Pastor Mike Gerhardt, 1 Peter Series #8, January 8, 2017, Overseer of Your Soul, 1 Peter 2:22-25. As you look back on 2016, I wonder if you’re thinking: I hope I don’t have a year like that again. Maybe it was an accident or fire, or a loss in your family, or a setback in finances. Rachel Jones began her article entitled Immanuel with this: My daughter’s friend fell and hit her head while playing. Two days later, she died… It doesn’t make sense. Tragedy doesn’t fit the narrative of how life is supposed to go. And neither does suffering. Suffering is one of the great issues of the Christian faith since we believe that God is both all good and all powerful. C.S Lewis said, If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures happy, and if God were almighty, He would be able to do what he wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore, God lacks either goodness, or power, or both. Atheist Syllogism: An all-powerful God could destroy evil. An all-loving God would destroy evil. But evil is not destroyed. Hence, there is not an all-powerful, all-loving God. God’s original created order in the Garden of Eden did not include suffering. That came when we rebelled against God. Suffering can be viewed in three ways: A result of our sin. God created the world with physical, moral and spiritual laws. If I chose to disobey those rules there are consequences. If I drink and drive, I am likely to crash the car. If I jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet without a parachute I may die. I’m not sure that last example is sin or stupidity. As a result of someone’s sin. Much suffering is derived from the actions of others. My sin affects others. Many suffer from poverty because of the greed of others. As a result of a broken world. Weather has brought on suffering. Some would argue we brought on the bad weather by polluting the atmosphere. We may be unwise to build homes on sand or in the path of tornadoes. Many suffer physically, emotionally or spiritually from disease or other conditions. It pains us to see our loved ones suffer. We find ourselves angry at God or others or the world in the face of such suffering. David Watson, an Anglican pastor, had bad asthma for 20 years, then died of cancer at 50, wrote: the negative side of all this comes when such heart-searching leads to nagging and unhealthy feelings of guilt, and perhaps to a very poor image of God. Is it conceivable, when we see Jesus healing the sick and forgiving the sinful, that God should say, ‘Ah, there’s David Watson. He slipped up rather badly last month so I’ll afflict him with asthma for the next twenty years’ or later, ‘He’s upset me again, so this time I’ll destroy him with cancer’? Such thoughts are not only ridiculous; they are almost blasphemous and utterly alien to a God of infinite love and mercy as we see him so clearly in Jesus. Peter pushes us even further. Peter not only commends suffering, but the unjust kind. 19: For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. Peter suffered mentally as he grappled with his denial of Jesus. He suffered spiritually as he recalled Jesus’ words get behind me Satan. He suffered physically as he was beaten for his faith. Suffering in and of itself is never a good thing but God can use it for good in a number ways: First suffering is used by God to draw us to Jesus. We know people who only began to think about God because of suffering the loss of a loved one or because of some other pain in their life. C.S Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain: God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Second God uses suffering to grow us into maturity. Hebrews 5:8 informs us that even Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered. Hebrews 12:11 no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 1 Peter 1:6-7: now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come that your faith, of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Third God uses suffering to bring about his good purpose. Romans 8:28: ALL things God work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. We saw this in the life of Joseph. He suffered rejection by his family, was sold into slavery and was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. At the end, Joseph said to his brothers You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. For some the blessings eventually outweighed the sufferings they went through. But the Bible never suggests that this will always be the case. Instead we are promised something greater: the hope of being with Jesus in heaven. Romans 8:18: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Bishop Gavin Reid interviewed a 17-year-old boy who shattered his back as a one year old. He was in and out of hospitals for years. How many years have you spent in hospitals? The boy answered, Thirteen years. Gavin asked, Do you think that God is fair? The boy replied: Well I think that God’s got all of eternity to make it up to me. Alistair McGrath said: If the Christian hope of heaven is an illusion…then it must be abandoned. But if it is true, it must be embraced and allowed to transform our entire understanding of the place of suffering in life. We must at times view suffering in the context of eternity. Fourth God uses suffering in our lives to experience His presence. The church was suffering injustice. Peter encouraged them to submit to the authorities, to be living sacrifices and to live humbly for the purposes of God. How much farther from our way of life is this? Peter invites us to live under the pain of unjust suffering for one reason, vs 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. There is no simple answer to the WHY of suffering. Instead we approach it from a different perspective. God is a God who suffered for us. Through the cross, Jesus reconciled the world to himself. He suffered bearing the sin of the world. We are not alone in our pain. Those who nailed Jesus to the cross intended it for evil; but God intended it for good, the saving of many lives. We are called to embrace suffering in the way that Jesus did, including unjust suffering. Suffering is not always God’s plan A but He allows it and uses it for His purpose. Suffering may result from our sins, another’s sin or the fallen world we live in. But one day all things will become new, a new heaven and a new earth. Suffering is used by God to draw us to Christ, to bring us to maturity and to bring about his good purpose. Jesus turned his face towards Jerusalem and chose to suffer unto death on the cross at Calvary. Peter had a choice to make as he followed in the His steps. He chose the path of suffering, right up to his upside-down crucifixion. There is suffering in choosing to be a fully devoted Christian. There is also great joy. Paul said the Lord told him, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. We are babes feeding on His Word; stones in the temple; priests at the altar; a chosen generation; a purchased people; a holy nation; the people of God; strangers and pilgrims; disciples following the example of the Lord; and sheep cared for by the shepherd. The Christian life is so rich and full that it takes these images and more to show how wonderful it is. Our Lord Jesus set a perfect example for us. He did not argue; He did not fight back; He did not curse His accusers. He simply committed Himself to His Father’s will. Since Jesus lives in us by the Holy Spirit, He can enable us to act as He acted when the worlds’ against us. The picture of the shepherd and sheep would mean much to Peter; Jesus taught about being the Good Shepherd, and told Peter to feed His sheep. Jesus is the overseer of our souls. So God is the best of all possible beings. The best of all possible beings cannot do less than His best, since it is evil for God to do less than His best. God’s nature as best demands that He make the best possible world (if He wills to make one). This world is the world that God made. Therefore, since it is not the best world conceivable, it is the best world achievable, with fully free creatures and the best way to the best of all possible worlds – which is Heaven. In a little while we’ll be home forever.