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with Laura Leathers
Matthew 22:12-14; 24:39b-44; 24:9-14, Revelation 7:9
For years our children, grandchildren, and I have enjoyed listening to Adventures in Odyssey by Focus on the Family. Recently on a trip, our 18 year old grandson, placed “Blend of Bravery” into the van’s CD player. We listened to stories about Telemachus, Saint Valentine, and Saint Patrick. Awesome stories about great men who had resilient faith, stood strong in the midst of suffering, and were martyrs for their faith. These vividly recorded stories should challenge the listeners to learn more about those who were persecuted for their faith. Foxes Book of Martyrs and Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com) are just two resources to learn more about persecution past and present.
Fiery trials, suffering, or persecution for our faith is not permanent—this world is not our home! Peter is encouraging his readers to “Prepare for the best!” writes Warren Wiersbe. Our lesson today will challenge us to live a life of faith which is ready for the future, ready to point others to the Living Hope, and ready to follow the example of Jesus’ suffering.
It has been said, a person is preparing for a trial, in a trial currently, or coming out of a trial. Suffering may come as a result of wrong decisions, life in general, someone else’s decisions, but there may be undeserved suffering because we have done the right thing. Today, standing upon the precepts of God’s Word will bring suffering. Peter’s audience was being persecuted for pursuing peace and doing what was good and right. The Bible teaches we are to fear God, not man. Peter knew from personal experience what it was like to reverse this command having denied Christ three times. Yet, from that moment to the day he faced a martyr’s death he chose to fear God and boldly proclaimed the Good News. In verse 14, Peter writes, when you suffer “for righteousness’ sake . . . you will blessed”. Therefore we are to “have no fear of them, nor be troubled,” (ESV). We have no fear of man because we know what God has done for us (see Isa. 43:1-3; Matt. 5:10; Rom. 8:31-39).
The next passage, verses 15 and 16, are pivotal. The NASB version states: “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” and the ESV has “honor Christ the Lord as holy.” Whatever the suffering, we are to practice the Lordship of Christ and we are to be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, “yet with gentleness and reverence.” The word defense comes from the Greek word “apologian”. The English word is “apologetics” and it means to make a case for why you are a Christian. It is the ability to articulate these beliefs with biblically sound principles, humility, gentleness, and reverence. Many times we are not aware of the people who are observing us in the suffering. This is an opportunity to point to the hope found in Jesus Christ. “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil . . .” (Heb. 6:19). Furthermore, keep a clear conscience and when people come against you with slander or ridicule, remember there will be a day when they will be put to shame. Do the right thing!
I prefer the ESV version for the final passage of today’s lesson. “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking” (4:1). Christ, who knew no sin, suffered and was triumphant in His suffering. “The worst that can happen to a believer suffering unjustly is death, and that is the best that can happen because death means the complete and final end of all sins. If the Christian is armed with the goal of being delivered from sin, and that goal is achieved through his death, the threat and experience of death is precious. Moreover, the greatest weapon that the enemy has against the Christian, the threat of death, is not effective” (John MacArthur Study Bible). We are under the Lordship of Christ till the day we die, living no longer for selfish human passions and pleasures, but for the will of God.
“Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross; lift high his royal banner, it must not suffer loss. From victory unto victory his army shall he lead, till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed” (text by George Duffield, Jr.).
Leathers is a member of First Church, Madison.