Wartime Strategy for Living in a Hostile World
1 Peter 3:13-17
Truth Taught – God calls us to faithfulness even if we should meet resistance and persecution for doing what is right
How are we to respond when things don’t go according to plan? What happens when, as Christians, we do what is right and still experience persecution?
So far Peter has presented the positive side of obedience. He has shown us that Christians are to act in obedience to impact all our relationships whether the broad stroke of government and society to bosses to family life and in the local church. He’s shown us the proper Christian virtues for unity within the church family. In a perfect word, we’d all live in harmony together as believers, but that’s not always the case, and, just in case you’re unaware, we do not live in a perfect word.
When we are obedient and things go right, we can see how God has worked but what happens when we act in obedience and things get worse? What happens when we are zealous for good works, and we find that we are up against resistance and even persecution? What are we to do when the government or certain individuals turn on us because of our Christian faith?
How are we to live as exiles in a hostile world. We must never forget we are in enemy territory we are behind enemy lines. How do we respond when our good deeds meet with resistance and persecution?
1 Peter 3:13–17 (ESV)
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,
Peter begins with a sort of rhetorical question. Who is there to harm you for doing what is good? Most of the time the answer would be no one. Yet he knows that there may be times when the answer is someone.
This past week we saw in the news and on social media a state representative that tried to bully an elderly lady, a mother and three children who were standing outside of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic engaged in peaceful prayer for the babies and the mothers. They were zealous for what is right, and they were engaged in peaceful prayer for the unborn. They were doing what was right and in the right way and yet they met resistance from this liberal politician who disagreed with their beliefs and felt they did not have the right to be there doing what they were doing. How does Peter tell us to respond to these types of things?
His strategy goes something like this: Since Jesus has already won then we will be blessed by God no matter what happens to us in this life. Don’t fear the resistance or even be troubled by the resistance.
Those who would oppose us often through bully tactics, guilt tactics, or whatever other means they use can, at times, make us feel like we are the ones who are wrong and that maybe we shouldn’t be doing the things we are doing even though we know they are in God’s Word.
We are to go to the aid of the unborn, the widows, the orphans and all others who cannot help themselves. We know prayer is right. We know making our presence seen is right. Yet, those who oppose us will twist the truth or seek to bully us into thinking maybe we shouldn’t be doing what we are doing.
Peter uses the phrase zealous for what is good—by this he means things like generosity, kindness, and thoughtfulness toward others. His point is that even most non-Christians respond positively toward these types of actions. Such a lifestyle has a way of restraining the hand of evil in a society. Yet, Peter knows firsthand that doing what is right doesn’t always go well for the doer.
Acts 4:1–3 (ESV)
4 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.
Acts 5:27–33 (ESV)
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.
If we were in the apostle’s shoes, what would we have done? Would we have dropped our heads and said, okay sir whatever you say? Would we have let them intimidate us? Would we have let them out argue us? Or would we have never even been there to start with?
They were obedient to God, but the secular world saw this as insurrection and wanted it stopped.
Peter tells us that even if we should suffer for righteousness, don’t forget we are blessed so don’t be troubled, intimidated, afraid, and don’t let them pressure you into backing down for one second because we have already won. The victory is already ours because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
The key is to have no fear of man but do fear the Lord.
Isaiah 8:12–13 (ESV)
12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
Rather than being in fear of those who would persecute us for being zealous for good works we should be glad. Beloved if you are ever singled out and hunted for your faith and for the good deeds you have done rejoice with great joy because you are blessed by God.
Matthew 5:10–12 (ESV)
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Do not be intimidated by pagan bullies. It seems that the ungodly are getting bolder all the time and, with that, could come intimidation. We don’t want trouble, but we must be faithful; we must push back should someone try to bully us. We cannot cower in fear because we have already won. We must be bold and confident.
The phrase “do not be troubled” literally means do not be shaken up or stirred up. Do not be anxious but be obedient. Do what God would have you to do not being worried about the outcome or who will get upset.
C.. Always Honor Christ as Lord
15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,
In the midst of resistance, we must continually affirm our commitment to Christ and fear of Him rather than fear of people. We are called to submit to His sovereignty in the heat of resistance and suffering.
Will we honor Christ during a time of resistance and persecution? That’s when our true devotion to our Lord will be seen. Will we stand firm in the middle of battle or will we retreat?
To honor Christ as Lord is to set Him in His rightful place. It’s to sanctify or set apart as holy. Here, it means to put Christ in His place of preeminence. It’s to keep Jesus as our center of worship, adoration, devotion, and love even if these things cause us difficulty and even cause us to meet with hostility in this present age.
I was reminded of the faith of Moses as he experienced hostility due to his faithfulness.
Hebrews 11:24–26 (ESV)
24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
Peter takes things up a notch here. Not only are we to not be afraid, not be troubled, and always honor Christ, but also during times of resistance and persecution, we must be ready with the Gospel. We must be ready and looking for Gospel opportunities during times of struggle. Many times during difficulties and struggle, God will open a door for Gospel ministry.
When we suffer for the sake of the Gospel the world often wonders why? Why would someone endure so much for his or her beliefs? Why would someone suffer so much for the man named Jesus Christ? When these questions arise, we must be ready with the answer.
Are you prepared to answer the question, why do you live the way you do? Why do you believe the way you do? Why do you have such a strong commitment to the things of God? Why won’t you engage in certain activities? These are the kinds of questions we must be ready to answer. This means to give a legal defense either in a courtroom or to explain to someone who asks. If someone asked you why you are so committed to your Christian beliefs, what would you say? How could you use that to share the Gospel with them? These are things we must be prepared to do. Can you give a logical defense for why you believe?
Peter tells us that when we do this, we must do it with gentleness and respect.
I want to challenge you this week to begin thinking through and formulating/ writing it down how you would always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. The reason this is so important is because when you are asked you must already be prepared to answer. The time for studying for a test is not when the teacher passes them out. You must already be prepared. The same is true for being ready to give a defense— you must already know what you are going to say beforehand not when you’re asked. Sometime this week write down your defense of the faith and go over it so you will be ready. If you’re not ready, the odds are you will be insecure when confronted with a question. This exercise will be a wonderful time of growth for you as you prepare to give a defense.
Ephesians 4:14–15 (ESV)
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
The final part of God’s wartime strategy in a hostile world is for believers to keep a clear conscience. Maintaining a pure conscience works to ensure that your obedience to Christ will be there no matter the situation. It’s one thing to act in obedience when at Church, for example, but it’s entirely another when there is pressure put on us. When suffering and resistance happens, if our conscience is clean, we will be more likely to continue following Christ in obedience and much less likely to cave under pressure.
Our conscience is that God given moral compass that keeps us heading the right direction. It is part of our inner person closely attached to our souls. It tells us when something is not right. By maintaining a good conscience we can see more clearly what God would have us to do and not to do. We need this all the time and all the more during times of struggle and suffering.
These are God’s five wartime strategies for living faithfully in a hostile world. These five strategies are vital to every Christian who seeks to obey Christ at all times even when there is opposition and suffering. After all, it’s in those times when what we truly believe becomes crystal clear.
Don’t be afraid, don’t be troubled, always honor Christ, always be ready to give a defense, and always keep a clear conscience. And never forget Christ has won the victory for us; we can engage in the war because we have already won.
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