Thorny People by Rick Burdette
1 Peter 4: 12-19
There are amazing truths in scripture and, no I don’t completely understand them all…I’m on a journey trying to grow deeper and wider in those truths…
And there are a bunch of things I wish God had put in there…and maybe one of the ones I wish He’d put in there was “Jesus Laughed”
Listen I’m grateful for John 11:35…It’s the shortest verse in scripture …Two Words “Jesus Wept”…It was always the first verse we memorized at camp or VBS for points for our team.
But I wish that scripture has a picture of Jesus sitting around the fire one evening with Peter, James and John…And Peter shivering says “God “ I wish it were warmer…and Jesus says…How many degrees? And “Jesus laughed”.
It doesn’t…I don’t know why, but I believe that God has a sense of Humor…and Jesus as “God in the flesh had a great sense of humor…I know this because He made me: And one of the things God does is test us…He doesn’t tempt us to sin…He tests us…He tests our faith. James 1:3 says “The testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
And here’s what I believe God does and our text from scripture teaches us….
Just when we think we’re doing pretty good in our faith…just when we think we’ve become really loving people…God laughs and sends someone into our lives and says, “You think you’ve got this loving stuff down…LOVE THIS ONE!
And you look up into the sky and see this
Yeah, yeah I know its photo-shoped, but I am created in God’s image…so I believe God laughs…He’s joyful…In fact if a “Merry heart is good medicine” according to Prov. 17:22…God is the best pharmacist around.
Last week we talked about the purpose of thorns in the life of a genuine Christ follower…well this week we talk about loving thorny people….Maybe the hardest tests of our faith on a daily basis…Peter says don’t be shocked by it “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”
Here’s what he means…
WE LIVE IN A GARDEN OF THORNS.
We don’t live in a perfectly manicured Garden of Eden…We live in a garden that has been overgrown with sinful weeds and thorns for thousands and thousands of years.
We live in a world that has a different God than those who follow Christ…It’s only temporary, and because he knows, his time is short, and because in wrath he hates the God who created everything, including him and us…he is on the attack Jesus describes him this way in John chapter 10… He’s a thief that comes to kill, steal and destroy the flock…A wolf who attacks the flock and scatters it.” (John 10: 10, 12)
Peter says…Don’t be shocked when he attacks…Don’t think it happens only to you “Be self controlled be alert…He’s you enemy…He’s like a lion ready to pounce from the grass.” (1 Peter 5:8)
What Peter is saying is “Don’t’ get lulled into a false security where Satan convinces you that life is comfortable..Life is safe…people are basically unselfish…because in this place you never see the lion pounce…and you say, “Why did God let this happen to me?”
Be careful if you are a committed follower of Christ living in a world that is always safe and comfortable…that’s not where committed, genuine followers of Christ live!
“How are you participating in the sufferings of Christ if your goal is comfort and safety? How can heaven be the glory you long for if you’ve made this world your “joyful home?”
Maybe it’s time for judgment to begin with the family of God, and if it begins with us what will become of those who do not obey the gospel. Here is an important daily living truth for genuine Christ followers…
SUFFERING EXISTS FOR THE RIGHTEOUS AND UNRIGHTEOUS
One of the most harmful thoughts we could have is this…”God rewards the good with comfort and punishes the bad with suffering.”
Listen to what Jesus teaches….”You have heard that it was said, “By the Pharisees…The law, the shams) Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your father in heaven. He (your Father in heaven) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous…If you just love those who love you…big deal!” (Loose paraphrased by Rick) (Matt 5: 43-46)
There are 2 kinds of suffering for the child of God…1.) Suffering because you live in a sinful world and you’re not exempt from its fallenness. Christians get cancer, have heart attacks, bury loved ones, and lose jobs, all the same things everyone else goes through…
And two, suffering because you are a follower of Christ…like the Iranian Pastor, Youcef Nadarkhan; who was sentenced to death for preaching the gospel and refusing to recant his faith…we don’t live or work in a country that sentences Christian to death…but Peter makes it very clear…as does Jesus…if you live your faith out loud in the dark you will be persecuted…you will be unsettled…the media will trash you as an idiot, you’ll be ridiculed and made fun of…
Peter says, If that happens to you at work, or at school or anytime…don’t be surprised, and even when your head burns…as you struggle to say the right thing in defense…be filled with joy…count it a blessing when your unsettled for this reason because “the spirit of glory and of God rests on you” “If it’s hard for the righteous to be saved what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
Well, if they are the ones insulting and coming after you, just maybe they’ll experience grieve for the first time through you…when they hit…they expect to get hit back…not to be loved and prayed for…Ask the centurion at the foot of the cross how effective this witness is…when you continue to do good in the midst of suffering persecution…your faithful creator notices…and so does the world…
But suffering also exists for those who are not genuine followers of Christ…
“If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal or even a meddler (I love that he added that here!)
