Living a life rooted in the grace of God in challenging times.
If someone says to you “tell me a bit about yourself”, what do you say?
For me, I might say, I am a husband, father, a preacher, a Zimbabwean and I am from Rusitu in Chimanimani. All these things are true about me, but there is something about me that really shapes everything else. It changes the way I exercise my role as a father, husband and citizen. That is my identity in Jesus. Friends, it is important to know who you are, because that will define you and shape your choices in life. What you will do with your time? What you will do with your money or resources and how you will respond to life’s challenges. Over the next few weeks, we will spend some time looking at the book of 1 Peter. At the end of this short book of the bible, the writer, Apostle Peter, tells us his reason for writing, hear what he says " by Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it" ( 1 Peter 5:12).
Peter was writing to Christians who were scattered in the area we now call Turkey. These Christians were facing many challenges. They were being persecuted for their faith. They were being insulted for their faith. Maybe they were beginning to wonder, is Christianity worth it? Maybe they were beginning to suffer an identity crisis, because they still looked like everyone else, but their new faith made them very different (remember the church was still new and growing). Peter the Apostle says he is writing to declare the grace of God and exhort them to stand firm in that grace (5v12). That is why I named this series STAND FIRM. It is my prayer that as we go through this book, you will be encouraged to stand firm in your faith. And if you are not a believer, I pray that this may be a window into what Christians believe. So, what is this grace of God which he wants to declare to them? Well, in this article we will focus on the first 12 verses of chapter 1. Firstly, he wants to remind them of how precious their salvation is;
You have a glorious salvation
Peter reminds these Christians that, God the Father, the creator of the whole universe has chosen them in his plan before the foundation of the world. He did this “by means of His powerful Spirit at work, who sanctified them, that is making them holy. And all this was possible because of Jesus’ obedience (that is his faithfulness) and his sacrifice ( 1 Peter 1:2). This is their identity. Yes, some of them were mothers, fathers, businesspeople, maybe some were professionals or even slaves. Peter is saying, the one thing that shapes their identity is the grace of God upon their lives. And did you see that it involves the whole trinity?
As they were being ridiculed and persecuted, Peter is saying , remember this is who you are now. As we begin this series, that is my prayer. That we may understand truly, the riches of God’s grace towards us. How it shapes our lives now and forever. If you are a Christian, you have something precious, something glorious. Hear what Peter says about this glorious salvation;
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time. the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It 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. (1 Peter 1: 10-12)
Peter is saying your salvation is precious, it is glorious, and you are in a very privileged position. The prophets of the Old Testament prophesied about the coming salvation God was going to bring. But they did not have the full picture. They longed to understand how God was going to redeem his people. And you and I, now know how this plan worked out. While we were still sinners, God sent his son, who lived a perfect life, yet died like a criminal on the cross, and on the third day he rose again. And if you put your trust in Jesus, God will no longer hold your sins against you, because Jesus took them to the cross, he gave us his righteousness. This is the gospel! Friends this is glorious news. This is the good news of the gospel we need to hear, and we need to stand firm in that. This gives us a secure hope.
You have a secure hope
Peter wants them to know that they have a sure and secure hope of the future. That future is certain because God has already accomplished all that is necessary for their salvation. When Jesus rose again from the dead on the third day, it was a sure sign that he had indeed conquered sin and death. Because our saviour lives now, we have a living hope. "..he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3)
Peter goes on to talk about an inheritance awaiting these elect exiles. I am sure many of us have inherited things from our loved ones who have passed on. Even if we haven’t, we know the problem with earthly inheritance. It can be stolen. If not stolen, it can be wiped away by inflation, we know this too well here in Zimbabwe. Even if its property, it can lose value, or it can be destroyed by natural disasters. Peter is saying your hope is not like that. It can never be defiled. It can never decay. It can never be destroyed. And do you know where it is kept? In heaven, not in Zimbabwe!. What if I don’t make it to heaven, you may ask? You see, not only is God keeping our inheritance for us, he is also keeping us for our inheritance (1 Peter 1: 3-5). We need to hear this. We need to place our hope in this secure truth, because in this world, people will disappoint us, systems will fail, natural disasters will come, pandemics will come. But the hope we have in Christ is secure. So when the going gets tough, when you wonder if it is worth it, when you feel like an outsider, an exile because of your faith and the temptation to compromise or give up lingers, may you remember that you have a glorious salvation; you have a secure hope. Stand firm in it. And as we do that, we are able to rejoice even in our suffering.
Rejoice in your suffering
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials (1 Peter 1:6)
This is not to say we are always happy. Peter is talking about a deep-seated joy with certainty, that allows us to remain hopeful even when tears are rolling down our eyes. Many of you have heard the story of Horatio Spafford, a successful lawyer and businessman from the 19th century. His young son died of pneumonia in 1871. In that same year, much of his business was lost in the great Chicago fire. On Nov. 21, 1873, the French ocean liner, the ship carrying his wife and 4 daughters collided with another ship killing all 4 daughters and only his wife survived. After 9 days, she managed to get to the shore with help and sent a telegram to her husband which read “saved alone, what should I do”. Spafford booked the next ship, and it is on that journey that he wrote the common hymn “it is well with my soul” Friends, I pray that we may truly know who we are in Christ. Because if we do, it changes everything. Like Spafford, we can stand firm, and sing “It is well with my soul”, even in the worst crisis of our lives.