Jump Start # 3223
1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?
Recently, I walked through this passage in a Sunday evening sermon. The “judgment” Peter refers to is not the final judgment, the standing before God and the books are opened. We often can have one definition and one definition only of certain words and that causes us to miss what a passage is truly saying. The word ‘kingdom’ is like that. Some see the church and only the church and always the church when that word appears. So, when Jesus said, “seek ye first the kingdom of God…” they interpret that as put the church first. The problem is, when one does that, where does Jesus fall in, second? Third? The word kingdom has many definitions and the context helps one to understand the proper meaning.
So, in our passage today, the context is all about suffering. In fact, the chapter ends with, “Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (19). Peter is walking through the subject of suffering, and particularly, persecution. The “judgment” from our verse is this suffering. It is viewed as judgment from God. The suffering would make us stronger and more trusting. For some, that’s all it would take to destroy their faith. Rather than being stronger, they use suffering as a reason to quit. Peter reminds the brethren through this section about their attitude towards suffering. They were to “rejoice” (13). They were “blessed” if they suffered (14). They were to glorify God in their suffering (16).
The judgment was to begin first with the people of God. But others would suffer. Those who did not obey the Gospel, what would happen to them, Peter asks. Persecution is something that we study about, talk about, wonder about, but for most of us, we have never really tasted it. For Peter’s audience, it was different. The suffering would start first with them. They would know first hand what suffering was like.
In my sermon, I asked, “What good is faith, if we never use it?” If we always have sunny days, faith isn’t something that we “walk” with. If there are no dark valleys, do we need faith? If there is no trouble because of our convictions, can we put faith in a box and stick it up on a shelf?
The judgment that Peter’s readers were about to experience would require them to trust God. It would make them pray more fervently. It would make hope and promises much more real. Good times are wonderful to experience, but they can ruin us spiritually. Good times can make us fat and lazy in our faith. Shallow prayers, empty worship, stale sermons, living day to day in this world, for this world and by this world, and we lose the taste of Heaven.
Some thoughts for us:
First, our hymn, “I need Thee every hour,” is not just a nice line in a song, it is a truism. We need God. We need God as much in the sunshine as we do the darkness of the valley. We need God to keep us pure and righteous. We need God to keep us focused and centered. We need God to help us be a blessing to others. There is never a time, never a moment, never a day when we do not need God. There is never a place where prayer does not fit.
Second, if we are not walking by faith, our faith quickly becomes a spare tire that is only used when there is an emergency. Without God ever present in our heart, we live worldly. Our conversations become saturated with materialism. We rush through worship as quickly as we can so we can get about doing what we want to do.
And, then, when we are thrust into those dark valleys, we are unsure, unsteady and unaware of what to do. Death comes to the family, and we fall apart. We grieve as those who have no hope. Trouble comes and we start questioning whether God loves us or not. How different all of this is from the disciple who is using his faith daily. Every day he is praying. Every day he is worshipping. Every day he is seeking to follow the Lord. And, when the dark clouds roll in, nothing changes. He knows God is still there. He knows that he can trust God.
Third, it is easy to lose your faith when you are not using it very much. It is easy to become saturated with the here and now and forget the eternal. It is easy to become a person of the world and not even think about the Lord and Heaven. However, the more one relies upon his faith and the more one uses his faith, the stronger and stronger in the Lord he becomes. He knows. He has that blessed assurance. He worries less. He fears not. And, as he himself approaches that doorway of death, he is ready. He longs to be in the presence of the Lord.
What’s the difference between someone who has strong faith and someone who is very weak spiritually? It’s not that one can list the books of the Bible in order. It’s about their daily walk with the Lord. Daily talking to God. Daily trusting the Lord. Daily knowing the Lord.
The fire of judgment was about to begin. It would start first with the people of God. They’d be ok, because they knew the Lord. But what about those who didn’t?