In this writing we begin an exposition of this wonderful book of the Bible. For the past few months I have been immersed in this book. I’ve read it over and over and over again. I have memorized its contents. I have meditated upon its truths. I have allowed God to use it in my life. The result is that God has used it to refresh my soul while challenging me and encouraging me. I trust that as you read the sermon installments on this book it will do similar things for your heart as well.

I am going to give you an overview of the book. It’s always a good idea to see the whole forest before examining the individual trees. It’s always good to survey a map to understand where you are going before heading to the streets. During this overview I am not going to outline the book. Rather I am going to focus upon the major themes of this book. [1]

This message is entitled "Suffer Now, Glory Later." My title is strategic because I believe this main theme of 1 Peter can be reduced to these four words: Suffer Now, Glory Later. Peter wrote this letter to those who were suffering (or who were possibly going to experience suffering at some point in the future). Through all of their suffering, Peter’s consistent counsel to these people was to look beyond their suffering. In effect, Peter was saying, “Though you are suffering now, eagerly wait for the glory that will be revealed to you.” Or, you might say, "Suffer Now, [because there is] Glory Later.” That is why I have entitled my message "Suffer Now, Glory Later."

To be sure, there are other themes that run through this book. But, I believe that they all can fit within the framework of the theme that I have presented. For instance, the theme of "trusting God" can be worked into the theme I stated earlier, if you realize that this is the attitude that Peter calls his readers to exhibit throughout their suffering. Though they were suffering, they were to trust God in the midst of their suffering. God is doing the right thing for His own purposes. Eventually, there will be glory (1 Peter 4:19). Another theme that comes up often in this epistle is the theme of "living righteously." Again, this is how Peter counseled his readers to behave during their days of suffering. They weren't to resort to any sort of wickedness in attempt to reduce their suffering. Rather, they were to live righteously through it, realizing that it would be better for them in the end (1 Peter 2:12; 3:16; 5:10). Another theme is that of "submitting to authority." Again, Peter's counsel was to continue to submit to the authority figures in their lives, even if they are the ones causing you the suffering! (see 1 Peter 2:18; 3:1). The reason you do so, is because the Lord sees what is taking place and will bring you some day to glory through these experiences (2:20; 3:5-6, 10-12; 5:10). And so, I believe that the other themes of 1 Peter can neatly be explained through "Suffer Now, Glory Later."

The reasons for their suffering varied. In chapter 1, verse 6, Peter describes them as experiencing “various” trials. This word translated “various” is the Greek word, poikiloV, which could be literally translated, “multi-colored.” This is a word describing diversity which comes in various circumstances. In verse 6, Peter is using this word to describe the multi-faceted dimension of the trials that the listeners of Peter’s letter were facing. As you go through the book you can find that Peter details several different reasons why they were suffering. Some were suffering simply because they were Christians (4:14, 16). Others were suffering because in their faith because they would not carry on with others in sinful activities (4:4; 3:14). Some were suffering because they had a master who was unreasonable (2:18). Others were women who suffered because they were married to unbelieving men who were making their marriage particularly difficult (3:1). Some were suffering because they were the object of verbal slander even though they did nothing to deserve such harsh words against them (2:12; 3:16). Others were suffering because they simply felt as aliens in a strange land (1:1; 2:11) who had an inheritance in heaven that transcends this earthly life.

What’s particularly wonderful about the various ways in which Peter describes the suffering of his readers is the fact that these words apply to all sorts of suffering we might experience in our lives! If you are currently suffering in one shape or another be encouraged because Peter’s words are applicable to you. Wayne Grudem is exactly right in his commentary on verse 6 when he writes, “The phrase various trials should also caution us against looking against any specific kind of persecution or suffering as the historical background for this letter. Since no one kind of trial or testing is in view, Peter’s words have their application to all the trials which Christians experience.” [2]

Perhaps you are currently facing the verbal assaults of others. Peter’s counsel can help you. Perhaps you are currently facing marriage difficulties due to the unbelief of your spouse. Peter’s words can help you. Perhaps you are facing difficulties at work because boss is driving you to perform beyond what you believe is even reasonable. Peter’s advice can help you. Perhaps you are currently being mocked by family members or neighbors because of your commitment to live a holy life. Peter’s message can help you. Perhaps you are currently suffering from some sort of illness. You can learn from Peter’s counsel. Perhaps you have found certain circumstances in your life to be particularly painful. Peter’s words will be reliable guides to your soul to you. Perhaps your children have caused you headaches because of the foolish choices they are making. Peter’s message will assist you. Perhaps there is some other family situation that is giving you grief. Peter will give you good advice. Perhaps there is fear of the unknown that is causing you anxiety. Peter’s letter will help you. Perhaps some of you children are facing some peer pressure from others at school or in your neighborhood who are trying to get you to do sinful things. Peter’s letter will help you.

