What Am I Gonna Do in a World Opposed to Christ?
Dear Jesus, I know that as one of Your disciples I will face opposition in this world. Perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle me so that I may remain faithful to You in any trial, even rejoicing that I am able to suffer because of You. Bring me safely through any trials and use them for my blessing and Your glory. Give me confidence through the reassurance that You are ascended and now live and rule over all things. Bless each of us in worship today! Amen.
Jeremiah had faithfully declared God’s Word. Among the people, such faithfulness only earned him rejection, death threats, and other mistreatment. A dejected prophet came to the LORD pleading for deliverance form his enemies. God answered Jeremiah with the reassurance that He would strengthen His prophet and deliver him.
On the night of His arrest, Jesus prayed for Himself and for His disciples. Jesus knew that soon He would die, rise again, return to heaven, and would no longer be visibly with the disciples on the earth. Yet, the disciples would continue in this world and be opposed by the world just as it had opposed Christ. Therefore, Jesus prayed that the Father would guard and keep the disciples—not taking them out of the world (because they had work to do), but preserving them from the Devil.
TEXT: 1 Peter 4:12-16; 5:5b-11
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter
. . .be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus, who gives perfect peace in a turbulent world, dear fellow redeemed:
The Apostles were put into prison. That night the Lord sent an angel to release them from prison. "What are we gonna’ do?" they might have asked. The very next day they were found back in the temple preaching and teaching the people the same things for which they were put into prison. Then the apostles were brought before the Council. They were beaten and commanded to NEVER preach in the name of Christ again. “What are we gonna’ do?” They departed, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for [Jesus’] name!” (Acts 5:41).
Abraham was 75 years old when God commanded him to leave his home in Haran and go to a land God would show him. Abraham waited another 25 years until he was 100 years old to have a son. Later, God told him to take his son—the one of his old age, the one for whom he had waited so long, the one whom he so dearly loved—and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on Mt. Moriah. The question could have easily entered Abraham’s mind, "Now, what am I gonna do?" Very early the next morning, Abraham packed up the necessary items and began the journey to Mt. Moriah for the sacrifice. As Abraham and his son, Isaac, were traveling, Isaac said to his father, “Look, the fire, and the wood, but where is the lamb for burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7). How Abraham’s fatherly heart must have been torn in two… "What am I gonna do?" Abraham relied on God and said, “My son, God will provide” (Genesis 22:8).
Daniel was hated by his enemies in Babylon because he was successful and had found favor with the king. However, Daniel’s enemies saw a vulnerability. They saw a vulnerability in Daniel because he remained faithful to the true God of Israel. So the enemies convinced the king to sign a decree that stated for one month’s time no one was allowed to pray to any god or any man except to the king. If someone prayed to ANYONE else, the lion’s den would be his reward. The king signed the decree into unchangeable law. Daniel heard about the law. "What was he gonna do?" “He went home, and in his upper room with his window open toward Jerusalem, knelt down on his knees three times that day and prayed…” (Daniel 6:10).
Is it safe to assume that each of you have been in at least one of your own "WHAT AM I GONNA DO?" situations? I believe it is safe to say that we all have been in those situations and we all will be again. Fear, uncertainty, and worry combine to – even if only for a passing moment – give us that tying of an emotional knot in the pit of our stomachs from which comes the cry, "WHAT AM I GONNA DO!?!?!"
For Christians, this question is bound to be asked because we live in a world opposed to Christ and therefore, also opposed to us, His people. The question is not always one of despair. Sometimes it is simply a question of decision: "Here is the situation. What am I going to do?" Whether it is a question of decision or a question of anxiety the answer is ultimately the same: WHAT AM I GONNA DO (in a world opposed to Christ)? First, I am going to boldly REJOICE in Christian trials; Secondly, I am going to humbly RELY upon the caring Savior; and finally, I am going to confidently PRAY for strengthened peace—and I will do all these things only by the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit, who we pray will bless our meditation this morning!
There are many different kinds of trials and hardships that come to us in this life. As he wrote his letter, the apostle Peter was thinking of one particular type of trial, namely, the type of trials that come BECAUSE we are CHRISTIANS.
Jesus once said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me…”(Matthew 16:24). Sometimes we may speak of "cross bearing" anytime someone is going through a difficult time in his life. However, biblically speaking, "cross bearing" is only those things that are coming to us because of our faith. Although we can take comfort that God will help us in all of the ordinary sorrows of this life, Peter is here speaking only about those things we endure because we are following Christ. They are things that YOU face, but no unbeliever ever would.
As we think of what would fit this description and what Peter’s initial readers were facing, the persecutions of the early New Testament church would come to mind. From there we think of the "persecution" that we might face—not a persecution of physical danger, but of ridicule and the peer pressure squeezing us in the wrong direction. However, its not even just these things. "Cross bearing" includes the temptations you face but which people who are not following Christ do not face…
…The temptation to neglect God’s Word.
