MESSAGE DELIVERED: NOVEMBER 19, 2017
It seems like lately an unusually large number of our flock are being forced to suffer various trials and afflictions. And it seems the most usual question I’m asked is “WHY?” In the midst of all that is happening, WHY is this happening to ME?” Or, “Why is God ALLOWING this to happen to me? I’m a believer, and I TRY to live a Godly life, so WHY am I suffering?” Or, “WHY aren’t my prayers being answered”?
The most honest answer I can give to those questions is…”I DON’T KNOW”! And that’s not to say that GOD doesn’t have a perfectly good reason…or…that HIS Will isn’t perfect and righteous. It just means that WE, as mere humans, don’t always have all the answers.
“Consider My servant, Job.” That’s what God said to Satan. And AFTER that brief conversation, Satan began to cause Job to suffer TRIAL after TRIAL, CALAMITY after CALAMITY! He lost all his possessions. He lost his family. He lost his health. And he STRUGGLED with “WHY”?
But NO one, absolutely NO one could ever have come up with the real reason for all this suffering, which was: God was using a faithful servant to teach that lying DEVIL a lesson IN faithfulness.
So, even though we may never know why we are afflicted, we can still be confidant that there IS a reason, and GOD is still in control. And for those who ARE His, He will never allow you to suffer one MOMENT longer than is absolutely necessary. And He will NEVER cast YOU OUT of His HAND!
God knows what you are trying to deal with. He is the God of all Creation, and His Hand will be upon you, even in the midst of that trial…or ESPECIALLY in the midst of that trial.
The letter we just read a part of was written by Peter around 64 A.D. And according to the next to the last verse we read, it was written from BABYLON. That was probably a symbolic reference to ROME, since there is no tradition that tells us that Peter ever traveled TO the ancient city OF Babylon, which at the time this letter was written, was little more than a collection of ruins, way out on the desert.
Today, now, through the efforts of Saddam Hussein, that ancient city has largely BEEN rebuilt…but in Peter’s time, it was just a ruin. We do know that Peter spent a lot of time in the Imperial City of Rome, where he was going to be executed by Nero, less than four years after writing this.
So we’re pretty safe in assuming that, since Rome was a center for all sorts of idolatry and idol worship, the term “Babylon’, would have been a fitting description for Rome.
And it was from that setting that he wrote this letter to gentile Christians who were scattered across the Roman Empire, to encourage them and comfort them as persecution increased.
Those early believers were living in a world that was growing increasingly hostile to Christianity, and that makes this letter especially relevant to US, as well.
Shortly after Peter wrote this letter, Emperor Nero began to, not just persecute Christians, but to actively try to STAMP OUT Christianity. He began to drag believers into the ARENA, and throw them to the lions, for sport! He had believers sewn inside the skins of freshly killed sheep, and then had starving HOUNDS turned loose on them, for sport.
He even had Christians coated with tar, tied to posts, and set on fire, by the dozens, to light the arena at night, so even more Christians could be killed. Nothing was too diabolical for him.
I’m not saying that things will get that bad HERE, but I am saying that, in the very near future, it is going to become increasingly DIFFICULT and UNPOPULAR, to BE a Christian and you can already see some signs of that.
I’ve told you before that, up in Colorado a few years back, an initiative was placed on the ballot to remove church’s tax-exempt status. The initiative was defeated, but only narrowly, so you can expect it to be back soon.
A city in Ohio has forced a couple to CEASE holding a Bible Study in their own home, until they obtain a BUSINESS permit. They had held that study for YEARS before being hit with this demand. A couple in California has been forced to stop holding a Bible study in THEIR home, because the city claimed the 3 or 4 cars of the attendees was creating a road obstruction.
Things like that are only the beginning. We have seen God removed from the public schools, government buildings, sporting events, and the list continues.
Secular America is attempting to CONFINE God to the churches. And you can bet when they accomplish that, then attacking the CHURCHES will be next on their agenda.