I could go on and on and on this morning and detail other particular applications to this letter. However I want you to think about your life and the difficulties that you are facing right now. I want you to think about your particular situation today and the pains and the suffering that you are experiencing. You can be assured that the message of 1 Peter is going to help you. If life is going particularly well for you right now and you cannot think of any suffering that you are currently experiencing know that you will face suffering sometime in the future. This is because life on earth is full of difficulty. Suffering is all around us.

In a very small measure we faced this in coming back from our vacation. We were gone from our house for 2 ½ weeks on vacation. As we were driving home from the airport the air conditioning in our car appeared to be going out. Then suddenly it began to work again. Upon arriving at home we discovered that our garbage disposal wasn’t working very well. When we turned it on it only gave us a humming noise like it was trying to go but wasn’t able to spin. Being the man in the house I felt it my responsibility to fix the disposal. To make a long story short the garbage disposal no longer hums. If you turn on the switch nothing happens now. Later that evening as we drove our car there was a strange noise which kept getting louder and louder and louder! We are hopeful that the problem is simply the air conditioner. We need someone to come and look at our car. The next day I was informed that the shower in one of our bathrooms was not working very well. Then my daughter tried to print something on our printer and it didn’t print due to a malfunctioning drum.

This is a fact of life: Things break! Regarding circumstances in your life it is much the same. Relationships break. Jobs break. Bodies break. Finances break. The future is unknown as circumstances break. Things in our life break. They change! They often change for the worse! As a result we often experience suffering through it. The message of 1 Peter will help you to deal with these difficulties of life. If you aren’t suffering now be assured that you will someday. The book of 1 Peter will help you prepare for that day.

As we work through 1 Peter, my principle aims is to see that you learn to suffer well, whether that be now or later. In your suffering I want for you to suffer well, because glory is coming for the believer.

While on vacation I had an opportunity to read a book entitled The Triumph of John and Betty Stam. I had heard of these people but had never read the biography about them. They were young missionaries to China in the 1930’s during the Chinese Civil War. After training at the Moody Bible Institute they traveled to China where they were missionaries with the China Inland Mission. Betty had gone to China in 1932. Shortly after John arrived in 1933 they were married. They were happy to serve the Lord in China together bringing the gospel to those who needed it. The work was hard but the labor was rewarding.

Less than a year after their marriage their only child was born to them on September 11th, 1934, Helen Pricilla Stam. Then less than three months later on December 6, 1934 the Stams were taken captive by some Chinese Communist Soldiers. On the night they had been captured John had a brief moment to write a letter to his mission board. He wrote, ...

Dear Brethren,

My wife, baby, and myself are to-day in the hands of the Communists in the city of Tsingteh. Their demand is twenty thousand dollars for our release.

All our possessions and stores are in their hands but we praise God for peace in our hearts and a meal to-night. God grant you wisdom in what you do and us fortitude, courage, and peace of heart. He is able--and a wonderful Friend in such a time.

Things happened so quickly this a.m. They were in the city just a few hours after the ever-persistent rumours really became alarming, so that we could not prepare to leave in time. We were just too late. The Lord bless and guide you, and as for us, may God be glorified whether by life or by death.

In Him,
John C. Stam.

This was a man who was prepared to suffer well. Peter's epistle will help you suffer well.

The next day John and Betty Stam were forced to travel 12 miles through the mountains to Miaosheo. John was forced to walk while Betty and Helen were able to ride part of the way on a horse. Upon arriving in town they were brought to the postmaster’s shop. The postmaster had recognized them from earlier travels. He asked them, “Where are you going?” John replied, “We do not know where they are going but we are going to heaven.” While at the postmaster’s shop John was able to write another letter to the China Inland Mission. This letter reveals the great stability that he had in time of great difficulty. He wrote, ...

Dear Brethren,

We are in the hands of the Communists here, being taken from Tsingteh when they passed through yesterday. ... They want $20,000 before they will free us, which we have told them we are sure will not be paid. Famine relief money and our personal money and effects are all in their hands.

God give you wisdom in what you do and give us grace and fortitude. He is able.

Yours in Him,
John C. Stam.

The next morning the Stams were “roughly summoned and led out to die.” (Their child was left in their sleeping quarters where Betty had hidden her. By God's grace, she was discovered to be alive some 30 hours later.) John and Betty were painfully bound with ropes and paraded down the streets as “the Reds shouted their ridicule and called the people to come and see the execution.” At one point they ordered John to kneel. Quickly, they cut off his head with a sword. Without a word Betty also fell on her knees and experienced the same fate, perhaps with the same sword. “Absent from the body ... present with the Lord.” At ages 27 and 28 they were welcomed into heaven as martyrs for Jesus. [3]

What a great story of those who died as heroes of the faith. Yet you don’t die heroically without some preparation. Both John and Betty Stam had counted the cost in going to China. They knew there were risks. They knew of the dangers. But, they also knew that they served a Sovereign God. There was a poem that both of them knew about a missionary who had died at the hands of bandit soldiers. When the soldiers had asked him if he were afraid this missionary said, “No. If you shoot I go straight to heaven." [4] Concerning this man, the following poem was written, ...

