Teaching Series Introduction:
It’s a strange new world. When the world is all topsy-turvy, what difference does Jesus make in our lives? From the book of 1 Peter, we will rediscover the importance of being ‘strangers’ with purpose who make a difference in our world, all because Jesus first came to bring blessing and hope to us.
Title: For A Little While
By: Judy Moore
Date: 13 September 2020 (Online Service)
1 Peter (Chapter 1, verses 3-12)
When we have something to look forward to, it helps us navigate the ups & downs of life. When there is hope, everything is possible. It can be difficult to understand, but the good news of Jesus is SO good that hope is guaranteed. In fact, it’s such good news that even ‘angels long to know more about it’ (v12)!
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Well, good morning everyone, and welcome to this second talk in our series of ‘A Strange New World’. And certainly as things unfold, and even with the news this week, we’re very aware that there is a strangeness and uncertainty to everything a little bit again at the moment. And this letter that we had read from Peter, is full of reassurance for us in times of trial. I don’t know what you’re looking forward to at the moment. It’s quite hard, isn’t it, actually to look forward to anything? We have dates in the diary and they’ve changed, or a holiday and it’s cancelled, or we thought we would be at university by now and now it’s going online, or we went back to school for a few days and then someone in our class got ill. So in a sense, the horizon is ever shifting at the moment, that’s for sure.
I remember doing a walk in Scotland where we walking across Rannoch Moor and it was hard and it was quite a lot of walking, but we could just see this lovely bed and breakfast far off where we were going to stay, but it just seemed to keep moving. It was almost like it kept moving it further and further away, and it’s perspective, isn’t it? And I think in these words from Peter, we get a bit of perspective that actually, where things are changing, where our savings have gone, our business has gone, our health has gone, a loved one may have gone. Peter talks about the imperishable treasure that we have. The heavenly treasure that we have if we’re believers in Jesus today. And he reassures us that these trials that we’re in, they can’t rob us of that everlasting living hope that we have.
So I wanted to just reassure us with three truths from this passage. Peter says firstly, he says we are held in the trial, shielded in the trial. Not shielded from it, but in it. So we’ll look briefly at that. Secondly, he says we are changed by the trial, to reflect Him more. And thirdly, Peter says, we are hopeful in trial, because of that horizon that is imperishable, that is the thing, the moment that will not change. So firstly then, this fact that Peter says that we have a living hope that is certain, we have things that are imperishable. Well, one interesting thing is that he uses the word, when he says we are protected in our trials, he uses a military term, and I won’t attempt the Greek pronunciation of it, but he uses a military term that was used as a garrison, as a protector. And he says that, yes, we will have trials of many kinds, but we will be shielded by His power.
And also really interestingly, he says, the word that he uses in multiple trials actually meant multi-coloured. And the Greek word, ‘Polychromos’, he says, actually you will have multiple trials, multi-coloured trials. And the only other time that Peter uses that same Greek word is later in the letter in chapter four, when he says, “There are multi-coloured graces for us.”
So I thought it was interesting, because whatever colour our trial is, whether it’s a health trial, a financial trial, an anxiety trial, a mental health trial, He has a grace that matches it. He has a healing, a power of grace for you today, that’s the right colour for you, if that makes sense. And I know in my life that that’s been true, that there are different experiences that are nevertheless real of what God really can do in these trials. So we’re held in the trial, and we as Christians are not shielded from trials, and I want to make that clear. Trials were part of the deal. Peter’s writing to people who are in the thick of persecution, who are constantly under pressure, who are scattered as we heard last week, exiled. And they don’t know their future is shifting all the time just as ours is, but they are excited because they’ve caught something, this inexpressible joy that Peter talks about, they’ve caught that. So we’re held in the trial, shielded, given power to persist and endure in the time of trial, whatever colour, if you like, it is.
The second thing is, we are changed in it. We are changed in the trial, because Peter goes on to say that in these times of trial, we will be refined like precious gold or silver. And the ancient goldsmiths and silversmiths, the way that they saw the precious metals finally refined enough, finally ready, if you like, was when they could see their reflection in the metal. And you may have heard that many times, maybe the first time you’ve heard it, I don’t know, but I think it bears repetition, because it is about Christ in us. As we heard last week from Tim, how do we reflect? How do we live in a strange land? How do we live as exiles in a foreign land? How do we look at those three A’s that Tim reminded us about last week, where we are actually reaching out to that one person daily, weekly, monthly, so that we reflect the goodness of God in our good deeds.
And in our trial, we do have a choice, however tough it might feel today to say, “I will still trust in the goodness of God. I will still trust that, actually in the hardest of times, I will start to reflect Jesus more and more,” because the impurities that are in us are often towards self and looking after number one. We can’t really live like that in these times, we’re in it together. We are all trying to reach out to one another at the moment in shifting sand, so we have this chance to be changed in our trial.
