Joy in the Midst of Suffering (1 Peter 1:1-12)
Topic: Corporate Worship Passage: 1 Peter 1:1–1:12
It is good to be with you this morning as we begin our journey through 1 Peter together. Before we get started, I wanted to take just a few minutes and share with you why we choose 1 Peter as the next book for us to preach through together as a church.
WHY 1 PETER?
The first reason is because of the author - its Peter! As we walked through the Gospel of Mark together, we were introduced to this very zealous, overly confident, yet extremely inconsistent man. We saw many examples of Peter’s failures - to include denying Jesus 3 times. But we also saw that we share a lot of those same characteristics ourselves as well. All of us can relate to Peter in some way. Yet, in this book we see that despite Peter’s many failures, God restored him and he persevered. 1 Peter was written about 30 years after the crucifixion of Jesus and in it we see a older man that has gained much wisdom and maturity. The fact that Peter is writing this letter at all is evidence of the grace of God. This serves as an encouragement to all of us as we look at our own failures and wonder if God will still use us.
The second reason is because of the audience. Very much like us, the church Peter is writing to is a young church that has and continues to experience various forms of trials and suffering. It serves as a reminder to us that for 2000 years, the church has always been characterized not just by its beliefs, but also by its suffering.
The third and final reason is in the answers it provides. If you were writing to a group people that were suffering, what would you write? Well, you would write words of love, comfort, and hope. And we see Peter write using words like these. But thats not all he writes. Peter doesn't just give words of comfort but also gives this church a vision of something far greater than the vision of what they are going currently going through.
As a pastor, I have been burdened by the various trails I have seen many of you walk through and continue to walk through. I have felt the challenge and pressure in seeking to provide answers to the questions that these various trials have produced. But the reality is that my answers aren't sufficient unless they come from the Word of God and help us to view our present circumstances in light of eternity. And 1 Peter will help us here.
Peter’s purpose is to help these early believers see their temporary sufferings in the light of the coming eternal glory. And in that there is much love, hope, and comfort to be found, for them and for us. So with that said, let's dive in.
Before Peter tells these believers how to respond to their current circumstances, he is going to remind them of something much more important. He begins his letter by first reminding them and and us of 4 things that we have been given as Christians. It is these things that he wants us to be reminded of before we do anything. These will serve to give us the right perspective as we view our current circumstances. And they are foundational for doing so.
Peter wants to remind us that we have been given:
- A New Identity in Christ
- A New Inheritance in Christ
- A New Goal in Christ
- A New Joy in Christ
POINT #1 - A NEW IDENTITY IN CHRIST
Peter begins by first reminding them of their new identity in Christ. See, suffering has a way of causing us to forget who we truly are. And the reason is because it is hard to remember who we are when it seems like everything around us is falling apart. In an attempt to look for stability, we tend to forget our true identity.
The only thing that is going to provide us with the much needed stability we are looking for is to be first reminded of our identity in Christ. Before he says anything else to them, Peter first roots everything he is going to say to these believers by first reminding them of who they are in Christ.
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” (1 Peter 1:1, ESV)
Notice that he addresses these believers as “elect exiles”. It has been 30 years since the resurrection of Christ. And because of the advance of the gospel, Christianity is now spreading throughout the region. Because of this, there are now Christians in foreign lands. But the word “exiles” here is referring to more than just a physical location. It really is describing the spiritual identity of what it means to be a Christian. Peter is reminding us that Christians are “elect exiles”. Or another way to say it would be “chosen aliens”.
It doesn't take long once you become a Christian to realize that you are no longer of this world. It just seems like you don't fit in it anymore. Its like you are given a new set of glasses and see everything different now. Where once, the world used to seem attractive and comfortable, that no longer seems to be the case.
