Pain, Purpose, and Jesus
March 12, 2023 | Jess Rainer
Passage: 1 Peter 3:13-22
Scrapbooking for my engagement: I knew I was in for an experience when I walked through those doors. There was no part of sitting in that scrapbooking store that was enjoyable. I was uncomfortable. I was getting stares and giggles. I was getting judged. It was a harsh reality that I wish on no one, not even Tennessee fan…So, what caused me to endure such an unjust and horrific treatment? Knowing what it was all for – the scrapbook was the key to the entire engagement. Knowing that soon enough I would put a ring on Rachel’s finger and she would be mine forever. The outcome is what got me through the hardship. I know it’s easy to joke about this kind of experience as hard and painful. Because it’s really not that hard. Maybe a little uncomfortable, but not painful. What life has thrown at so many of us recently is truly hard; truly painful. The path that some of us have walked -- or are walking -- is hard. If that’s you, I want God’s Word to infuse some hope into your life. What Peter writes today is that we can have hope, we can have purpose, even on the bad days. Last week learned how to have a good day. If you missed that sermon last week, I encourage you to go back and listen to it. Because what we learned directly connects to what we learn today. Here’s what we see today: Bad days happen. Jesus wins. You have hope and purpose.
We are in the sermon series: Hope Fully. Open up your Bible to 1 Peter 3. We’ll be in verse 13. As a reminder, Peter’s letter to the churches in Asia Minor are meant to be encouraging and equipping. We are learning what it means to live as citizens of heaven while living as earthly citizens. Read 1 Peter 3:13-22. We saw the ingredients of how to have a good day from our passage last week. By implication, that means there are going to be bad days. Well Peter, doesn’t imply bad days happen in our passage today. Here’s what we see first: Bad days happen.
1) Bad days happen. (vs. 13-14, 17) Let’s look at verse 13, 14, and 17: 13 Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 17 Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! What Peter tells us seems so basic, so elementary. Suffering will come. Bad days will happen. And this isn’t the only place in the Bible we see suffering. Look at what John 16:33: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Think about Jonah, Joseph, and Job in the Old Testament. What did Jonah do? He ran from God’s calling to preach the truth because his heart was in the wrong place. Where did he find himself? 3 days inside of a great fish. Jonah suffered for doing the wrong thing. What about Joseph? He was sold into slavery and was put in prison for what? For doing the right thing. How did that end? What do we see in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” And then there was Job. From Job’s perspective, he suffered for no apparent reason.
Here’s why it’s important: If you think being a Christian will bring about nothing but good days, you will have a big wake up call. We all must have a theology of suffering. One of the worst things I can do as a pastor is paint a picture that the life of a Christian will be all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. The delight we have in Jesus doesn’t remove the pain in the world. And it’s a lot easier than we realize to let this idea that, if we do God-things in our life, then God won’t let bad things in our life. It’s easier than we realize to go to God and say, “I’ve been doing everything right. Why aren’t you carrying out your end of the deal?” We skipped over this last week, but Peter said something pretty important in verse 9 as it relates to suffering. Look back at verse 9. What does it say? “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.” Don’t miss the part where it says, “That is what God has called you to do” When bad days happen, as Christians, we have purpose in our response. We may not always know the reason for our pain, but we can know there is purpose in our response to the pain. Bad days can have big responses. Illustration: Splinters at the Rainer House - It doesn’t matter the size of the splinter, the amount of drama is going to be off the charts. Two of my kids got splinters in the place on their foot (one day after the next). The first child had their “emergency surgery”. The second child then goes the next day. First child to second child: “I know it hurts, but we just have to get through it.” “It’s going to be okay.” In the most childlike way, this child articulate a theology of suffering. Bad days hurts. God will carry you through. There is purpose. So what does having a purposeful response look like? Here’s what we see next in verses 15 and 16: Let your worldly pain have heavenly purpose.
2) Let your worldly pain have heavenly purpose. (vs.15-16) How does Peter start off verse 15? “Instead”. Instead of what? Instead of being afraid. Being afraid of what other people might do to you. Remember, Peter is writing to early Christians who were about to undergo persecution. So what do we do? 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. In verses 14, 15, and 16, we see three parts that work together so that our worldly pain can have a heavenly purpose. In verse 14, we don’t fear what the world might do to us. I know that’s a lot easier said than done, but let’s keep going. In the second part of verse 15, we must always be ready to explain the hope we have in Jesus. When someone sees us living out our hope on the worst of days, they are going to want to know how that is possible. We have to be ready. Why? The world will require an explanation of your hope.
