1 Peter is a book about hope. We need this hope because as you look around you see a number of people who seem hopeless. At best, they seem to just be “going through the motions” in life. At worst, they are filled with despair.
It is easy to be hopeless as we focus on planes crashing, out of control debt, joblessness, businesses closing and the increasing violence in our country. We can lose hope as we stand at a hospital bed or a gravesite. Sometimes we get discouraged simply by looking in the mirror.
In our text this morning Peter urges us to look away from those things which feed despair and instead focus on that which stimulates hope. He calls us to examine the priceless treasure we have been given by God.
In the Greek, verses 3-9 are one really long sentence. If you will, it is an explosion of praise. I imagine Peter dictating this part of the letter in an animated fashion. We will look at the treasure, how to respond to the treasure, and be reminded of the privilege we have been given. Hope involves looking beyond the pain.
The Treasure We Possess
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Peter tells us several things about the treasure from God. First, it requires a new beginning. We have been given a “new birth”. In John 3 Jesus tells the religious leader Nicodemus that in order to know God he has to be “born again.” This confused Nicodemus. Jesus explained that even though we can’t get a new beginning physically, we can get a new beginning spiritually. The thing is, this isn’t something we can do through our own efforts. God must do this in us. Paul writes,
he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)
The problem with most of us is that we hear this as a religious thing and miss the practical impact of what Peter says. Which of us would not like a new beginning? We would like to have the record of past failures expunged. We would like a “do-over” in our relationship with God because every one of us has scorned Him at times in our lives. This is what we are given through Christ! The blood of Christ removes the past sin and gives us the opportunity to move in a new direction. We are given the chance to have an intimate and deep relationship with God instead of an adversarial relationship.
Second, it results in a living hope. Biblical hope is living and it is real. It is not based on wishful thinking but on the sacrificial work and resurrection of Jesus and the character of our Great God. This hope reminds us that God knows what is going on and He is in control. Our hope reminds us that there is more to this life than what we can see or taste. It reminds us that wrong will be made right. It affirms that when believers die we will become more “alive” than ever. This hope is not about our ability, our experience, our education or our performance. It is anchored to Christ and Christ alone.
Peter wants us to understand that the only thing we can be SURE of in our life is this living hope that is given to us by Christ. We understand that life can change in a moment. Everything we have can be consumed in some kind of natural disaster. Our life could end or change forever because of a terrorist attack. One Doctor’s appointment may change all our plans. A financial meltdown could make all our money worthless. The only thing certain in life is our relationship with God through Christ.
Third, it is a guaranteed inheritance. It is “kept in heaven for us”. The Greek shows that this is an inheritance that is provided for us, is already in existence, and is being carefully guarded for us. It is ours because of Christ and no one can take it from us. It will never perish, spoil, or fade.
An inheritance is something we are given graciously by another. It is a gift rather than something we earn. In this life, when you are first told that you have been named in someone’s will, that is not a guarantee of your inheritance. If the person is still living that inheritance will be impacted by what happens to the person for the rest of their life. There may be huge medical expenses to pay. There may be an extended Nursing home stay. There may be a change in the value of their investments. After a person has died there are financial settlements that need to be made and legal fees that need to be paid. The nature of the inheritance may be greatly altered between the time of the promise and the inheritance received.
Many were counting on retirement funds that suddenly “disappeared” because of the change in the stock market. The inheritance that is ours through Christ is something that will never diminish in value. It is already ours.
It is Protection by God’s power. It is tempting to think that our benefit as believers in Christ is only in the future. That’s not so. We begin our relationship with God the moment we trust and begin to follow Christ. Peter tells us that through our faith we “are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Something great is not only coming . . . it is here. Peter reminds us that “God will take care of us”. He is leading us on the journey. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any pain or struggle or disappointment. It means nothing will overcome us as long as we trust Him.
