In our adult class on Sunday mornings at Hillside, we’re currently going through the books of 1&2 Peter. It’s an exhilarating read, albeit a somewhat-depressing read at times.
If you’re unfamiliar with the book (or if it’s been a while since you’ve studied it), the basic premise is this: be prepared to suffer for the cause of Christ. It’s not unusual, it’s not unexpected, but right in line with what we can expect from a life serving Him.
Sound like easy reading? Not exactly.
But throughout our study on the book, one thought has continually crept back into my mind over and over again…
How would Joel Osteen preach from this book?
Disregarding the accusations that he doesn’t actually “preach” – which I tend to agree with – the fact remains that 1 Peter is a book that is entirely about suffering, and to preach it without that background is to miss the point entirely.
Consider these verses for instance:
- “You have been distressed by various trials…” (1 Peter 1:6)
- “If you do what is right and suffer for it…” (1 Peter 2:20)
- “It is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is good…” (1 Peter 3:17)
- “Share the sufferings of Christ…” (1 Peter 4:13)
- “After you have suffered for a little while…” (1 Peter 5:10)
Peter addresses other topics throughout his first epistle, but he says something about persecution in literally every single chapter. It is completely and utterly unavoidable to the text.
Prosperity preachers shuffle around from verses like John 10:10: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” and Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans that I have for you…plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
Both of those verses are perfectly Biblical – and prosperity preachers are quick to point that out – but when ripped from their context, they can point to a very different version of the Gospel than what the Author intended.
For instance, John 10:10 deals with false teachers who seek to lead the sheep astray through erroneous doctrines that inevitably lead to death, while Jeremiah 29:11 gives the remnant hope for a future restoration, even though they had just seen the city of God obliterated before their very eyes.
They’re both encouraging verses to the right audience, but neither of them deal with getting a job promotion or driving a Ferrari.
(To further prove this point, Satan was the one who said in Matthew 4:9: “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” If you don’t look at the context, one would think it was Jesus – a thought that many preach as if it did come from Jesus.)
Joel Osteen himself has gone on record as saying that “God doesn’t want you to be poor.” That we sometimes have a “poverty mindset” where we think that part of being a Christian is to be poor, to suffer, and to shuffle through life from bread-line to bread-line (at the risk of sounding hypocritical by taking Osteen’s words out of context, here’s a link to the segment where he discusses it) https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=336&v=Y1ADS7khlIY
While I don’t think God necessarily wants us to be poor, that’s a far cry from saying that He wants us to be rich.
The truth is, God wants us to live for Him, and unfortunately, in the world we live in, that means that suffering will continue to be a big part of our lives. The real issue is: how do we live through it?
Why is This a Big Deal?
How we live matters in this world, and what happens to us as a result of that is normally outside of our control, so the skeptic may pipe in here and say, “Why does all of this matter? Why does it matter that some people skip over the more harsh verses in Scripture?”
First off, it matters that we preach sound Biblical doctrine. Far and away, that’s the primary reason that 1 Peter must be preached accurately and in its entirety.
Secondly, persecution is the world’s way of telling you that you’re wrong in your belief: that you shouldn’t follow Christ, that you should give in to your hedonistic pleasures, and that you should carpe diem (“seize the day!”), no matter whether it’s Godly or not. If you buy into that argument, you’re agreeing with the world that their way is superior to God’s.
By telling us several times that suffering is to be expected – and even going so far as to say that you should “keep on rejoicing” through it (1 Peter 4:13; James 1:2; et. al.) – Peter destroys the only weapon that the world has at their disposal: intimidation.
It’s why saints willingly went to their death, because to “live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
In reality, the true mark of a Christian is not how the size of their bank account but their obedience to God. Whether that manifests itself as social persecution or physical, the end result is devotion to God and a rejection of the world.
Isn’t that what God wanted all along?Last modified: January 22, 2019