Biographical Sketch of Dr. Stuart E. Lease / Bible Messages by Dr. Stuart E. Lease
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Message #1: Introduction
In each of the five chapters of I Peter, there is reference to the matter of suffering. Let me just site these to you so that you can see them quite clearly. In chapter one, verses 6 and 7, in anticipation of that deliverance, that salvation that awaits us, it says, Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations (or trials), that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. As you study the matter of suffering in I Peter, you will find that there are three dimensions to it. First, Peter throughout the book will refer back to the Lord Jesus and what He did in giving His life for us. In verse 2, he refers to the sprinkling and blood of Jesus Christ. Later on hell refer again to the death of Christ throughout this epistle. Thats the past dimension. He also indicates the present dimension that, as in verse 5, during this present time, we, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto a salvation (and that word a could be added there rightly, a specific salvation) ready to be revealed in the last time. Thats the third dimension of the aspect of suffering and seeing it aright. First is looking back to Calvary where the Lord Jesus suffered and bled and died for you and for me and any suffering that takes place now, presently, must always be viewed in terms of Calvary and the price that was paid there for us. Then with that is the present, sustaining power of God whereby He keeps us right now in such a way that we cannot only bear it but even rejoice in it. Notice verse 6, Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations. I assure you that there can and will come these times of heaviness, of the pressing down of trials and temptations upon you, but when you come through these then, God having tried you as through fire, you are found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ, thrusting us forward again to that future dimension of suffering in light of the future glory.
I have been very keenly aware of these three aspects of the dimensions of suffering in our own situation in these weeks now that have passed since we first learned of our daughters illness. I must say that my first reaction was to ask the question, Why?, but then, in looking back to Calvary, I saw that God, in His Son, suffered for us so that any suffering that we endure now is always sweetened by the suffering of Calvary; and in the present dimension, there is the sustaining grace and power of God for our needs and in light of the future, the future glory, with Paul we can say that, the things of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.
Going on to chapter two, verses 19 and 20, speaking about servants, verse 18, Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. Then he brings in this matter of suffering again, verses 19 and 20 of chapter two of I Peter. For this is thankworthy (or commendable), if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it if, when you be buffeted for your faults, you shall take it patiently? and there are times when we are afflicted because of our own faults, either our stupidity, or our stinginess, or stubbornness, or a combination thereof, and because of that we have affliction and suffering and I have been speaking a little bit about that recently.
Its interesting that prior to the knowledge of our daughters illness, I had brought a message to our seniors on retreat this year, back in the second week of May, and I entitled it The Things That are Thrust Upon Us. I shared with them a story I had heard long before that a young men was called upon at his wedding reception to say a few words and he wasnt used to speaking before a group and he put his arm around his recently acquired wife and he said, referring to the fact that he was to say something, This thing was thrust upon me unexpectedly. Actually, there are many things in life thrust upon us unexpectedly. Some of them we deserve. Our original parents, Adam and Eve, deserved what was thrust upon them, and they were literally thrust out of the Garden of Eden because of the wrong they had done. You know one thing that amazes me about some Christians is that when they get into suffering, when its their own fault, sometimes they end up spiritualizing the whole thing, as if they had never done anything wrong; and either they dont know why God has done this or something like that or they say, Oh, God is testing me. Dont kid yourself, you brought it upon yourself and whenever you get into suffering, one of the first things you ought to ask yourself is if there is a reason why I got into this, Is it my own fault? I can assure you that my wife and I and our children, our son and our daughter as well, we have searched our own hearts in regard to this current situation and I think you should; but if your hearts are clear before God and youre suffering wrongfully, whether somebody has thrust this upon you when you did not deserve it, nevertheless, take it. Notice, For what glory is it if, when you be buffeted for your faults, you shall take it patiently? But if, when you do well and suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. This is well pleasing to God and then as illustration of this he says, For even hereunto were you called, because Christ also suffered for us, going back to that past dimension of suffering. He suffered for us leaving us an example. That word example is an interesting one. In the Greek its not the same word as you have over in I Timothy 4:12 where Timothy is called upon to be an example. Thats the Greek word tupus meaning a type that which makes an impression. This word here in the original is copywriting. Now you may not know what that is unless you attended an old fashioned country school like I did where all across the top of the blackboard they had A B C, capital A and small a. Remember that? Youd sit there and copywrite that. Thats exactly what this word is here. Its the word copywriting, that which we follow in our suffering, that you should follow His steps. But notice, Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth; Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously; and I know that when my wife first told me, having talked to the surgeon on the phone right after the operation, that Becky had Hodgkins disease, I took her in my arms and I said, Honey, God knows. God knows. You just commit your soul to the Lord, to Him that judgeth righteously.
Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by Whose stripes you were healed. For you were as sheep going astray, I am telling you, the people I really pity in times of suffering are people who dont know the Lord. I tell you each morning as we take our daughter into the hospital and we see the people there, some of them older people, some middle age, some young people, and a dear little young fellow who is only four years old, having radiology done on his brain. He has an X on each side of his head. You know its a stirring thing. One thing to realize is that the saints are not the only ones to suffer but they are also not exempt from suffering, whether it be physical or otherwise, but we have One who cares for us, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. That word Shepherd is the word really meaning one who cares and nourishes, and the Bishoptheres a word that means one who guards or oversees and in Christ we have such an One for our current needs.
Now if you go to chapter three, and were just exploring the theme of I Peter tonight, beginning at verse 13, And who is he that will harm you if you be followers (and in the Greek its really the word there means zealous) of that which is good? But and if you suffer for righteousness sake, happy (or blessed) are you; and be not afraid of their terror, (literally fear not their fear), neither be troubled, But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, Having a good conscience, that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil-doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation (or behavior or manner of life) in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that you suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing. Now lets just stop there for a moment. Notice, the child of God will suffer. Hopefully, if he is suffering, it will be for righteousness sake; and these believers to whom Peter wrote this epistle, Jewish believers in Asia Minor, were undergoing persecution from without and certain affliction from within; but Peter says to them, dont fear with the kind of fear that the ungodly have nor be troubled as they are but literally, verse 15, set apart Christ in your heart as Lord. Give Him the true Lordship of your life and then out of that be ready always to give an answer (thats the Greek word apologia meaning a reasoned defense to every man that asketh you the reason (thats the Greek word meaning logical or a sensible explanation) of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. Ill tell you one thing that the suffering we have currently been passing through has done for usit has given us tremendous opportunities to testify concerning the grace of God and the goodness of our God and the sufficiency of our God and the fact that we found life in the Son of God. I must say that out of this situation I have been able to speak to some folks that Ive never had opportunity to; and in the context of suffering, some people wont understand, but when you give a testimony of the sufficiency of Gods grace and then maintain a good conscience and I do not know that some believers in the midst of suffering rebel and God has to deal with them because of their rebellion.
I just recently picked up a copy of Katherine Marshalls book Something More. I dont necessarily agree with everything that she writes in the book; but I was very interested in the book because I happened to have been present when her son, who is a pastor up on Cape Cod on East Dennis, in 1971 came into the pulpit one Sunday morning there in his little church and he said that his wife had just given birth to a second child, for their first child had died because it was defective and their second one lived, but this was their third child, born defectively. Mrs. Marshall came to write this book Something More because she was convinced back at that time in 1971 that it was always Gods will to heal, that God is the good God; and God is able to heal and, therefore, since God is good and when Christians meet the conditions that God sets forth in His Word that God will always heal. They even flew in sixteen people for a prayer retreat up there on Cape Cod, and they had literally thousands of people praying for little Amy Katherine; but six weeks after this child was born, she died. Katherine Marshall went into a state of severe depression, and she felt that God had failed her because she had felt that she had met all the conditions. The title of her book came out of the fact that after that she discovered that God was doing something more than just healing her granddaughter; and that God has used this little life as a catalyst to transform the lives of many other people which probably would not have been done in any other way.
