To DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.
When the first atomic bomb was detonated it produced an intense flash of light that was seen by observers in a bunker more than six miles away. The fireball produced by the explosion traveled 600 yards in less than two seconds at a speed of 1,227 miles per hour. The mushroom cloud produced from the blast soared over seven miles into the sky above the blast zone. Forty seconds later a rush of air reached the observers in the bunker, accompanied by a deafening and unearthly roar.
The 18.6 kiloton blast produced by that first test was four times larger than expected. To put it in perspective, it would have taken 74,400,000 sticks of dynamite to produce the same explosion. I don’t think even Wile E Coyote has that much TNT.
And it all started by splitting an atom, something so small that it is hopelessly invisible to the naked eye.
Some of the most powerful forces in nature, are completely invisible. But they can be revealed, by a test.
Electricity is usually unseen, but stick your finger in a light socket, and you’ll know it’s there.
Gravity is invisible, but all you have to do is drop something, and you’ll see its power.
Faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin is also invisible. But in our reading for today we’ll see that it too can be revealed, by a test.
1 Peter 4:12-19 (NASB)
12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you: 13but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
18And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?
19Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
A while back I saw a rock climber out in the Cascades. He was climbing up one side of a huge jutting rock that kinda looked like the horn of a rhinoceros. The rope attached to his harness went up to the top, through a carabiner, and down to his climbing partner. At a particularly sketchy part of the route, the climber lost his grip on the wall and fell. Because the carabiner was attached high up on the horn of the route, when the climber fell, he swung out away from the wall in a huge arch which pendulum-ed about three stories over the path below.
As he started to fall he let out a cry, but to my surprise, as he pendulum-ed the cry turned into a whoop of excited joy. He hadn’t intended to fall, but he had known two things. One, a fall was possible. And two, he was safe. He trusted his climbing partner not to let go of the rope.
It would be silly for a climber to go out never expecting to fall. In the same way, Peter says that Christians shouldn’t be surprised when they face persecution for their faith in Christ. It is to be expected. Jesus warned his disciples,
“…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20 ESV).
But like that climber who wasn’t afraid of falling, when we experience persecution for our faith, we don’t have to fear. We know that God won’t let go of us.
Peter says that when we suffer because of faith in Christ we should “keep on rejoicing”. A “faith” that only trusts when the going is good isn’t much of a faith. Our God is much bigger than that.
Peter says that we should keep on rejoicing in the middle of the storm, because we know what Jesus suffered for us, and we know what came after his trial. His suffering and death was followed by Easter. His fiery ordeal was followed by resurrection and glory, and if we cling to Christ, our trials will end with resurrection and glory too.
Think about the glory to come. If we can praise God when times are hard here on earth, how much louder will our praise be when Christ returns and takes us into his arms? Peter says,
“…keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:13 NASB).
In verse 14 Peter mentions another reason why Christians can rejoice in the middle of persecution. If a person is really suffering BECAUSE OF THEIR FAITH IN CHRIST, that means that the Holy Spirit is with them. It’s only through the Holy Spirit’s revealing power that sinners come to trust in Jesus. So, if we’re talking about our Savior, or living our lives to Christ, and suffering persecution because of it, that means that the Holy Spirit is with us.
Think about that. The same Holy Spirit who existed with the Father and Son in eternity. The same timeless, limitless, divine person who brooded over the waters in the beginning is living and moving in the Christian who endures religious persecution.
In this way, persecution for our faith is a blessing. It reminds us that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. That God, whom the world opposes , is truly with us.
Now, these things that Peter is saying only apply to those who are suffering BECAUSE OF THEIR FAITH IN CHRIST. These things don’t apply when Christians have to suffer something because of foolish or sinful behaviors of their own. In verse 15 Peter writes…
“15Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name” (1 Peter 4:15-16 NASB).
We shouldn’t look at all suffering as proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Only suffering that arises because of trusting Christ’s promises serves as a litmus test of the Spirit’s presence.
It’s a dangerous idea to consider all opposition as proof that you’re doing the Lord’s work. I think you understand what I’m talking about. You know, “Everyone is telling me I’m wrong, that must mean that the Holy Spirit is leading me in this path.” Well, no. That might mean that you’re going down the wrong path.
But if you’re truly suffering as a Christian, for what Christ teaches, Peter says what you’re enduring is nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re suffering for Christ, that brings glory to God.
Think about it like this. Professional athletes work extremely hard to do what they do. They put hours and hours into physical conditioning. They run stairs that we would gasp to walk up. They spend hours and hours in the gym each day. They watch film to improve their technique, and to find weaknesses in their opponent.