If you were to stop at this point, you would be missing the most important ingredient. Illustration: Missing the middle of sandwich. What’s the middle part of this spiritual sandwich? Look at the first part of verse 15. “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life.” Christ must be the thing we treasure the most in this life. It doesn’t make the pain go away. It doesn’t make the pain less painful. But it does shape your pain. When you let God start shaping your pain, that’s when He begins to start using your pain. Do you see how worship connects to our pain, our fears, and our hope? When Christ is what you treasure the most, you can face the fears of this world. When Christ is what you treasure the most, you can be ready to give a reason for the hope that you have. With Christ, your biggest pain can be your greatest purpose. Illustration: My pain and my purpose - Child Loss, Marriage, Job Loss, and Anxiety. God has turned all of those pains into purpose except one. I’ve been struggled how God is going to use the anxiety I have faced. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you still don’t see how your pain could serve any purpose. Here’s what I am doing: I’ve experience significantly healing. Your wounds must first turn into scars. I’ve started telling others about my pain. And it’s not in a self-seeking, healing way. I’m starting to tell other people about where God is in all of my pain. I want others to feel like there is someone else out there that has walked a similar path and so they don’t have to walk it alone. I’m worshiping God. There are some days, all I could do was cry out to God. But I knew I could cry out to God. Because God holds the world. Which is exactly what Peter points us to last. Here’s what we see in the final verses of this passage: You have purposeful hope because Jesus wins.
3) You have purposeful hope because Jesus wins. (vs.18-22) Peter consistently points everything back to Jesus. I love how he does this time and time again in his letter. The big picture is about what Christ has done for us, but there are a lot of components happening in these verses. When Martin Luther chimes in about this passage, and says the following, you know a lot is going on with it: Quote: ““…a wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so I do not know for certain just what Peter means.” – Martin Luther. Let’s work through these verses because of all our hope is founded on what Peter says here. Look at verse 18: 18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time.” In the Old Testament, priests had to make repeatable sacrifices in order to atone for the sins of the people. But Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate and final sacrifice needed. Jesus took on death and sin – and He only needed to do it once. Jesus’ victory is secured and can never be reversed. “He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.” The Sinless died for the sinful so that we may have a way to God. “He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.” Jesus died a literal, physical death. Jesus literally and physically rose from the dead. And when Jesus rose from the dead, it was the victory over sin and death.
Now, in verses 19 and 20, Peter is about to take us a on theological side road. 19 So he went and preached to the spirits in prison— 20 those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. What’s going on in these verses? Well, no one can say with certainty what’s going on these verses. There are three main thoughts:
1) Jesus descended into hell and preached to the spirits of those who died in flood of Noah.
2) Jesus preached in the spirit through Noah to those who would later die in the flood.
3) Jesus descended into hell and preached to the spirits who are fallen angels.
I think it’s either Jesus preaching in the spirit through Noah or Jesus descended into hell and preached to the fallen angels. I lean towards the idea that Jesus preached to the fallen angels because Peter speaks to that issue in 2 Peter. 2 Peter 2:4-5: “4 For God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment. 5 And God did not spare the ancient world—except for Noah and the seven others in his family. Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment. So God protected Noah when he destroyed the world of ungodly people with a vast flood. Here’s what I don’t want you to miss: Jesus, in His victory on the cross, declared victory over death once and for all. Illustration: If Jesus did descend into hell to preach to the fallen angels, can you imagine that scene?! If Jesus did descend into hell, then Jesus boldly and triumphantly enters. He sees the stunned angels who betrayed him – who thought that the cross was their victory – that they now understand the cross was Christ’s victory and their defeat – and Jesus declares victory over death and over them. Jesus then rips the gates off of hades – declaring that He has overcome death and sin and that hell has no power over those who believe in Him. Look at what the King – our Savior – did for you, for me, for us. Feel the weight of that! He did it for you! 21 And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. While we don’t know what Jesus did during those 3 days between His death and resurrection, here’s what we all know to be true: Jesus didn’t stay dead! Look at verse 22: 22 Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority. Right now, Jesus is sitting in heaven, completely victorious. And there’s our hope, even on the bad days. Nothing can take away our hope because nothing can take away Jesus’ victory. If your pain is bigger than your purpose, envision heaven.
This 13-week series focuses on 1 Peter where we will look at what it means to have hope as sojourners. This chapter points us towards eternal hope. The Christian hope is more than mere optimism that says things will “hopefully” work out. It is a sure hope, and so we “hope fully” (1 Peter 1:13) through every trial and test of faith.