Did you ever feel like you were swimming in the deep end of the pool of trouble, and if God was the lifeguard, He must have been on a break? I set out looking for a good illustration of people having a bad day, and had my hands full with the number of stories.
• This week people went to a café and found themselves scrambling under tables when a gunman opened fire on them.
• Two days ago, hundreds of people evacuated their homes as flood waters took everything they owned.
• Two days before that, tornadoes swept across three states and wiped out homes, took lives and crushed everything in their paths.
We could go on and on, but if we did, we would sound just like your favorite news station…
Let me ask you something: “Were believers immune to those problems?” I know you know they were not. Because that is true, can you understand why some who lost much would begin to think God wasn’t on the job this week? I want to take you back to a time, two thousand years ago, to the day a letter arrived to some believers in the migrant camps of what is now Turkey. They were pressed by tough economics, and physical hardship. They had little and worked hard. They had come to Jesus and were following Him, but that didn’t make their lives easy. In fact, as persecution grew, it made life harder. Peter wrote them a letter in the time of the early church, the beginning of which offered a critical truth for people undergoing troubled times.
Key Principle: Troubles aren’t a sign that God isn’t leading us.
In trouble, God offers grace to build our faith. Let’s look at five encouragements that will help us understand more about that work:
Encouragement #1: God has more for you than you may be able to see from where you are (1:1-2).
Even if you don’t have any “permanent feeling” home here, you are not a mistake. You were chosen by God, saved by His Son and set apart by His Spirit:
The truth is this life may not show His goodness obviously all the time…
1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…
Some believers speak of blessing as though it is always measured by comforts and bank accounts. That isn’t true. God IS blessing us even when troubles rise and 401K’s sink. You cannot judge a book by its cover, nor a believer by the shell of their body and physical circumstances.
Mature believers are called to see the life of the Spirit of God, and measure blessing by the goodness of our Father. Peter told them: “Surely, you are special!”
1 Peter 1:1b“…who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
- You see blessing in the fact that God selected you as His own (1 Peter 1:1b).
- You see blessing in the cost to God to bring you to Himself (1 Peter 1:2).
- You see blessing in the way God’s favor can bring God’s peace amid difficulties (1 Peter 1:2b).
The simple fact is that many believers judge God’s goodness by earth’s peacefulness and life’s ease – and that isn’t the place you will always be able to easily see it. Much of God’s most obvious blessing for you isn’t found on earth, but in the works of the spiritual world. It isn’t always found in the ease of your prosperity, but in His ability to bring peace to your heart amid the storms of life. Mature believers look in the right direction to see the evidence of God’s rich goodness to us. Don’t judge God’s goodness by physical things.
Encouragement #2: The promises of God are for permanent things and a place to truly belong.
You and I have much to look forward to after all this is over! God gave His people rebirth, hope and a permanent place to belong:
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,
If you look closely at the verses, three ideas will become clear:
First, God blessed us with new life long before we ever thought of proclaiming a blessing to Him. He is initiating and we are responsive. Peter blessed God in 1:3 because God blessed all of us.
Second, when Jesus was raised, it wasn’t only a new beginning for Him; it was a new beginning for all who follow Him. Real HOPE isn’t about getting better politicians, more safety and security in our economy or even having all the nations sign a peace treaty. Real HOPE is found in what God has planned for me for the millions of ions after this short earth life.
Yes, the third truth is this: Our destination cannot be seen and charted on earth – for we are made for eternity and Heaven bound. This is the message aimed at migrants who lived with little, but the truth is the same message belongs to those who have lived with unparalleled prosperity and security. Our message isn’t simply aimed at how to have a happier life now, but how to show our Savior to a lost world NOW.
When the Christian message is framed in temporal benefits – “Jesus will make you rich and healthy today” – it is not framed in the way the Biblical writers offered it. Jesus may bless us in thousands of ways materially, but that isn’t the true measure of our message. The Gospel is about God’s goodness to men in making eternal life freely available to us – not about the number of potatoes in your pot or cars in your driveway. As our world lurches away from the things of eternity, it loses the mooring to real values – transcendent values that do more than benefit us in our time. Remember this: The best ideas of this world were forged by those who recognized that life wasn’t all about their one hundred years on the planet. The short-sighted views aren’t accurate ones here.
