Today, let me share the opening lines of Peter’s letter to Christians “scattered” around the ancient world, facing persecution and the threat of death. What is the perspective a Christian should have in times such as these? Let’s listen in:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
First, Christians across America felt scattered about this Sunday when we could not gather together in one place for worship. How amazing to watch the Church of Jesus, “scattered” from house to house, finding innovative ways of gathering virtually to worship online!
Second, I hope we all remember that Christ has chosen his people to be set-apart from the masses, a light shining in the darkness, people of faith in a culture of fear, a force for the common good in a world where people often look after themselves. My prayer for Christ’s followers in these uncertain times is that we also would find ourselves experiencing “grace and peace…in abundance.” Enough to spread around!
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you…
The early Christians were convinced that Christ had conquered death by rising again, and therefore they were not afraid to face their own. Their eyes were so focused on their eternal inheritance, that they did not cling so tightly to this earthly life. We have a long way to go in adopting such an eternal perspective, living as we do in a culture that worships life and youth, and tries to deny the fact of our own mortality.
5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These trials 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.
Pastor Peter would urge us to all take up the shield of faith in this moment of uncertainty. We must weigh the power of this new virus against the power of the Spirit remembering that “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (Rom. 8:11).
Peter would also urge us to embrace this trial as an opportunity to prove and test the quality of our faith. This spreading virus will reveal a lot about our national infrastructure, the strength of our healthcare system, the resilience of our economy, and the character and strength of our government leaders. Yet, for Christians, it will reveal just the “stuff” of which our faith is made. Will it be gold, silver, or costly stones able to withstand the refiner’s fire? Or will it be wood, hay or straw (1 Cor. 3:12)?
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:1-9)
Finally, Pastor Peter would urge us tonight to be people who “walk by faith, not by sight”(2 Cor. 5:7) in a moment when much of the anxiety stems from the fact that we just don’t know how this situation will play out. Human nature clings for “control” and we suffer terribly when faced with circumstances outside our control, when we can’t see the endgame. Christians can rise above this fear and need to see and control, by entrusting ourselves to the One who sees beginning to end, and who holds our future in His hands.
When we begin to rest in God’s providential care and trust the promises of Scripture, we can even find ourselves “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” even in the midst of trials and tribulations. For even if the worst should come to pass, we are standing secure in the love of Christ who already defeated death and we are already experiencing the first fruits of the salvation of our souls.