…The temptation to doubt His Word (unbelievers don’t believe it in the first place)
…The struggle you face as Paul describes when he says, “The good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:19) – that tug o’ war between Old Man and New Man which you face because you are following your Savior, but which no unbeliever knows because he doesn’t have a New Man that would struggle with his flesh.
EVERYBODY gets sick. EVERYBODY experiences loss. EVERYBODY has the frustration of weeds in their garden, and the pain in childbirth. EVERYBODY experiences the effects of sin, BUT the troubles and trials in your life directly related to faith in Christ is cross bearing and that is the subject of Peter’s words.
Peter also points out that there are troubles we face because of our own sin, and he makes it clear that these are not the trials of which he is speaking. We cannot particularlyrejoice in the trials of our own making. Peter says, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief…” To which we would respond, "YES! Definitely! If someone murders or steals and they face a hard road because of it, that is what they have coming to them!" But then Peter says, “Let none of you suffer as…an evildoer…” and all of a sudden every time we sin are convicted for we are "evildoers." "Or," Peter says, “as a busybody in other people’s matters” – more literally, meddling in things that are not our concern. [v.15]
Peter is not speaking about taking an interest in someone’s life and helping that person…offering advice and counsel. Peter is not speaking about admonishing someone when he has fallen into sin. When we admonish someone who has fallen into sin, the response might be, "That’s none of your business!" But God says that it is your business to correct and admonish people when they sin. Rather, Peter is referring to meddling—involving oneself in things that really are NOT our concern—pretending or thinking we know things that we really do not. Peter says, "If you create troubles in this way, by evildoing, by meddling in other people’s affairs, by any sin at all, that is NOT something in which to rejoice. That is something over which to REPENT.
Many of our sorrows really are of our own making. Pride, selfishness, lack of self control, anger, talking without really knowing enough to talk about it, or simply talking to make ourselves look better and everybody else look worse--all of this is something to our shame because it is sin. We have the promise of God that he will help us and bless us even when we make mistakes and sin, but "…if anyone suffers as a Christian, let himnot be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” [v.16]
How likely is it that we are going to face trials just because we are Christians? It is GUARANTEED! The apostle Paul writing to Timothy in his second letter described these latter days (in which we are living) and said, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
Is there any doubt that Paul’s description fits our day? If this is the world in which we live and you are a Christian following God’s Word and therefore, opposed to everything that was just described…where does that leave you? It leaves you in opposition to the world in which you live and that WILL result in trials and tribulations. Paul continues, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:12-14). This wicked world in which we live is not going to get better. As we stand in this wicked world we WILL face trials.
How then are we able to REJOICE in these trials? Peter says the first step in rejoicing is to “not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you." [v.12] When we fall into sin or when we are troubled in this world because of our faith, we may be tempted to ask the question, "Am I the only one foolish enough to face this temptation and fail?" No, you are not. We may ask, "Why does this happen to ME?" The answer is, "For the same reason that it happens to me, to the person sitting next to you, and to Christians the across the world."
It may not be that we all experience EXACTLY the same thing because the Devil will tailor temptations to fit each of us individually; but when something happens to you and you are facing a trial because of your faith, KNOW that it happens also to your fellow Christians, not just you. Realize that you are not unique in that sense. We all face the same kinds of things. The apostles said, “We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
So don’t feel you are standing alone, but “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.” [vv.13-14]
When you are troubled because of your faith, it is nothing personal. It IS personal against Christ, but not toward you. As Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19).
When people direct their enmity toward you, when they ridicule you, they are really ridiculing their Savior—that is sad indeed! But don’t let it bother you because you are standing there with Christ. You are partaking in the sufferings and the ridicule of which He also partook when He was on the earth; and what is more important is that no matter what they say, no matter what they do, no matter what trials may come it DOES NOT CHANGE who your Lord is! It CANNOT TOUCH what He has done! The Jesus whom you confess is He who came and lived for you and died on the cross for your sins. Let the world rage against Him, you stand strong and even if you face the suffering, REJOICE knowing that they treated your Savior in the same way. But you are standing with Him and have eternal life and forgiveness of sins through Him.
The confidence and rejoicing even in suffering is why Paul could write as he did to the Romans, “Therefore, having been justified by faith (having that salvation), we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint”(Romans 5:1-5) because our hope is built on our Lord Jesus Christ.
The actions of those who are troubling us because of our faith is sin of a grievous sort. It is blasphemy against their Savior; but for us who are the objects of their sin God will work even the tribulations for His glory and our blessing. Therefore, REJOICE in CHRISTIAN TRIALS.
After Peter wrote these words to the Christians, he continued in the following verses to speak of an earthly shepherd’s need to lead his flock with humility. He spoke of younger people needing to serve and respect their elders with a humble spirit; and that we all should submit to one another in the clothing of humility. From which Peter continues…
“…be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” [vv.5b-7]
“Casting all your care upon Him for he cares for you” is a very familiar and comforting verse. We may not always remember the context to which that verse is connected. Casting your care on Him is connected to getting rid of your pride…humbly submitting to God. Pride stands in the way of casting our care on Jesus. Pride stands in the way of relying on Him.
