Chosen to Suffer, 1 Peter 1:1-2
In general, we choose to avoid suffering.
But we understand that we might suffer as a consequence of our choices. That sort of suffering we regret. We learn from it and make better choices going forward to avoid it.
But then there are some things we suffer as a consequence of someone else’s choices. We understand that sort of suffering, but we sure don’t like it.
And then there are some things that you will suffer throughout your life that are God’s choice. That sort of suffering we don’t like and we sure don’t understand.
The Elect Exiles
The Elect Exiles
Peter addresses his letter to the “elect exiles.” The word exile describes someone who is suffering displacement. They are forced from their home. Their identity and any stability are taken away. They no longer belong.
A recent situation that would help us to identify with this would be the 12 million Ukrainians that are currently living in exile because Russia attacked their county and has decimated their cities.
Peter’s audience is displaced because of persecution. They turned to Jesus and now they have nowhere to go.
Being an exile is a horrible situation, but when you add that word elect to it, it’s unsettling. Elect refers to God’s choice of them, not only for salvation but the consequent suffering.
God didn’t deliver them from exile. He didn’t prevent it. And there is nothing in Peter’s letter that tells them that God is going to intervene or that the situation will change anytime soon. Quite the contrary. God chose them for this.
Have you ever felt like you were suffering and God wasn’t interested in stopping it? You asked for the situation to change and it never did. That is unsettling to our soul. It is disorienting and discouraging.
Peter, a Sympathetic Author
Peter, a Sympathetic Author
If that describes you, then Peter is the perfect one to write this letter to you. He understands how the Savior can choose suffering for you.
In , Jesus appears to seven of the disciples after his resurrection. One of them was Peter. Remember, Peter denied Christ on the night Jesus was arrested. For all practical purposes, Peter has given up. He’s gone back to fishing. Jesus has some work to do if he’s going to get this guy back on track.
It’s a powerful conversation. Jesus meets Peter where he is and affirms his love for him.
“Feed my sheep.”
It’s Jesus’ way of letting Peter know that he hasn’t given up on him. Despite Peter’s denial, Jesus still has a plan for Peter and Jesus wants to use Peter in a critical role.
That conversation is significant for us. It indicates that we can blow it and the Savior doesn’t give up on us. He can still use us.
And here is where our mind begins to imagine many wonderful things God may do with our rebound. Our story might help others. That could certainly be the case. Jesus prayed that when Peter was restored that he would strengthen his brothers (-31).
Maybe you learn from your mistakes and become more successful in your next set of decisions. Yes. The Bible calls that wisdom.
God can use you in a lot of ways in your rebound, but he may choose something else as well. He may choose for you to suffer.
So Jesus looks at Peter, tells him to feed his sheep. But Jesus also reveals to Peter that he will suffer and the choice isn’t up to him.
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, eyou used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show fby what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” John 21:18-19\
Stretch out your hands. That sounds like crucifixion doesn’t it? Can you imagine Jesus gesturing as he said those words with his freshly scarred, crucified hands?
Jesus’ words seem to indicate that as Peter gets older that his choices will decrease and his suffering increase.
And notice, that is how Peter will glorify God. Not just by his preaching. Not by doing miracles. There is no mention of the amazing things we see of Peter and the apostles in Acts. No. Peter will glorify Jesus by dying.
Put yourself in Peter’s shoes. How would you take the news?
Most of us, most of the time, ask, “Why?” The Psalmist does this often. Why God? In fact, Jesus quotes from the cross. “My God, my God WHY have you forsaken me?
Jeremiah got frustrated with God. God gave Jeremiah a burning desire to preach. But the more he preached, the more people hated him. And he suffered . . . A LOT. In the prophet seems to be fed up with it. He wants revenge. He calls on God to stop putting him to shame and calls on God to put them to shame. C’mon God! What’s the deal
No one ever repents in response to Jeremiah’s preaching. Ironically, he ends his life in exile. Again, God’s choice.
Some people would rather die than suffer. We are all familiar with Job’s suffering. Wow, did he ever suffer! And God let it happen. Job did everything right and it all went wrong. He never sinned, but he sure complained and at times he wanted to die. He got to the point that he wished he’d never been born. But it wasn’t his choice, was it?
When Peter gets the news he takes a different angle. Peter looks at John and says, “What about him?”
Jesus’ response. “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you (John 21:22)?”
John is the only apostle that wasn’t martyred. He suffered, but he lived a long time after Jesus’ resurrection. He goes on to write the gospel of John, 3 epistles, and the Book of Revelation.
Peter is crucified upside down. John writes THE book in the Bible everyone is most curious about.
John writes the last book of the Bible that everyone wants to read first. Most people can’t even find 1 Peter in the Bible (despite it being precariously close to 1,2,3 John and Revelation).
And that’s the way it goes for some people. There are some people that God chooses and it seems like it goes really well. And I’ll just shoot straight with you - I have a hard time with that. Am I not as faithful as them? Sometimes I’d even argue more faithful than them.
You want to ask God, like Peter asked Jesus, “Hey, what about them?????”
And the Savior says, “If that’s what I have for them - what’s it to you?”
So for you John’s in the room - you just keep smiling and being blessed by God. You’ll think this sermon series is great and then you’ll just go on throughout your week finding the golden goose.
But for the elect exiles in the room, that nothing ever seems to work out - God doesn’t deliver, he doesn’t stop it, and he gives you no indication it will end soon - you look at the John’s in the room and wonder why your journey with God can’t go more like that, let’s spend a few weeks looking at what the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to say about this . . . . I’m leaning in!
The Widespread Experience of Exile
The Widespread Experience of Exile
And when it comes to Peter’s audience, the sufferings of the elect exiles are not the sufferings of the chosen few. This is a widespread experience. The cities mentioned by Peter roughly encompass what we know as modern-day Turkey.
In 25 years of being a pastor, I can tell you that this exile feeling, where life is displaced, it isn’t working out the way you thought it would, is a widespread experience.
Someone, maybe some preacher, told you that if you would turn to Jesus that your life would be so much better. And it is in some respects. You’ve cleaned some things up. Your faith has kept you from destructive choices in difficult times. But in other respects, your faith makes life more difficult. Some people come to Jesus and it seems like it propels them into a lot of success. But the widespread experience is that you come to Jesus and make things complicated. It can bring you into a lot of problems.
It is the student who really wants to live out their faith and gets passed over, over and over again because you can’t do what Jesus wants you to do and be one of the most popular kids in school. There will be a lot of parties you aren’t at and a lot of Friday nights you are sitting at home exiled.
It is the one who turned to Christ and is pressured by family. It is the wife who loves Jesus who gets constantly hears the criticisms of her unbelieving husband when he rants over and over again about all those hypocrites at the church. It’s the parents who try to steer their children toward Jesus and they get nothing but tension and rebellion.
And God doesn’t stop it. It works out so well for other people. What’s it to you?
When we live in this seemingly inescapable exile that was chosen for us we wonder.
Does God know and does He care?
If God does know and care, then what is He doing?