Shabbat Shalom everyone, Praise our Wonderful Creator, YHWH our Elohim that we can be together and rejoice in Him. Joy… what is joy? Joy can be described as a positive human condition that can be either feeling or action. The Scriptures uses joy in both senses – as a feeling, joy is brought forth by well-being, success or good fortune in which a person automatically experiences joy because of favourable circumstances. This responsive joy cannot be commanded, as when the shepherd would find his lost sheep, or how the multitude felt when Yahushua healed a woman bound by Satan for many years. The believers in Antioch were also filled with joy when they heard the response from the Yerushalayim council that they did not have to be circumcised to keep the commands of YHWH. However joy is not only a condition based on a feeling, but also as a result of an action. An action is an active response to the will or choice that a person makes. Our actions are based on our choices; our act or action of faith in Messiah is based on our choice to obey His commands. Now, there is a joy that Scripture commands! That joy is action that can be engaged in regardless of how the person feels. Yahushua instructed His disciples to rejoice when they were persecuted, reviled, and slandered (Mt 5:11–12). Sha’ul (Paul) commanded continuous rejoicing (Phil 4:4; 1 Thes 5:16). Yaʽaqoḇ (James) said that believers are to reckon it all joy when they fall into various trials because such trials produce endurance (Jas 1:2). Joy in adverse circumstances is possible only as a fruit of the Ruach HaQodesh being present in our lives. Today I want is to talk about holding on to joy, and that is my message for tonight, “Holding on to joy!”
How many of you have truly been struggling or have struggled to really be joy-filled? How many of you have in the face of persecution and suffering lost your joy? What often happens when a believer goes through trials of many kinds, joy gets quickly ‘chucked out the window’ and the ability to actively respond to a circumstance with joy just seems to not be an option readily available, and we, as believers in Messiah, need to learn to heed the Scriptures command to rejoice – and to ‘rejoice’ means to be full of joy, be glad or to possess joy. Often when circumstances are rough and persecution is coming at us, especially from people we did not expect, we can so easily be caught in drawing away from Elohim, and find that our attitude toward Him has diminished and lost its joy. As children of the Most High we are called to excel in our attitude toward Elohim in our suffering.
How is your attitude in suffering? More specifically how is your attitude toward Elohim in your suffering? Because your attitude toward Him with determine your attitude toward others! Yahushua Himself told us that we will face some tough stuff and be persecuted for His name’s sake – so we know that we are in for some pretty hard times – the question is “are we truly equipped to handle them?” In the first century, the believers under the persecution of Emperor Nero faced immense persecution and suffering for the sake of the Name of Yahushua! Nero was a very cruel ruler who persecuted the believers in unimaginable ways. He had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and then attacked by dogs until they expired; and others he ‘dressed’ in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them for show. This persecution grew and grew and yet did not diminish the fervent spirit of the early believer’s. Sha’ul and Kěpha were both martyred in the first century under this intense period of persecution, and it was either during this time or in anticipation of what was to come that Kěpha wrote his first letter to the believers in the Roman Empire. If his work was given a title it may have been something like, “The believer’s behaviour in a hostile world”. There are more references to suffering in this epistle than any other letter in the Messianic writings (N.T.).
What Kěpha seeks to show us is that suffering is the inevitable lot of those who serve and follow Yahushua. Not only will we suffer the many problems common to humanity, we will also suffer unique problems because of our faith in Yahushua Messiah. What is your attitude when you have to suffer for Messiah's sake? If you were to be ridiculed for being a follower of Messiah, or left out of someone's plans, or lost association, or perhaps even were discriminated against on the job how would you view this? What if we had to face governmental persecution for our faith? How would we handle it?
I believe that just as it was back then so too are these kinds of persecutions going to increase in these last days toward the True believers. In his letter, Kěpha tells us how to live in a hostile world, and how our attitude should be toward our persecutors, as well as toward each other. Today I want us to look at his instructions for us regarding our attitude and response toward Elohim when we suffer. Please turn with me to Kěpha Aleph/1 Peter 4:12-19 (read).