"Afraid? Of What?
To feel the spirit's glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid -- of that?

Afraid? Of What?
Afraid to see the Savior's face
To hear His welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid -- of that?

Afraid? Of What?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;
Darkness, light, O Heaven's art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid -- of that?

Afraid? Of What?
To do by death what life could not --
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid -- of that?" [5]

The Stams weren't afraid of "that." And so, they received martyrs' crowns!!

The book of 1 Peter will prepare us to have such perspectives in our times of suffering. In chapter 5, verse 10, Peter writes, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” This is the hope that we have. After our suffering (which is only for a little while) God is going to come to our rescue! He is the one who will “perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish” us.

This is Peter’s message: “After you have suffered for a little while, God will come and He will help you. He will perfect you by strengthening you to bring you into His eternal glory in Christ!” The suffering that you are going through now is only for a short time. It’s not going to last forever. Soon it will be over. Soon you will be enjoying the fullness of your salvation. The suffering comes now, but there will be a day (and it’s coming very soon - 4:7) when the glory will come! "Suffer Now, Glory Later).

Throughout this letter Peter is very clear as to how we should act while suffering. His counsel is that we should continue to walk in a righteous manner knowing that something is coming for you someday that makes all of your suffering worthwhile. Peter says this over and over and over again. There are times in this little epistle where Peter points out that it is precisely because of their righteousness that they are experiencing their difficulties! To engage in sin would eliminate the suffering. But that was never an option for Peter. In the midst of their righteous suffering Peter exhorts them to continue walking righteously. Consider the following verses:

2:12 - “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
2:20 - It may just be the case that “when you do what is right, [you] suffer for it.”
3:14 - “Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness”
3:16 - “and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
3:17 - “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”
4:4 - As you don’t follow into sin with others, “they malign you.”
4:14 - “If you are reviled for the name of Christ.”
4:16 - “If you suffer as a Christian.”

During these times Peter’s continual counsel is to maintain your integrity. Continue doing what is right. Continue doing what is good. Live lives of holiness. There is a simple reason for this. We serve a God who is in control of the suffering that comes upon us. “Therefore those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right" (4:19). The importance of this verse is that suffering is coming according to the will of God! He brings the suffering for His own purposes. We ought not to be surprised that they come upon us, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you" (4:12). God is in control of the suffering. He knows what is taking place in your life. He even ordains that the suffering would come. “It is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather then for doing what is wrong" (3:17). In His sovereignty, the Lord will protect those who believe in Him as they go through their trials to experience the wonderful blessings of salvation that the Lord has promised to them.

You need to know that as you walk righteously in your suffering God sees it. He will reward it accordingly. This is the point of the Psalm 34 quotation that comes in 3:10-12:

1 Peter 3:10-12 (Ps. 34:12-14)
For the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.
He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

God knows who the righteous are. God knows the suffering they experience. He will be gracious to them. But, His grace will come in perfect time. Through it all, God has a purpose. God loves the testimony that it brings to the world. It brings opportunity for evangelism. Consider the following verses, "Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed, ... sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" (1 Peter 3:14-15). As you go through your suffering with a resolve to walk righteously, continuing on with a joyous attitude, the world will take notice. In the world’s economy, they are happy only when things go well and they are sad when things don’t go so well. However as you walk righteously, and suffer for it, people will notice. It is then that you have a great opportunity to give testimony to others of the Lord’s saving and sustaining grace in your life.

Even if you don’t have opportunity to speak God will use your righteous actions to convict unbelievers. That’s what we find in 3:16, "and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame." A parallel verse comes in 2:12, "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation." They may call you an evildoer. They may slander you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely. However as they observe your continued righteous manner of life they may well glorify God in the day of visitation. This verse may well imply that these people are converted in part through your example of godly behavior in the midst of difficulty.

The Lord loves to see those who are suffering for their righteous behavior. In 2:19, we read that it finds favor with God when "for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly." Peter also asks, "For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?" (2:20a). He then concludes, "But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God" (2:20b). Do you want to find favor with God? Do what is right, even if you suffer for it. And God will look down upon you with favor.

The Lord particularly delights in seeing His people suffer well because it’s a picture of our Savior’s sacrifice. We have been called to suffer like our Savior.

1 Peter 2:21-23
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.

Though Christ Jesus was perfectly sinless and had never done anything bad or evil or wicked in His life He still suffered. And when Jesus suffered He “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (verse 23). This is exactly what we are called to do: 4:19 - “Those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” The right thing for Jesus to do was to submit Himself to the Father in dying upon the cross.

In so doing He was bearing “our sins in His body on the cross” (2:24). It is “by His wounds [that] you were healed.” When Jesus died it was “the just for the unjust” (3:18). It was “the righteous for the unrighteous” (3:18). So that He might bring us to God. Our lives are to reflect this example. "For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for what doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong" (3:17). Jesus was the “living stone which has been rejected by man, but is choice and precious in the sight of God” (2:4). (See also 2:7-8). We as living stones (2:5) are to follow His example. We may well be rejected by man but there are glories to follow.

What is going to get you through these things? How will you ever be able to get past the sufferings that you are experiencing? Have a hope of better things to come. Jesus had a hope of better things to come. The prophets “made careful searches and inquiries ... “seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow" (1:11).

The thing that will motivate you to suffer now is to realize the glories that will come to us in the future. That’s how Peter begins this letter. Nearly all of chapter 1 is speaking about the incredible salvation that we have in Christ. Consider these verses near the beginning of the first chapter.

1 Peter 1:3-5
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Peter's point is clear. He wants his readers to hold fast to the hope of what lies behind this life. There is an imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance waiting for every one of you who believe in Christ! Your hope is sure because God is the one who is protecting you (1:5) for your ultimate salvation that will be revealed someday. You don’t see it fully now. I don’t fully see it now. However by faith we believe in Him. That is the point of chapter 1, verse 8, “though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory." Even when suffering, you can have a joy that is unexplainable and is inexpressible because you know of the outcome on the other end--the salvation of your souls (1:9).

This salvation that we have in Christ is so mind-boggling that the prophets “made careful searches and inquiries” (1:10) in seeking to know how this salvation would come to pass. Angels long to look into this wondrous salvation that God has granted to us (1:12). In light of these things the suffering we have on earth begins to pale in insignificance. The hymn writer got it right:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace. [6]

In your suffering, hold fast to this hope. This is what Peter says in verse 13, “... fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In your suffering look to the glory that will come later. Wait for it. Anticipate it. Long for it. During that time, know that we are not called to inaction. We are not called to be holy men who sit on a mountain and contemplate heaven while doing nothing. No. God calls us to be holy in all our behavior while we look for and await His coming. This is how verse 13 begins, "Therefore, prepare your minds for action. This is the point of verses 14-16.

1 Peter 1:14-16
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

God has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). We are to walk as children of the light (Eph. 5:8). We are to live holy in all our behavior (1:15). This means that we should do the right things (2:15). We should prove zealous for what is good (3:13). We should have good behavior (3:16). We should stay away from the wrong things (3:17; 2:1; 11; 4:4). In other words, we should be holy like God is holy (1:16). Though we have a heavenly Father who has forgiven us and shown us His marvelous grace it is not a license for sin (1:17). No. We are called to live holy obedient lives. Our lives and our conduct have everything to do with the salvation that we have received.

How are we supposed to find the strength to do this? Find it in the word of God. It is the word of God that has been the seed of our salvation. It is the word of God that will continue to strengthen us to walk righteously after our salvation. Peter reminded his readers, "For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God" (1:23). The admonition to pursue the word comes a few verses later: "like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (2:2). We have an infant in our home. We have seen the way in which our little David longs for the pure milk. That's what we are called to do if we will suffer well now. To “Suffer Now, [and] Glory Later” you need to have a similar longing for the word. Memorize it! Meditate upon it! Think about it! Pray it! Then you will have the strength to live it. With that as an overview I trust that you will be equipped now to pick up on the themes that Peter brings to us in his letter.


This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on August 19, 2007 by Steve Brandon.
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[1] When I delivered this sermon to the congregation of Rock Valley Bible Church I completed the message by reciting the entire book of 1 Peter from memory. I know that's a bit out of the ordinary. Yet this is similar to the way the early church heard this book. They heard the entire letter read to them in one sitting. I believe in the value of hearing God's word. I trust in the authority of God's word to do His work in their hearts simply by listening to the contents. In the weekly bulletin, I wrote up some advice for how to memorize larger portions of Scripture entitled, "Tips for Memorizing Extended Portions of Scripture." You can read it here.

[2] Wayne Grudem, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: 1 Peter, p. 62, italics his.

[3] All quotes were taken from the book, The Triumph of John and Betty Stam, pp. 98-108, written by Geraldine Taylor.

[4] Ibid., p. 72.

[5] Ibid., p. 105.

[6] Words by Helen Lemmel.