Our hearts are now motivated by different kinds of motivations. Our affections are now attracted to different types of beauty. What is now important to us, does not seem important to others. As Christians we now seem to find our joy in things others don't seem to find their joy in. And we also seem to find our sorrow in things that others don't seem to find their sorrow in. It can feel like a very isolating experience.
But Peter wants his readers and us to know that it is a privilege to an exile. Because we are not just exiles but we are “chosen exiles”. To be a Christian means that we have chosen by God to belong to another kingdom. In the world, we regarded as enemies of God. But now, in this new kingdom, we are regarded as children of God.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
(1 John 3:1, ESV)
Rather than wish we felt more comfortable in the world, this feeling of being an exile should really serve as an assurance that you are a child of God. To be an exile means that we have been shown grace. And Peter wants to show us that grace in the trinitarian love of God. We were made exiles...
“according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” (1 Peter 1:2, ESV)
Peter wants us to remember that we have a Father that knew us and loved us before we were ever born.
“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:4, ESV)
Your salvation was secured before the foundation of the world in the electing grace of God the Father. But God isn't just in the business of saving us but also changing us. Which is why He has given us the Holy Spirit to also change us. The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is the means that God uses to apply the work of Christ to our lives and continually change us.
For what purpose? For obedience to Jesus Christ - to become more like Him. And for sprinkling with his blood. Because of the remaining presence of sin in our lives we are in daily need of forgiveness and cleansing. And we are continually being cleansed by the blood of Christ.
Do you see how the entire trinity is involved in the work of your salvation? Not just at conversion - but even now. This is your identity. This is who you are. And it is this identity to which we must enter our sufferings with. Otherwise, there will be no way to make sense of them.
Peter wants them to know that there is much grace and peace to be found in this identity which is why he prays that it would be multiplied in them and in us. And, as if that wasnt enough, Peter wants us to know that we don't just have a new identity, but we also have a new inheritance.
POINT #2 - A NEW INHERITANCE IN CHRIST
Peter now moves from our current identity in Christ to what Christ has accomplished for us in the past and wait awaits us in the future.
“Blessed 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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” (1 Peter 1:3–4, ESV)
Because of the death of Christ we now have a living hope. We were once spiritually dead. But God made us alive through the resurrection of Christ. And apart from experiencing that, we would still be dead in our sins and without hope.
Now, why did he do that? Not because we are good. Not because we were worthy. What does it say? But because of His great mercy. How does he do it? By the power of the resurrection of Jesus. We are raised to new life with the same power that raised Christ from the dead. And along with that new life comes a new inheritance.
We have been given a future inheritance in Christ that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. And because of this future inheritance, there is nothing that we could lose in this life, that won't be given back to us fully in the next.
Being reminded of that helps us to loosen our grip with the things of this world. Unlike any inheritance the world can give you, this future inheritance will never perish, never be corrupted, and will never fade away. God has secured it for us and nothing will ever touch it. It is being guarded by God. But God isn't only guarding our future inheritance - he is also guarding us.
“who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5, ESV)
Who we are in Christ has not been completely revealed yet. If you his child, you are being guarded. You won't get lost. God is keeping you. And by whose power will that be done? God’s power. That is deeply encouraging. We need to be reminded of that. God promises to complete the work He started.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV)
It is in these past, present and future realities that Peter wants us to rejoice in. Notice how he begins verse 6. But Peter is not ignorant of their current situation, so he continues.
“who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5, ESV)
Peter now deals with the reason for writing this letter. Peter does not deny that the Christian faces various trials. But he wants to direct these Christians to the source of their true hope as they face these trials. I find much comfort in two sets of words in this verse. “Little While” and “If Necessary”
In light of what is in store for us in all eternity, every trial in your life is only for a little while. Whether it lasts a day, a week, a month, a year, or the rest of your life, it is only for a little while. There is also no trial that comes into your life that is meaningless. Every trial is serving a necessary goal in your life. And Peter is going to tell us what that goal is.
