There is hope in the person of Jesus.
Peter’s letter was not written to instruct believers if they experience suffering, but when they experience it. Suffering is a guarantee for the Christian life, but that should not be a source of discouragement for those who follow Christ.
Peter wrote his letter to Christians experiencing persecution throughout the Roman Empire. During the first three centuries of the Church, believers were constantly oppressed because of their faith. They were threatened, imprisoned, and violently executed as entertainment, like that of the gladiator-like battle in front of the public. This is the context Peter was writing to address so let’s take a look at what he had to say.
1 Peter 1:3-12 (ESV)
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,
7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
10Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,
11inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.
12It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
Living hope is comprehensive. It means it is a balance of realizing it is always faithful and remains the same, but we, being the ones that change often, need Christ in different ways at different time. Christ as a living hope means that he is healer when you’re broken. He is joy in your sadness. He is savior to you sinfulness. He is hope to your despair.
After reminding his readers of who they are, Peter makes a surprising statement in verse 6: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” He doesn’t tell his readers that soon their faith will bring them reprieve, that God will reward them with worldly comfort. Rather, he makes it clear that suffering and joy can—and should—co-exist.
Like children adopted into a loving family, we have been chosen by God and blessed not only with a birthright, but also with an inheritance sealed for us by the Holy Spirit. We belong to a loving Father who allows hardship into our lives for the sake of maturing our faith. Once again, throughout these verses Peter is explaining who we are because our hope comes from a new identity, not merely new instructions.
Again, our suffering and our joy exist simultaneously.
James 1:1-4 (ESV)
1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Here is the truth:
You are living where you’re living and facing what you’re facing because that’s exactly how God wanted it to be. This is a hard saying, but God is sovereign and he is in control of what is happening. The hardships that we all face between the “already” and the “not yet” are not a sign of the failure of God’s redeeming work, but rather a very important tool of it.
It creates opportunity for you to trust him in the storm. It gives you opportunity to have your faith tested to produce steadfastness. All of this so that when you are faced with a truly devastating reality at some point in your life, you will be lacking in nothing. When you face the mightiest storm imaginable you look that storm in the face and say, “I have an even mightier God and I am a child of the King of kings!”
1 Peter 1:6-7 says: In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
I love that we get to see the greatness of God. He is steadfast. He produces newness of life in us through Jesus Christ.
I love that this is something exclusive to humanity. Look at verse 12…
they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
Even a creation as awesome as angels… something that if you ever saw it, it would blow your mind. Even angels long to look upon the incredible work of salvation. We experience something from God that even angels don’t get to experience.
That is something to be excited about. That is what sparks the fire of joy into our hearts even in trials and suffering.
1 Peter 1:13-25 (ESV)
13Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,
15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
17And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,
19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you
21who 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.
22Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
23since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
24for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
What are the commands we see in this section of scripture?
1 )Live holy. (The meaning of holy as something that is “separate” or “set apart.”)
2) Love others. A life of service and putting others needs above your own.
Life with Christ is one of both joy and suffering. The trials we face remind us that this is not our home. Because of his sacrifice, our hardships are temporary, but our hope is eternal. Even more, through faith in Christ the Holy Spirit has transformed us such that we can face suffering with joy. Our hope is no longer rooted in our circumstances, but in the unchanging faithfulness of God.
I want to end our session by reminding you that your identity always drives your behavior. Who we are determines how we will live. If you have trusted in Christ, then you are a new creation and hardship provides the opportunity to reflect that to the world. So, take heart in the difficult days. They are not a surprise to God and he allows them to refine your faith and bring glory to his name.
Where do you find it most difficult to “live holy” in your daily life?
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16
Identify someone struggling, maybe even another believer having a hard time with feelings of being an “outsider.” Make an intentional effort to encourage him or her with the hope of Jesus, that he is near and at work within even if we cannot see it.
Meditate on 1 Peter 1:3-9 today. Let the Word of God be an encouragement of hope to you and may your faith increase.