Series: Upside Down. James Dewhurst April 19, 2020

Upside Down

People are starting to get antsy, frustrated and just plain fed up with being stuck at home. Nearly 100 million Americans live in states with mandatory Stay-at-home orders, while the rest of the country is living under similar restrictions. A restlessness is beginning to set in as millions are being laid off and others are taking pay cuts.
When will this be over? When will life be normal again? When will the suffering end?
For generations, inside the comfort of our borders, Americans have looked out at the sufferings, struggles, and sicknesses of other nations. We’ve been the ones spared, and for years we’ve put the rest of the world in the “those people” category, until now.
The virus this time has visited us, and American’s are shocked by the suffering!
The interesting thing is – Suffering is Subjective!
For most of the world, our current prison would be somebody else’s palace!
Currently, we can’t go to our favorite movie theaters, eat at our favorite restaurants, or even shop at our favorite stores. We are forced to sit in our first world, climate-controlled houses with flat-screen TVs, comfortable beds, endless technology, and warm showers.
You know, I just wonder…
– I wonder if people in third world countries would call this suffering?
– I wonder if the first century Christian martyrs would call this suffering?
– I wonder if Peter, who was crucified upside down, would call this suffering?
– I wonder if the 260 million Christians enduring persecution would call this suffering?
– I wonder if the 7.4 mil Yemeni’s being treated for Mal-nutrition would call this suffering?
I wonder if any of these people would feel bad for us? Suffering is relative, isn’t it?
How should the believer respond to suffering? The word suffering and its derivatives are used twenty-one times in this epistle alone. 1 Peter has a lot to say about suffering. Nero, in 64 A.D. was having Christians covered with tar and burned at the stake to light up his garden at night time. These Christians needed to hear that suffering was a part of the will of God and that they should not be shocked by it. They also needed to know how to respond to it. No one escapes suffering saints. Suffering will touch us all!
We are shocked by any suffering! Is it that bad? Are we even suffering?
Maybe we’ve all been spoiled for so long, that suffering now seems strange to us!
Peter tells us how Christians should respond to suffering in:
1 Peter 4:12-13
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (ESV)
1 Peter 4:19
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (ESV)
The first thing Peter tells us in this passage is NOT to be surprised by suffering.
He then tells us to rejoice, because we get the privilege of suffering from Christ.
The third thing Peter tells us is that suffering always ends in revealing God’s glory.
He closes by challenging anyone enduring suffering to continue doing good!
T.D. Jakes – “We are not tested in our moments of celebration, we are tested in our moments of suffering!”
How loud am I praising right now?
How much am I praying right now?
How much am I trusting right now?
How much am I giving right now?
Many people give thanks to God when e gives. Job thanked God when he took it!
Augustine – “God had one son on earth without sin, but not one without suffering.”
If God did not spare his son from suffering, why should I think he will spare me?
Jesus never hid it, He just ignored it!
Suffering is a part of the Christian journey!
Romans 8:17
17 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. (ESV)
Philippians 3:10
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (ESV)
Matthew 16:24
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (ESV)
Crosses aren’t exciting. They are symbols of suffering!
We just celebrated Easter, A week that started in celebration but ended in suffering!
There were thousands on Palm Sunday shouting his name, but only three standing at the cross on Friday.
The crowd always disappears when the suffering shows up!
We can’t just know Christ on Palm Sunday, we’ve got to also know him on Good Friday!
Hellen Keller – “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming.”
John 16:33
33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (ESV)
2 Corinthians 1:5
5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (ESV)
If we will allow him, God can do amazing things in us through our suffering!
Story – In the French Academy of Science, you will find an old shoemaker’s awl on display. To look at it, one would never suspect this simple too to be responsible for anything of consequence. It was the cause of tremendous pain. This awl one day fell off of a shoemakers table and put out the eye of the shoemakers’ nine-year-old son. The injury was so severe that the boy lost his vision in both eyes and had to enroll in a school for the blind. The boy had to learn to read by handling large, carved wooden blocks. When the shoemaker’s son grew up into adulthood, he began thinking of a new way for the blind to read. He came up with a system of dots translated into letters of the alphabet, read from pieces of paper. The irony is, the blind boys’ name was Louis Braille, and he used the awl that blinded him to imprint each dot that created Braille.
We must remember that even in the midst of suffering, God’s will is being done!
The question is not, will we ever suffer? The question is, how will we suffer?
Job is believed to be the oldest book in the Bible, and it records a shocking story about a righteous man named Job. Job was an incredibly wealthy man who feared God and rejected evil. He owned thousands of livestock, had a large number of employees and was incredibly influential. One day, through an awful series of events, mercenaries stole his livestock and killed his workers. A tornado struck his son’s house and killed them. And, to make matters worse, Job became painfully ill. His wife became terrible bitter!
I want to share 3 things that Job in his suffering that we all should do in ours:
1. He ran to God instead of running away!
Job 1:20-21
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (ESV)
Permit yourself to be real and raw with God; be emotionally honest before the Lord. Don’t bottle it up!  Suffering drives some to agnosticism and others to intimacy!
David got real with God, in:
Psalm 42:3
3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (ESV)
2. He kept an eternal perspective in temporary pain!
Job 1:20-21
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (ESV)
We challenge our perspective in pain, by reminding ourselves of God’s plan!
Job 1:21
21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (ESV)
3. He believed God was for him, not against him!
Job 1:21
21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (ESV)
Through all his trials and tribulations, Job did not sin or curse God. God’s work in Job had prevailed. Job’s faith grew as he remained steadfast in the goodness of God.
The Latin root of the word “quarantine” is “forty”. So what does the Bible say about 40? The flood lasted 40 days. Moses fled Egypt for 40 years. 40 days Moses stayed on Mount Sinai to receive the  commandments. The Exodus in the dessert lasted 40 years. Jesus fasted for 40 days. Theologians believe the number 40 represents “change”. Whenever the number 40 appears in the Bible, there is a “change”. This is the time of preparing a person and a people, to make a fundamental change. Remember, we are in the year 2020, and 20 + 20 = 40. And it just so happens that perfect vision is exactly 2020!
My prayer is that through our suffering, God will change our hearts and clear our vision!
How are we using this time of suffering? Are we growing better or getting bitter?
Pray for people who need God to change their perspective!
Need Prayer?