We are starting a new series on 1 Peter this Sunday. Peter is one of the disciples that we really get to know in the gospels. What endears us to Peter is that, like many of us, Peter swings from extreme highs of faith to extreme lows. One minute he's walking on the water toward Jesus, the next he's sinking. One minute Jesus is praising him for proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah and the next Jesus is rebuking him for forbidding Jesus to talk about his death. One minute Peter is claiming he will never abandon Jesus and the next he's swearing that he never knew the man. But when Peter witnesses the power of God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his life and ministry is forever changed. In Christ's grace and power, Peter is restored (John 21:15-19) and through the Holy Spirit he is eventually elevated to leadership in the Jerusalem church.
Peter writes this letter, many years after Christ's resurrection and ascension, to struggling churches in Asia Minor. In today's passage (1 Peter 1:1-12) Peter covers 3 topics: their identity, their trials and their salvation.
In the introduction of the letter, Peter roots them in their identity. First he describes how the world may see them: "exiles scattered" (v.1) But then Peter describes how God sees them in three ways: 1) they are God's elect, chosen by Him (v.2); 2) they have been given a new birth and a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (v.3) 3) they have an inheritance that is kept in heaven for them that can never be taken away. (v.4)
Their identity is very important because of the 2nd topic of this passage, which is the trials they are going through. (v.6-7). 1 Peter 4 gives us the clue that these trials they are facing are because of their faith in Christ.
But Peter's assurance to them is that these trials can actually accomplish a greater good. 1 Peter 1:7 "These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
In a paradoxical way, trials are a blessing because they strip away and lay bare who/what your faith is really about. Genuine faith makes you better - counterfeit faith makes you bitter. Are your trials making you bitter or better?
If trials are making you bitter, it may be a sign that your faith is all about you. An entitled expectation that if you give God your devotion then God is supposed to give you a comfortable, happy life.
If your faith is built on such a shaky foundation, then trials are a "severe mercy" because that is not a saving faith. Faith that makes you better is a a faith that trusts in Christ no matter you are enduring. It is a hope not merely in the here and now but hope in the not yet/yet to come.
Lastly the third topic Peter addresses is their salvation (v.8-12). We have to remember that the end result of our faith is not a comfortable, happy life here in this world but an eternal life with God, secured by faith in Christ. That is what brings us an inexpressible and glorious joy not matter what they are facing. One commentator said it best: "Peter wrote to help them to focus on where they're going to, not what they are going through."
Peter's first letter is addressed to people who feel like scattered exiles. But he reminds them of their identity - they are chosen by God in Christ and have been given a new birth and a living hope and an inheritance that can never be taken away. He knows the trials they are facing and gives them a new perspective on them. The end result of their faith is salvation. Something the prophets wrote about and sought to understand but has now been made known to them!
This week, will you focus on who you are in Christ and where your hope is secure rather than what you are going through? Will you allow your trials to make you better instead of bitter?