Jim Reeves wrote a song back in the years titled, “This world is not my home I’m just passing through.” In one of the verses, he puts it this way,
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue,
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door.
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore,
Oh Lord you know I have no friend like you,
If heaven’s not my home, then Lord, what will I do?
These words cannot be more real for us during these trying times of Covid-19 and the challenges that come with it. The pandemic has disrupted our lives. There is a “new normal.” Jobs lost lives taken away, millions infected, and economies shattered. One is left wondering whether this is all there is in life?
How can we go through difficult times well, hopeful, and still rejoice? We thank God that graciously through his word, we can read about other Christians who went through such hard times. We get a glimpse of such believers from the book of 1 Peter. In the book, Peter writes to believers who were undergoing hard and trying times after Jesus resurrected. He describes them as God’s elect who are in exile, scattered in several provinces.
Wait a minute, God’s elect, in exile and going through trials and hardships? Oh Yes. I know this goes against popular preaching that there won’t be suffering for believers but not against biblical teaching on the same. God’s elect, the apple of his eye, his possession, marked by his Spirit for an inheritance, goes and will go through hardships and trials as long as they are in this world that is sinful. Like those in physical exiles like Joseph and Israel in Egypt or Babylon, they live among corrupt people.
It is to such believers that Peter writes and makes a peculiar call. What would you expect to be the message to these believers? The beginning of the book in verses 3-9 will shock some of us, if not all. Where is our anchor? Here are four things we are reminded about in times of hardships.
1. We rejoice in the living hope of a New birth (v. 3)
The birth of a baby is one of the significant celebrations in Africa. With time, this has changed, and we now have “baby showers” just before birth. It marks the celebration of the expected new birth. In the Christian faith, we also find the process of bringing to life Spiritual children. This birth is a source of rejoicing and comfort. To be a Christian means to be given new birth into a living hope regardless of one’s social standing. This new birth is for all, and it makes a massive difference because it brings hope to us amid trying times.
To a people faced with trials, in exile, and with the reality of death, Peter reminds them of the living hope that they have because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and this hope is alive, and death cannot overpower it. This living hope is anchored on the fact that Jesus Christ conquered death. The fear of death and what happens to me in today’s seasons is dealt with conclusively. Our hope conquers death itself.
In seasons of Covid-19, though scary and the reality of death so close, we can rejoice because we have a living hope that promises life beyond the grave, and that gives us the strength to go through today’s challenges.
2. Our Hope And Inheritance Are Secure (v. 4)
Any gift we receive has a lifespan to it. Whether it’s the people under our care, jobs, families, money etc, all have a lifespan. This shelf life can range from a day to as long a hundred years or even more. We have to guard some of the gifts we receive so diligently so as not to lose them. How about having a gift in which you don’t need to think so hard how to secure it because the person who gives it to you promises to secure it. He also has a history of securing such gifts and promises. Think about a security company that has a history of guarding title deeds, money, and precious metals in a bank’s vault. They come knocking with a gift of gold and promise to defend it. It is so relieving to the receiver. Isn’t it? All he has to do is enjoy it.
Yet we know what I just painted above is a fantasy world. No man can guarantee this kind of security. Even the best armies in the world have their commandos, army men, and special forces killed and forgotten. Think about inherited land. It comes with a caveat “DO NOT SELL.” Yet it is just a matter of time before it changes hands to someone else who cares less and exchanges it for money. And just like that, the inheritance will be gone.
Our inheritance is not like these because it does not have a lifespan. The hope we have is alive because the one who gives it is alive.
Secondly, it is secure and will not perish because of the one who gives it, keeps it, and where he keeps it. “This inheritance is kept in heaven for you…” Our hope of a better inheritance/place without illnesses and diseases, full of peace and satisfying love is kept in heaven. No power or superpower can access it. It is secure. Silver and gold are perishable (v. 7), but this living hope is imperishable. Trials have a lifespan. They will end and inaugurate eternal bliss. Do you have your eyes fixed on our sure and steady anchor?
3. A peculiar rejoicing; We rejoice amidst all kinds of trials (v. 6)
When we live for the world as it is now, you and I have all reasons to be worried, fear, and be concerned. When you think about the injustices in the world, corruption, hatred, and all evil, to settle for this world is to settle for less. The curtains will finally close when our lives come to an end either in this Covid-19 season or later in different circumstances. Is it all meaningless to use the words of the preacher in Ecclesiastes? If you wonder like me, if this is all there is, then it can be meaningless. Imagine building a career and working hard in your job, and it all comes crumbling down when you are gone.
It reminds me of an awful experience during my graduate studies. I shared Hebrew classes with a lady who was one of the top students in the Hebrew language. One morning, we woke up to a Facebook post with her name and photos, which changed the whole day. She was hit by a speeding lorry and passed away on the spot. She was no more. Lots of things went through my mind then and even now. What about her master’s degree? It was almost complete. What about the money spent on paying school fees? Was she supposed to get married? Her future would have been so bright? Lots of what-ifs. And maybe you are asking similar questions too. Can I invite you to turn this to your life and think about it in the same way? What is that which keeps us going? Do you realize it can’t prevent our death? In my wild imagination, I have wondered if we have given a lot of premium to ourselves and our achievements.
Those who have received the gift of new birth into a living hope and have a secured inheritance do not fear or worry. They might have questions and laments, which is alright as long as it leads them to God, just like the Psalmists and Jeremiah in the book of Lamentations. They have bigger and better hope. And in all these assurances, they rejoice. Great rejoicing because they have a living hope and a secure inheritance in heaven where there will be the fulfillment of our final and eternal salvation. Though now we might suffer the many injustices, corruption, diseases, and the wearing off of our bodies, we rejoice that one day, everything will be made perfect.
4. Suffering well is as sign of a genuine and Persevering faith (v. 7)
The trials and griefs are not purposeless. Trials and hardships come so that they may prove the genuineness of our faith and, through the living hope, help us to persevere. Do we trust God that he will take us through trials and hardships, or do we think we can maneuver our way through? One of the best times to test our faith is through difficulties. Our character and resolve is tested so much. Like Job, we will hear voices calling us to curse God and die. Life becomes meaningless if the meaning was attached to good times. Peter puts this more clearly. Trials test the genuineness of our faith. Is it a faith of convenience or firm belief amidst challenges?
Maybe some have come to faith because they have heard of the niceties that sometimes follow those who believe. But what happens to them when trials, grief, and uncertainties come? Do they renounce Christ or hold on to their faith because God can shield them from the trials? God has the power to deliver us, and in case he does not, remember death is not a hopeless end but the beginning of endless hope. The end goal of trials is that they strengthen our faith and that in the end it is for the praise and glory of God.
Saving faith perseveres until it receives the result, which is the living hope and inheritance that can never perish. We shall see the God whom we trust, without seeing Him. We have not seen him now, yet we believe in him. Our hearts will be fulfilled and satisfied forever. The righteous judge will gratify our longest yearnings and longings. After all is said and done, we shall receive the result of our faith- the salvation of our souls. We shall be saved from the corruption of this world.
To hope in this life alone will make us lose meaning and purpose. But to put our hope in the inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, that has been promised and is kept for us in heaven by God Himself is meaningful gain and to live meaningfully. Illnesses might ravage us as they have done in the history of the church, but our anchor is steady.
John, when writing to the church says this in Revelation 21:4-5 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’
Article is written by James Wainaina. James is a staff at iServe Africa serving as the Strategy & Advancement Manager.