully and fruitfully. No true servant of the Lord ever remained faithful without undergoing and withstanding adversity.

Note also...

B. His Death was a Victorious Death

It is interesting to note that the suffering of Jesus had a victorious outcome. When He was on the cross, no one could predict the result of His agony. While he was on the cross, the underworld surely rejoiced and regarded His suffering as His moment of defeat. What must they have contemplated when He visited them following His death? He was alive. He was and is Lord. He had the keys to death, hell and the grave. He was death, but then He was alive forevermore!

You see, Jesus was not diminished by His suffering. He was enlarged by it! Jesus has a name above every name.

"Suffering and success go together. If you are succeeding without suffering, it is because others before you have suffered; if you are suffering without succeeding, it is that others after you may succeed." (Dr. Edward Judson in an address at the Judson Memorial Church on the life of his father Adoniram Judson, cited by Billy Graham, _The Secret Of Happiness_, p. 51.)

Suffering isn't easy but it doesn’t last. What God has prepared for us will last forever! We read in Romans 8:18, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." How about that! Suffering cannot last, but we also know that suffering cannot win.

Look at 2 Corinthians 4:17, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory..." Your afflication and mine may not seem light now, but when compared to what is awaiting us in heaven, our suffering will fade into nothing once we see our Lord!

Listen to what Paul wrote to Timothy about suffering”

2 Timothy 1:12: “12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day..”

Paul did not say that he simply believed in some doctrine. He did not declare that he trusted in a religion or denomination. He said, “I know WHOM I have believed…”[emphasis mine] Paul did not say, “I know 'in' whom I have believed,” but he rather said, “I know WHOM I have believed.” Paul was saying that suffering was not the last word in life, because Christ had promised victory to those who know Him as Lord and Savior. He was affirming that in the midst of his suffering he had victory through the life of Christ in him and the promises of Christ to Him.


Are you as a Christian, or is someone you love, suffering today? Let it lift you up to Christ. Allow that pain to help you reach out to others who need the Lord. Trust and obey, and watch what God will do with the hardship you are enduring. You will see it in this life or the next, but you will see the victory over your suffering and in your suffering. The victory is not because of us – it is because of what Christ suffered for us.

While in an art gallery a man gazed intently at a picture of Christ hanging lifelessly on the Cross. Tears trickled down the man's cheeks as he contemplated the pain Jesus suffered when the nails were driven into His hands and feet. In a moment a little boy stood at the man's side. Looking down, the tearful man asked, "Do you know who that is in the picture?"

"Why, sure," the boy replied, "that's Jesus. He died for our sins. I learned that in Sunday school."

A short time later the man walked away from the picture. He hadn't gone far when he felt a tug at his coat. "Say, Mister," the boy said, "I wanted to tell you that you don't need to cry. Jesus came alive again!"

That is our peace, isn't it? That is our promise from Christ! He endured suffering and He is victorious. All those who suffer in Him have His victory. He rose from the dead and has become the firstfruits of all who believe upon Him. We will suffer as Christians, but we will rise from this earth to be with Him - just as He rose to go to His Father. Suffering never has the last word in the life of a true believer in Jesus Christ. Jesus has the last word, and He overcame the greatest suffering that can ever be endured.