One fundamental question of life: How can an all-powerful, all-good God allow pain and suffering? Not so interested today in non-Christians who ask this question. God never committed himself to step in and protect them from pain and suffering and then to step out so they can live the rest of their lives apart from him. Not really that interested in the questions of “Christians” who use pain as an excuse to marginalize God in their own lives. Today is about this question being asked by fully committed disciples of Jesus Christ. How can an all-powerful, all-loving God allow pain and suffering?I’m interested in those of us who have had to ask that kind of question. Part of the answer lies in 1 Peter.
Start with 1 Peter 1:1-2
* Notice Peter’s term to describe those of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ. We are “strangers in the world.” Other translations pick phrases like we are “exiles,” “we reside as aliens,” “we are living as foreigners.” παρεπίδημος – technical term for non-Israelites who are permanently living in Israel. The closest phrase we have in English is “resident aliens.”* This word described the people of faith in Hebrews 11:13* It describes Christians in the world in 1 Peter 2:11What Peter is saying is that we must live as foreigners. California is not our home; we are resident aliens. * This is why Paul says in Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven. It’s why the old gospel song is so powerful when it says, “This world is not my home. I’m just-a-passin through.” We are exiles. We are aliens. We do not ultimately belong here.
Why are we resident aliens? 1 Peter 1:3aEvery one of us entered this world through a physical birth. Those of us who are “resident aliens” have been born again. We have become new people. In Paul’s language we’ve become “new creatures;” that we who were once dead have now been made alive, the doctrine of Regeneration. To expand Peter’s metaphor, we’ve been born again into a new family; we have new brothers & sisters. We have a new father & a new home. This world is no longer my home; I’m just passing through as a resident alien.
Peter continues by spelling out the Benefits of the New Birth – 1:3b-5
1. One of the benefits of being born again is that we’ve been born again to a living hope. 1 Peter 1:3bThe world might hope in things – good grades, good jobs, 9/11 never happens again. Tries to be good and hopes that it gets to heaven. But in this world, apart from Christ, there is absolutely no hope whatsoever. * Ephesians 2:12 reminds us that the world has no hope, not really. But for us who are reborn, exiles, our hope is sure of what lies ahead. It’s living. It’s active. It’s sure. We are confident of what lies ahead. As I look forward to facing eternity, I look forward in hope – confident that I have been pronounced “not guilty” of my sins, confident hope that I will hear “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” There’s no question in my mind. When a loved one who is a believer dies, we are absolutely confident of seeing him or her again. Why are we so sure? Why is our hope living? Peter says the power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that guarantees my hope and your hope if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. That’s why we are absolutely “confident” of what our master has in store for us.
2. “FutureInheritance” - verse 4We’ve been born again to an inheritance. And it’s because I’ve been born into a new family that my inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you [kept in heaven for me].” Our inheritance is not on earth; it is not subject to the stock market; our parents can’t spend it and we can’t waste it. It’s waiting for you and me in heaven. Read through 1 Peter this afternoon. One of the strongest emphasis all the way through 1 Peter is an emphasis on the future. And you have a bit of it in this verse. As Christians we must deal with the needs of the present and that is all the way through the book. But Peter wants us to be oriented towards the future while we’re dealing with the needs of the present, so that ultimately we are looking forward in eager anticipation to what lies ahead. Among other things, looking ahead to the salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. There’s a strong forward-looking emphasis all the way through the book. We who are born again are looking forward to getting our real inheritance, the one moth and rust isn’t going to destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal.
3. Present protection as we live in anticipation of future inheritanceIn the meantime, as we’re living out this life of exile, we are guarded by God. We are protected. We are shielded as we look forward to the coming salvation. In the present we still deal with issues, don’t we? We deal with issues of our lives and of living in a world. We know that Jesus is close; that he’s almost hand in hand with us; that he’s watching and he’s guiding and he’s guarding. But we live ultimately looking to the future, guarded in the present with an orientation to what lies ahead.
Christian exiles live our lives dealing with the present always looking to the future, towards heaven, towards our true home and our true inheritance. Here are a few verses from Peter to help drive this point home.