Our Response to Our Inheritance
Peter says if we understand the treasure we have been given then instead of despair and hopelessness we will be characterized by a joy that springs from a deep love for Christ.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
When we receive a special gift some people squeal with delight, some cry, some embrace the giver. And every one of us smiles. Generosity begets joy in both the giver and in the one who receives the gift.
If we catch even a glimpse of the great inheritance that is ours in both the present and the future, we will rejoice. We have been given what we could not earn and certainly will never deserve. We have been forgiven what we thought was unforgivable. We have been given a new start (many times). We have an intimate relationship with Almighty God. We benefit from the power and guidance of God’s Spirit. We have a certain hope of life. . . . eternal life . . . beyond the grave. It should make us smile.
Peter says we rejoice even as we “suffer grief in all kinds of trials”. It’s quite a contrast: joy and grief; blessings and trials. The reality is that we live in a sinful world. We feel the effects of our sin and the sinful behavior of others. Life is filled with trials. We will know periods pain.
The Bible tells us that all creation groans as we await our redemption. I understand that better as I get older. I am groaning a lot more because of the decay of my body.
Peter tells us that we know hope and joy even in the midst of suffering because we see pain with different eyes. The purpose of suffering is threefold,
- It proves that our faith is genuine. It is easy to “trust God” when everything is going well. Or to state it another way, “it is easy to trust God when you don’t have to trust God.” Difficult times force us to ask, “Will I trust Him even when I can’t see Him or don’t understand? Trials reveal whether we are a fickle believer or a deep believer. Job was shown to be faithful because in the midst of incredible heartache he was able to say, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him”. He said, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Now that is genuine faith!
- Second, trials are designed to bring glory to God. All throughout the Bible we see God honored in the faithfulness of people in the time of trial. Joseph was faithful in spite of his imprisonments and circumstances. Abraham trusted God’s promise through a long period of infertility. Daniel trusted God in the lion’s den. Daniel’s friends trusted Him in the furnace. Elijah trusted God as he stood before 400 prophets of Baal and Jesus trusted Him as He moved to the cross. In the time of trial we learn and demonstrate God’s great sufficiency to meet our deepest needs. We seem more clearly in these times that we could without the trials.
- Trials deepen us. In ancient Rome grain was threshed by one man stirring up the sheaves, while another rode over them in a crude cart or sleigh equipped with rollers instead of wheels. Attached to the rolling cylinders were sharp stones and rough bits of iron. As they grind over the recently tossed sheaves, the stones and iron help separate the husks from the grain. The simple cart was called a tribulum.
This primitive piece of farm machinery is the object from which we get our word tribulation. Sometimes we may feel like the sheaves being crushed. Peter wants us to remember that no thresher ever operated his tribulum for the purpose of destroying his sheaves. The thresher’s intentions were far more elevated than that. The farmer wanted to cull out the precious grain. And as it is with the ancient farmer, so it is with God.
Think about it. A simple bar of iron ore, pulled from the earth, might be worth $5.00. However, that same bar, when made into horseshoes, would be worth $10.50. If the owner decided to make the bar into needles for sewing, it could be worth as much as $3,285. And if he turned it into springs for watches, its value could jump as high as $250,000. What makes the difference? The amount of heat by which the iron bar is tempered and honed.
God sometimes allows us to face the heat of difficulty to increase our value in His Kingdom. So in the time of trial we need to focus less on the trial and more on the One working in and through that trial for our benefit and His glory.
Maybe another picture will help. Suppose you are diagnosed with a disease of some form. You talk to the Doctors and they tell you that the disease can be treated. You rejoice in the good prognosis (a wonderful blessing). However, the process of being cured involves Doctors appointments, painful treatments, maybe even times of sickness that make you wonder whether it would have been better to simply die.
Sometimes the Christian life is like this. God has promised to conform us to the image of His Son and to grant us abundant and eternal life. However, the process of getting there is not easy . . . just worth it. We must focus on the destination rather than the pain!
