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Spiritual Growth: Faith and Suffering

Today Pastor Ed Allen continued his sermon series in Philippians on "Spiritual Growth:  What it is, how it happens, and why it matters."  Today we looked at Philippians 1:27-30.

He began the message with the Don't-Miss-This point of the day:

God graciously gives his people faith and suffering so that they can enjoy fearlessly working in radical community to tell others the great news about Jesus.

In verse 29, Paul says that it has been "granted" to the Philippians to believe, but also to suffer for him.  Our faith is a gift from God.

The foundation of our connection to God is God Himself moving in our lives.  God steers our whole experience.

But our suffering is also a gift from God.

A frank conversation about suffering is critical for us because:

-- Suffering is inevitable, but we have tried to sanitize our lives in an effort to eliminate it.

We're undone when it comes, but it will come.

-- Our culture is growing increasingly antagonistic to Christian thought and values.

We will be opposed.

-- God uses our response to suffering to convince others that His story is true and powerful and unconquerable.

God graciously gives his people faith in suffering.

"Conduct yourselves" has the idea of living as good citizens.  We're in a new culture, the culture of Jesus. 

We were made for community.  In John 17, when Jesus prayed for us, he prayed that we would be one.

We exist to be used by God to draw others into authentic Christian community.

This is a challenge to us.  Into that, we're called to stand firm in the one spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.  We mustn't stay unconnected!

We need to invest in this and choose it.

Our church has together built a new building for our community.  Now we're getting ready for our next assignment.  We are to contend for the faith of the gospel, and there's nothing casual about this.  It's all in, or not at all.

Challenge:

Think about where you are today.  Maybe you're

-- Unconvinced, and you know it.

We're glad you're here!  God's inviting you into a life-changing adventure.

-- Unconvinced, but you don't know it.

We hope you're unsettled by God's assault on casual faith.

-- Convinced and looking for your next assignment.

You're not looking for a good church, but you're looking for your next assignment.  We'll be happy if it's here with us.

-- Convinced and you've been sitting awhile.

You're not yet connected and invested.  You may have legitimate reasons for this.  One caution is not to let it be an excuse too long.

-- Convinced and you're all in.

Pastor Ed mentioned that he loves working with you.

Let's pray that this next season will be the most fruitful we've ever seen in ministry.

Response? Handling Suffering

Last Sunday, Pastor Ed continued preaching in his series from I Peter, covering I Peter 3:17-4:1.

Six Ways We Are Strengthened for Suffering

Remember these things!

1)  When we suffer, we are not outside God's sovereignty.

God is not surprised or alarmed.  (3:17)  Even if we're suffering because of our own actions, we're not outside God's will.

2)  Even Christ suffered.  (vs. 18)

If Christ suffered, then surely we will.

John 16:33 -- "In this world, you will have trouble."

John 15:21-22 -- "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also."

Suffering isn't an indication of God's displeasure.

3)  Through his suffering, Jesus has brought us safely to God. (vs. 18)

The core of the Gospel:  The righteous died for the unrighteous.

Our lives are in God's hands.

4)  Remember the days of Noah. (vs. 19-20)

Noah suffered, but he was vindicated and saved.

Various interpretations of this, but one that fits is that Jesus preached to the people of Noah's time through Noah.  Now they are in prison.  (I Peter 1:11 -- The spirit of Christ was preaching through the Old Testament prophets.)

It's not necessarily a bad thing to be in the disadvantaged minority.

5)  Remember your baptism. (vs. 21)

Baptism is a pledge toward God, an outward symbol of an inward faith-filled, conscience-driven decision.  A seal on that.

Just like the ark carried eight saints through the water, baptism carries us from death to life.

We're not afraid of dying -- we've done it already.

6)  Remember where Jesus ended up.  (vs. 21-22)

He went through death -- and ended up at God's right hand, with all angels and authorities in submission to him.

When our lives get more comfortable, we forget God.  We get soft.

Don't play the victim.