For the past several months, Franklin Graham has been touring the 50 United Sates on a tour called Decision American 2016. In his speech he reveals that about 7,100 Christians around the world were killed for their faith this past year. Churches are being burned, looted, and bulldozed, and pastors are frequently killed. In dozens of countries, Christians are denied educations and jobs, and are shunned and mocked. Graham also points to examples of people being ridiculed in the US for their Christian beliefs. (See more at LifeWay Explore the Bible Leader Extra) As we come to the close of 1 Peter 4, the LifeWay Explore the Bible Study: Handling Ridicule will focus on the perspective we must keep when facing ridicule and other forms of persecution.
More of Franklin Graham's speech is included as a part of the LOOK OUT portion of this week's study.
As you prepare to teach this week you might want to consider listening to the following in order to consider another Christian leader's explanation of suffering that the church will face. Consider emailing the link to your group following the session.
Dr. David Jeremiah
Here are some teaching helps you might want to include as you lead your group:
LOOK UP: Getting focused on the text.
- Display (As Adults Arrive): “Dear Friends”
- Instruct: Imagine you have good friends who are being ridiculed because of their faith. What kind of encouragement would you give them that could help them endure the ridicule they are facing?
- Discuss:If we faced ridicule for standing for our faith would we be tempted to question whether we made the correct decision or possibly misread God’s will? Do believers sometimes question if God has abandoned them when they face difficulties for living their faith?
- Debate: Would you agree or disagree with this statement? - “Living faithfully for God and doing His will means that we won’t face difficulties or ridicule.”
- Transition: Peter begins by addressing his readers as dear friends. Then he moves to give them his advice on how to keep a proper perspective on ridicule and other forms of persecution.
1 Peter 1:12-14
Direct: Peter describes the experiences we may face and how we should respond to these situations.
- What are the situations he describes? (List on markerboard or tear sheet under the heading, “situations”)
- What are the responses or perspectives we should have? (List on markerboard or tear sheet under the heading, “response.”)
Discuss (ETB Young Adult Teaching Plan):
- How does a person’s suffering help him or her share in Christ’s suffering?
- Why should the temporary nature of suffering encourage those who are enduring it?
- How does the presence of the Holy Spirit help those enduring insults and ridicule?
Ask: Why do you suppose the theme of suffering is so prevalent in Scripture? How do you react to the concept that suffering for living our faith is normal for Christians? How would you then summarize the purpose of suffering in the context of this passage?
Consider: Do you believe you would respond the way Peter encourages us to if you were to truly face persecution for your faith?
Summarize: The consistent biblical teaching is that suffering is the pathway to glory. For our Lord, there was no crown without the cross. Those who follow His example should expect to find it the same. (ETB Leader Commentary)
Identify (Create a comparison chart on a tear sheet or markerboard):
- Describe behaviors or situations that might lead to Christians being ridiculed because they call themselves Christians and live their Christian faith. (List on one side of the chart as they are identified; Consider situations they have heard about in the news, especially within the United States.)
- Describe behaviors that would lead to someone being ridiculed justly.
Identify: Are there additional negative behaviors identified that need to be added to the list? (include: murder, theft, doing evil, and meddling - being nosy into the affairs of another person and making mischief.)
- What is the difference between suffering for wrongdoing and suffering for living differently as a Christian?
- What is the difference between normal human suffering (i.e. physical issues, sickness, etc.) and being a believer who suffers for taking a stand for what they believe?
- Should a believer who suffers because they are “standing for their faith” but doing it in an ungodly way, wear his suffering as a “badge of honor”? (No; Remember Peter's instructions in earlier passages on how we should live as believers – See 1 Peter 3:16-17)
- Is it wrong for a “believer” who willingly and blatantly lives an ungodly life to identify the resulting consequences or hardships as the type of suffering Peter is describing in these passages? (Yes; their suffering is due to God’s judgement and their choices, not because they are righteously living out their faith.)
Consider: If you were ridiculed or criticized for your faith, would you be embarrassed or feel ashamed?
Emphasize: In those early days, the term “Christian” was used by unbelievers as a term of derision. It became a description that early believers wore proudly. So, when you hear someone today say something like, “If it weren’t for those Christians; If only those Christians; when he starts talking like a Christian I can’t stand it,” hold your head up proudly and be honored that you have been identified as a Christ follower!
Transition: Peter concludes by reminding his readers that we can trust the One who saved us to see us through to the end!
1 Peter 4:17-19
State: I am sure you have heard the phrase, “You think I’m in bad shape; you should see the other guy!”
Discuss: Imagine the misery of judgement that the ungodly and the sinner will face when they stand before the Creator of this universe.
- How should this change your perspective toward those who don’t know Christ, even those who might persecute or ridicule you?
- Can you list some individuals whom you should begin praying for and looking for opportunities to share your faith with because they most likely fit into this category of people?
- Believers who suffer for living a faithful Christian life do so, not because of chance or fate or bad luck. It is part of God’s will for them to do so. Ask: What questions do you have in regard to suffering according to God’s will? If we could understand this, how would it change our view suffering?
- God is not only faithful – which speaks to His character; He is also Creator – which speaks to His authority over all things. Discuss: The term entrust means “to give something to someone for safekeeping and care.” Jesus used a form of this word as He suffered on the cross – Luke 23:46. If we don’t trust God’s character or understand His authority over all things, can we truly trust Him when we face suffering?
State: As our Creator, He is faithful and trustworthy. We can count on Him to keep His promises and to give us the power of His Spirit to follow His will for our lives, even when that includes suffering.
LOOK OUT: Responding to the text.
Application OPTION ONE (Use the following or develop your own):
Consider the following scenarios. How would you offer encouragement to these individuals based upon what Peter has said in these passages?
- Sam loses his job because he refuses to lie on a report to the board.
- Josh is fired from his job because he doesn’t want to work on Sunday mornings.
- Eric, a school teacher, has been reprimanded for having his Bible sitting on his desk.
- Coach Boyd is fired because he prayed with his football team prior to each football game.
- A wedding planner is sued because she made a decision to not perform a wedding for a gay couple because of her Christian faith.
- A husband ridicules his wife for her faith and desire to take her children to church.
- Suzanne has become angry at God because her work environment is so toxic to her faith. She wonders why God doesn’t move her to another job.
- Your friend lives in a country where Christians are being tortured and killed.
- How do you feel about Franklin Graham’s assessment of the impending Christian persecution in America?
- What verses in today’s passage speak to the concerns being expressed by Franklin Graham?
- How can we implement the actions Peter called on his readers to follow?
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