In the effort to keep everyone encouraged during these trying times, one of the most relevant writings in the New Testament that came to mind is the first epistle or letter from the apostle Peter. Just as these days have been very difficult for many of us with isolation at home, unemployment, economic stress, distant from family, daily necessities become scarce, news of death, stress of viral enemy, and all added to the fact that many are unruly and insubordinate to authorities, Christians during this period dealt with the same, if not more trials. Knowing the anxiety these trials can create, Peter was moved to write (really have Silvanus write) words to encourage disciples of Christ in the face of such circumstances. As with my previous two sermons, the goal is to help each of us gain proper perspective and begin to act accordingly. That’s exactly what Peter does in the opening of his letter. Why is this so important? Because if we’re not careful, satan can and will take advantage of us when we are most vulnerable in the midst of trials!
Peter expresses the foundation for all encouragement. He begins saying that GOD is blessed, meaning he is worthy to be praised. GOD the father is the source of all comfort and encouragement! What’s so important about GOD to a Christian in such hard times? Peter reminds them that the same GOD, according to the tremendous amount of mercy he possesses, has regenerated us or caused us to be born again to a hope that’s living and full of life. GOD brought us this new life and vigorous hope through the fact that he raised his son Jesus back to life.
Application: One of the first things to remember is that our GOD is worthy of praise! Also we must remember that if I’m born again, it is due to the fact that GOD is merciful on my life! But also my fate, my destiny, the expectation that rebirth gave me is living. There’s nothing dead about Jesus! His resurrection, and my faith in him, is the foundation of a brand new and vigorous hope.
Not only the hope, but Peter explains that this rebirth also issued an inheritance. An inheritance is a possession that’s passed on to an heir or heirs. GOD made us entitled to this inheritance. The qualities of this inheritance are that it can’t break down, can’t be touched, and it’s beauty is permanent in heaven. Peter then solidly confirms that GOD is protecting us through our faith. He’s protecting us so that we can receive and enjoy his safe haven in heaven which is ready and prepared to be disclosed. In all of that news, we rejoice!! In spite of temporary, distressing, and all sorts of tough circumstances to show my faith in Jesus is authentic. Haven’t seen him, but love him. Don’t see him, but believe him, and rejoice with great joy. All this is the process of obtaining the fulfilment of GOD’s safe haven!
Application: Being reminded of what lies ahead for me, because I’ve been born again, is the cause of great joy. It is a joy I can have despite what I deal with now. I have joy because of GOD’s protection, my inheritance and the quality of it, my hope can stand because of the resurrection of Jesus, I’ve been born again, and because my GOD is worthy to be praised!!! I’m joyful because what I ultimately look forward to, far outweighs what I’m dealing with now! And when it’s all said and done, whether it be during this COVID-19 crisis or years later when GOD sends for my spirit, I know that when Jesus is fully disclosed in the sky, I will share his praise, glory, and honor because of my faith!!!
Peter then says that this salvation is so amazing, that even the prophets who were moved by the Holy Spirit to prophesy about Christ’s sufferings and following glories, were extremely interested to find out just when it was going to arrive!! It was confirmed that they were writing us, in this dispensation, who have had the greatest news on earth, that about Jesus, preached to us!!! Not only the prophets, but even the angels are interested in getting a clear view into such a great salvation.
Knowing the merciful and powerful work of GOD, resurrecting his son, regenerating us, giving us hope, preparing an inheritance that can’t be tampered, bringing joy in spite of trials, moving us to safe haven, and amazing prophets and angels, what are my next steps? Peter says gird your minds. Think of having on jogging pants, and the strings were loose. If you need to make a quick move or run, it would be difficult because they would keep falling down around your knees. This is metaphorically applied to our minds, or our disposition and attitude.
Application: In trials, our minds can often be disoriented due to the magnitude. This COVID-19 has done just that. What Peter is saying is that we need to reorient our minds. We need to get our thoughts and feelings together in such times. It is in the aorist, which means it needs to be done prior to the next instruction.
Peter then says keep sober. He isn’t solely referring to not drinking, although it can also affect the mind. All throughout the NT, sober is used figuratively to say curb your controlling influences.
Application: That means we need to acknowledge the reality of GOD and what he reveals. This is essentially saying we must stay spiritually alert. In other words, stay woke!! See there are some influences that cause us to be dull and numb to the reality of GOD and the truth of his word. Many people due to their fear, panic, or know it all, are putting all kinds of messages on the internet. This is not an urge to stay woke according to earthly or mans wisdom, rather in the spiritual realm! Why? So we don’t lose sight of GOD and fall victim to the plethora of “know it all” messages. This is in the present tense, so Peter is saying do this while doing the next instruction.
This is the main verb and instruction: completely FIX your hope! It can’t be done if our minds and attitudes are tangled. It can’t be done to the full extent if we are being intoxicated by wrong, false, and/or earthly messages. It needs to be to the fullest extent. Hope is a confident expectation. It involves a future expectation, trust or faith, and patiently waiting!!! Not on money, possessions, economic recovery, or even my health for that matter. It is on the grace or salvation that Jesus is on his way with!!! To the extent that I believe in Jesus, it is to that extent that my mind will look for his glorious day!! I don’t know if this is the end! I don’t know when the end is! All that is here fades away! Even my body is wasting away! But his salvation is for my soul, my eternal being! Therefore my mind stays on that day, because his safe haven surpasses all that is here!!! Even my present trials!!!
Notice Peter reminds us of the hope, the source of it, and how we received it. Then addresses our minds! Now he moves to our actions. If our minds have been tightened up and while staying sober in order to be fixated on salvation, it will properly channel my behavior. What is that? Not becoming behaviorally shaped to my past evil or self-indulgent cravings which were due to my ignorance of GOD. But because I am his child, and an obedient one, my aim is being holy and pure just as the Holy Father and GOD who rebirthed me to be his child.
Application: When times get hard. Money ain’t right. Food is off the shelves. Norms are challenged. It challenges the nature of our inner core, and some past behaviors will come out. People are violent, no compassion, ungrateful, even folks stealing from instacart (it happened to us). But for us we demonstrate our Father in us. We strive to imitate him in all things, conversations, dealings, isolation, etc.