Finding Favor with God
1 Peter 3:8-19
March 26, 2017
All right. First and Second Peter are very short but written by the very famous Peter, one of the closest disciples to the Lord. Peter whom we have come to know and love. The theme of 1 Peter, in particular, is he's drawing us to recognize that there's a big distinction between the life that we used to live in the world, and the life that we now have, because we're born again into the kingdom of God.
Now, that phrase "being born again," that comes from Jesus, but Peter really draws it out here in this letter several times because it really speaks to that distinction. Being born again draws a really solid line, where it tells us like everything now in our life is new. This is the theme. It's through the Bible. In the book of Revelation, from the throne, He says,"Behold I'm making all things new." Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things passed away, behold new things have come." So, he writes this letter to show us what that looks like, to be born again into the kingdom of God, living according to the principles of the kingdom, because there's a whole different set of principles.
I mean, the world has a set of principles that we know very well because we're used to living in the world, but the kingdom of God has the different set of principles that are really important to grasp because frankly, we need it. When we live in the kingdom of God, we also live in this world. This is an evil, dark, broken place where there's a lot of hurt, there's a lot of trouble, there's a lot of difficulty. But he wants us to recognize that the favor of God is distinctly upon the believer, who's born into the kingdom of God and lives according to those principles, and is helped by that through the troubles that come with living in this world, where people will hurt you, they will offend you, they'll speak evil against you.
Maybe you have a difficult person in your life. Maybe you have difficult people. Maybe it seems like they're doing it on purpose. What we need is the power of God to be different than the world. We need the power of God in order to live according to the principles that God will have for us in the kingdom of God that we're born into.
Let's read it beginning verse eight where he says, "Now, to sum up, let all be harmonious and sympathetic and brotherly and kind-hearted and humble in Spirit. Not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but give a blessing instead. For you are called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing."
And then he quotes from the Old Testament, mostly from Psalm 34, "Let him who means to love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile. And let him turn away from evil, and let him do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears attend to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Now, who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? For even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation and do not be troubled."
Verse 15 is famous, "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense or to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what's right rather than for doing what's wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just or the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God. Having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit."
I. Be Kindhearted and Humble
And the verse 19 is intriguing, "In which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison." What could that mean? Actually, we're going to look at that on Wednesday. So if you come on Wednesday, we're going to drill into that one. But let's look at these other verses because they are so key. What does it look like to live in the kingdom and to have the principles alive in our lives?
So he starts out in verse eight by saying, "Be kindhearted and be humble." That's very different, that's a distinctly different heart and character than the world. Then we live in a time of tremendous animosity. Man, I look around this culture, I have never seen such division and heard such mean-spirited words like what is happening today. You know this whole thing, this modern trend of internet trolls, this is remarkable what's happening. So they're trying to add this comment section to the end of various news articles or internet articles or whatever, trying to engage people in conversations about whatever topic it is. But out come the internet trolls and behind the anonymity of their username, just flaming some mean, mean things that are just tragic.
Now, here's the thing. Internet trolling is a new thing but the heart behind it is old. It's like road rage you know. Maybe that's a new thing but the heart behind it is not new. That's been around a long, long time. The point that he's making is that you're in the kingdom of God now. There's a whole new and different set of principles that work in the kingdom of God. Now, you're called to be different. Lay aside ugly things and understand that different principles are at work. So how do you respond then to the mean-spirited, ugly culture in which we live? Or the people in your life that seem intent on making life difficult?
A. Don’t return evil for evil
And he gives us the answer. Here in verse nine, he says, "Don't return evil for evil or insult for insult." Now, there is an unspoken rule in our society and the rule goes something like this, "Whatever someone does to you, you get to do the same to them." And so, after all, that's only fair, isn't it? I mean, isn't that only right? What do we say, turnabout is fair play. It's only right, right? See if they say mean-spirited things to you, you ought to be able to say mean-spirited things right back. And if they raise their voice at you, you ought to be able to raise your voice right back.
Here's the problem. That's a principle of the world. That's not a principle in the kingdom. There is no such principle like that in the kingdom of God. There's a whole different set of principles. You're in the kingdom now. He says, "Don't return evil for evil or insult for insult." And Jesus Himself being the greatest example there is. When He was on the cross being crucified, He prayed for his persecutors. That's an amazing thing.