If you do bad things…If you break the law…eventually you’ll suffer because of this lifestyle and these choices… unless you’re a psychopath you’ll suffer internally…unless you are “high” constantly, or drunk constantly eventually you’ll have to deal with the emotional toll…if your so high you leave your kid in the car or in the middle of the street…you will suffer…a pain almost beyond the repair. Almost…
Murderers go to jail…thieves get caught stealing, criminals…almost always get caught…meddlers find no one trusts them…even their other medley friends…and they are some of the most joyless people you will ever meet.
And if they do not suffer according to the law…there is an ultimate judgment…without a Savior without salvation and forgiveness, renewal and rebirth…Hell is forever…whether you die in your sin or are living in it when Christ returns scripture teaches something about eternal suffering…”No one wants to stand before the Great White throne…Not me!!
Rev. 20: 11-15
If you died in your sin and your spirit is in Hades waiting for this day…or if you are living in your sin and have not accepted a Savior…Hell is the destination you face…not because God wants to send you there, but because you have not accepted His son’s suffering and death on the cross for your salvation…you’ve never died to your sin, been buried and resurrected to life through His eternal spirit…old time preacher’s had a very true saying…”those who are only born once will die twice but those who are born twice will only die once.”
It’s not a physical death we should fear…its spiritual death, eternal death…the 2nd death.
Let me end this intense message by sharing this final thought.
THORNY PEOPLE HAVE NOT DEALT WITH PAIN IN A HEALTHY WAY.
I know you’ve heard “Hurt people…Hurt people” it’s a phrase that’s probably been way over used; even though it’s true…We “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.”
Those 2 phrases might be true, but understanding them and really loving thorny sinful people is tough.
Thorny people whether they are outside of Christ…or in Christ (and yes I think it’s possible) have not dealt with the thorn or thorns in a spiritually healthy way…
Mean and Hateful is not a personality…it’s a choice…a defense mechanism…and some have projected it. Yes I believe there are choleric and melancholics, extroverts and introverts…type A’s B’s and Q’s.
But bluntness without a filter is a choice…that has become habitual… Meanness or hurtfulness isn’t your nature…it’s your habit…your choice…some take great pride in it…wear it like a hat of independence…and when you’ve worn that hat for a long time it’s hard to take off….
The consequence of this choice…which can become habitual is “the crucifixion of joy”. If you’re the child of God you are forfeiting your greatest source of strength…”The joy of the Lord is your strength…and it comes now every morning.
Galatians 5: talks about those who live by the Spirit of God and those who do not…and verse 22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. …against such things there is No Law”
You know what those last few words mean…No…what they mean is “No law of what is right and no law of what is wrong can make you have those characteristics …no law grows that fruit in your life…only God’s spirit grows that kind of fruit…and the 2nd one right after love…(JOY)
The healthy, scriptural way to deal with our past, our sins, our hurts and insults is through a life surrendered to God, a life lived under the influence of his Spirit…
If you are a Christian…God didn’t make you mean…He’s suppose to be at work within you making you like Jesus “Since we live the by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying one another”. (Gal 5:26)
And as you deal with thorny people outside of Christ remember, “Our struggle isn’t about flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 5:12)
It’s not easy to keep loving the person that pokes you…hurts you…and maybe you need to not be around that person…but maybe it will help to realize “they are owned by the Prince of Darkness…their thoughts are invaded by the ruler of darkness…they are indeed, Lost.”