I’m sure that we have all realized that life is like a roller coaster that never ends. It’s filled with loop-de-loops, twists and turns, hills to climb, and mountains to ride down. Sometimes it even feels like we are going backwards. We should know by now that, just because we are Christians, our lives are not going to be easy. Actually, let me be the first to admit that it is going to be quite difficult. But don’t let that scare you away from the love of Christ! It’s a bearable kind of difficult because Christ is our burden-bearer! It’s a difficult that only the Lord of Hosts can help us through. We are going to have our ups and we are certainly going to have our downs, but we’re not alone.
Today, we are going to focus on those downs; those times of suffering and pain, that seem to be the longest part of the roller coaster of life. Pastor Aaron has been leading us through a series in the book of 1 Peter. So far, we have learned that we are exiles in this world. We don’t belong here; this is our temporary home. We also learned that we are called to holy living. We are called to consecrate ourselves before the Lord. We are called to not let ourselves be of “the things of this world”, but to be embedded in Jesus and only Jesus. Next, which makes sense, we are going to experience suffering. Actually, we are called to suffering! Isn’t that wonderful?!? (No sarcasm is meant to be implied to the previous statement). Isn’t it just a beautiful thing to be exiles, called out to live holy lives in an unholy world, and to suffer for the glory of Jesus, the one and only who saved us?
I know you’re probably thinking: “well, that’s really not my cup of tea…” Don’t worry, it’s not mine either. No one wants to endure pain. No one wants to go through suffering. We prefer that our lives be simple, easy, and fun. How in the world does pain and suffering fit into that?!
Friends, in this world, because we are called out to live holy lives, we aren’t going to be accepted in all places. We aren’t going to be welcomed in like Jesus welcomes us into His kingdom. It’s actually going to be very hard, whether we are at work, school, sometimes home, the grocery store, or let’s just be blunt here, sometimes even church. We might be mocked, discriminated against, or persecuted for our belief in the one true God. I think of the missionaries that accept the call to take the Gospel to the darkest and hardest regions of the world, sometimes where the Gospel is illegal. Think of the suffering they endure.
But there is something significant about this suffering. It is for the name of Jesus. We don’t just allow someone to mock us for our faith “just because”, we do it for Jesus. Peter even tells us that Christ suffered for us as an example. We are told to follow in His footsteps and embrace the suffering of the cross (1 Peter 2.21). Even though Jesus was beaten, whipped, and then crucified, He still continued to trust in God and understand that it was His will.
With that being said Church, we are called to suffering just like Jesus was. We have to embrace that whatever we are going through is a part of the will of the Lord for our lives. If we suffer and endure things for the name of Jesus, He will reward us.
Maybe you go to work every day and there’s that one person that always has to make a comment about your religious beliefs because they like to get you fired up. Maybe you go to a secular school and the other students make fun of you because you chose to write your papers based on Biblical truths. Maybe you realized the relationship you were in was not of the Lord because you weren’t equally yoked and, as a result, you’re now suffering the heartache of a breakup… but it’s for the Lord. Maybe you are being challenged to die to yourself more and more every day… To pick up your Bible and actually drink in the scriptures you read each morning instead of rushing through them. Maybe you are struggling to give up buying Starbucks coffee three times a week in order to give donations to missionaries that need support.
Friends, these are growing pains! These are sufferings that we endure for the name of Jesus. Sometimes we ask ourselves, why is this so hard, why am I not getting any further, why am I suffering? It’s okay. Take a deep breath and look to the Lord. He will guide our steps through the suffering. We endure these things so that our relationship with Jesus grows further and further and deeper and deeper.
I have a friend who has been my best friend since fourth grade. As of this past August, we celebrated 10 years of friendship. Can you imagine the things we went through together? We experienced being on a worship team for the first time together, we went on our first missions trip together, we went through middle school and high school together, and we’re still friends even though we’re now at different colleges. We went through break ups and other friendships together. We went through a shooting at our high school together. We went through fights and times of trials in our friendship. But let me tell you, because we have gone through so much together, our relationship is deeper and better than I ever could have imagined.
Jesus wants to be that for each of us. He is with us every step of the way. He is with us in the growing pains. He is pushing us, with love, to strive for greatness in the midst of our suffering for Him. He’s not just sending us out in the ocean to learn how to swim and find our way back to shore. NO. He is right there beside us, coaching us, and teaching us how to do this life.
Find out more about what Peter has to say about suffering for the Lord. Pastor Aaron goes more in depth of how our suffering for the Lord is a calling on each of our lives. You can find it in the sermon series “Exiles in Hope” by clicking on this link: http://painesvilleag.com/exiles-in-hope Take the next hour out of your schedule to listen to this podcast and learn how you can really embrace the suffering of the cross and follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
Remember Church, Jesus is with us as we endure these growing pains, and it’s going to be worth it when it’s all said and done! Have a Blessed weekend!