Luke 23, it says, "When they came to the place called The Skull." Now, by the way, when you go to Israel we're going to go there this fall, you go to this place, Golgotha, and when the afternoon sun hits this cliff, the image of a skull just pops right out of the cliff. It's very very clear. Right next to it is the garden tomb, and so you really see these scriptures coming to life. And he says, "They came to this place which is called, The Skull. And there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right, one on the left. But Jesus was saying, 'Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.' " First words that Jesus spoke on the cross. "Father forgive them, they don't know what they're doing."
You may have to have that prayer on your lips over and over and over. Father forgive them. Father forgive them. Father forgive them. What an example. Paul wrote the same thing to the church in Rome. He said in Romans 12, "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone." Never. " Respect what's right in the sight of all men and if possible so far as it depends on you, you be at peace with all men. " You do everything that you can do as far as it depends on you, you do it.
Now, here's the thing. We know these are the principles of the kingdom but the question is, why are they better? We know that they're principles and well, they must be better if they're in the kingdom of God, but why are they better? I'm going to give you three reasons. Firstly, because it isn't about what's fair. If I got what was fair, I would have to pay the penalty for my own sins. That would be fair. But God didn't give me what was fair, he gave me what was gracious. And He wants us to have the same principle in our life, He wants us to have the same heart towards others.
Secondly, when you repay evil for evil, doesn't that require you to be evil? When you return an insult for an insult, doesn't that require an insult to come out of your mouth? When you return anger for anger, doesn't that require you to get angry? When you return curse words for curse words, doesn't that require you to curse? When you raise your voice, when someone raises their voice at you, doesn't that require you to raise your voice? See James 3:10 says, "From the same mouth come blessing and cursing, my brethren these things are not to be this way".
B. Give a blessing instead
Now, here's another third reason. Why this principle is in the kingdom of heaven? Why it's better? Because it's the heart of the Father. You live by this principle and you will become like your Father. Jesus says, in Matthew chapter five, "I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven." You'll be like your Father. Who, he says, "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." Point being, that when the sun rises on your crops, it's a blessing of God and He pours it out on the righteous and on the unrighteous. When He sends forth rain in a season, it's the blessing of God poured out. And apparently, this year here in Oregon, we got a lot of blessings. Man, it's been raining a lot.
I called my uncle, he's a older fellow and I like to check on him quite a bit. and so I called him the other day, and he says, "How are you doing?" First thing out of my mouth, "I am tired of this rain." But here's the thing, you go to Africa, right now in Kenya there is like a major drought and a major famine. And it makes you, yes yes we complain about the rain, but in reality it is the blessing of God. I mean common, Oregon is one of the best places in the world to live. And so we're blessed, it's a blessing of God. He says, "He pours it out on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Grace is offered to all." And he wants us to have the same heart. You're in the kingdom of God now.
So what does he say? He says, "Don't return evil for evil, don't return insult for insult." But He says, verse nine, " Give a blessing instead" Jesus said, similarly to pray for those who persecute you. Now, he means by that, the right kind of prayer, because there certainly is a wrong kind of prayer here. I mean, there's a Scripture that says that, "God will break the teeth of the wicked." So there's a prayer that goes something just like that. "Oh God you said you'll break the teeth of the wicked, well break their teeth Lord, hit them right in the mouth. You say that vengeance is yours, well let's see your vengeance come down from heaven, strike him with a lightning rod Lord". That's not the prayer He's talking about actually.
He's talking about the praying for, pray for them. Here's the thing, when you forgive them, when you pray for them, when you give a blessing instead, doesn't guarantee that they are going to change. But you will change and you are in the kingdom of God now, and he wants to transform you. He wants to have your heart be like his heart. So He says, you forgive, you pray for them, you give a blessing instead. Maybe they won't change, but you'll be changed.
I mentioned before, many of you know our daughter was killed a couple of years ago and the trial for our daughter's murder was supposed to begin a couple of weeks ago. There we were, all in the court room, waiting for the trial to begin. I updated you, the judge put it off for three months. But there we were all waiting. There were reporters, we're all waiting, waiting, waiting, big delays as the lawyers were having big conferences. But there he sat, the man who took our daughters life, there he sat. And one of the reporters called me that afternoon and said, "So you were in the same room with him today?" I said, "Yes." "Does that bother you?" Looking for story. "Does that bother you?"And I said, "Honestly no, it did not bother me. I looked at him as a very empty soul, very empty, a soul in great agony. Frankly I have pity for him, because he needs Jesus. He's a broken evil man and he needs Jesus."
