The Master Multiplier, Part 5

We all enjoy getting presents. Whether it’s at Christmas or for our birthday or some other occasion, who doesn’t like ripping open a gift? And most of us like to give gifts; we get a lot of joy and satisfaction watching the other person opening their gift from us. It’s just built into us, I guess. As we get older, it becomes harder to buy a gift for us. And even though we could have bought a certain item, it feels good to receive it as a gift from a friend or loved one. It makes us feel a little special and we realize that we mean something to them.

God is the giver of perfect gifts. He gives us gifts that we can really use. Starting with the gift of His Son, God continually gives gifts to His people. We’ve already looked at some:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17:24, 25 | TNIV)

God gives everyone life and breath and, as Paul said, “everything else.” That’s a stunning declaration that some people have a difficult time dealing with. God gives life but He also sustains life. You’re alive today because God is keeping you alive. You woke up this morning because God decided to give you another day. Think about that!

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7 | TNIV)

Here Paul was referring to his evangelistic efforts. He was a great preacher – one of the best that ever lived, yet he acknowledged that he was just one of many doing the work of God. As God gave opportunities, Paul planted seeds of faith just like a fellow like Apollos did, but ultimately it was God who was bringing about salvation in men, not Paul or anybody else.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 | TNIV)

God gives all of us victory over death, hell, and the grave through Jesus Christ. Death doesn’t have the last word! We do! That word is “victory!”

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5 | TNIV)

In times of difficulty and stress, God promises to give you wisdom if just ask Him. Wisdom is the one thing we all need more of, and if we ask God, He will give us more than enough. He gives perfect perspective, allowing us to navigate through all the twists and turns of life.

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.”. (James 4:6 | TNIV)

And God gives us even more grace – He gives us an over-abundance of grace. He never gives just enough, but always more than we think we need.

But then, we read of this gift in 1 Peter:

If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11 | KJV)

God gives abilities with which we may serve Him. Think about that for a moment. God makes us able to do that which He asks of us. Yet how many of us face the prospect of serving Him with fear or doubt? We always think “the other guy” can do it better than we can. Well, according to Peter, that’s baloney.

Let’s consider what Peter meant when he wrote of these abilities from God, because as always, there much more going on than meets the eye.

Be like Christ – Suffering

In various ways, Peter had been writing about suffering; that is, suffering on account of the faith. He was writing to people who were suffering various degrees of persecution, and his purpose was to show that this kind of suffering was inescapable; that the best way to deal with it was to be prepared for it. In chapter 3, Peter wrote about Christ’s suffering for us. Of course, our Lord not only suffered for us, but He also died for us. As a Christian, how do you respond to that? According to Peter, here’s how you should:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because those who have suffered in their bodies are done with sin. (1 Peter 4:1 | TNIV)

That’s right; we should have the same attitude as He did. We need to think and reason and respond to suffering or persecution as He did. Peter covered that a couple of chapters back:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:21 – 23 | TNIV)

According to Peter, when we suffer barbs of criticism because we follow Christ, or indeed if we are persecuted to a greater extent because of our faith, we are “done with sin.” That’s a funny thing for the apostle to say. While it sounds like he is saying that “persecution drives the sin out of us,” that’s not at all what he is getting at. It’s really the other way around: Because we are “done with sin,” we are now facing various kinds of persecution. Or, another way to put it might me: Because you are now taking your faith seriously and have stopped this sin or that, you will face mockery or jeering or worse forms of persecution. Your new life of faith and holiness makes you a target!

But your attitude through it all should be that of Jesus. The Christian who keeps the faith and remains true to Christ during persecution does not do evil. He doesn’t fight back, for he will withstand persecution as Christ did. Consider this:

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:53 | TNIV)

That’s right. Jesus could have called on thousands of angels to get Him out of the predicament He was in with the Jewish religious leaders and with the Romans. But He didn’t. He faced it. He submitted to His captors. Christ never gave evil for evil, and the Christian who has the attitude of Christ toward suffering will not strike out against his persecutors.