Note the way Peter described the inheritance that each believer was promised as he wrote to these migrant workers who passed through the earth leaving barely a scratch when they were gone. He called the inheritance by four words that come from a cloth merchant’s vocabulary:
First, it is “imperishable”: From a Greek word aphthartos: which meant “undecaying”. The immaterial nature of Heaven is such that there will be no “home maintenance” necessary. DIY centers aren’t a Heaven thing; they are for the earth, because things here are constantly perishing. Migrant owned little, but keeping a garment that didn’t fray, tear or simply fall apart was certainly something they understood. Your inheritance won’t fall apart in time.
Second, the inheritance is “undefiled”: From the Greek term amíantos, which means “untinted” or “unstained”. This is a term for coloring cloth intentionally, or trying to find a way to remove an ugly stain when it has embedded itself in the cloth. No one wants to walk around in a stained tunic! Your inheritance won’t get ruined shortly after you get it!
Third, the inheritance was “unfading” – taken from the Greek word amárantos meaning that it would not fade in strength or quality over time. In addition to tearing and staining, cloth can also simply lose its crisp weave and bunch the fabric in a way it looks worn out, long before it is truly worthless. Your inheritance will be as satisfying and new in a million years as the day you enter it!
Finally, the inheritance is “reserved” from the Greek word tēréō which meant spiritually guarded and kept intact. This wasn’t descriptive of the place, as the previous words were, but rather of the intentional guarding of all that was promised. In mercantile centers long ago, as now, guards ensured order. Yet, this seemed more a guardianship that had to do with quality, rather like an “INSPECTOR” and not a guard. Your future inheritance has God’s personal inspection seal upon it. He Who said “It is good!” when He looked at earth has made what comes next and approved it for us!
Encouragement #3: The same power that created all you see if keeping for you all He has promised you – and will keep YOU as well!
Peter recognized that God grants protection in our distress and promise after our testing in this life. It is God Himself who keeps us, and keeps what awaits us. He wrote:
1 Peter 1:5 [to the believers] “who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Look very carefully at what Peter said about HOW we are protected. Don’t skip the details, for in them comes blessing. First, he made note that we are protected by God’s power. That is true, securing and important. Yet, it is the second part of the verse that may surprise you. The power of God operates through our faith. What does that mean? Since our faith is our “ability to see things the way God says they are,” God protects us by His power but that power is engaged when we take Him at His Word concerning the truth of both this life and the life to come.
Here is the truth: When we trust God and take His Word seriously, we live differently. We are protected because we make choices that both honor God and preserve us. When we recognize that God is telling the truth, we walk in faith as we were told to do in His Word, and He extends a net of protection on our hearts. We may live better here, or worse – that is not the issue. The issue is that we live better WITH HIM. We can see His hand at work, and trust His rescue more fully. The more of our life we learn to trust God with today, the more we will rest in God’s powerful hands for tomorrow and beyond.
Before you leave verse five, take note of the end. Our rescue is not truly revealed until what Peter called “the last time”. It was not of the Church Age that Peter wrote, for it was something future to him. It seems clear to me that Peter was making an important distinction between NOW on earth and THEN in eternity. Let’s again underscore that God’s full and complete rescue of our lives won’t be clear until time surrenders to eternity – and that is the way it was planned by God.
My life with my Savior is protected by Him. My future with Him is held in His power. My present day estate may show some of His blessing, but it may not. It doesn’t matter. Jesus is preparing a place for me, and Jesus keeps His promises.
Encouragement #4: Even troubles have their purpose in God’s plan for my life.
Because we KNOW God has the power and has made the PROMISES of our future, we can celebrate now for a future we haven’t seen – even when today can sometimes look dark (1:6-7). Peter said it this way:
1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
Verses six through twelve may not appear to do much on the surface, but a careful look at them reveals they offer SIX IMPORTANT TRUTHS ABOUT OUR FAITH.