And I said, "Here's the thing, I forgive him because I don't want to spend the rest of my life in the prison of bitterness and unforgiveness." God has never, never meant for us to live our life in the prison of bitterness. God never meant to live our lives holding on to anger. If someone has hurt you, someone has done something to you, God wants you to let go of that. Live free, be free of that, you're in the kingdom of heaven now. If you pay back evil for evil, you have to become evil to do it. But when you give a blessing instead, you are like your Father. And the character of God is now revealed in your life.
He says in Romans chapter 12, "If your enemy is hungry feed him." Living in the kingdom of God is a radical thing. That's way different than the world's principles. He says, "If your enemy is hungry you feed him, if your enemy is thirsty you give him a drink. And in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." And then this famous verse, verse 21, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." That's the principle of the kingdom right there.
See now, a lot of people when they hear those verses right there, they really like the part about heaping burning coals on their head. But what it really means is that, there means spiritness, there means spiritedness should really stand out against a backdrop of your good heartedness. And perhaps they'll feel the shame of their mean spiritedness, when you treat them well out of your heart of good heartedness.
See now, isn't the same of truth with us. Wasn't it the kindness of God that drew us to him, wasn't it the kindness of God that led us through repentance? The grace of God was poured out on us, Christ died for us when we were his enemies.
See, what he tells us is, these are the principles of the kingdom now. You live by these principles and the blessing of God is on your life. And I've also found that frankly it confounds our enemy, they don't know what to do with that.
I remember many years ago, I was youth leader and I had a group of guys and we were at a gym playing basketball and another group there in the gym came up to us and said, "You want to play a game?" You know little pick up game of basketball and so we said, "Sure fine." Little did we know, how mean sprited they were. I mean, this was like really, this was supposed to be a fun pick up game of basketball. And every time we missed a shot, they were like errrrr, in our face bumping us and hacking us, and it was like what really? And it started to get under our skin, the team that I had. These were picking at each other and like whoa.
So I called the timeout and I said, "Guys, what are they doing to us?" Look what they are doing to us. We can't do this. And I said, "Listen," there is a Biblical principle that actually applies right here, and I said, "If we do this Biblical principle right here, Scripture says that we'll heap burning coals on their head, are you in?" And they said, "Yes we're in, we're in. What are we going to do?" I said, "Okay, this is what we are going to do, here's the thing, whenever they make a shot, we're all going to clap and say good shot, good job, and anytime they shoot and miss the shot, we're all going to clap and say nice try." And I said, "And it will heap burning coals on their head, okay. Are you guys going to do it?" They said, "Yes, let's do it. Okay" So we start playing the game. And we are out there playing you know, and they make a shot, sure enough, our whole team does this, we all start clapping, "Great job, great job." They look at us like, what is that? And if they miss a shot, you know hey good job, next time, you'll get it next time, right. And they had no idea what to do with that and we came back and we killed them.
True story, that's a true story, right.
So it became like a Liz life lesson, role the tape forward. I'm now married, I got three girls and we are on our way to school and we would pray, everyday on the way to school. So I said, "How can I pray for you guys today?" So our oldest, Nicole, she was on the basketball team in school. So she said, "Pray because we have a game this afternoon and we played them before and they just beat us terribly and they are mean. I said, "Really? They are mean? Let me tell you when I was [laughter] a youth leader, and we played this team." And I said you could tell your coach that story, right. So I told them. We prayed for them on the way to school. So later that afternoon, I came to the game, I got there pretty late because of the stuff that was happening at the office here. I got into the gym, came and sat down next to my wife, looked at the score and my heart sank. The score was like 35-23. I said to my wife, "Oh man I was really hoping this was going to work." And she said, "What do you mean? We are the ones with the 35." I go, "Oh, that is, that's right. We are the home players, that's right." And so my daughter, she came on to the court, she just had this beam on her face, she lights up, she just lights up. She just came over and she says, "Dad, dad, I told the coach and he let me share with everybody in the team and they were all excited to do it. So we've just been blessing them this whole game and we're killing them, Dad." I said, "Yes." Here's the point. Here's the point. When you do what God asked you to do, power shows up. The point is when you bless and you don't curse, your words have power because God's going to back up your words. The point is, He blesses His principles. When you live according to the principles of God, he will empower that. He will bless it. He will back you up. This is a Biblical principle that goes way back. It's been in the Bible a long time. You go all the way back to the book of Exodus. Times of Moses, Exodus 23. He says it this way, "Now listen. If you need your enemy's ox or his donkey and he's wondering away, you shall surely return it to him." Why? I don't want to do that. If I see my enemy's ox, I don't want to do that. It's the heart of the Father. You can imagine a guy sitting in his living room, right? And he is looking out the window and there's an ox wondering on in the field. And his wife says, "Hey. Is that so and so's ox? It's gotten out. Looks like he's heading for the dessert. What are you going to do?" The guy looks out there, "You're right. That is so and so's ox. It is gotten out. Heading right for the dessert. Let him go. They deserve it, that tricky bastard."
C. This is the way of God’s favor
No, no, no. That's not what you're supposed to do. That's the way the world is. That's the principle that works in the world. That's not the principle in the kingdom of God. And so he says, "No no. You see your enemy's ox, you go get it." That's like the tractor. I mean, he's lost his provision. He can't plow the field. He can't provide for his family. It's like losing the only tractor you've got. You go get it. He's my enemy. I don't care. You go get it and you bring it back to him and you bless him, because that's the heart of your Father.
And then he goes on to say say, if you see the donkey of the one who hates you. This guy hates you, and you see his donkey lying helpless under load. You will not refrain from leaving it. You will release it. They used to load the donkeys up, you know, so heavy. Collapse under the load. You go help him. But he hates me. I don't care. Bless him. That's my heart. You bless him. Because this is what he said, back to 1 Peter 3. He says, "This is the way of God's favor. You want God's favor, you live by the principles of the Lord." Verse 9, "Give a blessing instead for you are called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing."
When you live by the principles of the Lord and you know that the power of God backs up those principles, man, you've got the confidence of knowing that the favor of God is all over your life. 1 Peter 2:20, "When you do what is right and you suffer for it and you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God." One of the aspects of the favor of God in your life is that He's attentive to your prayer. When God is attentive to your prayer, that gives power to your prayer. Earlier, he made a similar point. He said, about husbands. He said, "Husbands, if you would grant your wives honor as fellow heirs of the grace of life, your prayers will not be hindered." In other words, God will attend to your prayers. What a great principle. Husbands, you're in the kingdom of Heaven now. It's a whole different set of principles that work in the kingdom of Heaven. Husbands, you grant your wives honor as fellow heirs of the grace of life and your prayers are not hindered. God is attentive to your prayers.
II. God’s Favor Rests Even in Trials
Notice in verse in 12 of 1 Peter 3, "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous." If you're in the kingdom, he calls you righteous. He makes you righteous. And His ears attend to their prayers. Then he says, next verse, another principle, "God's favor rests even in trials." Notice verse 14. Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. God's favor is distinctly on the believer who trusts in God with a living faith, not a dead faith, but a living faith in spite of the fact that we encountered trials and troubles. You go through the scriptures and you will see that those whom God uses greatly are often those who suffer greatly.
A. Do not let your heart be troubled
But here's the thing, they trust God in spite of, doesn't shipwreck their faith. They trust God in spite of it so that they confidently say, even in the midst of troubles they confidently say, "The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid." That should be the theme of our lives. You're in the Kingdom of Heaven now. It's a whole set of of principles. One of the principles of the Kingdom of God is that the Lord is your helper. I will not be afraid, what shall man do to me. That's what he says in the next verse, Verse 14, "Do not let your heart be troubled." See, don't fear their attempts to make you afraid and don't let your heart be troubled. The one thing you must not do is to give into fear. The one thing you must not do is to allow fear to grip your heart. Fear is a prison and it keeps people from living the life that God wants them to live. You're in the kingdom of Heaven now. You are free. And he wants you to live in the freedom of that. Fear is the prison. It's the opposite of faith.