So, in that sense, Peter was writing to us, and in the sense of SUFFERING this becomes even more relevant. And for a lot of people, whether we suffer physically or spiritually, it’s all too easy to think that God has become DISTANT, and that He doesn’t CARE about our afflictions. And we begin to feel HOPELESS, and HELPLESS!
The Apostle knew what his readers were facing. He knew what they were suffering. He knew they were being oppressed. And he wrote these words to them, to give them encouragement, and confidence, and assurance, that God’s Mercies would not desert them.
Everyone who reads this letter, both then and now, needs to know that even though they face trials and difficult times…and even though God SEEMS to be silent, He is still merciful. So Peter begins this passage with a beautiful declaration of praise.
Just look at what he said in verse 3. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has begotten us again to a living hope, through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
The word that is translated “blessed”, is the Greek word “EULOGIA”, from which we get our English word, “EULOGY”, which means to be well-spoken of…or, to be praised.
Peter reminds us right up front that God is to be praised, verbally and vocally, by all believers, EVERYwhere! Now, I know that in some churches that would be frowned on by those that think a ‘solemn silence’ is a great virtue.
We’ve had people come here, and then leave, because the preservice atmosphere HERE, is NOT ‘silence’, but rather the joyful EXUBERANCE of a FAMILY REUNION!
But what Peter was saying in verse three is literally, “PRAISE GOD!”, and the rest of the verse tells us WHY we should be praising God…”Who according to His abundant Mercy, has Begotten us again”.
If, for NO other reason, EVERY Christian SHOULD be LOUDLY praising God, for having BEEN “Born Again”! It was ENTIRELY through God’s OWN initiative that we have been ALLOWED to be included in HIS Family! God is our FATHER, and Jesus, His Son, is OUR elder BROTHER…BY His MERCY!
For THAT reason alone, God is worthy of ALL our praise. But there is MORE! There is MUCH more!
That term, “begotten again”, is only used twice in the entire New Testament, and both times, by Peter, and in this chapter! In verse 23, he uses it again. But in SECULAR writings, it appears OFTEN, in a BOTANICAL sense. It is used to describe TREES and PLANTS, coming BACK to life, in the SPRING, after being DEAD in appearance, during the winter’s cold.
Peter is giving us the posture of the HEART of a man or a woman, all shriveled and dry…lifeless…until God implants His Salvation there. And when that happens, we BURST into NEW life. We put out new LEAVES and BRANCHES, and we GROW…in GRACE and KNOWLEDGE. We have PASSED, from death into life. We have been “BEGOTTEN AGAIN”!
And we are Begotten to a “LIVELY HOPE”. That is to be understood in terms of the RESURRECTION. When the word, “HOPE”, is used in the Bible, it carries a distinctive meaning. It means “Confident Expectation”. Today the word, ‘hope’, has a much different meaning. It has become more of a ‘wish’. “I hope it doesn’t rain on our picnic”! “I hope I don’t run out of gas”!
The RESURRECTION is the CENTRAL HOPE of Christianity, but it is NOT something we WISH for…somewhere maybe off there in the distance somehow, in the future.
The Resurrection is the ABSOLUTE ASSURANCE that we have, because CHRIST Arose, that WE will, TOO!
Then in verse 4, he hints at the GLORY to come…the Glory that is waiting for us, as a result OF that Second Birth…our INHERITANCE! An INHERITANCE is not so much a PROMISE of something to come, as it is a SECURE POSSESSION, just waiting for the right TIME, to be given!
This idea of an inheritance was a lot more important to the JEWS of Peter’s day, than it probably is to US, today. To the Jew, the idea of an INHERITANCE was incorporated into the FAMILY inheritance, as WELL as the blessings of God in the Gift of the PROMISED Land.
But to us Christians today, our inheritance is NOT the LAND, but the LORD Himself!…that special RELATIONSHIP that we have with GOD, right NOW!…even if needs-be, in the midst of suffering. We STILL have the PROMISE of unending PARADISE, WITH the Lord, yet to come!