Picture the man who has arms full of all sorts of things, a heavy and awkward load that is beginning to topple and is in danger of falling to the ground. Someone comes along and says, "Can I help you with something?" "Oh no,…no, no, no…I’ve got it…it’s OK" even though he’s breaking his back and things are falling off right and left, but "that’s OK, I don’t need your help, I have it under control."
JESUS comes to us and says: "Can I help you with that relationship?
PROUD ANSWER: NO, no, Jesus…I have no idea how to fix this mess, and I’m alienating all my friends, often times I’m acting like an obnoxious fool, but that’s OK…I’ve got it under control, don’t need your help. Thanks anyway.
JESUS comes and says: "I’ve seen you’ve been worrying a lot lately. You do know that I have a cure for that."
PROUD ANSWER: "No, Jesus, I like to worry. It keeps me on my toes. I’m OK."
JESUS says: I’ve noticed you’ve been tempted a great deal…your life seems to be sliding more and more into sin. You’re discouraged. Come to the well of salvation. Let me give you food and drink for your soul, forgiveness of your sin" (cf: Isaiah 55:1ff etc.).
PROUD ANSWER: No, Jesus…I’m feeling stronger already. I don’t need anything.
JESUS comes and says, "Your days have been long. I’ve seen you crying, asking "WHAT AM I GONNA DO?" I’ve seen you so busy with hardly time for any thing, not to mention time for Me. You get angry so easily. You lose patience. You don’t seem happy. You don’t seem to have the joy of your salvation, and I KNOW how happy and joyful I can make you. "Come to Me, you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The invitation goes out, BUT PRIDE STANDS IN THE WAY.
PRIDE stands in the way and TRUST can be so hard to practice. We are drowning in our trials and troubles. Jesus is reaching out His hand to grasp ours and pull us up out of danger, but it is scary to let go of what we think, what we want to do, the so-called solutions of our own making and instead to hold onto Him. It is scary to cast all things on someone else (in this case Jesus) because then I don’t feel like I have control and somehow I THINK I CAN DO IT. To which one might ask oneself, "and just how successful have you been in the past…on your own?" TRUST JESUS and in that trust cast EVERYTHING on Him!
We can trust Jesus because He has proven Himself completely trustworthy. Paul wrote the Romans, “He who did not spare his son, but delivered Him up for us all how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things” (Romans 8:32). Jesus loved you to die for you. You CAN trust Him…but OH! its hard to lay aside pride and cast our every care and let go of ourselves to follow God.
But here we are…I can take that fear and put it on Jesus. I can take that worry and lay it on my Savior. That anger that keeps on weighing me down? It’s GONE! My crying becomes tears that are dried because what is sorrowful is laid upon my Lord. EVERYTHING! I take it ALL and put it on Jesus! That load is what Jesus took to the cross…and it KILLED HIM! And He lay in the grave, but on Easter morning the grave was empty, Your Savior was raised, and the problems are SOLVED! Jesus said, “the TRUTH shall make you FREE!" (John 8:32). Humble yourselves, put away your pride, trust your Savior, cast all your care upon Him…and ooohhh! …the burden is gone and you are FREE!
The Devil wants the opposite. He wants you to burden yourself with self-reliance. So Peter continues, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” [vv.8-9]
YES you are going to have temptation. That hungry lion who wants you and your soul for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is there; but standing with Your Savior, casting all your cares upon Him, relying on Him, you will stand strong. You will resist Him and use God’s Word against Him.
After these things, Peter offered a brief but powerful prayer for his readers, and it is a prayer we can offer ourselves. The Lord grants laughter after crying. He grants sunshine after rain. Peter encourages the Christians to look forward to the time when any particular suffering would end, “May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” [v.10]
May He perfect you. May He be the one who puts your life into its proper order, restore you when you’ve fallen, prepare you for each new challenge on this earth and strengthen you to persevere to your heavenly goal. "…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
May He ESTABLISH you, confirm you in your faith, shore you up when you face doubts. May He build you solidly on the foundation of Christ so that you are not blown to & fro by every new idea the world might present or be pulled into human logic and philosophy and the deception of temptation (cf: Ephesians 4:14).
May He STRENGTHEN you against temptation, build your faith, give you a more confident hope and trust, strengthening the anchors you have in Christ the ROCK of your salvation.
May He SETTLE you. The foundation of Christ and His Word upon which your life is built will not waver, will not be a foundation that cracks in turmoil, but stands rock-solid and you will be "settled" in perfect peace.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid….These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 14:27; 16:33)
Trials and tribulations? YES. But when they come, like Daniel we can PRAY—pray that the Lord will bring us through those trials and strengthen us, perfect, establish, settle us. Like Abraham, we can rely upon God to provide; and like the apostles, we can rejoice in trials because we have a hope in Christ.
Isaiah wrote, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). As God does keep us in perfect peace “To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” [v.11]
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt