S t a n d - S t r o n g
Firm Foundations for the Storms of Life
Peter 4:7-19 : A Life of Service


Time Magazine has a thought provoking article this week entitled “where did God go?” It describes how across Europe, churches may be half empty and God cannot get a mention in the new EU constitution but he is turning up in some surprising places. The article describes how God is increasingly found among the seeker friendly churches, especially those using Alpha Course.

He is found especially among the immigrants and poor of
Europe. Surprisingly, he is also found among the youth and the unconventional, such as at Taize, Soul Survivor and Greenbelt. So while Europe has grown less religious among the middle aged over the last 20 years, there has been an increase in religious belief on the fringes of society and among young people. For example in Denmark the number of young people who professed belief in God rose from 30% in 1981 to 49% in 1999. In Italy the percentage grew from 75% to 87% and in France, which has the highest proportion of atheists, the number still increased from 44% to 47%. This is good news, even if people are preferring Christianity a la carte rather than the set menu on offer from the established churches. Encouragingly between 10% and 60% of Europeans will be in Church at least once this month.

But what would these figures be, however, if it were a crime to be a Christian in

Would they go up or would they go down?  As we discovered a few weeks in over 50 countries world-wide, Christians are being persecuted for their faith. Indeed up to two-thirds of the world’s Christian population faces abuse of some kind - be it verbal, harassment, discrimination, hostility, physical persecution or martyrdom. Something like 170,000 Christians will be killed this year because of their faith. The 10 countries with the worst record of persecution of Christians are China, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The latest edition of ‘Enough’ contains pictures of Chinese Christians being tortured for their faith. Please pick up a copy, use it in your prayers and do write to the Chinese government and tell them to stop persecuting your family.

Surprisingly, what these reports also show is that the church is growing fastest where the persecution is the greatest. The latest edition of Enough contains the story of
Pastor Samuel Lamb.

Samuel has spent 20 years in various prisons for his unregistered evangelistic activities. While the Communist authorities are trying to suppress the unregistered churches, persecution is actually fueling the flames of revival.  Samuel describes the effect on his own church family. “Before I was arrested, my church had only 200 members. After I was released from prison the first time, I found the church had grown to 900 members. Then came the confiscation of the church. After the confiscation, the church has grown to 2,000 members. With a broad grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye, the elderly Pastor exclaimed, “Persecution good for the church!”

If we put these two reports together we can answer the question posed on the cover of Time - “where did God go?” Gos is where ever he is honoured, loved and proclaimed.

What would a little persecution do for you today?

1.       It would purify your motives. You think twice about attending a church service for superficial reasons.

2.       It would sharpen your priorities. Make you think about what is important in your life?

3.       It would increase your dependence on God You would need his strength to cope with opposition.

Christians in the first-century church were beginning to suffer for their faith. It would grow over the next few centuries. Near the end of his life, Peter wrote a letter to believers who found themselves scattered across Turkey. Hunted down like animals, they had become persecuted refugees following the fire which had consumed much of Rome in 64 AD. We are discovering these Sunday mornings that 1 Peter offers us also “Firm Foundations for the Storms of Life,” what ever stresses and strains you face, ther are simple lessons here to help you build firm foundations for your life, for your family and for your future. In previous weeks we have seen how Peter, anointed by the Holy Spirit, calls us to

A life of Hope (1 Peter 1:1-21)

A life of Love (1 Peter 1:22-2:10)

A life of Submission (1 Peter 2:11-3:7)

A life of Purpose (1 Peter 1 Peter 3:8-4:6). And today.

A Life of Service (1
Peter 4:7-19)

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:7-10)


Lets break this passage down:

1. The Motive for Service - (1 Peter 4:7)

2. The Heart of Service - (1 Peter 4:8-9)

3. The Place of Service - (1 Peter 4:10-11)


1. The Motive for Service - Expectant (1 Peter 4:7)

“The end of all things is near.” (1 Peter 4:7). How often do you think about the return of Jesus? Annually? Monthly? Weekly? Daily? Hourly? Constantly? The return of Christ should permeate every waking moment of our lives because he is coming for you and I. To take us to be with him forever and ever. He will also come to judge the living and the dead (v.17-18) which is why we should keep close tabs on sin in our life now so there are no surprises when he comes. The motive for service is surely the recognition that in all we do, we are serving the Lord, who will expect a return on his investment. So many of Jesus parables speak of a landowner who went away and left his possessions in the hands of his servants. These parables are to remind us we are not the owners of this world. We are tenants, stewards, servants.

And one day soon we will need to give an account of how we have served him. Of what we have done with the resources entrusted to us. There is no greater incentive to joyful, obedient, purposeful service than knowing Jesus is coming back soon. The motive of service - expectant.


2. The Heart of Service - Fervent (1 Peter 4:8-9)

“Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:8-9)


Because Jesus is coming back, we need to be focussed. When you have a limited amount of time and a list of jobs to get done and people to see you need to be focussed.

You need to priorities your time. To evaluate your progress.

That is why Peter urges us to be clear minded and self controlled - that means focussed, intentional, purposeful in all we do. At the heart of service though is not grudging obedience but loving service. “Above all, love each other deeply” This is the heart of service. Fervent.