In the book of Job, we realize that actually Job was already pretty good, pretty faithful. But as he comes through his multiple trials, he is more blessed than ever before. And he says brilliantly, right at the end of the book, he said, “I had heard rumours of you before, Oh Lord. But now I’ve seen you.” In other words, the very thing that we might avoid, the very thing that we just don’t want to happen, is actually the thing that might change us to have even more of a life of joy, as Peter says here, not of comfort, but of joy.
And I certainly know for me, I remember when I was growing up and even at university, I really dreaded losing a parent. I just remember thinking that that will be the thing that will break me. I loved my parents so much, and I remember when my mum did suddenly, inexplicably, if you like, died just due to a mistake. I remember knowing God’s power, and his comfort, and his presence, more than ever before in my life. And as the youngest in a family who’d perhaps always been looked after, suddenly I was praying in tongues over my dad. I sort of felt that there was an inexpressible power in me that would help me. Now, it doesn’t take away the loss, it doesn’t take away the natural cycle of grief that I went through, as many of us are at the moment. But there was a gift in it, for sure, that made me know God better.
And then finally, Peter puts us towards an eternal hope. So he says, “You’ll be held in the trial. You’ll be changed by the trial if you hang on in there.” But he also says, “They will pass.” They will pass, they’re fleeting, if you like, compared to the absolute surety of heaven. Peter had seen it. He’d seen life on reveal, reverse, restore, which is, I think, a really helpful biblical premise that we see throughout the scripture. He knew Jesus had said that He would die, that He would die for us sins, he knew it was prophesied, but he didn’t quite get it until we met with the risen Jesus when they had the picnic breakfast on the beach. And suddenly he’s there and he sees it. He says, “Yes, you didn’t lie. This is true. The eternal hope we have.”
I love a story that just makes me smile, actually, of an older lady who used to go to a lunch club and she would go to the lunch club, and usually they did sort of soup and bread, and whatever. But every now and then they would do a treat for pudding. The way that she knew that this was going to happen is if there was a dessert fork alongside the usual spoon and fork for the bread and for the soup. And if ever there was a dessert fork, we don’t really use those much anymore. But if that was there, she knew that there was a treat coming, that there was a special pudding coming, and that’s her favourite, perhaps had quite a sweet tooth, like many of us. And anyway, she would always say to the organizers that a day for the fork is a fork day.
And then as she grew on well, and as she prepared to die as a Christian woman who believed completely in this living hope that we read about here, she said, “I want to be buried with the fork in my hands.” And, slightly strange request, but she said, “Because I know, I fully know the very best is yet to come. That this is but the first course, the Shadowlands as a C.S. Lewis puts it, but the best is yet to come.” And these holding crosses that we have mentioned many times in different pastoral contexts, I think hold real significance at the moment that some of them are made from ships, some of them are made from the wood of old pews from churches. But chaplains across the city, in particular I know in the children’s hospital, give these wooden crosses to people and we’ve done that, haven’t we? To hold on to.
So it may not be our fork, but it is our cross, if you like, that just says, now as for me in shifting sands and changing horizons, in the uncertainty of the virus and the economy, and what’s going to happen, we hold on to the fact that we are held ourselves, protected, shielded, guarded, garrisoned by the power of Jesus in our trials. Changed by that. But above all else, we live for another world. We hold on for that day when we will be free of trials, and we will meet Jesus face to face. Peter ends this little piece on a living hope by saying that actually even the angels long to look into these things. In other words, there’s a mystery, even within heaven, of how we persevere in trials. And there is a glory ahead of us in the way that actually, if we persevere, if we persist and endure, which we all are trying our best, there is treasure, mysterious treasure stored up for every single one of us. Those good deeds, those beautiful reflections of the goldsmith in our lives, are storing up treasure that nothing can touch.
Let’s pray. Lord, we ask today for that inexpressible joy that Peter talks about in this passage. That sense of anticipation that this too will pass, Lord, in this world into the next. And then you will hold us, change us, and fill us with hope and joy, a fresh today. Confidence, God that you’ve begun a good work in us. We’ll see it through. Thank you Lord that you see us, that you love us today, and that you are changing us. Amen.
- What are you most looking forward to in the future? How confident are you that it will happen? How disappointed would you be if it didn’t happen?
- Read 1 Peter 1:3-12. How does Peter describe the hope for Christians in v3-5?
- In verses 6-7, Peter, gives a snapshot about how this hope compares to the reality of life now. What does he say that is particularly relevant for you right now?
- It seems that these first-century Christians were being shown that challenging times don’t discount the reality of what Jesus has done. In fact, hardships can make us long for him even more (v8). Are you able to give any examples of being “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” even in the middle of very challenging times?
- When we understand how incredible the good news of Jesus is, we discover that we have an immense blessing that “even the angels long to look into” (v12). How does this change how we see our circumstances now, knowing that we don’t suffer without hope and understand something of the “glories that would follow”?
- Take some time to pray for the people in your life that you long to discover the hope of Jesus. Are there specific ways this week that you can show them something of that hope?