I want to say from our own perspective that, while we hope for and desire healing for our daughter, we feel like the three men in the fiery furnace. Our God is able to deliver , but if not, we will still not bow down the knee to Baal. We will still not bow down to the king of Babylon. I think that this is what we need to be careful of in times of suffering, that we have a good conscience, that we trust God to do what is pleasing in His sight, and ultimately that which will glorify Him. It is better, if the will of God be so, that you suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing Then again he brings in the illustration of Christ also having suffered for your sins on the cross, the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God. When you come to the fourth chapter, beginning with verse 12, Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you, But rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christs sufferings. I remember, and I think I referred to this the other Sunday night when I was here, our late pastor, Dr. Ralph Stoll, used to say, You cant be optimistic when you have a misty optic. You know, folks, sometimes you never see more clearly than through your tears. Sometimes its in and through your tears that you see the Lord Jesus more greatly than ever before. Some years ago, I took as my life verse Psalm 34:3, O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. You take that over to what Paul says in Philippians chapter one, when he himself was in a very difficult situation in prison, not knowing whether he would be delivered from that or not or whether he would go to be with the Lord he says in verse 20, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Christ be magnified whether in life or in death. I want to say sincerely to some of those who think it is always Gods will to heal, I am convinced it is not always Gods will to heal. Sometimes it is Gods will that He will be magnified through death, as well as through life. The thing we pray in our situation above all is that God, the Lord Jesus, will be magnified in what happens in the life of our daughter and in our own lives as well. Then, in this passage, it goes on. I Peter 4:13, But rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christs sufferings. Dont think its a strange thing that it happens to you but rejoice that when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy. Now, If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you; on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other mens matters. Yet, if any man suffer as a Christian, . . . let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Now notice verse 19 and this is a tremendously encouraging verse, Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator. Among the many verses God has given to my wife and me during these recent weeks is one that maybe at first might sound a little strange. Its I Thessalonians 5:18, In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. In everything give thanks; and I believe that no matter what suffering comes into your life, you can thank God for it because somehow Hes working this into the fabric of the will of God for your life, and it will bring glory to Him so you commit the keeping of your soul to Him in well doing as unto a faithful Creator.
In the fifth chapter, beginning at verse 6, Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. You know, sometimes the Lord is not seen unless and until we are broken before Him, until weve been humbled and then Casting all your care (or your anxiety) upon Him; for He careth for you. But then this admonition, Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, like a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; Whom resist steadfast in the faith. I must say sincerely that in this I have talked to the Lord about this and Ive said, Lord, if there is anything here of the devil that we are to resist, we want to resist this with all the power of the Lord Jesus. I had previously taught in a Vacation Bible School the adult group in my home church and it was interesting because we came upon the matter, how can you discern the difference between the affliction that comes to you from the devil or that which the Lord brings into your life or allows to come into your life. I think there is a simple way to determine that. When its the devil youll not have peace. When its the devil youll not have peace about it. When its of the Lord, Hell give you peace to bear up with it; and even if the devil does attack you, you can resist him and then find the sustaining strength that God gives. Notice verses 9 and 10, Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
One thing I found through our suffering time is that many have suffered and are suffering just like we are at this time. I went over to the York Gospel Center . . . and I went to talk to Mrs. Boyer, the wife of the founder and first pastor of the ministry there; and as I was going up the isle, someone stopped me and said that Mrs. Boyers granddaughter, a thirteen year old , named Becky, drowned just last Thursday at a summer camp. We were not the only ones who were suffering. As I took Mrs. Boyers hand and I commiserated with her, she again with me, we each were thinking about Becky, but she was thinking about one Becky and I was thinking of another and then we each thought of the other.
The believers suffer various things in this life. Were not exempt from them. I like verse 10. I think its just tremendous and its this verse we are going to conclude with. But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. I believe, God, by His grace, does that when we suffer. Its a little bit like shaking down something in a container and things begin to fall into the right place, and you begin to rearrange some of the priorities of your life, you see that life is a very transient sort of thing. Then may I add verse ll, To Him be glory and dominion (that word dominion means rulership) for ever and ever. Amen. We commit ourselves, our souls, and our suffering to Him as unto a faithful Creator. We have just explored a little bit tonight the theme of I Peter Sustaining Strength for Suffering Saints.
As it was delivered at
SANDY COVE BIBLE CONFERENCE
Dr. Stuart E. Lease
August 12, 1975