My boyfriend, MH, is the Worship Leader and Youth Director of a church here in the Bay Area (that reallyyy narrows it down for ya, doesn’t it? lol). As part of his duties, he coordinates and oversees the Youth Fellowship, which is comprised of both junior high and high school youth, and meets every Friday night from 7:30 to 9:30 PM. Right now, everyone gathers together in the beginning for worship, announcements, and an icebreaker. After this, the two groups branch off for their separate teaching and small group time. Before the night ends, though, we all gather back together for a time of corporate prayer.
MH teaches the high school group on Fridays, and junior high is co-led by a mutual friend of ours from our Thursday night small group, and myself (we swap weeks).
Last Friday was my turn, and just as I began the lesson, I saw this message flash across my phone screen:
And even though the reality that he is in a place that falls into the Central Time Zone, while I am in the Pacific Time Zone is ever-present, things like this slice like a scalpel to my chest, leaving my innards bare. Things like this betray the existence of a barrier that I have tried to erect in my conscious mind so that I can keep myself from feeling the full weight of this separation – the tiny paper cuts of loneliness, the mind searing worry over him out there without any family or friends, the soul shackling sense of helplessness.
So there I was last Friday night, surrounded by our junior high students, ready to go through 1 Peter 1:3-9 with them. But when I began to go through the first verse of the passage for that night, I just couldn’t keep the heaviness in any longer. I admitted to them that I had had a really rough time over the past couple of weeks, and that I was in such a vulnerable place emotionally, yes, but even more so spiritually. I admitted that we were about to go through a passage that highlighted something I felt myself, in that week especially, to be bereft of, if not open to being apathetic to entirely – faith.
A Heavenly Inheritance
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”
How do we as human beings typically react to tough times?
Confusion. Yes. Why is this happening, God? Why my family? Why me?
Anger. Yes. It’s all your fault, Dad and Mom! You’re not really a loving God!
Fear. Yes. What are we going to do? What’s going to happen to us?
I told the youth that I had not been immune from feeling any those emotions over the past few weeks, nor had I succeeded in keeping the following thoughts at bay: God hates me; God doesn’t love me; God isn’t in control. Moreover, I confessed wanting to retreat away into myself and away from people. I felt so defeated and forsaken that I didn’t want to go to church and I debated walking away from ministry commitments like that very Friday Night Fellowship.
But I decided to come that night because of the truths God reminded me of concerning Himself and His purposes for me as I read through that passage.
Verse 3 opens with “Blessed be.” Blessed be. Praise. Well, that was certainly not something I felt like doing. How could I in the midst of this trial? The answer followed: “according to His abundant mercy [He] has begotten us again to a living hope.” Mercy? Living Hope? Where? My eyes saw a plainly packaged box before me. I still needed to open it up so I reached for the ribbon, “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
For as much as the Apostle Paul knew, I always used to wonder why he singled out and wrote that “[he] determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). I guess such a question betrays what a baby I am in terms of my walk with God, that I saw, and still continue to see and react to, the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a small thing. It’s for those who don’t yet know Jesus, but once you’re a Christian, well, you move on to meatier things. Such ignorance has cost me greatly.
There I was questioning God’s ability to exert control in my family’s circumstances when it was His power that resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead. There I was questioning God’s love for me when He so loved the world, that He sent Jesus to die for us all. And through Christ’s death came the forgiveness of all my sins. And through His resurrection and ascension, a living hope, and then some.
Verse 4 tells me it is “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away.” The implications of the word “inheritance” humbled me. After all, who normally receives such a thing? Someone considered an heir, an offspring by the person who currently holds possession of, or dominion over, something.
It reminded me of one of my favorite verses, James 1:17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
I was beset by so many fears and doubts concerning God and His goodness because I had forgotten who I was to Him, a beloved child, and I had ascribed characteristics to Him that were not His. Yes, we in all of our humanity can change. I, too, am capable of great evil, and can be moved to perform good acts because of many shifting and twisted, selfish and sterile motives. God, however, is not like us, just on some larger scale. He is good, and that never changes.
And my inheritance from Him? A truly “good and perfect” gift, yes, but jumping back into 1 Peter 1:4, also “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away.” I can so intently fix my focus on the acquisition and loss of things in a world that is already fading away (1 John 2:17), that I completely compromise my own sense of peace. Because I have invested myself into what thieves can break in and steal, and what moths and rust can destroy, my heart is tethered to this corrupt world and every tremor and quake causes palpitations threatening cardiac arrest (Matthew 6:19-21).
