Hope Springs Eternal in the Born-Again Breast1
What do you say to someone who is badly broken, whose dreams have been shattered and whose life is in constant disarray and turmoil? How do you comfort a Christian who wakes up every day to a job he hates or to a chronic pain she can barely endure or to the frustration of dealing with people who disregard your opinions and mock your faith?
Where does the believer, the one who has been elected according to the foreknowledge of God and set apart by the gracious work of the Spirit for obedience to Jesus, where does that person find strength to persevere and courage to keep getting up in the morning when the easiest thing would be to simply pull the covers over your head and tell the world where it can go? How do you encourage that person whose faith in Christ and efforts to live humbly and righteously result only in disappointment and slander and mistreatment and disrespect? Look closely at 1 Peter 1:3-5.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
The answer in this text virtually jumps off the page! Although I’m only going to look at one portion of vv. 3-5, I want you to see the broader context in which it is found because it is in that context that we find the answer to our question. Vv. 6-7 are Peter’s first explicit reference to the suffering and trials his readers are experiencing. He speaks of them being “grieved by various trials” (v. 6). In 1 Peter 2:12 he refers to the slander they endure from unbelievers. In 2:19 he talks about them enduring sorrow and “suffering unjustly.” In 1 Peter 4:12 he mentions the “fiery trial” that many of them have endured.
So how does one survive such hardships? How does one stay the course in following Jesus when all your efforts at living godly and humbly bring only persecution and mockery and deprivation? More important still, how is it humanly possible to experience even a modicum of joy in the midst of such trials? The answer is found right here in our passage!
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (v. 6). There is something in which we rejoice in the midst of pain. There is something in Peter’s thinking that serves as a fountain and reservoir of deep delight in God that sustains and strengthens the Christian soul when everything else threatens to destroy us. There is something that produces an unshakeable and enduring joy no matter how badly the world may treat us and no matter how badly life turns out. What is this something? It is “this”, says Peter in the opening sentence of v. 6. OK, what is the “this”? To what does “this” refer?
It clearly refers back to what he has just described in detail in vv. 3-5! Do you see what this means? Do you see that if we are ever to persevere in pain and overcome the temptation to abandon our faith because of harsh and unrelenting tribulation there is something we must understand, something we must believe, something we must grasp with our minds and hearts and wills, something to which we must regularly return and on which we must cast ourselves daily? And that something is found in vv. 3-5.
Before we even begin to look at vv. 3-5, don’t ever let anyone tell you that theological truth is impractical! Don’t ever let anyone tell you that doctrine doesn’t matter! Don’t ever let anyone tell you that understanding the deep truths about our salvation in Christ Jesus doesn’t help much when the screws have tightened and life is falling apart. It is the only thing that matters! It is the only thing that will see you through! Let me prove it to you.
What will make life liveable and pain tolerable and disappointment endurable is knowing deep in your soul that God is infinitely and gloriously merciful, and that because of that mercy he has caused you to experience a new birth, new life, through the resurrection of Christ from the dead; it is in knowing deep in your soul that this new birth has given you a hope that lives and is fruitful; it is in knowing deep in your soul that this hope is for a heavenly inheritance that cannot be destroyed, corrupted, or defiled; it is in knowing that God is committed to keeping you and guarding you for that final day when your salvation will be consummated. If you don’t know this deep in your soul, if you don’t rejoice in this marvelous and majestic truth, you don’t stand much of a chance when trials come and heartache descends upon you.
But before we look at this glorious truth that Peter says will bring joy in the midst of suffering, we need to take note of the spirit and mood that has obviously gripped Peter as he reflects on this truth:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Don’t miss the fact that he begins with wonder and praise and worship and awe and exultation in who God is. He does much the same thing in 4:11 – “To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Again in 5:11 – “To him be the dominion forever and ever! Amen.”
This is no theological lecture for Peter that he delivers in a detached mood with a monotone voice. This is exuberant celebration! “Blessed be God!” “To him belong glory and dominion!” “To him be the dominion forever and ever!”
Worship happens when the mind is gripped with the revelation of great truths about God and the heart and affections are set on fire with joy and satisfaction and gratitude and gladness and admiration and the mouth explodes in songs of praise and proclamations of the incomparable greatness of God. Peter couldn’t possibly have responded any other way. I hope the same is true of you and me.
And what is it precisely that prompts him to explode in this blessing of God? He mentions four things in particular, only three of which will concern us. We’ll look at them closely in the next article.