23/1/05 BCP Evensong Epiphany 3/Septuegesima 1 Peter 1:3-12
1 Peter 1:3 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. 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. 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. 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.
At some time in our lives all of us suffer in some way or other, albeit in differing ways. Thankfully none of us here are likely to know what it means not to have eaten for days with no prospect of receiving food. None of us is likely to undergo the suffering of those in the Indian Ocean area who have lost loved ones, perhaps never seeing their bodies. Who have lost their home, community and livelihood.
1 Peter was written to Christians throughout northern Asia Minor. They were being persecuted for their faith after Nero blamed the Christians for burning Rome in A.D. 64. This letter has something to say about suffering and puts it into perspective for the believer.
I am using three headings: faith, inheritance, and joy.
Faith or trust in Jesus is a free gift. It is brought about by the undeserved work of God the Holy Spirit, who is mentioned in verse 12. It is described as "new birth" in verse 3.
leads to the
This faith leads to the protection of God. Verse 5 says that believers are "shielded by God's power".
However, this is not a guarantee that the Christian will not have to endure suffering. After all Jesus suffered, verse 11. Rather suffering can have a positive effect. It can refine, deepen, purify the faith of the believer. It can show what we really trust in. Our circumstances, possessions, health, wealth, status, job, intelligence etc Or do we trust in God, rather than ourselves. Perhaps suffering is a litmus paper of our trust in God. It is an opportunity to show that our faith is genuine and, in eternity, this will result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed, verse 7b.
"Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time." Oswald Chambers,
1874-1917 Scottish Preacher, Author
A sticker seen on the back of an expensive car. "We're spending the children's inheritance".
To receive an inheritance someone has to die. Jesus died to give us an inheritance. We have to die to our old way of life to gain Jesus' inheritance. Unless Jesus returns first, we may have to die to gain our inheritance.
Our inheritance is real because Jesus died and rose again.
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,
This is why the resurrection is crucial. Because Jesus lives believers will enjoy eternal life. A life lived in a right relationship with God in this life and, in a fuller way, in eternity. Unlike the splendours of this earth that devalue, decay and break down God's inheritance for every believer is safe, splendid, secure in heaven.
Rollo May, American Psychologist; "Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one's identity as a being of worth and dignity."
We have dignity, worth, fulfilment and, therefore joy through Jesus Christ.
We have dignity knowing that we are made in God's image. We have worth knowing that we are so valuable that God gave His only son to save us. We can know true fulfilment in our relationship with Jesus and in living for Him.
This joy will overflow in praise to God. For who He is and for what He has done for us in Jesus.
1 Peter 1:3 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,
Our faith and future leads to joy, knowing the love of Jesus who died for us, having the knowledge that we will be with him forever.
Dwight L. Moody, 1837-1899, American Evangelist; "We talk about heaven being so far away. It is within speaking distance to those who belong there. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people."
As believers we can look forward to being with God with joy and confidence. Knowing that we will be resurrected like Jesus. We can endure, even grow in faith when we suffer. Aware that God is with us and protecting us.
We can pray for those who, like the early Christians Peter wrote to, suffer as a result of their faith. We can also pray for those who suffer as a result of the tsunami, and as a result of poverty in the developing world.