Be Like Christ – Purpose

In verse two, Peter contrasts two philosophies:

As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:2 | TNIV)

The person who doesn’t know God or knows God but isn’t serving Christ is not living for the will of God but does everything he can to fulfill his own human desires, which more often than not run contrary to God’s will. But the true believer’s goal in life is to accomplish God’s will and he actively finds ways to do just that. In verse 3, Peter touches on some of things that the believer used to spend his time doing:

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. (1 Peter 4:3 | TNIV)

It’s amazing how much time you have on your hands when you aren’t trying to find a party to go to or recovering from the party you were at the night before! Before you were saved you did those things, but now you don’t. Another amazing thing happens when you start taking your faith seriously: You’ll probably lose some friends. And it likely won’t be your idea:

They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. (1 Peter 4:4 | TNIV)

Really, what Peter is talking about here is living a life of holiness – separated to God, though not physically separated from the world. You still have to live in this world of sin, but living for God means you don’t participate in all the things the world thinks are so great and necessary. The people you once spent time partying with or, as Peter might have said, “sinning with,” may not be interested in God’s will and because they likely won’t understand it, maybe they’ll “heap abuse on you.” It’s illogical to be sure, but who said sin in logical?

But when you get to thinking they’re right and you’re wrong, remember these words:

But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5 | TNIV)

That’s right; they may live like there’s no God and like they aren’t responsible to Him for the sinful choices they make, but it doesn’t matter what they believe: There is a God and they will stand before Him and give an account of how they lived their lives and, more importantly, why they rejected Him. And before you think there are exceptions, know this: Every human being, at some point in their lives, will be given the choice to serve God. That’s Peter’s point in verse 6:

For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (1 Peter 4:6 | TNIV)

Peter uses the term “dead” to refer to individuals who heard the presentation of the Gospel – who where given the choice – while they were living, but now at the time he wrote this letter are now dead. The point is that these individuals had heard the Gospel, but they rejected it.

Be Like Christ – Service

Fortunately, not all people reject the Gospel. A great many accept it and their lives are good examples for us to follow. The rest of the world may live like there’s no end in sight, but the truth is, there is an end coming:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. (1 Peter 4:7 | TNIV)

Christians ought to be clear-headed and see things with a God-given perspective so that they may pray more effectively. See how important prayer is? It’s linked to how you perceive your world. If you’re so dull-witted that you think everything is hunky dory, then your prayer life will probably be lackluster, boring, and a waste of God’s time. However, if you begin to take your faith seriously, pretty soon you’ll start to see your world the way God does, and your prayers will reflect that. Your prayers will become serious prayers that God takes seriously.

However, a believer can’t just pray all the time without a thought to other members of the church. Prayer is important, but so in maintaining a good relationship with other believers:

 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:8, 9 | TNIV)

Love exists between believers, or it should, and we ought to love each other “deeply.” That’s a good word but it’s not the best. Other translations use the word “fervently,” but even that word isn’t strong enough. The Greek word carries the idea, for example, of an athlete straining his muscles in an effort to win his race or reach his goal, or of a horse running at a full gallop. It’s an intense word that suggests an intense effort. More important than any other thing, believers should practice love for each other fervently. According to John, this how other people know we are true believers:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:7, 12 | TNIV)

This kind of deep love, Peter says, “covers over a multitude of sins,” which is an awkward way of saying that as we love each other the way Christ loves us we will forgive each other. It’s not that love excuses sin or hides it, but rather forgives it. This kind of love accepts the person just as he is, faults and all. This does not imply that the local church should never deal with gross sins, but that the Christian should never hold past sins against a brother who has turned his back on those sins.

Use your gift(s)

And that’s the background that gets us to God’s gifts to us:

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10 | TNIV)

It’s not a coincidence that Peter mentions using one’s gifts from God right after a discussion about loving each other. Spiritual gifts need to be used within the context of love. Whatever gift or gifts God has given you, you are to use them in love. God gives us gifts in love and He expects us to exercise them the same way. Peter briefly mentions a couple of those gifts in the next verse, but his point is that without your spiritual gift or gifts operating in your church, your church will suffer.

If you speak, you should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11 | TNIV)

Now would be a good time pause and examine your own life to see if you are using your God-given gift or gifts to benefit the Body of Christ. Getting by in this world of sin isn’t always easy for the child of God but He has given us the tools to not only get by but to live in victory in spite of circumstances. We owe each other in the church love and the faithful exercise of our spiritual gifts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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