All of this costs them something. They don’t get to spend as much time with friends and family. Some foods are off limits. Their bodies are constantly sore and recovering.
If we would ask them WHY they were putting themselves through such agony they’d reply, “Because it’s worth it.” To them, whatever goal they’re pursuing, whether it’s running a hundred miles straight, summing Mt. Everest, or winning the Lombardi Trophy, it’s worth it to them. That’s what they’re saying with each minute spent in training.
When Christians endure the pain of persecution for their faith, whether that be mental anguish, or physical abuse, they’re saying, “God, you’re worth it. You are my Creator, my Savior from sin, and the only King worthy of sitting on the throne of my heart.” And when we say that by enduring persecution with grace, that’s nothing to be ashamed of, THAT brings glory to God’s name.
And it might even lead others to wonder, what is it about this God that they follow that is so valuable? That makes them endure such things for him? And we might even get the chance to tell them.
In verse 17 Peter writes…
“17For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
18And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4:17-18 NASB).
The word “judgment” often carries a bad connotation. As in, “If you sin, you will be judged by God.” But “to judge” just means to pronounce a verdict. That verdict could be good or bad.
In this verse Peter is saying that it’s time for a verdict to be pronounced. After the test comes the results. Did you pass? Or did you fail.
But the verdict for the household of God is always a good one, because the household of God rests secure under the sin-cleansing sacrifice of God’s own Son.
If you search the Bible for other times the phrase “household of God” is used, you’ll find that it’s always used in reference to those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin. And we know that all who trust in Jesus will not be condemned. Because of Christ, and only because of what he did on the cross, we are declared “not guilty.” As Jesus himself said…
“24 ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life’” (John 5:24 NKJV).
But the verdict pronounced on those who do not trust in the gospel of God is not a good verdict. By refusing the sacrifice Christ made in their place, they reject the only thing that can cover their sins.
The Christian who suffers persecution for trusting in Jesus shows their faith by their words and actions. And since that faith connects the Christian to Christ—the verdict is “not guilty.”
But the godless person, and the sin-loving person, that person shows their unbelief by their words and actions. And the verdict is “guilty as charged.”
Peter asks a question that every sinner needs to ponder.
“…IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER?” (1 Peter 4:18 NASB)
Our salvation was difficult. Just ask Jesus. But apart from Jesus any hope of salvation becomes an impossibility. What will you say when you stand before God in the end? What excuse will you offer to the almighty for the sinful choices that stain your life’s record? That is the question that every sinner needs to ask of themselves.
And in Christ we have the only valid answer. He says, “There is no excuse for your sin. But I have redeemed you. Be at peace.”
Back in Jesus’ time they didn’t pass the collection plate to collect offerings. There was a lock-box of sorts in the Temple. People could come at any time and drop off their offering.
Jesus once sat beside this collection box and watched the people who came there. He saw wealthy people drop in large amounts. And he also saw one widow woman bring hers. What she put in the box wasn’t much. But what her offering revealed about her faith wasn’t missed by Jesus.
Jesus called his disciples to his side and pointed out the widow to them. He said…
“…Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12:43-44 NKJV).
Her offering was impressive to Jesus because of what was unseen. It was all she had, and it wasn’t much. But her offering was sanctified by her faith. She trusted in the Lord to provide for her, and gladly deposited those coins into his keeping. Her faith was invisible, but it was shown by her actions.
Peter calls his fellow Christians to the same attitude of faith in the final verse of our reading today. He writes…
“19Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19 NASB).
When we suffer according to a test of faith that God has laid on us, we can trust that the same God who created us, and everything else, will not abandon us. Our souls are safe in Christ. And with this fact in mind, we can rejoice in the storm, and do what is right, even when we’re suffering.
In the book of James it says,
“…Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18 ESV).
And in 2 Corinthians says,
“…we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV).
Let’s do this, Christians. Let’s walk with our eyes on Christ.
When the first atomic bomb was detonated, it revealed that an immense power resided in something that was invisible to man. But that bomb only resulted in destruction.
In Christ there is a power that is far greater than the atom bomb. And this power in Christ doesn’t obliterate and destroy, rather it washes our sins away and heals our souls.
This faith is invisible. It resides in the inner chamber of our hearts. But from time to time it has the opportunity to show itself outwardly. When that time comes, dear Christians, whether it be in the sunshine, or in the storm, rejoice in Christ your Savior, and trust in your ever faithful Creator.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts, and your minds, in Christ Jesus.