Christmas Hope: How Can You Keep on Rejoicing in Suffering? - Radical

Christmas Hope: How Can You Keep on Rejoicing in Suffering?

Have you ever wondered whether your faith would hold up under persecution? Or maybe you’re experiencing suffering right now, and you’re not sure how to press forward in faith. If so, then 1 Peter 4:12–19 has a needed word for you. In this message from David Platt, we’re encouraged not only to expect suffering but also to embrace God’s good purposes for his people through suffering. We can persevere knowing that Christ is worth it and our God will never forsake us.

Back in September, we started this journey through 1 Peter and challenged one another to memorize the first chapter of this book in the Bible together. It’s an awesome chapter. Some of you have memorized some of it; others have memorized all of it. Regardless, I want us to start today by reading—or to the extent possible, reciting—1 Peter 1 together: 

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for

“All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Amen. Praise God for His Word. It’s so good and it is relevant. I want to show you how because I think it’s clear. Even if you just heard 1 Peter 1 for the first time, from the start of this letter Peter is writing to Christians in churches spread throughout various regions who are experiencing suffering. If you go back to verse six, Peter says they’re being “grieved by various trials”—their faith is being tested, like gold being tested by fire. 

It’s not surprising, then, for us to get to our text today—starting in 1 Peter 4:12—and hear Peter say, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”  This is almost the exact same language he started the letter with. Then listen to what he says next in verse 13: “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” That’s the same language we just read back in chapter one where verse six says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” Then in verses eight and nine, he says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” Do you hear that language? Rejoice with joy that’s inexpressible. 

Now in 1 Peter 4:13 he says, “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” That word at the very beginning of verse 13—rejoice—literally means “rejoice and keep on rejoicing.” 

The whole picture is continual, non-stop rejoicing. The question I want to answer today is how is that possible? How can you keep on rejoicing in the middle of suffering? I think that is an extremely relevant question for our lives. I know every single person within the sound of my voice right now is either suffering right now, have suffered or will suffer. I’m thinking about everyone, including guests who are joining us today, especially members of our church family.  

I think about Phil and Larissa Wynn in our Loudoun location, who unexpectedly lost their two-year-old this week. I think about Ben Fairfax, my friend and brother here at Tysons, who was feeling fine a month ago until he had a CT scan that revealed inoperable cancer; now he’s fighting for his life. I think of Marissa—and men and women and children across our church with special needs—for whom every day is a challenge, with this year having made everything all the harder. 

I think of this year in so many ways, from brothers and sisters who have really struggled with the isolation, to others who are struggling with marriage. Others have suffered financially as their savings have been depleted and are now struggling from paycheck to paycheck. Maybe that business you poured so much of your life into is struggling to survive. I think about MBC missionaries who join us every week online who are walking through all kinds of struggles, separated from family and comfort, living as outsiders in another culture. 

I could go on and on. In every story the question is the same: how do you keep on rejoicing in the middle of hard days? One of my jobs as a pastor is to prepare you for hard days, to shepherd you through them. I was reading an article this last week by Tim Challies, a friend whose 20-year-old son suddenly collapsed and died about a month ago. Tim described how agonizing this last month has been emotionally, but not theologically. Here’s he meant by that. He was writing about how, by God’s grace, he and his family were ready. They had been trained by God’s Word and sound doctrine. He wrote:

In the moment we heard that news, we knew the character of God, we knew the promises of God and we knew where we stood with God. Unbeknownst to us, we had been preparing ourselves with truths that were ready to be called upon and relied upon in that moment of need. There’s no way we could have prepared ourselves for the emotional agony of losing a child, but we did prepare ourselves theologically. During these days we have not had to ask the big questions about whether God is good, or whether something can happen outside of God’s control, or whether God is punishing us, or whether there is really a heaven or hell. Those issues were considered, discussed and decided long ago. We had established in our minds and hearts the truths that would interpret our experience. 

This is one of my primary prayers for you. I want you to be ready when the day of suffering comes, or when the days of suffering continue. I want you to know the character of God and the promises of God. I want you to know where you stand with God. I want you to be prepared with truths that are ready to be called upon and relied upon in that moment. 

