Sunday, December 12, 2021

“Even If You Should Suffer for What Is Right” [Matt's Messagess]

“Even If You Should Suffer for What Is Right”
As Foreigners and Exiles - The Message of 1 Peter
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
December 12, 2021 :: 1 Peter 3:13-16

Before we look at our passage for today let’s recite our memory verses together. These words in 1 Peter 3 flow out of those words in 1 Peter 2. Verses 11 and 12:

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

And what a day that will be!

Even though they had been accusing of us being trouble, we wouldn’t be trouble; we would be fighting against our internal temptations and doing externally good deeds, undeniably good deeds that draw others to Jesus Christ.

Good deeds such as being submissive to human authorities, even the not-so-good ones (chapter 2 verse 13 through chapter 3 verse 7).

Good deeds such as loving our church families with harmony, sympathy, compassion, and humility (chapter 3, verse 8).

And good deeds such as loving even our enemies, returning evil and insult with blessing so that we might “inherit a blessing” (chapter 3 verses 9 through 12).

Which brings us to chapter 3 verses 13 through 16.

Peter starts this section with a question that I wish had a different answer.

Peter starts this section with a question that I wish had a slightly different answer.

He’s just come off of quoting Psalm 34 to his readers so their ears are ringing with the joy of knowing that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (v.12).

And then he asks a rhetorical question. One where the answer is sort of obvious. Look at verse 13.

“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?”

Well, I wish the answer was, “Nobody! Nobody is going to harm you, Matt.”

I feel like that’s where the question might obviously take us.

“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?”

Nobody! Who would do something like that?! 

Some people even translate the question, “Who is there to harm you...?” Because the Lord’s face is against those who do evil, so who can really hurt you?


But we know that Christians do get hurt by others.

And we do know that some people really enjoy hurting Christians.

We know that Christians can be persecuted for doing good, and in fact, we are told that it isn’t really that strange (1 Peter 4:12).

In fact, we should expect it. We should expect a certain level of unjust suffering.

Not all of time. Sometimes, the world works the way it should, and if you are eager to do good, then good comes to you. As a general rule. I think that’s Peter’s point in verse 13.

Or perhaps he is saying something stronger–that no matter how much you are hurt by others, you can’t be ultimately harmed, because of the eyes, ears, and face of the Lord.

Either way, he’s not saying what I wish he would say–that if I just follow Jesus, I will live a pain free life. And evil will not come after me.

I wish that was what he was saying. I’ll bet you do, too.

But the Apostle Peter is crystal clear on the reality and frequency of persecution, and we know that because of what he says next.

And this sentence, I would not wish to be changed in the slightest. Verse 14.

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.”

Those words are so important, I’ve made them the title of today’s message:

“Even If You Should Suffer For What Is Right”

Literally, even if you should suffer for righteousness. 

That’s the not the way the world should work. The righteous should not suffer. Those who are eager to do good, should not receive bad.

But our world is broken, so it routinely happens.

And don’t believe anybody who tells you differently.

Especially those smiling preachers on the screen. 

“If you just do good, you won’t get hurt.”

Tell that to Job.

Tell that to Jesus. 

Tell that to these Christians whom Peter was writing to in Asia Minor.

Things were just beginning to heat up for them, and Peter was teaching them how to live as foreigners and exiles, as citizens of the Kingdom to come in the middle of the dangerous kingdoms that still are.

You’re going to suffer for what is right.

We are going to suffer for righteousness.

Jesus was not immune from unjust suffering, and neither will we be.

Which makes what Peter says next so incredibly sweet.

Did you hear it?

Did you hear where Peter takes this sentence? 

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.”


What a thing to say!

What a counterintuitive thing to say.

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.”

It’s really just a continuation of what he’s been saying. We who belong to Jesus are going to “inherit a blessing,” an unbelievable blessing. The inheritance we have on the way (remember chapter 1) “can never perish, spoil or fade.” It’s kept in heaven for us, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this inheritance we greatly rejoice! We are so blessed!

And, somehow, strangely, we are more blessed when we respond to evil and insult with more blessing. Verse 9, “To this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing!”

And nothing can stop this blessing. It is unstoppable. 

Certainly unjust suffering cannot stop it.

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.”

Where did Peter get these strange ideas?

