God is with you, Part 3
1 Peter 1v6-9
17th March 2017
1 Peter 1v3-5 speak about what God has done for us, and what God has promised to do for us in eternity. Verses 6-9 speak about what it's like being a Christian on earth, right now.
1 Peter 1v6
Christians in the Roman world suffered persecution from both the Jews and the Romans. There were different levels of persecution in different places at different times, but many Christians suffered some level of discrimination, from being thrown out of their families or jobs, to being imprisoned, tortured or executed. Christians around the world still suffer the same cruelties. Peter says that, despite the cruelties inflicted on us by those who hate us and want to silence us, we can - and do - continue to rejoice in what God has done for us, and what God has promised us.
In Britain in our generation we've experienced very little persecution, although a few of us have lost our jobs because of our beliefs. But we've all suffered in one way or another. Many of us are unwell, or in pain, some are bereaved, some have money troubles, some have difficult relationships. But Peter says we greatly rejoice anyway. The forgiveness of our sin, our adoption as children of God, the gift of the Holy Spirit to teach, encourage and purify us, and the certain hope of a perfect eternity in heaven, gives us more joy that this world can ever take away.
But, to be honest, that's not true of all of us all of the time. We all sometimes get so distressed by what's happening in our lives, or our loved ones' lives, that we take our eyes off God, and the wonderful salvation He has given us, and the wonderful inheritance He has promised us, and we focus on the pain, sorrow and stress of what's happening right now, on earth.
Paul said in Romans 8:18, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" and I'm sure we agree with him theoretically. But there are days when it's hard to take comfort from this, even though it's true.
So here's another reason for us to be comforted in our struggles and pain:
1 Peter 1v7
Our trials, of all kinds, have a purpose. They prove the genuineness of our faith. I'm sure we'd rather not undergo any sort of trial but, while we live in this world, we always will. As we persevere through trials, they prove that our faith is genuine. They prove it to us, they prove it to others, and they prove it to the angels.
But will we persevere? And what will we allow these trials to do to us? How will we allow them to change us? They will change us, one way or another.
We can choose to resent God for allow a trial to happen, or for not taking it away as quickly as we'd like. We can doubt God's love, or His power. We can even turn away from God, imagining that life without Him would be more comfortable than life with Him, although that's short-sighted, to say the least, in the light of the inheritance that waits for those who persevere.
Or we can accept the trial, choose to endure it patiently, trust in God, and celebrate the forgiveness of our sins, our adoption as His children, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the work of sanctification and the promise of eternal reward. We can continue to live like Christians, and to praise God anyway.
It's up to us. If we will endure the trial, by faith, we will grow closer to God, both in our relationship with Him and in becoming more like Him, the One who suffered the ultimate trial on the cross for us. If we step away from God, then we will lose the fellowship of His Holy Spirit, we will live in stress instead of peace, misery instead of joy, and uncertainty instead of confidence.
I'm not saying it's always easy to respond rightly to trials. I'm saying that we will get through the trial best if we cling to God in faith, pray for His mercy and strength, and allow His character to be formed in us.
And if we persevere, continuing to live and think like Christians despite the suffering, God will turn to His holy angels and say "Look at him! He still trusts me! He's endured great physical pain, he's suffered great emotional loss, he's resisted great temptation, but he still trusts me, and he still serves me. He still prays, he still joins with his brothers and sisters to worship, he still seeks to be the best, kindest, gentlest, godliest man he can be. He still loves his neighbours, he still loves his God." You will receive God's praise because you've been faithful. And God will receive the angel's praise because, really, it was He that kept you faithful.
Your faith is of greater worth than gold. It's the most precious possession you have. Like gold, your faith is refined by fire. The impurities are burnt out. That can hurt. But the result is increased purity, increased beauty, increased value.
1 Peter 1v8-9
Peter saw Jesus face-to-face. He lived and travelled with him for three and a half years, but we haven't had that privilege. We've never seen Jesus with our fleshly eyes - only with the eyes of our hearts. We can't see Jesus now, although what a comfort it would be if we could! But we believe in Jesus anyway. And we who truly believe in Jesus can be filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, if we will handle our trials in a godly way, trusting in His perfect love despite the pain and loss.
We can have this joy because whatever we've lost - and some of us have lost a great deal - we know that we are receiving the salvation of our souls. And that is worth any price we're called upon to pay.