Sometimes we may think that we have it bad as Christians living in the 21st century. Our society seems to be turning against anything having to do with Christianity. But when we compare our situation to those living in the first century, what we go through is insignificant.
Nero was the ruler in Rome. He persecuted Christians, resulting in the deaths of many Christians – including, we believe, the apostles Paul and Peter. As the persecution began, Christians found themselves alienated from those around them. How do you face this type of aggression day after day?
Peter began his first letter by reminding them of all that they had because they were Christians.
“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, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you…” (1 Peter 1:3-4 NET).
Despite what they were going through, Christians could – and should – praise God for all that we have. We have a new birth – we have been born into the family of God! We have not just hope, but a living hope because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Because of Jesus, we are confident that there is something far better waiting for us.
This hope, this expectation that we have is because God has an inheritance reserved for us. While we may go through bad times in our lives – and these Christians were beginning to experience serious persecution – God has given us something no one can touch. Our inheritance can’t be damaged; it is permanent. Our inheritance cannot be defiled; nothing can ruin it or contaminate it. Our inheritance won’t fade; it is perpetually lovely and fresh. Because God has promised it and reserved it in heaven for us, we can be sure of this.
“It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. 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 honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:4-7).
Although our salvation is protected by God’s power through our faith, this doesn’t mean that life will be a bed of roses. We may have to suffer, as these Christians did, but it will only be for a short time.
But why do we need to go through any suffering? Trials show that we have real faith. Gold has always been recognized as being valuable. Gold is tested by fire to burn off the impurities. Our faith is more valuable than even gold! As we go through trials we, too, will be purified and come out stronger Christians. But we must trust in God and allow our faith to be our shield. It is because of Jesus that we can come through the trials we face, no matter what they are.
“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, because you are attaining the goal of your faith – the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).
What is the message for us? At times our situation may seem desperate, but we can’t give up hope. God has something far better waiting for us when this life is over.
Readings for next week:
2 April – Hebrews 13
3 April – James 1-2
4 April – James 3-4
5 April – James 5
6 April – 1 Peter 1