I am a pretty big fan of what often get’s labeled as nerdy movies and shows. I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Marvel Movies. For the most part it’s just fun entertainment, but every now and then I’ll hear a line or quote in a movie and think “that’s actually a pretty good quote.” One of those quotes if from the original Star Wars movie. One of the characters begins to bemoan about being stranded on the desert planet of Tatooine and says:“We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life.”
Nearly every time I hear him say that I think to myself “he’s not that far off.” Suffering is an inevitable part of our lives. But the book of 1 Peter not only acknowledges this, but it gives us hope in and a way to navigate through our suffering. It was written by the apostle Peter to Christians in modern day Turkey somewhere between AD 62-64. These believers were under heavy persecution from the Roman Emperor Nero. Peter’s goal was to encourage these suffering believers to stand firm in their faith in the middle of being persecuted.
Throughout the book we are reminded that as believers we are “exiles” (1:1; 2:11) and “strangers” (2:11) in this world and that informs how we live our lives. As author Jared C. Wilson put’s it “As trials come, the understanding that such suffering can be the mark and measure of faithfulness helps these early Christians to see that affliction is one more means of Christlikeness and, indeed, one more avenue of true joy.”
The Reminder of our Salvation
1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ: To those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient and to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
As Peter starts off this small, but powerful book he reminds us of our identity. We are CHOSEN BY GOD, but we are also living as exiles. In verse 2 we see all three persons of the trinity are active in salvation. “The Father purposes the saving work, the Son accomplishes the work by his blood, and the Spirit applies the work to the sinner.”
It feels like Peter is celebrating the amazing gift of salvation as he is greeting everyone. He is reminding them of who they are. That is why he can tell these suffering Christians grace and peace be multiplied to you! Then in verse three he jumps right into the mercy of God.
1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
As Peter seeks to encourage these believers, and us, he starts preaching about the beauty of the gospel. He is reminding us how amazing our salvation is. Even though everything around us may feel like it is falling apart, our salvation, and by extension us, is secure. Charles Spurgeon reminds us that “The inheritance of the saints of God has nothing within it that can make it perish.”
In a few weeks my family is going to go on vacation. We had planned to spend a night at the Great Wolf Lodge in Anaheim, California. It has a nice resort and an amazing indoor water park that my kids would have loved! However, our reservation got cancelled due to COVID-19 about a week later. I think nearly everyone I know has had at least one thing cancelled on them because of the coronavirus. As frustrating as having a reservation get cancelled can be, your reservation in heaven will never be cancelled. The POWER OF GOD is guarding it!
Peter takes us on a deep dive into the gospel and he leads us to God’s sovereign power and assurance before he unpacks what it looks like to endure suffering while living a holy life. The type of power needed to thrive while living in a place that is not our home can only be found in the gospel! You have the power of God available to you so that you can thrive, even while suffering. Peter continues:
1 Peter 1:6-9 You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith — more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This power and security we have in Christ should be our biggest source of joy! – Even if you are suffering. Consider what Peter said in chapter four.
1 Peter 4:13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed.
Why do we rejoice? Because suffering is designed (for the believer) to do three things: Prove Your Faith, Strengthen Your Faith, and Glorify Your Savior. It is through suffering that we have the opportunity to become more like Jesus! Another quote from Charles Spurgeon is helpful here. He says. “Faith is a sword. Whoever has it may expect, between here and heaven, to learn what battle means. We must expect trial because trial is the element of faith. Faith without trial is like a diamond uncut, the brilliance of which has never been seen. A fish without water or a bird without air is faith without trial. We may surely expect our faith will be tested.”
Christianity and suffering are vitally connected. Those who are in Christ will suffer and will continue to be made like Christ as they share in Christ’s suffering. Consider Romans five.
Romans 5:3-4 And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.
We can rejoice in our afflictions because we know where it is leading us. Because of the gospel we have power and assurance that enables us to obey God and persevere in the face of suffering without loosing our faith. Our security in Christ gives us HOLY GRIT. We can endure hard days and even thrive through them because we know that we are eternally secure. We can faithfully follow and obey God because we are eternally secure in him. All these amazing truths about the gospel are nothing new. Peter reminds us that the prophets wrote about them. The entire Bible is God’s unfolding plan of redemption that even the angels long to catch a glimpse of it.
With that foundation laid Peter now moves into how we live and thrive as obedient exiles. So how do we suffer well?
The Call to Holy Living
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be sober-minded and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
The very first thing that Peter challenges us to do is to completely set our hope on God’s future grace. This world is not our home. One day Jesus will return and the expectation of that future event should determines how we think in the here and now. What we know about our future determines how we live now. So let’s get our minds ready for action. Set our hope on God’s grace.
Often when we are struggling this is the last thing we want to do. It’s easier to wallow in our misery. It’s easier to focus on everything wrong in our lives. Our feelings want to forget about obeying God and living a holy life because, after all, we are suffering! But Peter calls us to holy living in our suffering because that is the best thing for us. When we make compromising in our suffering we often compound our hurt by stepping outside of God’s plan. But we have to remember that “trusting Christ isn’t a feeling; it’s a decision to obey.” And that decision starts in our minds. So they question we need to grapple with is what are you allowing to shape your mind? Talk Radio? CNN? Fox News? Facebook arguments? How much of God’s Word are you letting shape your mind?
When I really struggle with everything going on in 2020 it is because I have forgotten everything Peter said in verses 1-12 and my mind isn’t ready for action because my hope isn’t set on God’s grace. I often forget that I’m an exile who doesn’t really belong here. I then begin to act as though this life is all there is instead of the blip on the radar of eternity that it really is. Even though everything around us feels like it’s falling apart, God gives us this amazing assurance that can never be shaken. And as begins to call us to holiness, he wants that to be front and center of our attention. But let’s keep moving.
1 Peter 1:14-21 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. If you appeal to the Father who judges impartially according to each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in reverence during your time living as strangers. For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was revealed in these last times for you. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
At the beginning of verse 14 Peter says “As obedient children.” Here is another identity statement. You are God’s child and as his child you seek to be like him. At some point in my 6 years as a dad I have seen all four of my kids put on and try to walk in my shoes. They stumble and fall. But they want to be like their dad. That is how God wants us to look at holy living. Peter also reminds us that God purchased us – so we no longer belong to ourselves, but him. We have a new allegiance to God and God alone. The price for our souls was not silver and gold, but the precious blood of Jesus and this has been a part of God’s plan for all of eternity. Let’s wrap up the last few verses.
1 Peter 1:22-25 Since you have purified yourselves by your obedience to the truth, so that you show sincere brotherly love for each other, from a pure heart love one another constantly, because you have been born again — not of perishable seed but of imperishable — through the living and enduring word of God. For All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this word is the gospel that was proclaimed to you.
Every instruction for how we are to live our lives is grows out of and is enabled by that small phrase “because you have been born again.” Because we are redeemed, we are free to live a life of joy-filled obedience. Because we are loved, we are free to live a life of love. I love how Peter wraps up chapter one. He quotes Isaiah 40:6-8 and ties it in with the gospel. The Word of the Lord that endures forever is the gospel. The gospel will not fade away. It is our abiding hope for ever. So here is our takeaway for chapter one: Think on Christ and live for Christ.