Series: Living in the Margins
Part 9 -
Suffering: The Pilgrim’s Progress
1 Peter 4
During our series, Living in the Margins, based on the book of 1 Peter, we are going to be turning our Touching Base into a prayer guide. This aligns with how we want people to be growing at Bethel. Being prayerfully engaged is one of the marks of a disciple, it characterized Jesus’ life and ministry and is essential as we learn to walk with Jesus. We encourage you to use this prayer tool in your Life Groups, and in your personal prayer time.
Perhaps you used last week’s TB as a prayer tool in your Life Group or in your personal prayer time. Well, this week’s TB might help you walk out some of what you prayed into last week. Peter moves into the next section with, “therefore”, in other words now that I have said what I have said, here are some of the “so what’s”! Here are some ways you can flesh this out. In other words the WHO, referring to God and all He has done (v.3-12) needs to make a big difference in HOW you and I live. FAITH HAS FEET, and Peter is about to get somewhat specific in what that can look like. Use Peter’s instruction to help shape your prayer time and discussion time this week.
TO BEGIN: DISCUSS THE DISCUSSION
Sharing with others when we are suffering can be difficult and it is important to not make any assumptions about peoples’ experiences, either OF suffering, or what suffering is. It is also a very vulnerable thing to share with others. Discuss with the group how you would like to discuss this topic and confidentiality. Below are a few options for beginning the conversation.
- Perhaps you trust each other enough to share something that you (and your spouse, if applicable) struggled through.
- If that feels too vulnerable, maybe begin by discussing what gets in the way or hinders people sharing suffering.
- Different Types of Suffering (using the list below as a springboard, it is not exhaustive nor as clear-cut as each category)
1) Suffering that happens as a direct result of sin & disobedience.
2) Suffering that happens as a result of living in a broken world (sickness, natural disasters…)
3) Suffering that doesn’t make any sense (to us), but just happens. Think Job.
4) Any others?
This passage is particularly addressing those who have suffered BECAUSE they are living their life in a Christ-like way. To use Peter’s words: you are STRANGE to the world and they will mock you for it. Can you think of any examples where you have suffered or been mocked, made fun of, excluded, or marginalized for your faith?
- BE SPECIFIC HERE (it helps build traction with what those choices look like)
- If you have not had this experience, be open with this as well (and non-judgmental with others as they share) and maybe file this question away for further contemplation
READ 1 PETER 4 - Notice anything that draws your attention? Take a minute or two and share questions or observations.
Opportunities for Prayer:
1) Purpose. What is the purpose of suffering, specifically for those who are Christ followers?
“Therefore, arm yourselves with the same purpose…” Notice in our passage how Peter starts off his discussion on suffering, using a military expression AND creating intentionality toward it. Another way of saying this would be: prepare yourselves with the same way of thinking, or the same attitude”: “make yourselves ready with the same intention.” Cultivate the thinking and the expectation that you will suffer. To quote one commentator: “Like soldiers preparing for battle, believers should prepare themselves for suffering.”
What do you think Peter’s command to be of “the same attitude of Christ” meant? Name specific characteristics of Christ that His disciples can imitate that are different from the world. (Use 1 Peter 4: 7-11 as a start.) Have each individual share situations in which acting out of this character might apply and then have someone (or a few pray in the following way)
- thanking and praising Father, Son & Spirit for those specific characteristics
- asking with specificity (by characteristic) and BY NAME that each individual would become like Christ
2) Posture. What is our attitude to be in suffering?
Recall the verses from Proverbs 3, “Trust in the Lord, and lean not on your own understanding.” We may struggle with the WHY of suffering, or how to interact with God when we are suffering. Rather than share with one another the questions that suffering provokes in you, I’d suggest the following:
- Read Psalm 22 OR 62 OR 38 OR 86 (whichever resonates more deeply)
- Pray out of the psalms – putting into your own words for God the questions that come up for you as you think about sufferings or hardships in your life.
3) Practice. How do we live this out?
- Within the body of Christ. Peter spends some time in verses 7-11 reminding the readers of the behavior
- As we live in the world. What decisions and actions that we as Christ followers make can make us different from the world? Use this time to pray for courage to act like Christ.
4) Praise – comes through purpose (intention to suffer as Christ did), which changes our posture (to TRUST in God’s character & purposes, even though we don’t understand) by addressing our mind and affections, which results in a changed practice of living (the way we live with each other and in the world), and that is the praise (glory) of God.
It is only with the Spirit’s help that a suffering human finds him or herself praising God in a time of fiery trial. End with a worship song together, or praising the names and qualities of God.
Excellent books for further studies:
• Keller, Tim. Walking with God Through Pain & Suffering
• Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain