In our text this past Sunday, 1 Peter 3:13-17, the Apostle Peter exhorted, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.” His original audience was a group of Gentile Christians who were facing the threat of suffering for the sake of righteousness. And he believes that the key to standing firmly and graciously in the midst of that was to grow in our affection and awe of Jesus. No matter how high a view of Christ we hold, it isn’t high enough. And a higher reverence for Jesus is OF UTMOST SIGNIFICANCE for a church that’s facing opposition.
In the message, I referenced two possible ways to grow in this area. One is making it a point to study the person and work of Jesus, during daily devotions and in small group discussion. And the other is to use the Psalms to bring all of the fears, hurts and trials that we undergo as exiles in this fallen world to the Lord. So, I thought it may be helpful to note a few resources and suggestions that could help aid us along in that.
First, there is no better resource to study the person and work of Jesus than Scripture! You can use passages like Isaiah 53, John 1:1-14, Philippians 2:1-11, Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:1-12 & Revelation 19:11-16 to meditate on His glory and His humility, His deity and His humanity, His power and His love. Ask the Spirit to open your eyes through these texts to taste and see His goodness.
You can also use a short daily devotional like Seeing & Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper or Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon. Or a more recent classic, Gentle & Lowly by Dane Ortlund. These anointed writers draw out the excellencies of Christ in short, bite-sized portions. I liken those devotionals to a rich cheesecake that you still are enjoying long after each bite!
Then there are also plenty of scholarly resources if you’d like to dig in even further. A few of the chapters from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology or The Person of Christ by Donald Macleod are great entry points for that. So, that’s several ways to apply the first suggestion.
Second, it’s important to cultivate the habit of consciously bringing our thoughts and emotions to the Lord in prayer, especially when facing the threat of persecution. The Psalmists are wonderful examples to us in this regard. When they suffered unjustly at the hands of evildoers or saw the wicked prospering, they poured out their feelings and fears before God.
And that same exercise is extremely useful for any similar moments we may face! For example, consider how relevant the words of Psalm 27 are for any fears and frustrations that try to rise up inside us when we feel the heat of rising hostility towards Christians…
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
How encouraging it is to recite and remember that greater is the One who is in me than he who is in the world!
The Psalms are filled with honest expressions and even questions in the face of suffering for righteousness sake. Yet, at the same time, they are so faith-enlivening because they lift our gaze beyond this world to see the Sovereign Lord, the One whose eye is on the righteous, whose ear is attentive to their prayers but whose face is against those who do evil.
Church, He is who we need to run to in those moments, and He has given us the Psalms as a means of doing just that. Surely, He is ready to welcome us in and respond when we come!
So, hopefully this brief guide equips and emboldens your soul in this area of suffering for righteousness’ sake. May the awareness of this awesome reality continue to dawn in our hearts, “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress”. Amen & Amen!