God, however, is not so myopic, and He urges me, even as I exist here in the flesh, to fix my eyes forward to where my inheritance is, “reserved in heaven for me.” No matter how many troubles I face here on Earth, it will be nothing compared to the eternity I have in Heaven with God. In Him, I do not have to see present sorrows in light of this life. In Him, I can see present sorrows in the perspective befitting His child, that is to say, in the light of an eternal life in glory.
Verse 5 offers even more reassurance because we “are kept by the power of God […] for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” However, we cannot forget that it is “through faith.” Now faith is something that has, for the longest time, seemed very abstract to me. I could rattle off a dictionary definition. I could even put forth Hebrews 11:1-3, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
But if you were to ask me what faith meant to me and how it existed in my life, well, I would be at a complete loss as to what to tell you. And I think I still am in the middle of learning what God wants me to understand about it, but I think I’ve got a start on it.
The phrase, “have faith,” is meaningful, but I personally draw much more encouragement nowadays from hearing, “have faith in God unto salvation.” My faith is in God. I know Him. I trust Him. And it isn’t to no end; it is unto salvation. And that is surely no small thing.
Verse 6 never fails to fill my spiritual lungs with clean air: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” It is in the knowledge of my eternal salvation that I can and should “greatly rejoice.” If I can be filled with momentary gratitude for the fleeting things of this life, how much more should I be filled with unfailing joy at the prospect of what my life in Christ is both in enabling me to live godly and free from sin in this life, but to be taken into a heavenly home in the next?
I have always respected how “real” this verse is, too, in acknowledging that there is suffering in this life, and that I will be “grieved by various trials”; nevertheless, putting them in perspective again, it is only “for a little while.”
When I was younger, I felt like people were telling me that it was great to be a Christian because life was going to just be fab-u-lous, that I’d be happy all the time, that my life would be devoid of pain so long as I did the right things (moralistic deism, essentially). Needless to say, I would buckle under the weight of inevitable trials and end up embittered because I thought I had done everything I was supposed to, and yet here I was suffering while there were so many others who weren’t Christians and seemed, to my eyes, to be doing a lot better off. There’s a lot that can be said and unpacked here, but I’m only going to touch on a small part of it – my attitude on one of the differences between being a Christian and not.
As 1 Peter 1:6 says, there are going to be trials in the Christian life. Various trials. And those who aren’t Christians face tough situations, too. However, the difference that I have seen and experienced in my own life, as one who remembers what it was like to be without God, is that now as a Christian, I am not alone, and my suffering is not senseless or arbitrary. My Father God is with me to comfort me (2 Cor. 1:3-5), and what mankind or the enemy might mean for evil, God can and does turn to my good (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28).
Verse 7 reinforces the importance of “the genuineness of [our] faith” and tells us that it is “much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire.” This is so important to grasp. You see, if my present comfort is the most important thing, then when the things that I have attached my sense of security to are threatened (i.e. money, job, social standing, certain relationships, etc.), I feel like I am an utter failure. However, if I prioritize the genuineness of my faith regardless of outside circumstances, well, I can remain grounded because I am with God and believe wholeheartedly that He is in control, just, loving, etc.
Such faith is also precious because it will be “found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” the very One who gave everything up for, and to, us (1 Peter 1:3). There is truly none more worthy.
Verse 8 acknowledges that we love Him even though we have not seen Him, but even “though now [we] do not see Him, yet believing, [we] rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Again, it is in believing and knowing Him that we can rejoice in any circumstance with “joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Reading that description, I desire to pray that God would show me what that caliber of joy is like in Him. Don’t you?
It also reminds me what the whole point of this blog is for me. I greatly desire to know God’s will of being joyful always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in everything (1 Thess. 5:16-18). But I realize that that isn’t so 1,2,3, automatic. It is very much a choice. Granted, a choice that is probably made easier only to the extent that my faith in Him has grown.
But what a blessing it is to be able to put our faith in a Savior who is “the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2).
I pray that Jesus will help us to see the joy that is set before all of us. I pray that we, too, can despise whatever temporary shame and pain we find ourselves in, and come to receive, as this passage concludes in Verse 9, “the end of [our] faith-the salvation of [our] souls.”
Father, help us to know the truth; help us to know You. And in the middle of the pain and anguish found in the trials of life, may our faith in You not waiver, but deepen. Keep us through Your power, Lord, and see us safely to the glorious end You have planned for us with You in Heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen.