Brace for Suffering: Prepare

Suffering is inevitable.  We live in  fallen world with fallen people.  We have fallen immune systems and a fallen outlook.  Thus, we must brace ourselves for suffering.  We must constantly be  preparing ourselves for what is to come.  Peter wrote to his readers, which includes us, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet 1.13, ESV).

Before we notice anything else, I want you to notice that Peter is calling the people to do these things.  This is not what God does, but rather what we do.  God gives us the desire and the ability, but it is now our responsibility to prepare our minds for action.  It is our job to remain sober-minded.  It is our duty to set our hope on grace.

I quickly want to look at each of those responsibilities.  This is a call to preparation.  We must prepare ourselves.  There are moments and circumstances that will come out of what seems like nowhere, and many will be caught off guard for lack of preparation.

If you have ever played a sport or coached a sport then you know how preparation is vital to playing the game well.  A team who does not practice and prepare cannot hope to go up against opponents who have. There are playbooks to be read, drills to be performed, and videos to be watched.  We tend to look at NFL teams as working on Sundays, but we know that’s not true.  They are out on the field day after day.  They memorize the plays; they memorize signals; they memorize strategy.  They work the plays, they perform the signals.  They do mock drills.  All this is done so that they are prepared to go up against opponents.

We are called to prepare.  Paul wrote to Timothy, “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come,” (1 Tim 4.7-8, ESV).

Let me give you three ways in which you can prepare your mind.  The first is read God’s Word with purpose, and that purpose should not be to read it in a year.  The purpose should be to glean as much knowledge about our Triune God: their nature, their power, their works, their expectations, and so forth.  The second is pray.  Pray with purpose.  Don’t be lackadaisical in your prayer-life.  Remember you are preparing the mind.  That means you have to work it.  You have to think!  Think about what you are reading.  Think about what you are praying.  And thirdly think about what is happening around you. Don’t look at the surface.  Don’t listen to soundbites.  Think deeply about your surroundings.

Let’s move on to being sober-minded.  What often happens is that our minds can become overwhelmed or so emotional that we cannot think logically or clearly.  Peter is calling on us to prepare our minds, and to think clearly, soberly about our place in this world.  This doesn’t mean that we can’t laugh or that we can’t enjoy life.  But it absolutely means that we need to take this life seriously.  We can’t get to the point of thinking that we don’t need to care what happens in our society because Jesus is coming back to judge anyway, or that we are leaving anyway so what does it matter.  That’s absurd.  That’s cloudy thinking not sober thinking.  It goes back to the question of are we leaving on vacation or are we preparing our home for an honor guest?  Is Jesus coming back?  Yes.  Is He going to judge?  Absolutely.  Are we spending eternity with Jesus when He returns?  If you love Him and believe in Him, no doubt about it.  But to let our minds get to the point where we do not care about what Jesus cares about is being irrationally-minded not sober-minded.

At the same time, looking at what is going on in the world and becoming hysterical, so that we think all is lost is just as ridiculous.  We must be sober-minded.  We must think straight and seriously about our position in this world.

Finally Peter tells us to set our hope “fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  If your hope is in the First Amendment (or Second) or in your Senator or in your Congressman or your President, then your hope is dramatically misplaced.  If it is in your church or your family or your job or your income, it is woefully misplaced.  In preparation you must, absolutely must, place the full spectrum of your hope in your eternity that was bought and will be revealed by Jesus Christ.  The persecutors can’t take that away.  They can take away everything else in this world, but they can’t take away Jesus.

Charles Spurgeon once said,

The rays of the sun are warm; but if you collect them into a focus, by a burning-glass, you produce a fire which else you could not find in them.  Concentrate your faculties upon faith in Jesus!  Concentrate your emotions upon the love of Jesus!  Concentrate your whole being upon the glory of Jesus!  You will accomplish marvels if you do this.

This is what we mean by preparation.  All that is within you, your thoughts and emotions must be focused on Jesus.  Are you prepared?

 

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