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Peterís Principles #12

"Be ready to suffer for doing what is right"

1 Peter 3:13-22



1. My name is Gu Xiangmei. I am a 32-year-old female. My home is at No. 18 of Hangyu Dongzhen in Xinye County, Nangyann, Henan. I was sentenced to two years in prison because I believe in God.
At about ten oíclock in the evening of March 22, 2001, I was getting ready to go to bed. Suddenly Li Bin, assistant director if Xinye police station, climbed over the wall surrounding my house and broke in.
Li Bin forced me to give him the key to my father-in-lawís house. Li opened the door and searched that house also. The police did not find anything except a set of cassettes of praising songs and hardcover,
God, Youíre Great, in the back room.
In the end, Li Bin got me into their car and took me to the Hang Yun police station, Xinye County. During my jail time in Xinhang police station, Li Bin interrogated me five times. He used electric shock on me, and pinched my fingers and back with pliers. I lost consciousness several times because of the pain. Li Bin tried to force me to admit that I worshiped God. I kept silent all the time so they couldnít get anything from me. Then Li Bin sent me to Xinye County detention house.
In the detention house, I am exhausted every day, and I donít get enough to eat. In the morning we are given a small bowl of thin noodles and hard, steamed bread, and in the evening we only get a bowl of thin noodles, which we call "tigerís diarrhea."
On April 19, Xinye County police sentenced me to be in prison for two years for associating with cults and breaking the law. Li Bin and Liyanpu handcuffed me and took me to Shibali Womenís Labor-Education Center of Zhangzhou, where I have been ever since.

2. I wonder if Gu Xiangmei has a Bible. And if she does have a Bible I wonder how often she reads the words of 1 Peter 3.
1 Peter 3:13-15
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.

3. There are parts of this section of the New Testament that are very difficult to understand. However, the central message is clear and unambiguous.
Here is the 12th of Peterís 20 principles on how to live when life gets tough. It is a challenging principle for many 21st century Christians. We often think that life is supposed to be easy. Some of us believe that God owes us pleasure and happiness. Some become angry with God when life doesnít go our way. We certainly donít expect to suffer. Well, listen up because Peterís Principle #12 is powerful and to the point.

4. Principle: "Be ready to suffer for doing what is right!"

5. Do you think suffering will be a significant part of your life? Hereís what to do. #1= Be ready with what you think.

I. Be ready with what you think 1 Peter 3:13-14

A. We probably wonít be harmed for good (13)

1. Peter starts out by saying that most of us probably wonít be harmed for doing goodóWho is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?

2. There are two truths woven into this rhetorical question:
Most of us are not harmed for doing good. Usually when we do good others like us and what we do. Christians who do good are great employees, good neighbors, fine friends and wonderful family members.
God protects us from ultimate harm. A Christian may even be killed for doing good but God will give eternal life and thereby protect from ultimate harm.

B. We are blessed (14)

1. But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.

2. The assumption is that Christians will suffer. There come times when we do everything right and suffer as a result. You tell the truth and are accused of lying. You are honest in business and fired for your honesty. You do everything right and it turns out wrong.

3. When this happens, you are blessed. A basic meaning of "blessed" is "happy." At first this seems crazy. Why would anyone be happy about suffering? Thatís not the point. The happiness is about doing what is right. Christians experience happiness in doing what is good and right regardless of the outcome. We delight to do good for God and goodnessí sake.

C. We do not have to be frightened (14)

1. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened."

2. People who oppress Christians are afraid. They are afraid of truth. They are afraid of God. They are afraid of good. They want to instill their fear into those they persecute.

3. Donít be afraid of them and donít let them make us afraid. As Christians our confidence is in God. We believe that he will eventually turn everything for good. We center our lives around him not around those who try to intimidate Christians for doing what is right.

4. NOTE:
All of these are the ways Christians should set up their thinking before suffering starts.
Now is the time to program the software of your mind.
In advance, believe that we probably wonít be harmed for doing good, that even if we suffer for doing what is right we are blessed, and we do not have to be frightened by those who seek to harm us. Make up your mind to think this way before suffering starts!

5. Just as we need to be ready for suffering in what we think, we also need to be ready in what we do.

II. Be ready with what you do 1 Peter 3:15-17

A. Set apart Christ as Lord (15)

1. First of all and most of all: in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.

2. This is the single most important element of Christian living. Make a personal commitment that Jesus Christ is the Boss of your life. You will believe in him, desire to serve him, agree to obey him. You will go where he wants you to go and do what he wants you to do. If he says to celebrate you will celebrate. If he calls you to suffering you will suffer. The center of life is no longer reserved for self but for Jesus.

3. When my mother became an American citizen she had to renounce loyalty to any other country, government or monarch and swear allegiance to the United States of America. When I was married I vowed to Charleen, "I will cling to thee and to thee alone so long as we both shall live."

4. Before we face suffering in our lives the Bible calls us to declare absolute, irrevocable and eternal allegiance to Jesus Christ as the Lord, Leader and Boss of our lives. Have you done that? If not, I invite you to do so today. It will be the best decision of your life. And, it will be a decision and a relationship to act upon when tough times come.