I want to quote from a speech from Ronald Reagan in 1964. It's the speech, frankly, that made him famous far before he became president of the United States. This was the time the Soviet Union and nuclear armaments and Communism and there were many in our country that were wanting to go for the policy of appeasement. Just compromise. Back down. Just back off. Let's not worry. And so Ronal Reagan, in his famous speech, he says, "There is a one way you can have peace and you can have it in the next second. Surrender. Quit. Give up." And of course, those in the crowd, you can hear them see them arising to it. Uh-uh, No. That's not right. And then, he continued on. You have nothing in this life is worth dying for. When did this begin? Should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? This is a political speech. I love this Christian references.
He's inspiring the people to understand that we are not called to live in fear. That is no way to live. He says in 2 Timothy 1:7, "God did not give us the spear of fear." That didn't come from God. He said that God gave us a spear of power and love and a sound mind. Today in our modern world, there's terrorism and the terrorists hope to control the world through fear and terror. The fear is the prison. We were never meant to live in a prison. Those who are born in the kingdom are free and they must live free. In 1 Peter 2:16, you can't see it any more clearly, "Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for sin but use your freedom as born service, born slaves of God." He says, "Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, remember this, you are blessed." Now, someone look at that and say, how is it possible to be blessed when in fact you're suffering. Answer, God we'll see to it that you're blessed.
Too many people are myopic. That means that their view, their vision is very limited. They could only see what's happening in the moment and they judge and evaluate everything according to what is happening in the moment. But those who have a kingdom perspective and they have the eternity of Heaven in their view, they greatly treasure the blessing of God that He will pour out on His time.
James 1:12, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." And then lastly we'll close with this.
B. You have reason to hope
Verse 15 is famous. Sanctify Christ. He says, "You have reason to hope." He's going to show us, you've got a reason to hope. He says, first of all, verse 15, "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts." Great picture for us. He's telling us right there. You set Him apart from all of the things in your life because you're in the kingdom of God now. Set Him in your life as Lord, Captain, Master, Commander. And then He says, always be ready to make a defence or to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give an account of this hope that you have. Now, the word in the Greek there is famous. That phrase gives a defense or to be ready to give an answer. It's famous and the Greek word there is apologia from which we get the word apologize. Not that you're supposed to apologize for your faith, but it represents the idea of defending it. In fact, in our theology, we have the word apologetics which is the idea of speaking to defend the faith. But some read that, they are in verse 15, and they presume it should mean that all Christians should be able to debate and argue with all theological challenges of the Christianity and frankly, that's not what it means. Not only that, frankly, there's a lot of people who just want to antagonize and bring conundrum. They try to just speak difficulties, they are not interested in the truth. They'll say things like, "Oh, yes, well, can God make a rock so big that even he can lift it? I got you there, you can't answer." Actually that's a silly question and an easy to answer. But all they'll say things like this, "Well, where did Cain get his wife? You can't answer that, can you? Where Cain get his wife?" To which I like to say, "Well, I would tell you if I was able."
Able, see Cain and Abel? Okay. Here is the point, it doesn't mean, "Be armed up and ready for every theological debate." That's not what it means. What it means is, be ready to give an answer when someone asked you, "What is this hope?" Like when someone looks at you and says, "What is it with you? What is with you? How do you have hope like that when there is so much trouble? How do you have hope like that? What is with you anyway? When you've hope like that, when there is so much suffering and so much wrong and so much difficulty and you are going through such difficulty, what's up with you?" Give them an answer.
Shortly after our daughter died a fellow came up to me, I hadn't seen him in years, and he said, "I heard about your daughter, I'm sorry to hear about your daughter." Then he said, "I have question." He said, "How is it possible that you have even a shred of faith left after that?" "That's your question?" I said, "I have hope, and I am more than willing to share my hope." Because I don't know what he'd been through, but he'd lost his hope.
He'd been through troubles, and whatever reason his hope was shipwrecked. He didn't have much hope to hold on to. But I have hope. I have hope. I know my daughter has a Savior, and I know who holds her in heaven. He is the same one who took hold of my life. He is the same one who forgave my sin. He is the same one who is going to welcome me home one day. I have hope, and I am more than willing to share hope with anyone because frankly there is a lot of hopelessness in this world. There is a lot of brokenness, there is a lot of losses, there is a lot of emptiness, there is a lot of hopelessness.
And He says, "Give an answer, you have hope, you are in the Kingdom now, you got a hope. You know who you are. Do you know what Christ has done for you? You know who you are, you have hope." Peter wrote, "You are born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from that day." You have hope man. Be ready.