As we know from the Scriptures, we are in for some tough times in the end of days, as we need to be prepared to be well equipped in our ability to rejoice for the sake of His Name and the persecution that comes with it. A faith that is not tested cannot be trusted and so as we look forward with great joy to the return of our Messiah, it is of critical importance that we understand the need to daily make the choice to rejoice and hold on to the joy of our salvation. I want to share with you from this passage 5 facts to keep in mind as they pertain to rejoicing while suffering for his Name’s sake, or rather 5 reasons why I can rejoice in the midst of suffering and persecution:
1 – I CAN REJOICE WHILE SUFFERING BECAUSE – MY SUFFERING DOESN’T CATCH YHWH BY SURPRISE (v12)
Do not be surprised! All too often I think when we go through a trial or suffering of some kind we tend to react in the wrong way toward Elohim and wonder why YHWH would allow us to suffer if we are His child! We must realise that we live in a corrupt and fallen world, plagued by sin and those who are lost stand opposed to those who take a firm stand in Yahushua Messiah! Let me ask you - How many of your friends and even family have turned a cold shoulder toward you because you have taken a stand for the Truth and walked away from the lies that have been handed down?
How many of you have been shrugged by those who called themselves friends simply because you have now chosen to call on His True Name, keep His Feasts, walk in His Torah as you are learning it and are holding on to what you have that no one takes your crown as Yahushua instructed the Philadelphia assembly in Revelation? How many of you have been chastised by others because you have taken a stand against sin, which is lawlessness – without Torah?
There are numerous accounts of many who have lost friendships, family and their jobs for taking a stand for the Truth. Some have lost their jobs because they have chosen to keep Sabbath and not work! It is a sure thing that when we go out there and live in this world according to the Word of YHWH by faith as seen in our action and speech, that we will be avoided, ridiculed, mocked, ignored, neglected, overlooked, cursed and the list could go on…!
And here in verse 12 Kěpha (Peter) is telling us to not be surprised when all this happens… and believe me when I tell you that these things will happen more and more in increasing measure as we see the Day of YHWH speedily approaching! Be not surprised at this, just as YHWH Himself is not surprised – He knows what is going on – He knows everything from beginning to end, and Yahushua Himself told us that we will have trouble and persecution, however we can take heart for He has overcome the world and as we walk in Him with great joy we can be more than conquerors and not be surprised when the ‘expected’ unexpected happens to us for His Name’s sake!
So then what do we do when we suffer rejection, neglect, slander, hatred etc…? Well that is easy! We choose right! We choose to believe YHWH and take Him at His Word – He promises that HE will meet our needs and that He is always with us and that He has our best interests in His mind – if we will but only choose to trust and follow Him by His Word.
In other words then, I can be sure that my suffering does not and will not catch me by surprise and I can live a life of rejoicing because I believe the Scriptures and abide in the Truth – If YHWH be for me, who can be against me, aměn!
2 – I CAN REJOICE IN MY SUFFERING BECAUSE – IN IT THE ESTEEM AND BLESSING OF MESSIAH IS REVEALED UPON ME AND THROUGH ME (v 13-14)
All too often people base their responses to pain and suffering and trials solely upon their emotions and feelings generated by circumstances. Let’s be honest here, no one ‘feels’ like rejoicing through intense suffering and pain. But what Kěpha (Peter) is calling for here is not simply an emotional response but rather a choice to rejoice, a choice that goes beyond emotions! Yaʽaqoḇ (James) tells us in his letter that we are to ‘count’ it ‘all joy’ when we go through trials of many kinds, and the word for count means to ‘consider or reckon’. In other words - make a mental evaluation as opposed to an emotional response. The early believers faced intense persecution for their faith, yet could respond with rejoicing as they truly considered it worthy to suffer for Messiah. When Polycarp, a first century believer, who sat under the teaching of John, was martyred he was filled with only praise for Messiah. They placed him on a stake and set fire to the stake (all the time while he praised Yahushua Messiah) – the flames, according to Josephus (a first century priest, and historian), went all around Polycarp and did not burn him. A guard was then instructed to pierce his side, after which the blood burst out of his body killing all the flames of the fire! After he had then died they burnt his body. There are many gruesome factual events that took place in martyring many followers of Messiah – all who considered it pure joy – for the sake of His Name and the esteem and blessing of Messiah being revealed through them! How about you? Are you willing to rejoice under trial and persecution, or do you simply get you knickers in a knot when somebody you know just rejects you and accuses you of trying to be ‘Jewish’ simply for following the Torah and keeping the Feasts of YHWH? That is not persecution – it is time for the Bride to grow up in the Word and stand firm, because intense persecution is ahead in the last days! We must not allow a few simply words of ignorant onlookers to cause us to want to throw in the towel in following Messiah wholeheartedly – it is time that we learn to hold on to joy! The early believers understood that suffering is graced by Elohim’s glory/esteem, as He Himself goes with us through it all – just as He was with the three men in the blazing furnace as recorded in Daniel 3. He was with Daniel when at around 80 years of age was thrown into the lion’s den. He was with Stephen when he was being stoned to death for preaching the Good News of Messiah as recorded in Acts 6. Here in this passage, Kěpha writes that ‘the Spirit of Esteem and of Elohim rests upon you” – the esteem or glory of Elohim rests upon you and where His esteem is there He is too. Going through pain and sufferings for the sake of the Good News is hard and going it alone is even harder, but the knowledge that Elohim is with us by his Ruach (Spirit), gives us peace, joy and strength to endure whatever we face. We are truly blessed by His presence amidst trials, which is revealed in and through us when we suffer in this life and therefore “I can rejoice!” Anything we suffer for the sake of His Name is a privilege, not a penalty!
