Words of Faith 2-12-2020
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2020
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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1 Peter 3
 It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,  through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison  who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,  and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand‑‑with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
I love the scene in the Star Wars movie, Return of the Jedi, where Luke Skywalker is finally battling it out with Darth Vader as the evil Emperor looks on. As Vader and Luke clash, Luke seems so very strong, lashing with growing intensity. But we notice that not only is the evil Emperor undaunted, he is actually taking delight in the rage that is coming forth from Luke! The evil Emperor doesn't seem to care if Luke overcomes Vader with his weapon. There is much more at stake. The more Luke gives in to hate, the more the Emperor knows that the real battle is won. The truth is that sometimes we can win the battle, but lose the war if we give in to darkness. We cannot engage the enemy with the weapons of the enemy.
Well, that story is pure fantasy, but the Christian family in the days of Peter lived under a real evil empire. Persecution came in terrible ways. Of course, it would be best not to suffer at all, but, in times of persecution, Peter says, it is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (Don't give in to the dark side, Luke!)
God is sovereign, and sometimes it is His will to allow times of unexplained suffering and persecution. In those times, difficult choices must be made. For some, in the early days, the choice to live was not among the options. Knowing death would come, many chose to die singing praises to God rather than cursing their persecutors. They refused to surrender to hate. Many chose to die, giving witness to the peace and grace of Jesus Christ rather than attempting to slip one last dagger into a Roman soldier. They knew that the enemy gains victory only when he causes us to give in to evil. Choosing to suffer for doing good leaves the doors of eternity wide open and may even change the persecutor. Choosing to give in to evil may lead to suffering that is eternal for someone.
From where does such strength come? Peter is clear. It is not from our willpower or resolve. Such strength comes only from Christ Himself. He died for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous. He showed us that though the body is put to death, we are made alive by the Spirit. Our hope is not to get one last devastating blow against our enemies. Our hope is made secure in the resurrection of Jesus.
We have such choices as well, even in times of relative peace. Our lives may not be at stake, but we, too, have the choice to either suffer for what is right or give in to the dark side. If we suffer for doing good, it is only for a time. If we choose to give in to evil, we may give in to something of eternal consequence to someone.
Our failing may not even be in the arena of violence. Don't forget that when we give in to hatred, discord, gossip, malice, or slander, Jesus said we have entered into something not unlike the evil of murder (Matthew 5:21‑22). Our prayer and hope are that there will be no suffering this day‑‑ at the point of a sword or from a pointed word uttered. But it is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Lord, forgive me for engaging the enemy with his own tactics. Free me from the response of the world. Teach me how I may be surrendered to You whether in times of blessing or times of persecution. In Jesus' name.
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