“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:8-10
In the New Testament, there are at least 4 words directly translated as suffer. Depending on the word and the context, when translated, suffer in the New Testament means: to pursue, to persecute, to experience pain, to be affected by something (good or bad), or to be afflicted.
But let’s be more specific about what this suffering is that we share in with Christ.
Christ did not sin – therefore when we suffer the consequences of our sin it is not a suffering that is sharing in Christ’s suffering. Dealing with the consequences of your personal sin is not a form of biblical suffering that we share with Christ or even the saints.
Christ suffered ultimately for the penalty of our sins – 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:8
Because of Christ, our suffering is never as great as our sin – Ezra 9:13
So, what is the suffering that we share with Christ and the saints? Resisting sin! This is the most consistent theme of biblical suffering. Our sharing of His suffering is resisting sin and resisting the devil. This is the type of suffering we have been called to. This is more biblical, prevalent, and painful than any other suffering in the lives of the saints – more than sickness, abandonment, disaster, persecution, or even death.
Job loss, imprisonment, relationship issues, disease, persecution etc. can all be forms of biblical suffering, but not all of the saints in the world will share in these types of suffering. we have the tendency to limit biblical suffering to these types of things. Rather, Peter says to resist the devil firm in our faith – this warfare against the devil and sin is what we share in.
When we limit suffering to job loss, disease, famine, a bad break up, being imprisoned etc. we will either make suffering all about our kingdom, or we will continue on with our comfortable lives not really knowing what it means that we have been called to suffer, or through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God, or share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. And it is mainly because we have become so numb to sin, so complacent with our iniquity, so naïve to the attacks of the devil around us, so apathetic to the desires of our flesh.
Do you suffer in your resisting sin?
Do you say no to yourself?
Do you fast and pray?
Do you allow loss of temporal things so that you may enjoy eternal things?
Do you look past your own kingdom in the middle of your rage, greed, or lust?
Are you denying yourself, taking up your cross daily, and following Jesus?
Do you discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness?
Do you resist the devil and your sin nature?
Look at how Jesus suffered in the flesh in Matthew 4:1-11 and note two things:
Jesus was led by the Spirit
Jesus was tempted by the devil
Did God lead Jesus to be tempted by the devil? Remember back to week 1. In all suffering, man is sinful (minus Jesus), satan is active, and God is sovereign. In the wilderness, the Spirit of God led Jesus to be tested – that was God’s purpose – satan’s purpose was for him to be tempted. The goal of satan’s tempting was to destroy Jesus. The goal of God’s testing was to destroy satan.
James 1 says to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds. Many people hear this verse and wrongly associate the suffering here. They think of trials as cancer, divorce, loneliness, break ups, ob losses, etc. But the word trials here means temptation to sin. Now we are tempted to sin in the midst of cancer, job loss, breakups, loneliness etc., but we are also tempted to sin in the midst of abundance, promotion, healthy relationships, great health etc. This is why the main issue of suffering isn’t about your circumstances but is about your Christ-likeness.
James is saying consider it joy when you are tempted to sin - when you suffer through an opportunity to sin. This temptation from the devil, is a test from God that is providing an opportunity for your faith to endure - to be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It’s the same word used in:
James 1:12; 1 Peter 4:12; Luke 4:2; Matthew 26:41
The hope is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13
This is key to a biblical understanding of suffering. We will be tested. We will be led to places where our desires and satan will seek to lure us into the temptation to sin – and it may not always be obvious. We must, as Jesus said in the garden: watch and pray. Remind yourself of James 1:13-15. Satan is not allowed to do anything apart from God’s sovereign permission. And God is working all things for His glory and your good by His infinite wisdom and steadfast love. Therefore, Satan’s servants, as one pastor puts it, become God’s sanctifying envoys. Even if satan has a hand in your darkness, he is not free to do more than your loving Father permits, and God will turn it for your good. Contrast Revelation 12:10 with Hebrews 7:25.
So, we are tempted the devil or by our own desires, and we are tested by God. The goal of tempting is evil and destruction. The goal of testing is so that we may be confident, joyful, and more like Christ. (Two other passages to see how Jesus suffered in the flesh: 1 Peter 2:21-25 & Hebrews 5:7-9)
Look now at what Jesus is doing in your suffering. Read Hebrews 12:1-11.
Consider Jesus who suffered with joy set before Him
Jesus suffered by resisting sin to the point of shedding his blood. He went to his death resisting sin. He did not sin once.
You have not done that, and you are not doing that – therefore you need to be disciplined.
Disciplined in this chapter is not a bad word. It’s not even a word of punishment. It is actually a word of education, training, and correcting.
This kind of discipline is painful. Not because it’s punishment, but because you will need to rid yourself of stuff that you love that is not helping you fight against sin. You are going to have your sinful desires ripped off of you, and some other stuff – you are going to undergo surgery, where your affections are going to be repaired and renewed. It is not going to be fun for you – mainly because of how much you love sin – but, though it is painful, it will yield fruit more delicious than anything you can imagine. The joy you find as a result of enduring suffering and undergoing discipline from the Great Physician is like nothing this world can offer.
