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, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 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; 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 full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:3-9
This letter was written during the very beginning of the church. At this point in time, the Christians were looked at very differently depending on who you talked to. Most of the outside world looked at the Christians as being a sect of Judaism, and therefore nothing really new. The Romans only real concern was that they paid their taxes and “worshipped” Caesar by not starting trouble and serving in the army when called up. The “real Jews” saw them as heretics. So, the bulk of the persecution came at the hands of the Jews and the Romans, and there was a lot of persecution going around for Peter and the rest of the early Christians.
Fathers were being pulled out of the family and into service in the military or being put to death in terrible “games”. Widows and children were being neglected by members of family because of their stand as believers in Christ. Many had to leave their homes and find shelter in the surrounding areas where other believers would take them in. It was a very tough time.
These are the people Peter was addressing, the weary, the fearful, and in some cases the undecided. People that were on the edge of making a decision for Christ, but were looking at the events around them and weighing the costs of that decision. Peter was not out to talk people out of a decision for Christ, but he was trying to give them all of the information they needed in order to make that call. This could be a costly decision, but he wanted them to see that it was worth the trial here on earth for what they would experience after death.
“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”
What a confident and triumphant way to start off his letter! God as a father wanting to show mercy to a fallen people! A father that has shown mercy to us that we can’t understand by showing us grace in allowing us to be born again. He caused it, not me! I can’t do anything to have this hope that He speaks of. It can only come because He has willed it to be.
“through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”
This is the key to my eternal life. The resurrection of Christ makes my eternal life possible because if he had not been victorious over death, then His blood covering my sins would not have the weight necessary to give me eternal life.
“to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
This is the reason He died and was resurrected for me, to give me an inheritance, a birthright, to be adopted as a child of God! I am allowed the promise of a life of eternal relationship with God as one of His children. This is not only a gift that is given to me, but it is a gift that is perfect and will never fade.
When I look around at some of the things I have purchased I see items of different quality. Some of the stuff that I have bought has been cheap to fill a temporary purpose, and others I have spent much more on so I would have something that lasts! Even this computer I type on was once thought to be a phenomenal machine, cutting edge, and a real treasure, but now… No matter what I have here on earth, it is going to run down, get rusty, or just flat quit. This inheritance is not subject to that. It will last forever.
Another thing that makes this inheritance special is that it is reserved for me. I have accepted Christ as my Lord. I have admitted my sin and my need for His perfection in my life, and in return He has given me a new name, and a new life. This faith that I have is what gives me the protection of the Creator God. A protection for my soul for eternity.
“In this you greatly rejoice even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,”
This is something I should be happy about, and that was what Peter was telling the early Christians. There is a prize that is worth it all. It is worth reaching for it and letting everything else go. The faith that I have is based on something that is worth being excited about! I should be focusing on it, thinking, and even reveling in it! GREATLY rejoicing!
If I am living my life this way, then everything that comes across my field of vision is seen through the lens of my eternal position with God. It gives my circumstances an eternal perspective rather than a temporal one. It is necessary as a person living here on a fallen earth that I go through hard things. Why? It doesn’t matter. I have an eternal gift. How long will it last? It doesn’t matter. My life is a blink compared to the length of my inheritance. Why do I have to feel this pain? To remind me of the pain that was required to purchase my gift, and because I am not supposed to find comfort in this world anymore. I am now an alien in this world. I have these things happen in my life so I will have the opportunity to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. This is my reasonable service for the gift I have been given. Not to repay, but in honor of the One who did pay.
“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;”
The rejoicing is the proof of my faith. It shows the work that my relationship with Christ is doing in my life. Nothing else can do it, and nothing else can explain it. This is the refining process. It brings me closer to what God wants me to be, and His goal is to see that the proof of my faith is seen by others. That is more precious than gold.
Gold is viewed here on earth as being one of our most valuable things. When put to heat, the impurities are removed it maintains its luster while showing no real signs of corrosion or tarnish. When we look at gold we view it as a standard of perfection, something greatly desired. The proving of my faith in the middle of trials makes gold about as imperishable as toilet paper on a rainy day. Worthless.
Where am I putting my focus? Is it on Christ or is it on the things around me? Am I looking to Him in the midst of the storm and continuing to walk toward Him despite the wind and waves, or am I distracted by the turmoil around me until I sink in the sea of my circumstances? I have not seen Him, but I see His work. I see the changes that are happening in my life as I grow closer to Him through Bible study and prayer. I see my relationships changing as I seek to follow biblical principles in how I relate with those I love and my friends. I am excited about the changes, and being aware of them and rejoicing in them helps me keep that focus. Sharing that work with others helps me to keep that focus!
This is why I am writing the things I write here. Not to brag, but to share what is happening in my life. I want to share the good and the bad, the reality of my situations. Not so people can see how I do life, but so they can see the result of God at work. I would rather crawl into a cave most of the time, to wallow in my circumstances, but it gets me nowhere. It is never going to get me anywhere.
The prize is my eternal life, and the refining is what gives me joy in knowing that life is mine. In the middle of the refining I have to remember to ask myself if I am looking at my circumstances in the light of eternity or in the moment. This is the pivotal question. When I have that answer I have a choice to make, and welcoming the experience as a chance to learn, to grow, and to give God glory is the choice I must make for real joy. Every time I make that choice I am in the process of refining.