First, faith doesn’t preclude rejoicing; we can rejoice in trouble because of our faith (1:6a). We cannot argue that we WOULD rejoice, but cannot because of our suffering. Faith looks past the body, and past this life. It measures good and bad by what praise it brings the Father, not what pleasant comfort is affords in this life. Pain can make rejoicing more difficult while faith makes it continually possible.
Second, faith doesn’t make trouble go away because sometimes trials are necessary to God’s plan (1 Peter 1:6b). Peter used the terms “if necessary” and made clear that it may be part of God’s plan. Job wondered why, and he wasn’t the last. Yet the record of his suffering left us more prepared for life as it is in a fallen world. He was seeking an answer to his situation while God was using his life to answer the sufferings of millions. Naomi wondered of her loss, seeking a way to redeem her property. God used her story to show how He would bring a Redeemer for the planet. We don’t always know what role our suffering will play in the story of God; only that trouble may be a designed part of our story.
Third, we must recognize, especially when we are in the face of terrible trials, that troubles are always temporary but faith views now that which is already permanent in Heavenly places (1:6b). Trouble focuses us squarely on the NOW, while faith beckons us to see what is beyond the horizon. The longer view always brings hope if God’s Word is true. The end is His praise, not my problems.
Fourth, troubles draw out evidence of our real view of life and create a profound testimony (1:7). The term “proof” is the Greek word dokí-mion that means that which is found to be approved as genuine after testing. Since testing is not for God’s knowledge (which is already full and complete), we must conclude the troubles of life HELP US and those AROUND US to see that our faith is genuine. Our testimony and the truth concerning our Savior is made plain when we walk in hope during troubles.
Fifth, our faith offers more than perishable wealth, for the dividends of faith are permanent and offer ultimate reward (1:7).
Consider what Peter teaches us about faith. Faith is the ability to see as Heaven sees, to believe what God says no matter how much the clutter of temporal troubles is obstructed and our fallen vision fails. It is the ability to taste and enjoy now what has not yet been opened and cooked for our meal – because of the certainty of the chef and the quality of the ingredients. It is such resolute certainty that we willingly place the full weight of our life in trust of the strength of its claims. It doesn’t fade with troubles, but sees through the storm to the land we seek to reach. It makes trouble in life an inconvenience, not the focus of life. It helps us raise our voice in praise and our vision in hope.
Finally, faith allows us to spiritually SEE what physical eyes CANNOT SEE. It allows us to LOVE Him even while He is unseen. His effects are obvious, but His person is beyond physical perception. Faith makes the difference. We believe and experience His salvation that was long before promised by those who wanted to see what we see.:
We simply must capture the formula: love and believe Him and obtain later salvation (1:8-12).
1 Peter 1:8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and [f]full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
Faith caused others long ago to long to see what God promised and to faithfully report on the Coming One with anticipation. It is their record we believe – but they believed without seeing the One they spoke concerning. That is the nature of faith. We believe now, we see later, and as a result those who observe our testimony benefit. As it is that we benefit from the prophetic voices who believed in the past, so shall others benefit from your belief now.
Encouragement #5: Because we can see with faith, we can navigate the riptides of trouble today.
There are some imperatives we should observe to navigate trouble. They aren’t a list of “dos and don’ts” – but the keys to passing through a storm!
First, we must discipline our thinking! Peter warned:
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit… “
Peter told them to “prepare their minds for action and to keep sober in spirit” (1:13). Like driving on ice or in the rain, passing through danger and trouble requires attentiveness and focus. We must PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT IS HAPPENING AROUND US and cannot be haphazard, but must pull in the garment of the mind and not allow ourselves to wander. Through disciplines and focus on what God has said, we can get ready to move ahead and then keep vigilant attention on the forces pressing us. We are not called to withdraw and form monasteries, but to keep watch and build lighthouses. We must be informed, but not overwhelmed by information. We must be accurate in our understanding, but not unbalanced by our consumption of every subversive theory of a coming challenge.
In all this be warned: As the world presses us further and further to constant amusement, we are called to be vigilant and keep our eyes fixed on what is truly happening.