He got them from his king. Remember when the Lord Jesus taught about his upside-down, inside-out, already-but-not-yet kingdom? He said in Matthew chapter 5, verses 11 and 12:

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven...”

You are blessed. “Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.”

I don’t know about you, but I find that both sobering and exhilirating.

I wish he was going to tell me that it won’t hurt.

I wish he was going to say that there will be no pain.

But the pain is real. The persecution is real. The ridicule is real. The insults are real. The chains are real. The bullets are real. The prisons are real. They don’t call it “suffering” for nothing.

But he doesn’t call it “blessing” for nothing either.

The blessing is real, as well.

And it is greater than all of the suffering combined.

So then, out of that blessing, out of the orienting reality of unbelievable blessing Peter gives us a series of commands for how we should live even if we should suffer for doing what is right. 

And I want to summarize them with 3 points of application. Here’s number one.


That’s easier said than done, I know.

He just told them that it’s probably going to hurt.

But he’s also told them that they are blessed, no matter what.

So don’t be scared. V.14. Peter quotes from Isaiah chapter 8.

“ are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’”
Fill up your mind with the blessing, and don’t be scared of whatever they throw your way.

This last Wednesday at Prayer Meeting, one of you brought up a young lady you know named Chloe who doesn’t live in our community. I think she’s about 16 years old and what we were told was that she is getting called out and given a hard time for being a follower of Jesus in her school.

So we prayed for Chloe. We prayed that she would not be scared of those who were making fun of her. And we prayed that Chloe would know that she is blessed.

And we prayed that Chloe would know that God is with her.

This quote in verse 14, I said, is from the prophecy of Isaiah. It’s actually chapter 8 and it’s part of the prophecy that we think about each year at this time year, the prophecy we call the prophecy of Immanuel. What our Advent Readings are about.

Five verses before this one, Isaiah cried out, “O Immanuel!” God is with us.

If God is with us, why would we be scared?

Even if we should suffer for what is right.

I get scared when I think something good is probably going to be taken from me.

And lots of good things can be taken from us. Our money, our jobs, our health, our freedom, our friends, our family, our very lives.

We might get those taken from us for doing what is right!

But don’t be scared. 

Immanuel! “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”

Here’s what to do instead. Number two:

#2. PUT JESUS FIRST.  Look at verse 15.

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”

Those are very important words. We should do this every single day. Every single hour.

In our hearts, in that inner reality at the core of our beings, we are to “set apart” or to “sanctify” to “make holy” Christ as Lord. The Messiah as our King.

This is so profound. It’s hard to describe. It’s hard to explain.

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”

Don’t let anything else be the Lord for you. Don’t worship anything else.

Put Jesus absolutely first.

Make His place in your heart holy. Separate in a category all His own.

And make sure that that category has the title “Lord” all over it.

I think that Peter is still meditating on Isaiah chapter 8 here. He loves his Old Testament. The very next verse in Isaiah 8 after the one about fear says, “The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread...”

And Peter says, “That LORD is Jesus Christ!”

Make sure you put Him absolutely first in your hearts.

What’s the most important thing in your heart?

Remember, Jesus Himself is the blessing that we are going to inherit.

If we have Him, we have everything, so He should be everything to us.

This may and will require repentance.

What have you let creep in and take His place in your heart?

It’s easy to do, especially when you’re hurting.

Especially when you’re hurting because you were doing the right thing.

It’s easy to let your heart wander. 

But don’t let it.

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”

Even if you should suffer for what is right.

Especially if you are suffering for what is right. Put Jesus far into first place.

And, number three and last:


Don’t be scared, put Jesus first, and explain your hope. Look at verse 15 again.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Peter expect his readers to get questions.

If we live the way that Peter tells us to, he expect us to get asked questions about our hope.

That makes sense, doesn’t it?

For example, “Why are you smiling?”

These Christians, some of them at least, were suffering for righteousness.

They were living as foreigners and exiles. 

And it was, at times, very painful!

And here they were smiling.

“Why are you so happy?”
“Why are you different?”
“How can you act this way when your life is so hard right now?”

I think the best ones would be the bewildered persecutors, right?

“I’m hurting you. Why are you smiling? What do you know that I don’t know?”

“I’m glad you asked. Let me tell you how I am blessed. Let me tell you about my hope that is most assuredly on the way.”

Peter says that we need to be ready to explain our hope.

“Always be prepared.” Peter was the first Boy Scout!

