(Rough Draft Notes for Lesson on 1 Peter 2:4 — Christ as our Rock)
–As you come to him, a living stone
1 Peter 2:4
In Pilgrim’s Progress, the devil Apollyon stops Christian as he descends into the Valley of Humiliation. Among the taunts, and threats and temptations, he says to Christian — Your Lord never saves anyone out of my hand, but I have saved many from him. Your Lord has never come out of his place to save anyone from me.
In one way that is brutally true — the best lies are always true. You know that is true. You know that the wicked prosper. You know that the godly are ruined.
First Point: God does not rescue us from trials.
When Job’s friends torment him and call him to repentance — falsely claiming God punishes only the wicked, Job answers:
7 Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?
8 Their offspring are established in their presence, and their descendants before their eyes.
9 Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them.
10 Their bull breeds without fail; their cow calves and does not miscarry.
11 They send out their little boys like a flock, and their children dance.
12 They sing to the tambourine and the lyre and rejoice to the sound of the pipe.
13 They spend their days in prosperity, and in peace they go down to Sheol.
14 They say to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of your ways.
15 What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit do we get if we pray to him?’
Job 21:7-15. Both the Bible and experience prove this point a thousand times over.
Worse still –God does not merely let the wicked prosper, he also turns the righteous over to trouble and trial. In fact, we know, as we read Job, that God has unleashed the Devil against Job! To be a Christian is to be ruined. Listen to the Psalmist’s words:
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24 Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.
26 Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!
Psalm 44:22-26. In Romans 8:26, Paul quotes verse 22 and applies it to us — We are sheep for the slaughter. In fact, we are killed for the Lord’s sake. Our brothers and sisters throughout the world suffer vicious physical violence and loss for being Christians — and God does not stop it.
But it is worse still — and here is where we personally know it to be true. God commands our suffering in some very real ways. We will just walk through 1 Peter and consider the order of his topics:
2:12: We will be slandered.
2:13-17: We will be subjected to a wicked government.
2:18-21: You will be in workplace situations where someone else will hurt you – perhaps even physically.
3:1-7: You will be in a bad marriage – as either a husband or wife.
3:13-17: You will be harmed for doing good
4:4: Your friends and family will mock you.
4:8-11: Your life with other Christians will result in bruises and knocks.
4:12 You will be tried by fire.
4:14: You will be insulted.
4:19: You will suffer.
5:7: You will have anxiety
5:8: The Devil will try to destroy you.
Now, such problems might be bearable if you could do something to try and avoid the pain. But instead, Peter commands us to live through it – even though it costs us our lives.
In chapter 2, verse 21 Peter writes that we were “called” to suffer. In fact, Peter uses a word that describes God choosing us for salvation, and God choosing Jesus as the cornerstone (2:6). So, we could say, God chose us to suffer. In 3:17, that it might even be “better” to suffer for doing right.
So God does not merely permit the evil to come to us – God chooses the evil for us – and he chooses us to suffer.
Peter tells the servant to be subject to his own master and to endure beatings. Peter tells the wife to show her husband a gentle and quiet spirit, to be respectful to her own husband – even if he does not obey the word. Peter tells husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way – even if she is not gentle or respectful. Peter tells us all to be hopeful – hopeful ! – even if we suffer for righteousness sake.
God chooses suffering for those he loves. This true lies at the very heart of the Gospel. In Isaiah 53:10 the prophet speaks of Jesus on the cross:
Yet is was the will of the Lord to crush him;
He has put him to grief;
And it is the will of God that we suffer with Christ:
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:16-17.
But he goes onto write, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe but suffer for his sake
You think that such suffering means going away as a missionary and being beaten in an Iranian jail – as a brother and pastor is this day. Yes, it may be that, but it is also suffering as the Lord has called us to suffer in our own lives in the private sorrows and difficulties of everyday life – the exact same places in which Peter calls us to endure suffering: work, home, family.
