(Graphic courtesy of Forward Ministries site)
We've discussed how we are travelers in this world....this is not our home, we are "just traveling through." We've also looked at how the Spirit inspired Peter to praise God in spite of the suffering he was undergoing. He also was encouraging the "exiled" believers that he was writing to, to rejoice!
Oooooh, doesn't it bother you sometimes? When you are going through a difficult time, and some bubbly, perky Christian tells you "we should rejoice always!" Something about our human nature, even though our spiritual side knows they are right, doesn't want to praise right then. (Grin)
But that is what Peter is doing here, writing to these Christians who are suffering. Is he being insensitive? Well, no.
What if I knew that you were going through some extraordinary trials. Really deep difficulties. That you were afraid and worried. And I saw the estate attorney coming up your walkway, and texted you: "Praise the Lord! You just inherited millions!"
That money might not solve all of your problems, but you would have some interesting options, right?
Well, we haven't inherited millions -- we have an inheritance that is WAY better! Our inheritance is reserved for us in heaven!
Does that seem superficial to you? Does it seem like I'm being shallow? Are we thinking in the midst of our trials that we need help right now.....not that we have help later on, when we die?
Perhaps we are saying to ourselves, "I'm being persecuted and treated unfairly at my workplace." Or even, "I was fired for my Christian testimony." "I can't find work, and I'm facing extreme financial issues." Or perhaps, "I have a mate who is not a believer, and my life is so difficult." Or "I'm facing death."
Those are the exact same issues that were facing the people to whom Peter wrote! We will see in the coming chapters that Christian slaves were being treated unfairly by their masters - in spite of the fact that they'd done nothing wrong! Christian wives were being treated uncharitably by their unbelieving spouses. Many of these "exiles" had lost folks who were their friends, and now these former friends were slandering them. Some were being persecuted, and some were even facing martyrdom. Peter knew all of this, but he still cheered them on, and talked about a "living hope."
Are we keeping our heavenly inheritance in mind as we face our problems in this life? If not, we may be buying into an error-filled type of Christianity that emphasizes wealth and prosperity in the here and now, instead of eternal life with Christ. It's easy to fall into that trap. Some folks think that heaven is a wonderful extra, but they want the good life now! Perhaps they were told that God had a wonderful plan for their lives (which He does) but they didn't understand that the plan might mean enjoying the riches of our Lord Jesus, while in the midst of trials....
I guess we need to make sure that whether new or old, we believers think about what salvation really means -- it means that even though we truly deserve God's wrath, we've been delivered from the penalty of sin through the death of Jesus on our behalf! When He rose, He gave us victory! If we are not saved, we are lost, under the penalty of a holy God. Maybe one of the problems today is that we're talking to people about being saved, and they have no concept of how terrible it is to be lost! If people have forgotten (or don't know yet) what it feels like to realize they are lost, how can they understand enduring hardship in our Christian life?
Maybe folks don't appreciate what God has done in saving them....as Christians, we may have gotten away from looking at things with an eternal perspective. As my grandma used to say, we "have blinders on" and can only see the trials right in front of us. We complain and run after whatever we think will make us happy. Whether it's biblical or not, we chase the "happy stuff."
Have we forgotten the terrible fate God has saved us from?
Have we forgotten the wonderful (and eternal) inheritance He has given us in heaven?
Peter makes these points about being heirs: our inheritance comes from God, and it's safe for eternity!
We'll discuss this more next time!
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17)