Peter is fully immersed in the present, dealing with the issues of the present.But his orientation is not to only be concerned with me, myself and I right here and now. but his whole orientation is looking forward to when Christ returns again. This is the mindset that must permeate our lives; living in the present, looking forward to the future.
All of this becomes the theological backdrop with how a Christian is to deal with suffering. 1 Peter is first and foremost about how you deal with pain and suffering in your life. But it’s really important to get the backdrop set for it.This is how we handle suffering -- vv 6-9
We will experience trials. We will experience suffering and pain because we are part of a sinful, fallen world and often we will be inflicted by pain when it is absolutely no fault of ours whatsoever. Anyone who teaches other than that isn’t reading the Bible. * Acts 14:22And the question is how will you and I respond when suffering and pain comes? Peter has two of the answers.
Faith says: This world is not my home; suffering is, at worst, temporary, then we get to go home.*1 Peter 1:6 says we rejoice in living hope, future inheritance, present protection because …That’s not to minimize the pain and suffering but it is to put a Biblical perspective on it.Preacher talked about timeline of eternity (infinite – always extending, so our life here on earth doesn’t even register as a blip on the timeline of eternity. Illustration: Pretend that our 70 or 80 years on earth registers 3 seconds against eternity. (Not so, but pretend) It’s like God is saying, “Can you give me 3 seconds of obedience? Can you suffer for my name for just 3 seconds? And not even that, in the timeline of eternity what I’m asking you for doesn’t even appear on the scope.” Heaven is our home; Earth is not our home. We have to keep that in perspective. The pain and the suffering in this world is immense and that’s why this question of “How can an all-good, all-powerful God allow pain and suffering?” is one of the fundamental questions of reality because it is so painful. But on the timeline of eternity, it’s not even a blip, three seconds at the most. And that’s an orientation that we need to have.
Faith recognizes that God is at work in the midst of our pain for our good, whether we like it or not. Verses all through 1 Peter on this.
1 Peter 3:14* 1 Peter 4:16
The kind of faith the disciples of Jesus Christ have is the kind of faith that affirms, in the midst of sorrow, the truth of 1 Peter 1:8
The main verse, of course, in all this is Romans 8:28Romans 8:28 is one of those verses that can easily be misunderstood and/or wrongly interpreted. It does not say everything that happens will be good. Bad things happen to good people.It does not say God causes everything that happens. Bad things happen, and they’re not God’s fault.Some things that happen in life are great. We can see the blessing in them right off. Some things are painful, traumatic, or sorrowful, and we rely on God to know what he’s doing and see us through. Most days fall into the category of ordinary. They just get lumped into the pile of just another day. But God uses every event – good, bad, and whatever – to our ultimate benefit. There’s nothing that happens, no matter how bad, that God is not at work in the midst of it for his good and of course the rub is that we don’t want his good in the midst of it, do we? We don’t want that. We want the pain to end. We want the pleasure to come back and that’s our good.
Think of Romans 8:28 like baking biscuits. (Maybe you have to be from the South)* Biscuits start with flour. I would never go into the kitchen, take a big handful of flour, and stuff it into my mouth. It would turn into a doughy paste and ugh… Flour is no good for snacking on. * Grandma cooked with lard, but I grew up with Crisco. That’s “vegetable shortening” for some of you. No one takes a big tablespoon full of that and washes down their flour with it. * Most people don’t like buttermilk either, but some people do. My grandmother was known to use milk that had soured, but not curdled, yet, and put that in the biscuits. * You mix the ingredients, then put them into a 350 degree oven. You or I would not last too long at 350 degrees, but it does wonders for biscuits. * All of these components, disgusting on their own, when put together and baked in the oven for a few minutes, produce big, fluffy, flaky buttermilk biscuits. A hot biscuit almost slices itself, and it melts butter melts in seconds. I could eat a dozen.Romans 8:28 is like that. Each single event, taken individually, may not look like much. It could be awful. But God works them together, like Grandma’s biscuits in the oven, to produce growth, blessing, and bring his purpose in our lives. We don’t always understand what it is that God is doing in us at the time. But we trust him to do a good work in us.