If you don’t undergo this process of discipline – you aren’t a child of God.
This discipline means 3 things in the Greek:
Education – The Lord will teach you: Understanding. Wisdom. Doctrine. Truth. Love. Etc.
Training – The Lord will bring you trials in which what you have learned will be put to the test. You will have the opportunity to overcome evil and say no to sin.
Correction/Chastisement – As you begin to see the areas that are still living according to the flesh, in repentance and faith you will submit these areas to the Lord to be corrected – and He will chastise/scourge you – meaning he will rip the sinful flesh off of you.
One Pastor preaches on this text and says: if you want to run well, lay aside the weights and sin. NOT JUST SINS – LAY ASIDE EVERY OTHER WEIGHT THAT GETS IN YOUR WAY! Don’t just ask “what’s wrong with it” – don’t just ask “is it sin” – that’s about the lowest question you can ask in life. The question you need to ask is “DOES IT HELP ME RUN? DOES IT GET IN MY WAY? In your life, look to Jesus and lay aside sin for sure – and then a lot of other stuff. And then the devil will come up beside you and say “that sure looks like a lot of loss.” And yes it will be loss.. there will be a lot of loss.. a lot of light and momentary loss, that is not worth comparing to the glory to be revealed. So, I will lay aside every sin, and I will lay aside every weight that does not help me run – and I will run with Jesus – sharing with Him in His suffering.
Church – Share in His suffering! Share in the suffering of the saints! Resist sin! Suffering progressively kills off the selfish you and allows the Spirit of Jesus to be made more and more manifest in you. 1 Peter 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; Psalm 94:12-13; Psalm 119:67-68, 71
In closing. There are many questions that can come from a message like this. This sermon is not exhaustive, and we will be picking up next week with this topic as well. But let’s offer a few exhortations:
Many of you need to reconsider what suffering is. Biblical suffering is not dealing with the consequences of your sin, but waging war with sin in order that you may resist it. Too many people play the victim today – but the Bible makes it very clear – you are not the victim – you are the offender.
God is testing you in order that you may gain assurance not lose it. The one who resists sin and tastes that sweet victory looks at himself/herself and rejoices because he/she is bearing fruit. He just beat satan in a battle. He just said no to his sinful flesh. Remember Romans 8:1 and 1 John 1:9. God doesn’t test us to shame us – He tests us so that we may cling to His strength, overcome the temptation, and then rejoice in the glory being revealed as we are sharing with Christ in His suffering and becoming more and more like Him.
Sanctification is often slow. Don’t compare yourself to people. Examine your whole life – if you aren’t bearing fruit in the area of lust, are you gaining ground with anger? Greed? Pride? The slowness of our sanctification is one of the most discouraging parts of our life. Look to areas of your life where you are growing and be encouraged. Allow that growth to thrust you forward in the area where you are discouraged. Look back 5-10 years and see fruit.
Suffer against your sin by resisting it! Don’t give in so easy! Suffer against the devil! The devil is real and powerful, and he has a host of demons bidding his work. They disguise themselves, they lure you, they study you. They want to help you cover up sin until it will be the most costly – destroying you, your family, your ministry, and the Kingdom of God. Suffer against your deceitful desires. Don’t justify your personality. Personalities need to be sanctified. Don’t justify your genetic code and historical family sufferings – they need to be sanctified. Get rid of statements like “it’s just the way I am – it’s just how I work – it’s just how I do things.” These statements need to be radically sanctified. The issue isn’t whether your being tempted – but whether you are aware of it and striking back. We are all on the verge of wrecking our lives. Suffering by resisting sin keeps us focused on killing sin. It keeps eternal joy set before us. It reminds us in every moment that we are not in paradise yet. We ought not live like today is paradise. Today is war. And we must be waging war on the flesh today in order that we may endure until paradise. As John Owen said “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”
The reality is, that by nature we hate suffering. And what the Bible aims to do, namely through suffering, is to cause us to hate sin the way we hate suffering. Suffering against sin is one of the greatest burdens you will bear. Sanctification can be such a slow and painful process. And why? Because I am so evil. I love sin and I hate suffering. But suffering doesn’t kill joy – sin does. Our suffering is working for us. The devil comes in and says “resist the suffering.” But the Bible says: no don’t resist your suffering – resist the devil! Your suffering is producing something for you! Endurance, hope, joy, sanctification! If you want sanctifying joy, if you want to taste the Lord and see that he is good, if you want victory.. you must suffer! You will win – but you win through suffering.
Jesus – through suffering, not only purchased your justification, but He purchased your sanctification. He became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. He has canceled our debt, and disarmed the rulers and authorities. Look to Jesus. He is a faithful and merciful High priest who is ready to help you resist sin and share in His suffering. Hebrews 2:14 Hebrews 4:15-16