POINT #3 - A NEW GOAL IN CHRIST
Whats the goal of these 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.” (1 Peter 1:7, ESV)
He tells us - the testing of our faith. Now when Peter uses the word test, he doesn't mean a pass or fail exam. What he means is that our faith is going to be tempered - like what you do with gold. Which is why he uses a metaphor here. He is talking about what you have to do with gold to purify and refine it.
When unrefined gold is first found it has many imperfections in it and those imperfections rob it of its strength and its beauty. It’s impurities need to be extracted. So what needs to be done is that gold needs to be refined through fire. And the same is true with us.
When we first come to Christ our faith is not perfect. It needs refining. We have imperfections and those imperfections rob us of strength. It’s those imperfections which corrupt our faith. Just like unrefined gold robs it of its strength and beauty - unrefined faith robs us of our strength and beauty as well. Which is why, if we are honest, are faith is not always constant.
There are times when we trust God fully and other times when we don't trust him at all. The reason this happens is because our faith has imperfections just like unrefined gold has imperfections. Which is why God has refining to do in us. God would not love us if he left us in that state. This is how he loves us.
Which is why there will be moments in your life that you will experience the refinement of God. Because God loves you, He will purify you through the necessary means to strengthen and beautify you. Just like what is necessary for gold. In those moments when we are most likely to question God’s love, it may be the very moment in which we are receiving it.
Why do we tend to judge God’s love for us based on the degree on how comfortable he makes our lives? What we all need more than comfort is refinement. There will be days, weeks, months, years marked by this kind of refinement. In those moments we shouldn't doubt his love. It’s in those moments that we should see signs of his love. And in those moments we need to comfort each other with these truths.
What would it look like for us as a church that when we are put through the fire we did not doubt God’s love but rather saw it as evidence of His love? What would that display? It is only through this refinement that true comfort will ever come. Now, what the goal of this refinement?
God is doing all of this so that you will be able to share in the glory that will be revealed at the revelation of Jesus Christ. And in order to share in that glory, our faith must continue to be refined. We must remember that there is coming a day when we will see the glory of Christ. And in that day, we will consider these present sufferings as nothing.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18, ESV)
But until then we can still be a people of that rejoices with joy.
POINT #4 - A NEW JOY IN CHRIST
You dont need to see him now to have this kind of joy.
“Though 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,” (1 Peter 1:8, ESV)
Why? Because you love him, and believe in Him, you can rejoice in a joy that is “inexpressible” because it defies outward circumstances.As Christians, our lives are characterized by a future hope that fills the present with love and joy. This is what we are to find our joy in - our future past, present and future realities in Christ - far more than our current circumstances. When we reflect on what God has done for us in Christ, it fills us with joy.
Do you lack joy this morning? If so, ask yourselves this question. How are you doing on meditating on these realities in your life? You can have great joy in the momentary trails and grief because you realize that these trials are refining your faith and producing an outcome we all desire. Because it is the means by which God is saving us.
“obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:9, ESV)
It is the gospel. Is it the same gospel that the prophets of the OT search and inquired about.
“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, ESV)
It is the gospel that angels long to understand. Are you longing to look into this gospel? How sinful man can be made right with God. Angels are in right relationship with God because of their obedience. We are in right relationship with God because of the obedience of another. And through faith that obedience becomes our obedience. But that faith isn't without refinement.
Why do we struggle with this? Because we think that our life is about us and our glory. So often when God challenges our glory, we question his love for us. We would rather choose temporary glory for us than share in the permanent glory of God.
When was the last time you questioned God’s love for you? Why did you question it? Was it because His glory was at stake? Or yours?
To the degree that we think this life is about us, we will struggle to see our trials as we should. When we think this life is about us we will question Him. When we realize that this life is about Him, we will trust Him. You’ll never understand what God is doing in your life until you understand that He will not allow you to find your joy in any other glory than His own. And the only glory that will ever satisfy us is the glory of God.
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:16–17, ESV)