For an explanation of what this post is, see “The ‘How’ and ‘What’ of 1 Peter pt. 1.”
A Few Words on Suffering (youth group lesson transcript taught on 10.23.19)
I would like to continue our series on the ‘What’ and the ‘How’ of 1 Peter. That is, we have been talking about both the content of this New Testament letter but also looking at how to read and understand the Bible for ourselves.
And last week, if you remember, we talked all about application. Like I said, it’s one thing to get head-knowledge out of scripture and learn more about history, God, Jesus, the Bible, and all of that. It’s another thing to develop a relationship with the God who wrote the Bible. Head-knowledge is something but heart-knowledge is more important.
In line with all of that, I think that the section of 1 Peter we are going to be looking at tonight is really applicable for our time today because it’s all about dealing with tough stuff.
Here’s the deal…
As you might have already noticed, one of the ongoing themes of the book of 1 Peter is suffering. The people that Peter was writing to weren’t doing too hot. They’d been run out of their homes and they must have missed their friends back in Jerusalem. More than that, though, they were in constant fear for their lives! Everyone was against them, it seemed. And Peter is writing to both comfort and to encourage them to recognize that this suffering is actually able to make their faith in Jesus stronger if they let it.
If you remember back to chapter 1, Peter talked about how suffering is like refining fire that melts the impurities away from gold ore leaving nothing but the best behind. And within the scripture we are going to look at together in our small groups, we will see that Peter challenges us to rejoice in our sufferings because if we are wronged for doing good, Jesus is glorified ultimately.
But let’s stop talking about it and actually read what Peter’s saying.
Read: 1 Peter 3:8-4:19
Let’s now break up into our small groups (the small group questions and answers are provided below) and we will spend a bit reading the Bible and talking through some questions together. We will then regroup for prayer at the end.
Small Group Discussion
1. Have any of you ever gone through a difficult time or experienced suffering before? What happened? Are there any stories that you could share from your experiences?
2. Read 1 Peter 4:12-14. In a lot of places in this letter, Peter tells his readers to rejoice in suffering. Why do you think that is?
If we suffer for doing good deeds in Jesus’ name, it is a further testimony to our salvation in Him and our hope for His future restoration. The bad stuff now can make us experience a greater hope for our eternity with God in a perfect new creation. God also can use our suffering to help strengthen our faith. It isn’t that God tempts us to sin (James 1:13-15), but He does use our life circumstances to both teach us hard lessons and to get our attention. And a stronger faith is absolutely something to be joyful about.
However, Peter isn’t teaching a “tough it out” or “just hang in there until it’s over” type of attitude here. Rejoicing in suffering is not about being happy with how much suffering we can take without breaking. We aren’t expected to enjoy the pain, minimize our emotions, pretend like we are happy in the moment, or act like our hurt doesn’t matter. That isn’t healthy.
The reality of it is, you might not actually be able to rejoice right in the moment of suffering. But you should be able to reflect back upon your pain and see how God has allowed you to grow through it. The author of Hebrews also writes about this. In Hebrews 12:11, it says:
“No discipline for the present is pleasant. But afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
3. Read 1 Peter 3:13-17. Is there a difference between suffering for doing good and suffering for doing evil? What is it?
4. Have you ever had to suffer for what is right? How did God teach you through that trial?
5. Was it scary standing up for what is right? Why or why not? Has fear ever impacted your decision making when it comes to living intentionally for God?
6. Read 1 Peter 4:1-2. This is a confusing section of scripture. Is Peter saying that if we suffer for Jesus, we stop sinning? What might he mean by “…for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin?”
Peter is still preparing his readers for the reality of suffering and trying to encourage them to press on in the face of serious trials. But he isn’t telling them that their suffering leads to a sinless perfect life. He isn’t even suggesting that suffering itself has some sort of magical power to break the grip of sin.
Instead, what Peter is saying is that those who have committed themselves to Jesus proclaim with their lives the truth of the gospel. Jesus has defeated sin by his suffering, and we who participate in this Good News are made clean through his blood spilled. We aren’t perfect. But Jesus is making a place where believers will experience perfection and a sinless existence within the new Heavens and the new Earth. Our commitment to suffer here on this present earth reveals a passion within us for this new way of life Jesus is bringing about.
Nevertheless, why do we suffer? It’s hard to say completely…
But God surely is using our suffering for His purposes. And as Peter explains it, one way that God is using suffering is to build us up so that we are approved and tested. Our faith is made stronger in tough times if we allow God to work through us within them.
To end with an example of this in action, consider what the apostle Paul said about suffering to his friends in the Corinthian church. Do you have the same attitude toward suffering as him?
“I think you ought to know, dear brothers, about the hard time that we went through in Asia. We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves. But that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead. And he did help us, and he saved us from a terrible death. Yes, and we expect him to do it again and again.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10 TLB)
Suffering isn’t pleasant. We shouldn’t minimize it, hide from our pain, or pretend the hard stuff we are going through is no big deal. But we also should realize that God can work through our hardships to form us into the type of people He wants us to become.
Our faith in Jesus can be made stronger in tough times if we allow God to work through us within them. So, will you let tough times refine you and allow God to present you as a mature believer? Will you stand firm in your faith and continue doing good even when it’s so tempting to give up or give in? I hope so. Because our suffering in this present world can’t even compare to the new creation that Jesus is bringing about for those of us who believe.
So, my challenge for you all this week is this: Read 1 Peter 5:1-5 and journal any questions you might have about it.