1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV
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, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 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. 8 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, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
It is customary at services in which we honour loved ones to share a text of scripture and meditate on its words. Christians believe that the Bible is the word of God, and that it can help us when we go through times like this. When I thought of Margaret, I was drawn to this text from 1 Peter 1. I’m not sure why. I think it is because in this text Peter encourages believers to stay true to their faith for a long time when that faith would be tested. I can imagine that Margaret experienced many times during her 91 years that challenged her faith in Christ. She persevered and finished well. She had been born again to a living hope.
A Hope in God
Margaret was not always in total control of the things that happened to her in this life. She did not always hold the reins. But that’s alright. God held the reigns. The phrase that reminds me of that fact appears in verse 5: “by God’s power.” It is a fearful thing for most of us to be dependent – to rely on someone else, or to rely on circumstances to dictate where we will be, what we will do. It takes a very special kind of person to submit to God’s will and let him hold the reins – to let him call the shots. Margaret was that kind of person.
At some point in her life she responded to God’s call for her to surrender her will to his. When that happened, God “caused her to be born again” (3). God’s power drew her to himself, and God’s power caused her to be reconciled to him. God’s power began to sanctify her so that she would conform to the image of Christ. And God’s power gave her a new hope.
A Tested Hope
Over the years, the genuineness of Margaret’s faith has been tested by the circumstances God has allowed to come into her life. It happens to all of us. In verses 6-7 of this text, Peter talks about the Christians who have been grieved by various trials. He says that that happens “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.”
Margaret’s faith and her hope are precious things. They are more important to God than anything she ever owned, and more precious to him than anything she ever did. Yet God did allow the fire to come into her life. Just like gold is purified under fire, so Margaret’s hope was tested. It survived the fire. Margaret loved the LORD, and testified that she was thankful for the life he gave her. She came through the times of testing and proved more precious than gold.
In fact, it was some of those things that Margaret did not expect that she learned to appreciate all the more. It sometimes works out that way. The Bible says that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28 NET). You all probably know that my wife and I are here in New Zealand because David Burge – the pastor of this church – was stricken with Leukemia, and died in July. When we found out that David was sick, we wanted to come and help for his sake. God did not choose to heal David. But out of that tragedy, God did choose to give us the joy of getting to know the members of this church. Befriending Margaret and others like her is one reason that we will remember this time here with gratitude.
A Living Hope
The hope of a Christian is also described as a living hope (3). When we read the word hope in scripture, it rarely means something that you wish to happen. You might say, “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow” or “I hope to win LOTTO.” But when the Bible uses the word hope, it means something more substantial than just wishful thinking. For example, the Bible calls God “the hope of all the ends of the earth” (Psalm 65:5) and “the hope of Israel” (Jer. 7:13; Acts 28:20).
Usually the Bible uses the word hope to describe the destiny of the believer. When the apostle Paul was on trial before the Sanhedrin, he said it was because his hope was in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6). He prayed that the Ephesians’ hearts would be enlightened so that they would know what the hope was to which they had been called (Eph. 1:18).
Christians have a destiny. It is that destiny which Paul calls the hope that is laid up for us in heaven (Col. 1:5). Peter calls it an inheritance that is kept in heaven for us (1 Pet. 1:4). Jesus will bring this inheritance back with him when he comes back to earth. That’s why Peter called it a “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:5). When Christ comes back, the people who are going to matter are not the rich, the powerful, or the famous. The people who are going to matter then are those like Margaret, whose genuine faith is going to result in praise and glory and honour (1 Pet. 1:7).
Margaret’s Hope Can Be Ours
So, Margaret lies before us today as a challenge. She dares us to have the same hope that she had. She has fought the good fight, she has finished the race, and she has kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for her the hope, the destiny, the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to her on that Day, and not only to her but also to all who have loved his appearing ( 2 Tim. 4:7-8). Margaret’s hope can be our hope.
So, I am going to ask you to do something that Margaret did years ago, and it made an eternal difference in her life. I am going to ask you to give your life to Jesus Christ. If you want the hope that Margaret had, you will find it in Jesus. If you want the ability to turn the trials of your life into something more precious than gold, come to Jesus. If you want the joy that Margaret is going to experience when she hears her Saviour call her name, come to Jesus. If you want the crown of righteousness like the one custom fitted for Margaret, do as she did: surrender your heart to the king of kings.
Are you tired of carrying life’s burdens? Jesus said “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28 NLT). Are you spiritually thirsty? Jesus said “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37 NIV). Are you afraid to be a Christian because you might fail? Jesus said “the one who comes to me I will never send away” (John 6:37 NET). Margaret found the peace that you may be looking for. She was born again to a living hope. Because Jesus lives, she also will live. Because Jesus lives, her life matters.
It is fitting that we honour Margaret today. She was a wonderful lady, and we will all miss her. It is fitting also that we carry fond memories of Margaret into the rest of our lives. One of the things that I will remember is how Margaret reacted when she learned that she might not recover from the consequences of her recent accident. She was thankful for the life that the LORD had given her. She was ready if it was her time. It was her time. I am thankful for having met this beautiful, courageous lady.