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Now that word “answer” is “apologia” in Greek and we get our “apologetics” from it–the art and effort of giving a defense of the Christian faith which is a wonderful thing to do and to grow in your ability to do. Let’s do it!

But Peter is not saying that we have to have a bunch of arguments up our sleeves for every single objection to Christianity that an unbeliever might raise.

He’s saying that if we are setting apart Christ as Lord in our hearts and living in hope in our living hope then unbelievers are going to ask us where that comes from.

And we need to be ready to name Jesus as our blessing and our hope.

By the way, speaking of apologetics and giving a defense of the truth of Christianity, we have a stack of these little books by Rebecca McLaughlin out in the foyer, Is Christmas Unbelievable? Four questions everyone should ask about the world’s most famous story.

1. Was Jesus Even a Real Person?
2. Can We Take the Gospels Seriously?
3. How Can You Believe In A Virgin Birth?
4. Why Does It Matter?

I think it’s a great little book to give to somebody who has those questions, especially at this time of year. So if you have someone like that in your life, take one of these and give it to them in the next couple of weeks.

But even more importantly, be ready to explain your own hope.

Notice that he doesn’t say, “Be ready to explain what you believe.” He says be ready to explain why you have this hope. Why you are a hopeful person.

Are you a hopeful person?

When was the last time somebody asked you why you have so much hope?

I’m afraid that many Christians are not known for being hopeful.

Especially when we are suffering unjustly.

On the one hand, we are tempted to be frightened and run away.

On the other hand, we are tempted to be angry and to strike back.

I think that’s why Peter says the next thing in verse 15.

“But do this [explaining] with gentleness and respect...”

Not with arrogance or attack.
Not with grumbling or demanding of our rights.
But with gentleness and respect.

Those things are in short supply in our world right now, aren’t they?

Did anybody log onto social media this week and say, “Why, look at all of this gentleness and respect!”

Did anybody log onto social media this week and add to the gentleness and respect on there?

Are we known for this?

You know it takes great strength to communicate with gentleness and respect. Those are not weak words. Those are strong words. It’s not easy to do, especially when you are suffering for what is right!

But remember, even then, you are blessed.

You are blessed.

So explain your hope with gentleness and respect (v.16), “keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Sounds a lot like our memory verse, doesn’t it?

“...though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (2:12).

Their slander is, one day, proved wrong by your good behavior.

Keep a clear conscience. Walk the walk. Make sure that your suffering IS unjust and not deserved. Don’t be doing the bad stuff that they are accusing you of.

Peter is going to go on to say, “It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Don’t be doing the evil. “Abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”

Because you are blessed!

I wish I could tell you that from here on out it is plain sailing.

Health, wealth, prosperity, popularity, liberty, and justice and happiness all the live long day.

But that’s not what our Lord or His apostle have told us to expect.

They have told us that there is trouble on the horizon.

Not every day. Sometimes things go as they should, and if you and I are eager to do good, we’ll experience some good back.

But there will be other days, and to not be surprised by them, when evil comes our way when we’ve been doing exactly what we ought to be doing.

But even when we should suffer for what is right, we are blessed.

So don’t be scared. You are blessed! Jesus is Immanuel!

And be ready to explain your hope with gentleness and respect and a clear conscience. You are blessed and you are going to be blessed. Tell somebody about your hope.

And most importantly of all, put Jesus first.

In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.

Because that is Who He is.


Previous Messages in This Series

01. "Elect Exiles" 1 Peter 1:1-2
02. "A Living Hope" 1 Peter 1:3-7
03. "Angels Long To Look Into These Things" 1 Peter 1:8-12
04. "Be Holy In All You Do" 1 Peter 1:13-16
05. "Live Your Lives As Strangers Here In Reverent Fear" 1 Peter 1:17-21
06. "Love Each Other Deeply, From the Heart" 1 Peter 1:22-2:3
07. "But Now You Are..." 1 Peter 2:4-10
08. “As Foreigners And Exiles” 1 Peter 2:11-12
09. "Submit Yourselves For the Lord's Sake 1 Peter 2:13-17
10. "Follow In His Steps" 1 Peter 2:18-25
11. "Do What Is Right And Do Not Give Way To Fear" 1 Peter 3:1-7
12. "Inherit a Blessing" 1 Peter 3:8-12