In fact, I think that it may actually be harder to endure suffering in our work, home and family than suffering from evil governments and criminals. We expect governments and criminals to be evil – but we expect our family to be safe.
When we suffer in our homes, it does not really seem like Jesus is at issue. No one has thrown us into a dungeon because of the name of Jesus. But Jesus really is at stake – and that is Peter’s point:
But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13
Peter has been addressing private, domestic suffering – and yet he calls it “Christ’s sufferings.”
It is the suffering of Christ because it is the suffering for Christ. The way that you respond to your employer, your employees, your fellow workers, your husband, your wife, your children, your parents, your in-laws, your neighbors, the police officer who stops you for a ticket; the way you respond to sickness, death, financial troubles – all these private trials are trials which involve Christ, personally.
Think about Apollyon for a moment: When you are suffering a private, domestic trial with work, home, family, government, Apollyon stands across your path. You are descending into the valley of humiliation – you are Christian.
When your life begins to overwhelm you, Apollyon stands in the middle of your path and says,
“Jesus has never delivered anyone from my power. Jesus will not deliver you. You will be destroyed by this – “
and here you put in the name of your present distress. And I know you have them. I have spoken to many of you about these things recently. I know you have them, because I have them right now —
So put the name of your personal trial in this place – and think: I have heard Apollyon stand across my path and tell me, Jesus will not deliver me from this trouble.
And now ask yourself the question,
What do you do? Be very careful in how you answer this question. It is not what should you do, but what do you do? Anger, depression, fear, pride, covetousness, moralism, money, fantasy, immorality, violence, slander, what is it?
That is your rock. That is your stronghold. That is the place in which you think that you will be safe from the trial.
That is your roach motel.
You know a roach motel: It is a trap which looks to the roach like a place to eat and rest. But really it is a trap – the roach cannot escape, even though the roach went into the trap thinking it was safe.
When you run to any sin to escape your trial, you are checking into a roach motel. It might take a while before you realize that it is a trap. But it is a trap.
Here is my second point: God Always Rescues His People
The Lord always delivers his people. I want to show you this from Psalm 31:
TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID. 1 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! 2 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! 3 For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; 4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Psalm 31:title–3 (ESV)
Now, if you are in the midst of a trial, then you read this and think – not exactly true. It is one of things which sound true – but I have not been delivered. You read it with crossed fingers.
When you hear someone read to you 1 Corinthians 10:13, and hear the words, “way of escape” – you think that way of escape means that the trial will go away.
When you read Psalm 64:7 that the Lord “shoots arrows” at David’s enemies, you think – maybe for David, but not for me. Or Psalm 68:1, “God shall arise; his enemies shall be scattered” – okay, maybe on the last day, but not this afternoon before I can leave work.
Let us be honest – it really does seem that a sinful retreat to stop our suffering is really the only honest and right thing to do. When someone is hurting me, hurting them so they will stop honestly looks like the best plan. Running to my rock looks like it will work, because it stops the pain and gives me an immediate escape.
And it makes sense because God really isn’t going to rescue me and all the stuff about being rescued is just words.
So, I want you to look back at Psalm 31. We read through verse 4, but I want to read to you verse 5:
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
There are the words of Jesus on the cross as he died:
Then Jesus calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father into your hands I commit me spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Luke 23:46
Think of how strange that would have sounded to the persecutors who surrounded Jesus. They would have known the context. They would have known that Jesus was quoting from a Psalm that praised the Lord for being a stronghold, a rock, a fortress.
But Jesus had suffered and died. Jesus had lost. Apollyon was right: The Lord did not rescue anyone.
But that is not the entire story. We know God declared Jesus to be the Son of God with power – when Jesus resurrected from the dead (Rom. 1:4). And we know that Jesus will come with grace, and praise, honor and glory (1 Peter. 1:13 & 8).
Yes, you say – but what about today! What about this afternoon?
And so let us put a point on our problem: You will all admit that God will rescue us in the future. Your complaint is that God will take too long.