Then I haven’t even gotten to the specific type of suffering Peter is addressing in this letter which is  suffering for being a Christian. Peter is writing to people who, because of their faith, were being denied jobs and economic opportunities. They were experiencing social isolation because of their faith. Some of them were experiencing active persecution that would lead to their imprisonment and death—including Peter himself, who would be killed for following Jesus. 

I read a Bible commentator this week who was talking about how most Christians in the West, particularly in the United States, don’t know this kind of suffering—certainly not to the level first-century Christians knew it. She wrote:

Modern Western society has for many centuries been so largely shaped by the Judeo-Christian ethic that acceptable values of Christians and of unbelievers have not necessarily conflicted so sharply. Therefore Western Christians may not be able to relate to the theme of suffering for Christ in 1 Peter since most have not lived in a social situation similar to the original readers. 

I read that, then I thought about the direction our culture and country is going in, how biblical views of marriage and sexuality have become increasingly counter-cultural, even offensive. I don’t think we are very far off from the time when many of your jobs will be threatened as long as you profess biblical faith. In some ways we’re already there and in other ways it’s coming more and more, where advancement in a company or the government will not come if you believe what the Bible says about gender. You will be asked—if not forced—to teach or promote that which is contrary to your faith. When this happens, you will face a choice of whether to keep your job or keep your faith. I want to prepare you, on that day, to lose your job, not your faith. I want to prepare you to lose your house, your car, your reputation—but never your faith. 

Then beyond this country, I think about brothers and sisters who are serving as missionaries around the world. I want to prepare many more to go to other countries where you may lose your life for professing your faith. Last week we talked about the type of Christianity we’re passing down to the next generation. I want us to raise up a generation in this church whose aim in life is not ultimately to go to a great school, get a great degree, have a great job with a great spouse and a great house, but whose ultimate aim is to accomplish a Great Commission that may cost them everything. 

So in all of these levels—whether it’s simply pain or suffering in this world or persecution that comes from following Jesus—I want to prepare you well. My prayer coming in to this time today has been, “God, please take Your Word today, by Your Spirit, and comfort people in suffering, prepare people for suffering, save people from eternal suffering.” I want to show you how God can keep you rejoicing in the middle of suffering. The answer is found in three truths from 1 Peter 4:12-19. I want to give them to you and call you to believe them with all your heart and be ready to recall them when that moment comes. Here’s the first one.

1. Believe that God is working, so suffering is not the end (1 Peter 4:12, 19).

How can you keep on rejoicing in the middle of suffering? Believe that God is working and that suffering is not the end. Let me actually read this whole passage to you1 Peter 4:12-19. Pay particularly close attention to the first verse and the last verse which bookend this passage.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Did you hear the first verse and the last verse? The first verse: “Beloved, do not be surprised”—don’t be shocked—“at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” The Bible is addressing here what we all feel when we face suffering we didn’t see coming. Everything is going well, then all of a sudden everything feels like it’s out of control and up for question. It’s like we believe God is good, kind, loving and completely in control as long as our circumstances are smooth. But as soon as those circumstances change, we wonder, “Is God good? Is God kind? Is God loving? Is God in control?” 

The Bible is teaching here that even when our circumstances change, God is the same. He’s still good. He’s still kind. He is still loving. He is still absolutely ultimately in control. Which is what the last verse says: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” That phrase, “according to God’s will,” likely means a couple things. 

One, this is differentiating from the kind of suffering that comes from disobeying God’s will. In this passage, Peter is drawing a distinction between suffering for doing good and suffering for doing evil—like murdering or stealing or meddling in others’ business. Sometimes you and I experience suffering and hardship, pain and hurt, on all kinds of levels because of our sin, because of our disobedience to God, but that’s not the kind of suffering Peter is talking about here. He’s talking about suffering “according to God’s will…while doing good.” 