3 – I CAN REJOICE IN MY SUFFERING - AS LONG AS I AM SUFFERING FOR MESSIAH’S SAKE (v15-16)
Kěpha makes it clear that we are not to be suffering because of our sin. It is possible to suffer for both the right and the wrong reasons. Let us make it clear if you are in sin and not living according to the Torah and as a result find yourself suffering the consequences of your sin and disobedience, then do not be a hypocrite and try to claim that the suffering you are facing is a result of living in Him. For when you sin or are disobedient you are separating yourself from Him. Suffering as a result of sin, does not call for rejoicing but rather mourning and repentance as you draw near to Him that He may draw near to you. The suffering we are talking about here is the kind Yahushua said we will face because of Him and His Name – that is assured and we cannot get away from that. If we suffer as a Messianic or follower of Yahushua Messiah then we need not be ashamed but rather praise Elohim that we bear His Name!
Many people today, even professing believers, suffer simply as a result of their wrong choices and find themselves unhappy and uncomfortable, as YHWH allows the natural result of their unwise and often disobedient choices that were sown to be reaped. Some are reaping the suffering of what they have sown in the past while some are suffering as a result of the discipline of YHWH possibly because of unconfessed sin. The suffering we are talking about here tonight is what you could call as ‘acceptable suffering’. Suffering for the right choices we make in Him – right choices we make each day in following Yahushua and the ability to not draw back or compromise in any way. We are not to suffer as a sinner, but rather as one who suffers for being a believer.
Kěpha Aleph/1 Peter 2:19-20 “For this is favour, if because of conscience toward Elohim anyone bears up under grief, suffering unrighteously. 20 For what credit is there in enduring a beating when you sin? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure, this finds favour with Elohim.”
Persecution is not an excuse for lawlessness – just because we may face a little persecution, even from our family or those close to us, we must not compromise and give in under pressure to neglect our faith walk!
We who suffer because we are sincerely following Messiah are called to rejoice and not be ashamed. This is what the body of Messiah needs to embrace – we are to hold on to joy at all costs! I can rejoice in my suffering if I am suffering for the right reasons!
Let us not be ashamed for suffering for the Good News. In Roman law at the time of this letter each citizen was required to pledge his loyalty to the emperor and once a year would have to go and sprinkle incense upon the altar and declare that ‘Caesar was Lord and Master’. But for the early believer this could not be done as they would openly confess that YHWH is Elohim and Yahushua is the Messiah, and so would wilfully refuse to bow to Caesar. Often the officials would write the name of Messiah in the road or on the wall and command believers to trample upon or spit on the Name of Messiah and if they refused would be arrested, tried and often killed in the most cruel way – the True believers rejoiced under suffering not being ashamed of the Name of Messiah and the Good News – we must learn from their example and not be ashamed to declare our faith in the True Messiah – whose Name is not ‘Jesus’ but Yahushua – Yahweh is our Salvation! Today, sadly, many are spitting upon and trampling upon the True Name of our Saviour – Yahushua and bowing to the Roman rule of ‘church governance’, and we as true believers must not be caught bowing to a system that is only headed for destruction. When I am suffering I should ask myself why I am suffering – am I ashamed (as a result of sin) or am I glorifying the Messiah as a result of obedience - rejoice in the suffering for His Name’s sake!