Don’t ever read Romans 8:28 without reading verse 29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” That’s the good that God is at work in; that he’s not so concerned about the cessation of pain in your life and mine. What he is concerned about it that you and I grow so that we look more like his Son. That is the good towards which God is driving us, especially in the midst of pain and in the midst of suffering. We may not like his definition of “good” but that’s what it is.* It doesn’t happen all at once – 2 Corinthians 3:18If only all of us could learn to live life knowing that we are separated from eternity by only a thin veil; and that one day very soon our three seconds will be up and we will go home blowing a kiss back to our loved ones: that we’re going to a place where Jesus will “wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)Then we will fully understand how our sorrow and pain was for our good and for the glory of God. AmenDo you really trust God? Will you obey him?
1. New Testament VistasNew BirthInto a Living Hope 1 Peter 1:3-9
2. HOW CAN AN ALL-POWERFUL GOD ALLOW PAIN AND SUFFERING? 1 Peter 1:1-3a
3. 1 Peter 1:1-2Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,To God’s elect, strangers in theworld, scattered throughoutPontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia andBithynia, 2 who have been chosen accordingto the foreknowledge of God theFather, through the sanctifying work of theSpirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ andsprinkling by his blood:Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
4. This world is not my home Hebrews 11:13b And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinfulPhilippians 3:20 But our desires, which warcitizenship is in heaven. against your soul.
5. We live here, but our home is there1 Peter 1:3aPraise be to theGod and Fatherof our LordJesus Christ! Inhis great mercyhe has given usnew birth …
6. BENEFITS OF THE NEW BIRTH 1 Peter 1:3b-5
7. 1 Peter 1:3b Inhis great mercyhe has given usnew birth intoa living hopethrough theresurrection of Ephesians 2:12 remember thatJesus Christ at that time you were separatefrom the from Christ, excluded fromdead, … citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
8. … 4 and into aninheritancethat can neverperish, spoil orfade – kept inheaven foryou, …
9. … 5 whothrough faithare shielded byGod’s poweruntil thecoming of thesalvation thatis ready to berevealed in thelast time.
10. RESIDENT ALIENS LOOKING FOR A BETTER FUTURE 1 Peter 1:6-9
11. Living now & looking forward1 Peter 1:13 1 Peter 2:12 LiveTherefore, prepare such good livesyour minds for among the pagansaction; be self- that, though theycontrolled; set your accuse you of doinghope fully on the wrong, they maygrace to be given see your good deedsyou when Jesus and glorify God onChrist is revealed. the day he visits us.
12. Living now & looking forward1 Peter 4:5 But they 1 Peter 5:4 And whenwill have to give the Chief Shepherdaccount to him who appears, you willis ready to judge the receive the crown ofliving and the dead. glory that will never fade away.
13. Why we can handle suffering1 Peter 1:6-9 In this you greatlyrejoice, though now for a little while youmay have had to suffer grief in all kinds oftrials. 7 These have come so that yourfaith–of greater worth than gold, whichperishes even though refined by fire –maybe proved genuine and may result inpraise, glory and honor when Jesus Christis revealed.
14. Why we can handle suffering8 Though you have not seen him, you lovehim; and even though you do not see himnow, you believe in him and are filled withan inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for youare receiving the goal of your faith, thesalvation of your souls.
15. WE WILL EXPERIENCE TRIALSActs 14:22 “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”
16. The role of faith in our trials 1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
17. The role of faith in our trials
18. God is at work for our good1 Peter 3:14 But 1 Peter 4:16even if you should However, if yousuffer for what is suffer as aright, you are Christian, do not beblessed. “Do not fear ashamed, but praisewhat they fear; do God that you bearnot be frightened.” that name.
19. God is at work for our good1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seenhim, you love him; and even though you donot see him now, you believe in him andare filled with an inexpressible andglorious joy
20. The main verse for this is Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
21. Don’t stop at Romans 8:28Romans 8:29 For 2 Corinthians 3:18those God foreknew And we, who withhe also predestined unveiled faces allto be conformed to reflect the Lord’sthe likeness of his glory, are beingSon, that he might transformed into hisbe the firstborn likeness with ever-among many increasingbrothers. glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.