Love for Christ
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Our joy springs from our love for Christ. We love Christ
- Because He is incredible in His character and love
- Because He has given us an incredible inheritance
- Because He stands with us and strengthens us in every circumstance
- Because He never gives up on us.
When we truly love someone there are some practical effects.
- We give that person the benefit of the doubt in hard times. We don’t “assume the worst”. When we love Christ we will look for the blessing even in the pain.
- We delight to spend time with the person. We look forward to spending times with people we love. We feel more complete in their presence. When we truly love Christ we look forward to meeting Him in prayer, Bible reading, in the fellowship of other believers, and in the quiet reflections of our heart.
- We talk about them. Think about how often you talk about your children or the accomplishments of your spouse. Why is this? It’s because we love and cherish these people and we are thinking about them and want others to know about them. We have made a mistake in our witnessing. We tend to view sharing our faith as a job or an obligation rather than as a natural outgrowth of our love for Christ.
- We look for ways to demonstrate love in practical ways. We give gifts and go out of our way to show kindness to those we truly love. In like manner when we really love Christ we will seek to obey Him as a way of showing our love in a visible way.
When we understand what God has done for us and is doing in us we should be filled with joy and with love. When we talk about Him our eyes should brighten and our voice should become more animated. When we meet with Him our heart should be lighter and our mind more attentive.
The Privilege We Enjoy (1:10-12)
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
Peter reminds us that this salvation that we enjoy is something that people have been looking forward to for centuries. The prophets searched intently for the very thing that we so frequently take for granted. The prophets anticipated our day but never experienced it. Peter says, even the angels long to experience what you and I are given freely. We have been given a great privilege and should not take it for granted.
The thing about an inheritance is that often it is taken for granted. We enjoy the benefits but forget how hard someone worked to provide that inheritance for us.
Every day we can enjoy God’s mercy and grace. We can know His strength pulsing through our lives. We can know a new confidence that provides us with perspective in the trials and a hope that anchored to something solid. Every week we get to gather in worship and read and hear God’s word. We have the blessing of being able to love each other in ways that are significant. It is a privilege that others worked towards and longed for. We should cherish it rather than squander it.
I leave you with two simple Action steps.
Lift Your Sights. If you are like me, you sometimes get fixated on what is happening right now. We pursue pleasure, power, and possessions. We want peace and comfort. We want the world around us to recognize our worth and to celebrate it. We judge our worth by the opinions of others. This is natural. However, if we focus on this stuff we will be disappointed and left empty and alone. These things are all fickle and fleeting. Our joy must not be anchored to the things of this world, but to the Lord who made this world. We must learn to long for that inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade.
Think about a couple who is about to have a baby. Mom is in advanced labor but the couple seems unable to get to the hospital because they are arguing about what socks they should wear to the delivery room! If you had a chance to talk to these people, what would you say? You would say: “Who cares what socks you wear! You are about to have a baby!” In other words you would say: “See the big picture here folks”.
We must do the same thing spiritually. Rather than focus on the temporary and (when seen in perspective) inconsequential, we need to focus on the eternal. Focus on the enduring blessing of God and the unique privilege that is ours to enjoy it. The better we do this, the less we will be troubled by the bumps and valleys of life. The more despair will be replaced by hope.
Keep Going. It is Worth the Effort. You are probably going through some kind of trial right now. It may be minor or it may be huge. Peter challenges us to see these trials as opportunities. It is an opportunity to demonstrate faith, to grow deeper, and to glorify God. The trial may be devastatingly painful. Peter encourages us to remember that in these devastating times, the embrace of God is more cherished and faith can become more alive than at any other time.
I know these may sound like the words of someone who is standing on the sidelines giving advice about something he does not understand. But, these are not my words; they are the words of the Holy Spirit, spoken through Peter. God understands. He sees the end from the beginning. He knows the potential that can be gained only in the time of trial and He is not only cheering for us . . . He is also holding us up. Trust Him.