AND, it is an inheritance “INCORRUPTIBLE, UNDEFILED, AND FADING NOT AWAY”. THAT is the ONLY real and lasting treasure there is. On this Earth, every brick, every ornate marble column, will, one day, crumble away to dust. Diamonds will chip and shatter, gold will wear away…but what GOD is offering, will last for all ETERNITY!
And it is “UNDEFILED”. It has no spot or blemish, no wrinkle or stain. Just pure, unadulterated JOY!…that will NEVER fade away!
THAT term referred to the CROWN that an ATHLETE is given, for his victory in some sport. That crown entitled its wearer to certain privileges and benefits! But, ONLY for THAT day! The crown was made of LAUREL leaves, and the NEXT day, it would be WILTED and USELESS, and you’d have to compete all OVER again, to try to win another.
Your inheritance in HEAVEN will NEVER fade, and it is RESERVED, and waiting for YOU. Have you ever made a reservation at a hotel or restaurant only to find when you arrived that there had been a MIX-UP, and your reservation had been given to someone ELSE? Or you were a few minutes late, and the reservation had been canceled?
That will NEVER happen with your reservation in Heaven. Your inheritance there is SECURE! It is held with a CONFIRMATION that it will NEVER be lost.
And that’s why we need to often remind ourselves, when troubles come, THIS world is NOT our HOME! We are ONLY ‘passing through’…we’re only PILGRIMS, on our way to our TRUE, FOREVER Home!
THIS world is BEAUTIFUL, but TEMPORARY. It is NOT my HOME, and it is NOT my HOPE! Even when God SEEMS to be SILENT, my HOPE is STILL in GLORY! And it is SECURE! It has been PURCHASED, and CONFIRMED, by the Precious Blood of Jesus Himself!
Verse 5 says “We are KEPT, by the Power of God, through FAITH”! From that word, “kept”, there’s also the word, “keep”, as in “Castle Keep”, the most secure, fortified, unassailable part of any garrison…that place of TOTAL and COMPLETE safety, where NO harm can EVER threaten, no matter WHAT is thrown at it.
A good example of that is, that place in Washington D.C., deep underground, and so HARDENED, that it will even withstand a direct hit by a nuclear device. THAT is a “KEEP”…the place where our president and other political big shots will retreat to, if we are ever attacked by a foreign power.
And boy-howdy, don’t that make you sleep well at night, knowing that if our country is ever wiped out, in the event of all-out atomic attack that our POLITICIANS will SURVIVE? Everything ELSE will be gone…there’ll be no more COUNTRY left, but we’ll still have POLITICIANS! HOORAY!
But listen, this “stronghold” concept means you are “KEPT”, by the power of God Himself, for HIS Salvation, which is READY to be REVEALED, when the TIME is RIGHT!…when the FULLNESS of time rolls back again.
EVERYTHING is done! EVERYTHING is ready! The ONLY thing we are WAITING for NOW, is for God to say “It’s TIME!”, and then we’ll see all the wonders He has prepared for us. EVERYTHING is READY, and He could CALL us at ANY time.
In verse 6 Peter said “In this you greatly rejoice”. In the Greek, those two words, ‘greatly rejoice’, are a SINGLE word, in the present imperative tense. So you could read that as “ALWAYS rejoice greatly”, and that would make it a parallel to what he said in verse 3. There, it was “Praise God!”, and HERE it is “ALWAYS REJOICE”!
Listen church, God wants us to be happy. You may not realize that, by looking at some of God’s PEOPLE. Actually, by looking AT them, you might get the idea that SALVATION HURTS!…or maybe their HALO is TOO TIGHT!…like maybe it slipped down around their neck and is CHOKING them!