Think about the kinds of suffering this included in the first century when Peter wrote this. We’ve seen this already. For doing good and following Jesus, Christians were being abused, insulted, reviled, ostracized, persecuted and even killed. So does that mean God is somehow the Author of abuse or persecution? Absolutely not. These things are clearly a result of sin and evil in this world, and they affect even God’s people who are doing good. But that’s part of the point of the passage. In a world of sin, evil, abuse, pain and suffering, God’s people are not immune to these things. As soon as you become a Christian, you don’t have a shield around you that keeps you from suffering. If anything, you’re now more susceptible to suffering, because in addition to normal suffering in a fallen world, you may now suffer for following Jesus. 

So don’t be surprised, the Bible says, at the fiery trial when it comes upon you, as though something strange were happening to you, when all of God’s people throughout the history of this sinful world have experienced the same thing. How did they get through it? They believed God was working and their suffering was not the end.

Think about these Old Testament people. Through years of infertility, Abraham believed God was working and his wife’s barrenness was not the end. Eventually, when he was about 100 years old, he had a son named Isaac. Job lost all he had. His possessions were destroyed and all of his children died in an instant. Boils were all over his body, as his wife told him to curse God and die. Yet he held on to belief that God was working and he discovered that his suffering was not the end. Joseph, in a dungeon for 12 years, believed that God was working. That was not the end. it was the same for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in a fiery furnace and Daniel in a den of lions—they believed God was working and their suffering was not the end. Ruth working in a field, David fled for his life, Hosea had an unfaithful wife. Over and over again, this is the story of people in the Bible, people who in their suffering believed that God was working and suffering was not the end. 

You ask, “Well, what about those who suffered and died? Wasn’t that the end for them? What about the list of people in Hebrews 11, who, like Stephen, were stoned to death or sawn in two or killed with a sword? What about Peter himself, who ended up being crucified? Wasn’t suffering the end for him?” Not at all. Just look At Jesus, the Son of God—it’s right here in verse 13 in this passage. Rejoice insofar as you share in sufferings with and for Christ—with and for Jesus—because He was mocked, beaten, scourged, spit upon and nailed to a cross to die—all according to God’s will (1 Peter 4:19).

Even in the most evil moment in all of history—the murder of Jesus in the flesh—God was working, so Jesus’ suffering was not the end. Three days later He rose from the grave. He has now ascended into heaven, where He is exalted at the right hand of God. He is bringing everyone who trusts in Him to glory. Brother or sister, believe this. Rejoice in this. Even in your suffering, you can know that the good, kind, loving God of the universe, Creator of your life, is working, and your suffering will not be the end of your story. 

I was trying to think about how to illustrate this and thought of the tallest building in the Western hemisphere—the One World Trade Center in New York City. It’s 1,776 feet tall. The cornerstone for that building was laid in 2004 and here’s what it looked like then. Watch the progress in these photos.

If you were to stop at this point and assess the beauty of this building and the skill of its builder, what would you think? “This building is a total mess, a disappointment to say the least. This building is a disaster, and the builder is inept.” After all this time, you’d have serious questions about the builder. Does he have any idea what he’s doing? But you would be making a premature judgment, wouldn’t you? That builder was still working, so these pictures were not the end. 

If only you would suspend your judgment a little longer, in the next two years you would see this, then you would realize all that time the builder was working and he knew what he was doing. In the end, he was building something beautiful. 

So brother or sister in Christ, how can you keep on rejoicing in the middle of suffering? Even when your life looks like an unfinished building, believe that God is still working and this is not the end of your story. God is building something beautiful. Hide this truth in your heart, recall it and rely on it in tough days. Believe that God is working, so suffering is not the end. 

2. Believe God is with you and His love for you knows no end (1 Peter 4:13-14).

Here’s the second truth you can stand on when suffering comes: believe God is with you and His love for you knows no end. I want to show you God’s presence with you and His love for you in two places—one in verse 13 and one in verse 14. 

