Tough times prove our faith

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1 Peter 1:3-9 (NET)

 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you,5 who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. 7 Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold — gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away — and will bring praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith — the salvation of your souls.

2016 is over and done with, and I for one am happy to see it go. It has been Jefferson’s “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” year.  One of the reasons I decided to preach this series of sermons is I just needed to remind myself why believers go through tough times. I know that the Bible gives some good answers to that question, but when you go through tough times, it is not easy to remember them.

So, last time, when we looked at Jesus’ story about the planter and the soils, we saw that it is not unusual for believers to experience tough times, because our ability to overcome them and remain fruitful is evidence of our identity as real Christians.

In today’s text, Peter says something very much the same.  In fact, it seems like Peter is reflecting on what Christ said in the parable.  It may very well be the case. There are quite a few similarities.  But Peter steps back from the planter/harvest allegory and uses more familiar church language when he talks about being given new birth and a salvation that will be revealed when Christ returns.

There is a lot of truth packed into these few verses, but what I want to investigate further is what Peter says about tough times.  He puts what he says about tough times (or, what he calls various trials) in the larger context of what God has decided to do in the lives of Christians, and how that will end up bringing him eternal praise, glory and honour.

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TOUGH TIMES COME TO CHALLENGE OUR FAITH, BUT CANNOT CHANGE OUR FUTURE

 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you,5 who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

What Peter wants believers to know is that the God who planted them is going to harvest them. The God who gave them new birth is going to make sure that those born-again people are raised to eternal life when Jesus comes. So, yes, tough times are going to come. But those tough times cannot change the believer’s destiny. How do we know that? The evidence Peter puts forth for that claim is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In fact, it was the resurrection of Christ from the dead that made being born-again possible.

Paul talked about Jesus being the first-fruits of the harvest.  The Jewish feast that celebrated first-fruits was a faith-celebration of the whole harvest.  They did not wait until the whole harvest was in before they celebrated. They celebrated in faith once the first-fruits appeared.  Peter looks at a church whose members suffer tough times sometimes, and he tells us to look at Jesus. Jesus has already been raised from the dead to live immortal. That is our future.  Tough times will come, but they cannot change what God did for us in the past, so they cannot change what he is going to do in the future.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you,5 who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Peter chooses to use the birth metaphor instead of the harvest metaphor because he wants to assure the believers who are going through tough times that God has not abandoned them.  So, it is not like God planted them, and then went off somewhere else to tend another crop. Now, God gave them new birth, and he has an inheritance waiting to give to those new children that he has given birth to.

Notice what Peter says about that inheritance:

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(You may not have noticed, but the three words rhyme in Greek, and they start with the same letter in Greek.) They are …

 

  • imperishable, [άφθαρτον]

 

This is a word that Paul uses to describe God’s immortality, and the immortality that believers will be raised with.  When Peter uses it to describe our inheritance, he is assuring believers that nothing is going to change their future.

In fact, Peter kind-of mixes metaphors in verse 23 of this same chapter when he tells believers that they … “have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.” So, Peter is telling us not that we are immortal already, but that immortality has been planted in us.

  • undefiled, [αμίαντον]

 

This word is used to describe something that is pure, uncontaminated.  If Peter is using it to refer to seed, it means that believers are made of pure seed which will produce a pure crop. If Peter is alluding to believers’ inheritance and their being given birth to by God, then it takes on the further meaning of the holiness of the parent.  Our future depends on our origin. Our inheritance depends on who gave us birth.

  • unfading [αμάραντον]

 

This is an interesting word for Peter to use in this context.  It is a word that describes a flower in full-bloom. In fact, there is a species of flowering grain called the amaranth.

 

What Peter seems to be saying is that if God has given you birth, you do not have to worry about your relationship with him fading away and dying off. That is a good thing to know, especially if you face tough times.

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TOUGH TIMES COME TO TEST OUR FAITH, BUT CANNOT AFFECT WHO WE REALLY ARE

 6 This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. 7 Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold — gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away — and will bring praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

So, having assured the believers he is writing to that their future is safe in God’s hands, he now goes on to address what it is that tough times are sent for in the present.  He changes the metaphor again. Instead of a plant, or a child, here Peter describes the Christian in terms of a precious metal, like gold.

Most substances when subjected to fire are completely destroyed.  But gold is different. If you put gold in the fire, what is going to happen is that anything that is not gold is going to burn away, and what you will have left is gold. So, Peter is saying that tough times are not there to destroy us. They are there to show what we are really made of, who we really are.

6 This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. 7 Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold — gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away — and will bring praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

In fact, the result of the tough times is that God is going to be worshipped.  Our going through the tough times happens so that God will be eternally praised because of the faith he gave us to overcome the tough times.

So, you see, if you ask the gold whether it wants to go through the fire, it would probably say no thank you very much.  But if you ask the refiner, he would say, “absolutely.”  Why? Because the refiner wants to produce a brilliant pure gold, and for that, he needs to put it through the fire.

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TOUGH TIMES COME TO STEAL OUR JOY, BUT CANNOT OVERCOME OUR FAITH IN CHRIST

8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith — the salvation of your souls.

So, to sum up Peter’s message so far. He says that tough times are not going to change what happened in the past: God gave those believers a new birth to a permanent inheritance.  He also says that tough times are not going to change what is going to happen in the future.  It is all going to come through the fire and reveal a pure gold that brings glory and praise to the Refiner.

So, the last thing Peter wants to reflect upon is the present.  He sees a church that has put her faith in a Saviour that she presently cannot see.  He sees that church rejoicing in her Saviour with an indescribable and glorious joy.  Then he sees tough times come.  Those tough times are not going to destroy her faith.  She has something that those tough times cannot touch. She has a living and enduring faith in Christ. She is attaining the goal of her faith. She is being saved by Him.

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When we go through tough times, we need to remember that it does not mean that God has abandoned us. It means the opposite. He is there, refining us so that who we are blesses him forever.

 

celebrating new things- marriage

BH55H0 Rings

Then the man said, “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”  That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family (Genesis 2:23-24 NET).

day thirteen – (the thirteen days of Christmas)

187728Y is for YEAR that is coming to an end; one last chance to show love to a friend.

Z is for ZEAL, a passion to live; Jesus showed that his Father has a passion to forgive.

day twelve – (the thirteen days of Christmas)

187728W is for WREATH, hanging on my door; it reminds us of life, not death any more.

X is for XMAS, an abbreviation when writing; in the x the word Christ in the Greek is hiding.

day eleven – (the thirteen days of Christmas)

187728U is for UNDERSTANDING the Bible gives us; because of it we keep Christ in Christmas.

V is for VIRGIN, the miracle mother; Christ came to us unlike any other.

day ten – (the thirteen days of Christmas)

187728S is for SINGING a carol or two; we have to rejoice because the message is true.

T is for TIME we share with family and friends, celebrating Christ and honouring Him.

day nine – (the thirteen days of Christmas)

187728Q is for QUIET, that silent night, interrupted by angels shouting in glorious light.

R is for RITUAL, our family traditions; it’s OK to have them as long as we don’t miss Him.