But God really DOES want us to be happy, and to enjoy the ABUNDANT life He has given you. The life that Jesus told us how to be happy in, in the passage of MATTHEW’S Gospel, called “The Beatitudes”…even though it DOES say, in the second half of verse 6…”Though now for a little while, if NEED be, you have been grieved by various trials”. Sometimes, trials come. Sometimes problems beset us. But Peter is telling us to KEEP things in perspective. Our troubles here, last only for a LITTLE while. Our Hope in Christ is FOREVER!
When you can look at this life we’re living now, from an ETERNAL perspective, it allows you to see how SHORT-LIVED our troubles really are.
I remember years ago, when I was just a little boy, and had ridden my pet dinosaur to Sunday School and heard the teacher telling us about how LONG eternity is. She said “If a bird flew over the Grand Canyon, once each year, and dropped a PEBBLE into the canyon, by the time that canyon was FILLED with those pebbles, eternity would have just begun”!
That should actually tell you TWO things. FIRST, the lessons we learn IN Sunday School can last a lifetime…and second, this present lifetime we’re living NOW, is just a SPARK, against the backdrop of FOREVER!
So verse 7 reads “The TRIAL (or the genuineness) of your Faith, being much more precious than gold…may be found to praise, honor and glory at the Revelation of Jesus Christ”.
That tells you that any suffering you might experience NOW, is meant to produce PRAISE! So let me try to wrap this up. But not like PAUL, who might say “and in conclusion…” and then go ON for three more chapters. I won’t do that.
But I want to go back to that question we started with…”Why do we suffer”…and tell you my ANSWER is still the same…”I DON’T KNOW”. But I CAN give you some POSSIBLE reasons from God’s Word. SOMETIMES trials come…
(1) To produce FRUIT! Romans 5:3 says “tribulation produces patience”.
(2) To SILENCE the devil…as God did with Job’s suffering.
(3) To Glorify God, as with the man born blind. God received Glory through the man’s HEALING.
(4) To make us more like Jesus. Philippians 3:10 says “that I might know Him, and the POWER of His Resurrection, and the FELLOWSHIP of His suffering”.
(5) To teach us DEPENDENCE, as in the parable of The Vine and the branches.
(6) To REFINE our Faith, as we just read from 1st Peter.
(7) To REBUKE our sin. Hebrews 12:6 says “whom the Lord loves He chastens”.
And ONE MORE reason. To GIVE us a MINISTRY. Listen, NO one can speak to a suffering person, like one who has experienced the SAME suffering, or ENDURED the same TRIAL!
If you’re suffering, there IS a reason FOR it! We may never KNOW what that reason was…as JOB never learned, in this life, WHY he had to suffer as he did. But I can promise you there IS a reason.
So here’s the ULTIMATE example, from Hebrews 12:2. “Jesus, Who for the JOY that was set before Him, ENDURED the Cross, despising its SHAME!”
Sometimes, people have to suffer. That is incontrovertible. But GOD is STILL in control, and He KNOWS what you have to endure, and He CARES about how you must suffer.
So I want to invite you this morning, to BRING your trial TO Him. Come and LAY it at the Foot of The Cross, the CROSS where JESUS suffered, for things HE didn’t do. He suffered for what I did…for what YOU did! Bring your pain to Him, and let Him HELP you with it!
That doesn’t mean that He will necessarily take it AWAY from you, but He WILL help you BEAR it.
And let me invite you to come to Him for FORGIVENESS…of your SINS, or your FAILINGS.
Let Him bring SALVATION to your SOUL. Let Him bring CLEANSING to your MIND…or HEALING to your BODY!
I am NOT one of those guys who claim to have the ability to HEAL you. I don’t know ANYBODY who can actually DO that, other than the Lord Himself…but He CAN, if He believes that is BEST for you.
Or if it’s better that YOU BEAR it, He can HELP you. So here’s your invitation. BRING your PAIN…or your TRIAL…or your PROBLEMS to the Lord. Let me join you in prayer about them, and just TRUST that the One Who loves you enough to DIE for you, loves you enough to CARE about you, too.
Just listen with your HEART and then DO, what He is telling you to do.