Third Point: God is right now rescuing his people
It sometimes happens that when a lifeguard rescues a drowning person, the one being rescued fights with the lifeguard. When we begin to drown, we panic, we lose our wits, we don’t know what is safe and what is deadly. When trial, temptation, and sin get a hold of us, we panic. We forget what is dangerous and what is safe. We hurt and we will do anything to make our pain go away.
The devil shows up with an immediate escape – and he lies.
Think carefully about our problem: Our problem is sin – it is not our circumstance. Our circumstance is merely an instance of sin.
Our problem is not what the other person is doing to us – our real danger comes from the sin which lurks in our heart. The other person or the circumstance is merely a temptation which draws out the sin already lurking in our hearts.
I want to draw out a different means of escape:
My real danger comes from my own heart. Nothing in all creation can hurt me:
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:4–7 (ESV)
Sin panics us and screws up our attention. It draws us to fear that which we should not fear and to forget him whom we should not forget.
Think about it: What we need is grace and mercy.
We obtain grace and mercy by means of faith – faith is the channel through which God’s goodness flows.
We are in a trial, our first panicked reaction is to run away and trust ourselves – this will entail sin.
Our first reaction should be to respond to the trial by seeking rescue in the Lord – we should respond with faith and should plead in prayer. Listen:
The only way to be really happy in such a world as this, is to ever casting all our cares on God. It is trying to carry their own burdens which so often makes believers sad. If they will tell their troubles to God, he will enable them to bear them as easily as Samson did the gates of Gaza. If they are resolved to keep them to themselves, they will one day find that the very grasshopper is a burden.
There is a friend ever waiting to help us, if we will unbosom to him our sorrow-a friend who pitied the poor and sick and sorrowful, when he was upon earth-a friend who knows the heart of man, for he lived thirty-three years as a man among us-a friend who can weep with the weepers, for he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief-a friend who is able to help us, for there never was earthly pain he could not cure. That friend is Jesus Christ. The way to be happy is to be always opening our hearts to him. Oh that we were all like that poor Christian slave who only answered when threatened and punished, “I must tell the Lord.” (J.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer)
This is exactly Peter’s advice – and I want you to note that Peter also gives the reason that we do not obey as we should – pride:
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6–7 (ESV)
We don’t pray and seek help as we should because of pride.
What we do not remember is that our place of weakness, our place of need does mean that we have gone far away from God when we are in need. Our distress is meant to drive us to God. Our weakness brings us very near to God:
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
Psalm 34:17-19. It is the one who is brokenhearted, it is the one crushed in spirit that draws near The Lord. When you see your trouble, do not, The Lord has forgotten me! Rather think, in my sorrow and distress, I have drawn near The Lord. Here, in this place I will find the rock of my salvation. When you come to this place, then is the time to call out:
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.
Here is the final point: Our rescue is not in being delivered from the trial – as if the rescue were simply a matter of escape. Our real rescue is being delivered through the trial.
The Lord was not rescued from death – he was rescued through death. Jesus died – but then death died. The Lord rescues us in the same way.
The Lord is not going to deliver you from all trials, and he may not deliver you from this particular trial – your boss may never change, your home may never change, your in-laws may never change. But if God does not change your circumstance, then you must know that God will give you the grace to bear the trial. But you must seek that grace with unbending faith, unwavering prayer.
This is the truth which our God’s people have always. Such as Paul who prayed to be delivered from a trial:
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10.
God may have just permitted the trial to wear on for so long so that you continue to seek him. God may have given you the trial to transform you. And, Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you in this trial. You see, our God seeks something far greater than immediate ease. You have been created for The Lord himself. And nothing less than him will do.
This leads us to our next point – how we actually go about practically seeking the Lord in trials. How do we turn the devil’s work into worship? How can I practically experience the comfort of The Lord, as Paul who writes:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 12:3-4.
How do we obtain the “joy unspeakable” spoken of Peter? That is the next point in the text – and that is for next week.