Second, we must change our perspective.
We must turn away from the whining of the world concerning trouble to putting all anticipation wholly on God’s good and undeserved favor! Peter commanded believers to fix their hope completely on grace (1:13b).
1 Peter 1:13b ”…fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
In my experience, the most informed believers in our time seem like the most depressed believers. It is hard to watch freedoms be chipped away and morality fall like a floor mop. Yet, we are the people of HOPE. We are the people that recognize that God is doing GREAT THINGS in spite of the enemy and even in spite of the Congress (smile).
May I ask: “Where are the HOPE FILLED believers of our time?”
They are not found in places that compromise of the Word. They are not in acquiescing to the pressures of a fallen world. Hope springs eternal when fixed on eternal things of the Eternal One, with a clear call to faithfulness to His way. We do not merely HAVE hope; He IS our hope.
Third, we must prayerfully and deliberately remove the mastery of old patterns of fulfillment.
Peter instructed believers to cease being conformed to the driving of their behaviors by former desires (1:14). He wrote:
1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Notice the address is for us to be “childlike” in the simplicity and focus to change. Children don’t resist change the way adults do. They learn faster because they rationalize the old behaviors less.
Let’s remember: What we can set aside, we have mastered. What we cannot, has mastered us! We cannot serve God and a bottle, a pill dispenser, a need for applause and acceptance, our need for physical pleasures, or anything else. We will serve God, or we will serve self. It isn’t complicated, but it is hard.
Fourth, we need to see God as He truly is!
For many of us, God is too small in our eyes. He is out in the distance, far off and un-engaged. Peter reminds:
1 Peter 1:17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Believers are to conduct themselves on earth in reverence to God for Who He is, (1:17), and to reckon what God gave to purchase our release from sin (1:19). He planned a long time for our redemption and called us to believe – but it should make a practical difference in us (1:20-21).
When a believer sees the awesome power of God that is readily pictured in the stars, the ocean, the vast canyons or even the miracle of life itself – they begin to understand Who we serve. Trace the Scriptures and consider for a moment how great God is:
God possesses unmatched majesty, unassailable intelligence and consummate glory. His appearance bares all the marks of splendor of the Majesty above all rulers and authorities. His appearance follows the blasts of praise from Heaven, and His regal splendor causes those who behold Him to fall to their knees, or even down upon their faces. He shines with the brightness of the purist light – with no hint of shadow marring His perfect beauty. His truthfulness is absolute, for each word finds its definition in Him. No lie can stand before Him and nothing but absolute purity comes forth from Him. He is immense and yet intimate, opaque and yet discernible. He had no beginning, for He is the beginning of all things. He has no limit to His love, no ending to His life, no perimeter to His being. He is eternal and yet timeless. His mercy is vast but His judgment is sure. His wisdom is perfect yet His innocence is certain. He is intimately relational, expressed as a Father, Son and Spirit but wholly unified, for He is One. There is so much more, but it is captured in a small way by our exclamation: “How great is our God!”
Here is the truth: Believers who won’t set aside the things that have long beset their life don’t see God as He is. He is great in their theology, but not in their heart.
Finally, we need to see past ourselves as we walk through the day.
Peter called on believers to show practical help and care to each other. He wrote:
1 Peter 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off, 25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
I want to close this lesson with some excerpted words that came from an article entitled: “Proud People vs. Broken People” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Her words remind us that when we see God as He is, we become small. When we do, we recognize the needy about us. She wrote:
Proud people focus on the failures of others. Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.
Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at another’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope. Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.
Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others. Broken people esteem all others better than themselves.
Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit. Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others…
Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation. Broken people are self-denying.
Proud people desire to be served. Broken people are motivated to serve others…
Proud people desire self-advancement. Broken people desire to promote others.
Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated. Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all…
Proud people feel confident in how much they know. Broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.
Proud people are quick to blame others. Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation…
Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of. Broken people realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.
Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does. Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit. [Excerpted from FamilyLife.com].
Peter reminded us of an important truth: Troubles aren’t a sign that God isn’t leading us. His saving grace should make us both celebrate His goodness, and prepare us for difficult times.