13 If you are trying hard to do good, no one can really hurt you. 14 But even if you suffer for doing right, you are blessed.1 Peter 3:13-17
“Don’t be afraid of what they fear;
do not dread those things.”( Isaiah 8:12–13)
15 But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, 16 but answer in a gentle way and with respect. Keep a clear conscience so that those who speak evil of your good life in Christ will be made ashamed. 17 It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong if that is what God wants.
Several years ago there was a popular TV reality show called “Fear Factor,” which first aired on NBC from 2001 to 2006. The show featured several contestants who competed against each other in a variety of three stunts for a grand prize, usually of $50,000. From the first to fifth season, the contestants consisted regularly of three men and three women who were competing for themselves. In the sixth season, the show’s format was modified to feature four competing teams of two people who had a pre-existing relationship with each other.
The show at one time was one of the most popular programs on TV. People are fascinated by fear. This may help explain the program’s popularity. The most popular rides in amusement parks tend to be the most frightening.
People in normal times can suffer from a variety of different fears. Each of us probably fears something. Look at some of the fears people have:
- hydrophobia: fear of water
- pyrophobia: fear of fire
- agoraphobia: fear of wide open places
- arachnophobia: fear of spiders
- Peladophobia: fear of baldness and bald people.
- Aerophobia: fear of drafts.
- Porphyrophobia: fear of the color purple.
- Chaetophobia: fear of hairy people.
- Levophobia: fear of objects on the left side of the body.
- Dextrophobia: fear of objects on the right side of the body.
- Auroraphobia: fear of the northern lights.
- Calyprophobia: fear of obscure meanings.
- Thalassophobia: fear of being seated.
- Stabisbasiphobia: fear of standing and walking.
- Odontophobia: fear of teeth.
- Graphophobia: fear of writing in public.
- Phobophobia: fear of being afraid.
There are almost as many fears as there are people and this is just in times of normalcy. But how much more is fear ratcheted up in times of great danger such as famine, depression, pandemic, war? As we very well know, we are living in a time of great peril: economic, mortal, physical and social peril. Last Saturday, April 4, Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary fund warned that this is “humanity’s darkest hour” and that the coronovirus crisis has created an economic crisis “like no other.” The Apostle Peter has some reassuring words from 1st Peter 3: 13-17 to say to us in these frightening times. He’s telling us that in Christ, there is no fear factor. Peter has three things to say to us about standing up to fear.
First, suffering is inevitable. Peter wrote to a church that was suffering great persecution. He writes, “If you are trying hard to do good, no one can really hurt you. But even if you suffer for doing right, you are blessed.” Peter’s question must have hung in the air for a long moment when the Christians who first received this letter heard it. They were no strangers to suffering and indeed had suffered for doing good. Peter is addressing no run of the mill believers, These Christians were very zealous for the Lord. In the original language of the Greek New Testament these were people who “burned with zeal” to desire earnestly! What was it that they were so passionate about? Serving God regardless of the cost! Peter was not dismissing the suffering that was all to real to them. Instead he was telling them that as a result of their righteous lives and God’s care, their blessedness would be such as to turn off all the malice of their persecutors and make their suffering itself to be a joy! Peter says God’s people are blessed in suffering. That is a reoccurring theme in God’s word. There is something about great hardship that allows our Faith if it a genuine faith to shine! What good is faith if it’s never tested? The trying of our faith is more precious than Gold as Peter suggests earlier in 1 Peter 1:7. Greatness often lies hidden beneath an easy or comfortable life, only to emerge when suffering is applied to such a life. In 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel published a revealing study of 413 “famous and exceptionally gifted people” called Cradles of Eminence. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people’s lives. Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were. A great Methodist Pastor from England named William Sangster was told he was dying of progressive muscular atrophy. Sangster made four resolutions and faithfully kept them:
1) I will never complain
2) I will keep the home bright
3) I will count my blessings
4) I will try to turn it to gain
While suffering is inevitable, fear doesn’t have to be!
Second, we can say no to fear. Peter writes, quoting Isaiah 8:12-13, “Don’t be afraid of what they fear; do not dread those things.” The apostle Peter is saying literally “Do not be affected with fear by the fear which they try to inspire in your heart.” Just listening to the news today can inspire fear in our hearts. Why and what do Christians fear? Peter of course is describing the fear that often is found in the staunchest believers heart! We fear many things as it relates to this world. In that regard, the admonition to not be afraid spans the centuries! “Don’t be afraid of what they fear; do not dread those things.” How is that possible? Is there an antidote for spiritual fear? There is and it is this. Third and finally, the antidote for fear is consistent, holy living. Peter states that believers are to But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. The word “Lord” in the Greek, “Kurious” has it’s meaning in the O.T. and is referring to Jesus as Lord God! Christ means the anointed one, and speaks of the Jewish messiah. Peter in no uncertain terms is challenging all believers then and now to: “Set apart their Messiah the Lord Jesus as very God, in their hearts giving first place to him in obedience of life. When we think of Jesus being Lord, the appropriate response for Christians is to bow to him as master! The second person of the Trinity is to be Lord and master of our lives! He is our resource, our defender when trouble or persecution come. In an article title, “Are We Ready for Heaven?” Maurice R. Irwin pointed out that only 34 percent of the American people who call themselves Christians attend church at least once a week. He says, “We sing, ’’When all my labors and trials are o’er, and I am safe on that beautiful shore, just to be near the dear Lord I adore will through the ages be glory for me.’’However, unless our attitudes toward the Lord and our appreciation of Him change greatly, heaven may be more of a shock than a glory. This pandemic may just be an opportunity for that to happen. Suffering is inevitable in life; some periods of history more than others. We have entered just such a time. Are we ready for such a time of suffering? Are we a fearful people? We can say no to fear and as Corrie Ten boom once said “Don’t wrestle, just nestle” drawing so close to the Lord and Master of our life that we can feel God’s continual shelter and protection. Life, as we now see, can often be difficult. But in the midst of the difficulty we can discover God’s hand, guiding us, leading us, watching over us and we don’t have to be afraid! Impossible you say? Not in the least! But Sunday only Christianity will not cut it. God is looking and waiting for people to seek God with passion, and trust in Christ with the faith of a child! If our Bible is neglected and our spiritual fervor is burning low, we won’t stand against the hurricane force winds as they blow and adversity strikes! We’ll wilt like flowers. But it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s a choice we make every day. What will we do? But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. If we’re to live trusting rather than fearful, encouraged rather than discouraged when suffering comes our way, we must constantly apply the antidote for fear: consistent Christian living, the most effective way to point others to Christ! Because when we share his love, our lives will back up our words!May we learn to accept suffering, say no to fear and set Christ apart in our hearts as Lord!
Ever compassionate God, forgive us for taking your accepting, forgiving love for granted. Forgive us for our wavefring love and inconsist service to You. Help us to use this present crisis as a time to draw closer in you and sanctify your Son but respecting and obeying him from our hearts. In Jesus name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
1, Do you believe that suffering is inevitable in life? Why?
2. What are you most afraid of today?
3. What does Peter mean when he tells us to “respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts”? How would we live differently if we practiced this everyday? How does this relate to “to living a holy life” and “holiness”?