Key verse: 1 Peter 3:14
Big idea: Our exile may mean temporary suffering but eternal reward.
Sometimes I get ads for various stock tip websites. They called Netflix or Amazon when they were cheap and now, for a low monthly fee, they will give you their next big tip. The obvious question is if they are so good at picking stocks, why do they need to make money selling their picks? Shouldn't they have all the money they could possibly want from their expert trading? But after you push past that question, you can't help but notice the disclaimer: "Past results are no guarantee of future performance." That is a good life principle. How many one-hit wonders, washed up actors, and has-been politicians have never returned to their old heights? How many people are stuck reliving their glory days? Past success does not predict the future.
The Bible frequently features reversals, where someone's beginning and end do not align. Lazarus and the rich man is a well known one, where comfort in life becomes suffering in death, and suffering in death becomes the seat of honor beside Abraham in death. It is not the only one by far. Jesus made it a general principle that whoever seeks to save his life will lose it while whoever loses his life for His sake will find it. In that sense, we should not be surprised if living in this world, as exiles waiting for the return of the King, we suffer. Inevitably, sometimes the new life God has given us in the old wineskin of the world system causes leaks.
We should not bring about our suffering for sin - we are not looking for trouble. But if we suffer for doing the right thing, and suffer with integrity, then our suffering can point people to Jesus. Then our suffering now leads to rewards for eternity. Our past pain is no guarantee of future pleasure. Indeed, it is a hint that we are not made for this world, but a better one where our hearts will be satisfied in the satisfier.
Discussion idea: Have you ever known someone whose pain pointed people to Jesus? How? What can you learn from them?
Prayer focus: Ask God to help you see your suffering in light of eternity.