The Church: God's Provision for My Suffering
Over the course of the past couple of weeks we've been talking about living for God's glory in such totality that suffering is inevitable. As Christians, we are to live our lives in a way where we are so consumed with Christ that we are eventually mocked or worse by those who do not believe. You can read the first post, "Suffering (On Purpose) for God's Glory" here. You can read the second post, "God's Purposes in My Suffering" here. Today we conclude this topic looking at the fact that God has not left us to suffer alone.
God has not only given us His Spirit (who is our greatest provision), but He’s given us a people to go to war with and to minister to one another in our suffering. The church is God's provision to enable us to fight the good fight and hold fast to the end.
We see in 1 Peter 4:7 that the end is at hand. We are living in the end times! Christ has ascended to heaven and at some point He is coming back for His people. We are in war with the world to bring as many people with us as possible! But we must work together. We need one another. This is not something we can do on our own.
Strengthen One Another
In 1 Peter 4:7-11 we see various ways in which the church should strengthen one another and minister to each other. Prayer, love, hospitality, and service are all ways God wants us to build each other up. These are the ways God has provided for us to minister to one another as we experience suffering for living for His glory.
First and foremost we pray. We should be a people characterized by prayer. We can do nothing in our own strength and we need God moving and working on our behalf and enabling us to suffer and love well. We should pray a lot: for souls, for each other, for strength, and for endurance!
So often we sadly turn to prayer as a last resort when it should actually be our first priority! When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that He frequently was getting alone to pray. He'd get up early and forsake sleep. He'd leave crowds and embrace solitude. He would pray among large crowds. Jesus' ministry was characterized by prayer. If Jesus was constantly praying to His Father, why would we treat prayer as something of secondary importance?
We are to love one another. Love covers a multitude of sins (verse 8). Jesus said it like this in Matthew 22:37-40, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." When we love someone, we have a harder time sinning against them, whether that be through pride, envy, anger, lust, or malice. If I love you, I want the best for you and want to see good happen to you.
We are hospitable and bring one another into our homes. Hospitality is an incredible way of taking care of one another in suffering. You can share a meal so someone doesn't have to worry about cooking and cleaning for an evening or you can bring someone into your home to stay if they've fallen on hard times.
Hospitality is great provision in times of suffering. Maybe someone has lost their home or job and you bring them in until they can get back on their feet. Maybe someone just needs to come under your roof and be ministered to for awhile as they are experiencing something difficult. No matter what, Christians are called to be a hospitable people.
We minister to and serve one another with the gifts God has given us. God has given us these gifts to strengthen the body of Christ and not for our own selfish gain. Maybe you've been given a servant's heart to strengthen the body by doing what needs done that others aren't willing to do. Maybe you've been given the gift to teach and you need to be discipling others to become more mature believers. It is clear, our gifts are to be used for making the church stronger as a whole.
In prayer, love, hospitality, and service we encourage and enable each other to keep living for Christ in a sold out manner. We are strengthened because we have others fighting with us, cheering us on, and preaching the gospel to us. We will suffer, but it is not purposeless. We will suffer, but God has not left us alone.
To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.