First, in verse 13, which we’ve already read, Peter references how we share Christ’s sufferings. I don’t want to move past that phrase without fully realizing the wonder of these words: Christ’s sufferings. This summarizes the entire meaning of Christmas in so many ways. If you’re not a Christian, please listen really closely here. If you are a Christian, I pray that you’ll feel this in a fresh way today. To all of us, in a world that’s full of sorrow, pain, hurt and suffering, Christmas is a reminder that God has not left us alone in this world. Christmas is an announcement that God has come to us in the person of Jesus. God put on a robe of human flesh. He was born as a Baby. U ultimately, yes, He was born to die on a cross for our sins, to rise from the dead, so that every sinner who trusts in Him can be forgiven of all their sins and enjoy eternal life with Him. 

But there’s more here, so don’t miss it. In the very fact that Jesus has come to us and lived among us, we realize that for everyone who trusts in Jesus, He not only saves you from your sin, but He sympathizes with you in your suffering. In other words, you have a Savior Who knows how you feel. Are you hurting? Jesus knows what it’s like to hurt. Have you been reviled or abused? Jesus knows what it is to be reviled and abused. Do you feel alone, disappointed, betrayed? Jesus knows what it is to feel all those things. 

I’ve used this illustration before, what the Oxford Companion to Music calls “sympathetic resonance.” If there were two pianos on this stage, I could play middle C on one of them, then without anybody doing anything on the second piano, the same note  would gently respond, making the same sound the first piano made. It’s called sympathetic resonance. When I think about that in a much greater way, I think about the hurts in your heart and heart. Amidst sorrow in this world, when a note of sorrow hits your heart, know that note resonates in Jesus’ heart. When you walk through suffering, you have a Savior Who knows what it’s like to hurt as you’re hurting. He loves you so much and lives to intercede for you, providing all you need in that moment. 

This leads to verse 14 that takes us to another level. “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed…” Stop there. Just follow the flow of this verse. If you’re insulted, derided, abused, persecuted for the name of Christ, you’re blessed—why? “…[B]ecause the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 

Do you want to know how much God loves all those who trust in Jesus and who have entered into a relationship with Him? Not only does Jesus resonate with you when you suffer, but He loves you so much that He covers you with His Spirit in your suffering. You’ve got to see this. The picture here is of the Spirit of glory resting upon you. It’s like the cloud of God’s glory resting on His people in the Old Testament as they wandered from place to place in the wilderness. So God’s Spirit rests on you as you walk through the wilderness of suffering. Believe this. You are never alone in the wilderness of suffering. You will never be alone, no matter what that wilderness may hold. The Spirit is in you and on you—the Spirit of glory and of God. 

Do you ever wonder, “If this or that happens in my life, will I be able to stand?” Do you wonder, “What if I lose my child or my spouse or my parent? Could I stand? What if I were to face that diagnosis? What if I were to face persecution? Could I stand?” 

Whenever I think about that question, I think about Corrie ten Boom, who worried as a little girl how she could stand—if she could stand—against Nazi Germans if she was ever threatened. She felt so weak at even the thought. Her father encouraged her with this illustration: “Corrie, when you are going to take a journey on the train, do I give you your ticket three weeks early or just as you get on the train?” Corrie answered, “As I get on the train.” Her father said, “So God will give you the strength you need to be strong just when you need it, not before.” 

This is exactly what God is promising in 1 Peter 4:14. God is promising that when you get that call, when you get that diagnosis, when you face that persecution, the Holy Spirit of glory will be resting upon you and will help you suffer. Even down to the moment when you breathe your last breath and your heart stops beating, the Holy Spirit of God will be resting upon you. He will help you die, then He will bring you to glory. Mark it down, brothers and sisters. 

In times of greatest suffering on earth, you will experience the greatest support from heaven. How can you keep on rejoicing in the middle of suffering? Believe that God is with you and His love for you knows no end.