But how can you love deeply unless you know intimately? How do you love someone deeply? You need to take time to get to know them. You need to invest energy in order to identify with them, you need to give yourself in order to serve them in love rather than duty.  Someone once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Most of us eat three meals a day.

This means we have on average twenty one meals a week or ninety meals a month. What if each of us committed to invite someone new to our home once a month for a meal? Do you realise what we would achieve? As a church family we would reach virtually everyone in Virginia Water in a year. What if we made a point of meeting someone new at church and simply asked them over for lunch? What of we established a habitual lifestyle of meeting new people and inviting them over for a meal? Many of you already do but imagine if we all did it regularly. What might happen? What new relationships might blossom? What kinds of hospitality might begin to infect the lives of God’s people? How many more people could we serve and love? There is only one way to find out. Give it a try.

Peter also reminds us that the greatest expression of service is forgiving each other.
Take time this week to reflect on who you need to forgive and who you need to seek forgiveness from. Confess any bitterness, any resentment, any anger you might be holding in your heart. Do it now. Look for ways today to extend forgiveness to those offenders in your heart. Remember the depth of God’s forgiveness toward you. And if need be meet with someone to restore or reconcile a broken or fractured relationship.
John Wesley was an incredible servant of God. His motto was “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can.”

The motive of service - expectant.

The heart of service - fervent 


3. The Place of Service - Gracious (1 Peter 4:10-11)

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)


The assumption here is that we have each received at least one manifestation of the grace of God. The word gift means little graces - little manifestations of the grace of God - it may be a verbal gift or a visible gift but we have gifts to give one another, to serve one another. Indeed we discover our gifts by giving them away, by serving one another, not through introspection or academic exercises. William Carey went to India under the compulsion of his missionary vision, but he had demonstrated his gifts as a linguist by mastering Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Dutch and French.  

He demonstrated his pastoral gifts by caring for a little church. His gifts as a missionary statesman and educator became evident as he gave himself to the people around him. This was his mission statement: “Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” What are you expecting from God today? What are you attempting for God today? Do you know in your soul the gifts God has given you? Are you using them to serve others?  If you are not sure, get hold of
Bruce Bugbee’s book “What you do best in the Body of Christ”, complete the exercises and then talk with me or one of our leadership team about confirming your place of service in and through Christ Church. The next time you hear someone described as ‘gifted’ remember this verse. We are all gifted. We are all special. We are all unique. We are all called to use what ever gifts we have received to serve others.

There are many people who attend our church who hunger to be in meaningful relationships with others. Some of these people are busy and have many friends, others are lonely and have lots of time to spare. Some are outgoing and easy to notice., and others of you are quiet and we have to look closely to notice that you are here. What ever our personality or temperament, we all have a need to connect, to relate, to be needed and loved, to build community. That is why God has given each one of us gifts and ta
lents, for the building up of the church. Lets commit ourselves to make use of the time before and after services to look for opportunities to get to know each other and to serve one another.

The motive of service - expectant.

The heart of service - fervent 

The place of service - gracious



4. The Consequence of Service - Glory (1 Peter 4:12-19)

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)


It may seem incongruous to link glory with suffering but as we follow in our Lord’s footsteps, Peter warns us not to surprised if we are treated in the same way Jesus was.


4.1 We should expect suffering
4.2 We should rejoice in suffering
4.3 We should evaluate suffering

Suffering purifies our motives, it sharpens our focus, it strengthens our faith.

This week I had a taste of this principle during my visit to Colorado Springs. The conference brought together about 120 Christians from right across the USA and Australia committed to making a difference in our world, and in particular, to support the Road Map to Peace.

Nevertheless, for organising such an event, Tim King received a death threat the week before.  And on my return I received an anonymous email greeting card from someone suggesting I should shoot myself. The most fruitful aspect of the visit was a phone-in programme on the most popular secular talk show in Colorado Springs, reaching between 20,000 and 30,000 listeners. For two hours I had the chance to share a Christian perspective on peace and what that could achieve in the Middle East. I challenged listeners to get behind the Road Map initiated by George Bush and Tony Blair with the backing of the UN, EU, USA, and Russia.

The phone lines were jammed for two hours. But apart from two or three individuals who phoned in to agree with me, the other 95% disagreed. Their views ranged from “how can you call yourself a Christian and…” to the ‘why don’t we just nuke them all.” At the end of the programme, the compare
Joseph Milachi got a call from the owner of the radio station. Expecting to receive a dressing down, the response was, “That was the best damn programme you’ve done for a long while.” Which got me an open invitation to go back any time. Peter writes, “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”

Looking at the newspapers this weekend, and the growing controversy over other moral issues such as the cloning of unborn children and homosexual bishops, if we hold to biblical values, we need to heed
Peter’s advice. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” It is not strange to suffer for Christ if you are his servant. You may not as a result have a long life but it will certainly be fulfilling. Albert Schweitzer said, “The only really happy people are those who have learned how to serve.”

The motive of service - expectant.

The heart of service - fervent 

The place of service - gracious

The consequence of service - glory.

A life of service. Firm foundations for the storms of life.

Lets pray.