4 – I CAN REJOICE IN MY SUFFERING BECAUSE – MY SUFFERING IS ONLY TEMPORARY (v17-18)
Here Kěpha asks the question that if it is now time for the House of Elohim to suffer then how bad do you think that it is going to be for those who are in a sense causing us to suffer or those who are simply disobeying the Good News of Messiah.
Listen it is far better to suffer now for obedience sake than later for disobedience sake! Those who are living and doing as they please now – in other words not living or walking in righteousness by faith and pleasing Elohim will have to one day face Him face to face and it isn’t going to be pretty! We can rejoice in our suffering now, as we can be assured that it is only temporary!
5 – I CAN REJOICE IN MY SUFFERING BECAUSE – ELOHIM IS FAITHFUL TO THOSE WHO ARE COMMITTED TO HIM (19)
YHWH never fails! We can therefore trust in His unfailing Word and sure promises of His Word. We are therefore able to rely on Him and commit to fully serving Him with all joy – His joy! Committing our lives to a trustworthy Creator, doing the good works he has prepared in advance for us to do – and that is to walk in His ways – will cause us to truly rejoice regardless of the suffering we may face as a result of obedient living. He has good plans for us and will fulfil His plans for us. The charge here is to simply continue to live, and to do good – that is to walk in His Good Word – walk in His Torah – living in Messiah – and to continue to actively rejoice, no matter what you face or what others may do or say against you – because we serve and follow a faithful Elohim! To commit is a banking term which carries with it the meaning of depositing for safekeeping:
Timotiyos Bět/2 Timothy 1:12 “For this reason I also suffer these matters, but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to watch over that which I have entrusted to Him until that Day.”
When you deposit your life into YHWH’s bank you will always receive greater eternal dividends on your investment! This commitment is a continual constant attitude – not a single act – committing every area of our lives every single day to walking in His ways, obeying His Word and rejoicing in the process!
Unsaved people have a present that is being controlled by their past – we who are in Yahushua have a present that is controlled by our future!
What we are talking about here today is joy, joy even in trials. Joy is derived from love – YHWH’s love not ours and is therefore closely associated with love in Sha’ul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit. Since it is a gift, every believer is called upon to share in the joy of Messiah by a daily obedient walk and as messiah we too are to love righteousness and hate wickedness that we may also receive the anointing of His joy:
Hebrews 1:9 “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. Because of this, Elohim, Your Elohim, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”
It is when we truly love righteousness – that is to walk in obedience to His commands (Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 6:25), and hate lawlessness – that is to rebel against obedience to Commands – then the anointing of His joy will come!
It is a joy to share in the sufferings of Messiah:
Sharing in the sufferings with Messiah results in:
1 – Joy with Messiah (1 Peter 1:6)
2 – Fellowship with Messiah (Philippians 3:10)
3 – Exaltation with Messiah (Romans 8:17)
4 – Reign with Messiah (2 Timothy 2:12)
We who take part in suffering with Messiah will take part in His glory when it is revealed at His second coming!
What Kěpha is giving us here in his letter is a warning of what is to come and stressed the mental readiness required – are you going to be found holding on to joy, when persecution comes your way!
Let me ask you – have you been suffering? Has it been for doing good or as the result of making some really dumb choices? If your suffering is due to sin or disobedience – then confess to Him and let his Word cleanse you from all unrighteousness and restore to you the joy of your salvation. If you are or have been suffering for doing good, because of your witness of Messiah as you bear His Name holding on to His commands – then well done and congratulations – YHWH is with you in a unique way and will keep you standing – so use your suffering for Him as a time of rejoicing.
We as the body of Messiah must start holding on to joy – His joy imparted to us by His Ruach (Spirit) and encourage one another, support one another and rejoice with one another. One of the things that the enemy is very hard at trying to do is to get us to lose our joy and we cannot and must not allow this. Suffering under trial as we walk in obedience against the stream of the world’s ways and even against the western pagan gentile church and its institutionalised living, we are to do with great joy – for we have the Joy Giver with us, aměn!
So fellow brother and sisters, do not be surprised at the persecutions and trials that will come for the sake of His Name and walking in obedience to His Torah – rejoice and be blessed, being not ashamed but committed to doing good for the sake of our trustworthy Creator! And may we continually be found to be holding on to joy!!!