B. Have an answer ready (15-16)

1. The second action to get ready for suffering is to always have an answer ready: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

2. This assumes that Christians have hope in the worst of situations. Our hope comes from the Lordship of Jesus.

3. If we have hope when falsely accused, when abandoned by a spouse, when suffering from a terminal disease, when grieving the death of a childówe will be asked why. Others will want to know how we can be positive when everything is so negative. They will want to know how we can keep faith when suffering. They will want to know what we are thinking.

4. Be ready in advance to gently explain the difference Jesus makes in your life. Tell them that you trust him no matter how bad it gets or whatever happens. Tell them that it is better to belong to Jesus with everything going wrong than to not belong to Jesus with everything going right. Have an answer ready.

C. Be good for Godís sake (17)

1. The third action to get ready for suffering is to be good for Godís sake. This is a totally Christian approach to life. As Christians we are committed to do what is good and right whether we get anything out of it or not. The usual approach to life is to do good to get ahead. Work hard to get a promotion and a raise. Be nice to people so they will be nice to you. Be generous with your money so that youíll get richer in return.

2. The Christian approach is to do good because it is Godís will even if you end up suffering as a result.

3. 1 Peter 3:17
It is better, if it is Godís will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

4. Letís review:
® Before and during suffering hereís how to think: We probably wonít be harmed, we are blessed; we donít have to be frightened.
® Before and during suffering hereís what to do: Set apart Christ as Lord; have an answer ready; be good for Godís sake.

5. Peter finishes out his 12th principle by telling us what every Christian wants to hear - - - be like Jesus.

III. Be ready with Jesus Christ 1 Peter 3:18-22

A. Jesus suffered & died to bring us to God (18)

1. 1 Peter 3:18
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

2. Jesus was so good that he was better than anyone else yet he suffered and died. He is our Leader, Lord and Example. We can learn how to suffer like Christians by remembering how Jesus suffered.

3. While the main point here is that Jesus suffered and we can follow his example, 1 Peter 3:18 teaches the single greatest truth in the Bible. This is the whole Bible in one statement! Jesus was sinless and innocent. He took our sins and guilt on him. He suffered and died on the cross to bring us forever to God. To be a Christian is to believe this and claim it for ourselves.

4. The next time any of us suffers for anything, remember how much Jesus suffered for us.

B. Jesus came back to life (18-20)

1. Next comes one of the most wonderful and difficult statements in the entire Bible. It starts out with a clear declaration of Jesusí supernatural resurrection from the deadóHe was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit. Yes, Jesus suffered and died but he came back to life forever. As Christians we may have to also suffer but we are also guaranteed eternal resurrection and life.

2. Next, Peterís mind and words wander in directions that are difficult to interpret. Before I read 1 Peter 3:19-20 let me tell you what Martin Luther said about these lines:

Martin Luther:
"A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty what Peter means."

3. So, neither Martin Luther nor I can adequately explain these words. See what you think:

1 Peter 3:19-20
through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water . . ..

4. Some Bible students think that Jesus descended into Hell between his death and resurrection and preached the Gospel giving a second chance to those who died around the time of Noah. Thatís a pretty big stretch and not supported by the rest of the Bible.
Some think that Jesus went to tell fallen rebellious angels that he had won the final victory over Satan.

5. Whatever this obscure statement means it has a bigger message. Jesus who died came back to life and did good. The point is simple and clear that those of us who suffer like Jesus can and will end up doing good like Jesus.

C. Jesus saves us from sin (20-22)

1. Peter does what we all doóone thing reminds him of another. Since he mentioned Noah and thought of water that reminded him of baptism so he wrote what he was thinking.

2. 1 Peter 3:20-22
In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you alsoónot the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at Godís right handówith angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

3. We really need to pay attention to understand this!
Peter is teaching with opposites. As water was connected to drowning in Noahís flood, water is connected to the opposite (saving) in Jesus. He refers to baptism.
Baptism is putting people in water. It demonstrates the story of Jesus that is taught hereóthat Jesus died, was buried and rose again from the dead.
It sounds like Peter is saying that baptism saves us from sin and hell. "This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also." If that were true, baptize everybody whether they like it or not and they are saved from sin and going to heaven.
Compare to someone who was suffering a stroke or heart attack and grabbed a bottle of aspirin and swallowed a few. The ambulance driver said that probably saved his life. After that he carried around a picture of a bottle of aspirin and told everyone, "This saved my life." You know what he meansónot that the picture saved his life but the aspirin in the picture saved his life. Itís the same with baptism. The baptism doesnít save us from sin. Itís a picture of Jesus who saves us from sin.
Just to make sure we donít misunderstand, Peter makes it clear: It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at Godís right handówith angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.


1. Please donít get so caught up in the details that you miss the main point! There is powerful truth here!

2. Christians suffer. Get readyówith what you think and what you do. Take heart. Have hope. You can take it. You can be like Jesus and come out faithful through suffering and fabulously blessed on the other side!

April 27-28, 2002 Wooddale Church

© Leith Anderson 2002

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