Our current sermon series takes place in 1 Peter. It only takes one read-through to realize that this book is mostly about suffering Christians. I think that it is hard to come to grips with the fact that God calls us to suffer, and even to suffer like Christ. It is kind of a tough pill to swallow for me. Here I am, raised in a comfortable, Christian home, never hungry, never threatened to be killed for my faith, and fairly regularly encouraged to pursue my relationship with Christ. Now, I have certainly had my fair share of people bashing my faith, and calling into question what I believe, but I have had far more influences in my life to point me towards Jesus, than those who would be audacious enough to try and pull me away.
That being said, I have experienced suffering. Not in its physical manifestation, but in the form of broken relationships, loss, and disappointment. Christ suffered the cross, for our salvation and for us to enter His Kingdom, but his suffering was deeper than the physical as well. "Forgive them Father, for they do not know what they are doing!" He cried out on the cross. He grieved over his murderers. Jesus wept for Lazarus. Many times in the Gospels, we see the phrase "Jesus had compassion." The word for compassion in Greek implies the same kind of emotion that we feel that makes our stomach flip. We are called to suffer in this way as well.
At first glance, the book of 1 Peter is a little bit depressing. However, in chapters 1-2, Peter gives us a key. He takes some time to address his suffering audience with a reminder of their identity before he calls them to suffer well. I believe it is a mistake to skip forward to chapters 3 and following without making absolutely certain that we understand what came before. We are strangers and exiles. But we are also royalty, priests, children of God, God's people, and most importantly, holy.
That is why I wrote this song. It is a reminder to myself that when things are tough, I am His. When I am overcome with grief, I am His child. When I am overwhelmed, I am defined by what He says about me, and what He says about me remains true forever.
Why? Why would He do this for His children? I believe the answer is found in 2:9
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
He called you and saved you THAT YOU MAY praise him. You see, praise is part of our identity too. Dive headlong into that truth and mine its depths, just as we have been studying the other truths about ourselves, and you will suffer well.
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