3. Believe that God is worthy, so you can trust Him to the end (1 Peter 4:15-18)

Finally, the third truth to stand on in suffering: believe that God is worthy, so you can trust Him to the end. Verse 15 says, “Let none of you suffer for sin and evil.” Then verse 16 says, “Yet, if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” This is where I want to make the connection to what we saw just a few months ago in Philippians 3 and 4, talking about contentment and joy in suffering. We talked about how Paul, who wrote Philippians 3, lists out all kinds of things in this world that are good: family heritage, social status, religious devotion, a moral lifestyle, on and on. He starts talking about all these good things, then he labels them loss—rubbish is the word he uses—compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus. He says all these best things in the world cannot compare with the gain of knowing Jesus, even suffering with Him, and eventually experiencing glory with Him.

We talked about how suffering, at the core, is when these good things are taken away from us in this world. It’s when people we love, when family or friends, are taken away—or our health, job, reputation, relationships or our stability. There are so many good things we could list here. We talked about how when you have already put all those things in a column under “Loss,” and you’ve put Jesus alone in a column under “Gain,” then when good things like these are taken away from you, it’s definitely not easy. The sadness is right and deep, the pain is real, the tears are many.

But when Jesus is your life, then suffering—the taking away of these things—ultimately drives you more to Him. The whole point of Philippians 3 and 4 is that He is better than all the best people and things in this world put together. He is worthy of all your trust. He is the source of ultimate, eternal joy. This is critical to keeping joy in suffering. It’s critical to remember that Jesus is supremely better than all the best things this world offers you put together. Remember that when these really good gifts are taken away, the ultimate Giver of good gifts is still there and you can trust Him all the way to the end. 

Think about it. There’s coming a day when all these good things will be taken away from you and me. Family, possessions, job, health, our very breath—it will all be gone. If you don’t have Jesus on that day, you’ll have nothing. You’ll have nothing but eternal punishment as a consequence of your sin before God, according to 1 Peter 4:17-18. But for all who have trusted in Jesus—who have found in Him the source of eternal joy—on that day when you lose everything in this world, you will gain the imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance of Jesus in the world to come. On that day you will have God in all of His glory and His goodness for all eternity. 

So how do you keep on rejoicing in suffering? By believing that God is worthy and you can trust Him all the way to the end. I think the question we must all ultimately answer is do we believe that God is worthy of our trust? I want to submit to you, on this Sunday before Christmas, that the reality of Christmas beckons us in a world of suffering to answer with a whole-hearted “Yes!” He is worthy of our trust and has shown it in His Son. 

I want to give you a small preview of our online gathering on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with a short clip from a song that a few of our sisters in Christ sing about Jesus. As you watch and listen to this Christmas song, I exhort you to see a picture of the God Who is with you in your suffering, Who is working in your suffering, Who is worthy of your trust all the way to the end. 

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark street shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
For unto us a Child is born
For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
The morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And peace to men on earth
For unto us a Child is born
For unto us a Child is born
Unto us a Son is given
Unto us a Son is given
Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia

[Adapted from O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks, 1868] 

Please bow your heads and close your eyes, wherever you might be. Between you and God, “Have you put your trust in Jesus as the source of eternal joy in your life, as the source of eternal hope in your life? Do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if you were to die right now, you would be carried into glory—not because you’ve done good things or measured up compared to others, but because you have put your trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life?”

If the answer to that question is not a resounding “Yes!” in your heart, I invite you right now in this holy moment to say to God, “Today I put my trust in You. I believe that Jesus came to this earth to live the life I could not live, died on the cross to pay the price for my sins, then rose from the dead. Today I put my trust in Him as Lord of my life. Today I trust that, in a world of sin, evil, suffering and death, these things will not be the end of my story.”

For all who have trusted in Jesus, be encouraged today with God’s Word speaking directly to your heart. If you’re walking through suffering now, or if what we’ve walked through today has brought up pain and suffering from the past, or if everything is going great right now, hide these truths in your heart for the day when suffering comes.

God, we praise You for Your Word. We praise You for Your promise that leads us to say we believe that You are working in our suffering and that this will not be the end. We believe that You are with us and that Your love for us knows no end. We believe that You are worthy and that we can trust you all the way to the end. 

All glory be to Your name, our Father God. All glory be to Your name, Jesus, our Savior and Lord, for suffering for us, dying for us, rising from the dead, ascending into glory and promising to bring us with You through this world of pain and suffering. We love and praise You, God, and I pray that these truths would encourage hearts today and prepare hearts for days to come—and ultimately save people from eternal suffering. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. 

Three truths from 1 Peter 4:12-19 to believe them with all your heart:

  1. Believe that God is working, and suffering is not the end. (1 Peter 4:12, 19)
  2. Believe that God is with you, and His love for you knows no end. (1 Peter 4:13-14)
  3. Believe that God is worthy, and that you can trust Him to the end. (1 Peter 4:15-18)

Sermon Discussion Questions:

  1. Last week, we considered what it means to truly make our lives count for the sake of the spread of the gospel. Did you find yourself re-thinking any personal goals, ambitions, priorities, or desires you may have previously held in order to increasingly make your life count for the gospel?
  2. Read 1 Peter 4:12. What ‘fiery trials’ (either your own or those of others) have you walked through (or, are you walking through)? Describe your understanding or image of God and His whereabouts in those difficulties.
  3. Have you ever suffered (e.g., through social isolation or rejection, loss of job or economic opportunity, loss of freedoms, loss of loved ones) specifically for being a Christian or because of your faith? Are you prepared to suffer faithfully and incur losses in the future for being a Christian? If so, what is the basis of your confidence? And if not, what the fears or doubts might be shaping your response? How might the truths from today’s message impact your response?
  4. Why might it bring us comfort and healing when we talk to or interact with others who have experienced the same kind of suffering or pain that we might be
    experiencing? Read Hebrews 4:14-16. Like us, Jesus experienced temptation (Mark 1:13), poverty (Matthew 8:20), frustration (John 2:15-16), weariness (John 4:6), disappointment (Luke 13:34), rejection (John 6:66), sorrow (Matthew 26:38), ridicule (Mark 15:19), and loneliness (Matthew 27:46). How might it bring us comfort, healing, and hope knowing that we follow and serve a holy God who sympathizes with the difficulties we often face?
  5. In Christ’s body, all suffering is shared suffering. Read Isaiah 63:9, Matthew 25:40, Romans 8:16-27, 1 Corinthians 12:22-27, and 1 Peter 4:14. How are you impacted by the reality that you do not bear your suffering alone, but instead that your suffering is shared by the Lord, as well as with other members of His body? How does this reality impact your response to the suffering of others?
  6. We learned this week that, even in our suffering, we can be confident that the good, kind, and loving God of the universe is working, building us into something beautiful (1 Peter 4:12, 19; Romans 8:29-30; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:2-3). C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity described it this way:

    “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

    Think back to a previous time of suffering and pain in your life. In what ways did that circumstance or experience draw you closer to the Lord? In what ways did you see the Lord use that circumstance to make you more like Him? Have you been able to thank the Lord for how He worked in you through your suffering and pain?

  7. Are you walking through a season of particular pain and suffering right now? If so, how has it been difficult? Have you found yourself questioning God’s purposes or presence in this season? How can your group members support, care for, and encourage you as you walk through this challenging time?
  8. Read Psalm 46, Isaiah 9:6-7, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Peter 4:19, and Revelation 19:11. God is the Lord of hosts, Immanuel (which means, “God with us”), the Faithful Creator. In what new and unprecedented way is the Faithful One inviting you to trust Him with your life and circumstances this week? From what we learned this week, what truths will help you to “be still and know that He is Lord” in the days ahead?
  9. Is there anyone whom you can invite to watch our Christmas Eve/Day online program, as an opportunity to share the gospel with them? (A trailer that you can share is available on the McLean Bible Church Facebook page). Our virtual program, “The Weary World Rejoices,” will be filled with music and fun for all ages! Tune in live, every hour on the hour, beginning at Noon on December 24, and all day on Christmas. The program will offer the opportunity to watch in Korean, Spanish, or Mandarin, as well as in ASL.If you or someone you know decided to trust in Jesus, or if you have questions about what it means to trust in Him, text the word “decision” to 571-581-6297. We would love to connect with you!
David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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