Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Awareness and proper perspective can make all the difference in the way one lives through suffering. Peter, gentle with his words, lets his readers know that committing to a faithful Creator and continuing to do good is the direction to go for those who seek to follow Christ. One day the glory of Jesus will be made known to all.
When Russell teaches CrownHeartWorld, the whole biblical Story using three symbols in five columns, I love applying verses like this one from Peter. They fill in more details to our final hope. Column five show what is yet to come, when we will see God for who He is and all things will be restored. When we are complete, face-to-Face with our Creator and Redeemer, our hearts will never flip over into selfishness again. For now, though, those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus are still living in column four. In column four, we advance toward transformation and there is testing and suffering and the hurts of a world that is broken. But hold on to hope, there is over-rejoicing guaranteed in our future!
1 Peter 4:12-14 NIV
Benjamin Franklin, in his 1757 Poor Richard’s Almanac, repeats a phrase that has become familiar: “God helps those who help themselves.” Ben is not however, quoting the Bible. God helps those who are helpless. And when it comes to salvation, each one of us is in dire need of God’s help. God does reward those who seek to do what is right. Sometimes it may feel like the unjust are receiving benefits while the godly are penalized. But always remember, God will have the final say, and His judgment is fair and true. But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Short and to the point, Peter’s reminders go a long way to those who are being persecuted unjustly and this truth is good to keep in mind. Today is not the end. Keep calm and carry on in the ways that honor God. He sees and His Word says He will bless.
1 Peter 3:14a ESV
Peter stressed the importance of unity within the community so that compassion and harmony could flow. Living this way will glorify God. Peter said at the close of his letter, “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” Like in other places in God’s Story, we find that when we bless others (even when they don’t “deserve it”) God will bless us. Look for opportunities to bless, and all the more so, when blessing may seem far from what might come naturally.
Let God’s supernatural love flow. From March of 2013 to March of 2014 I had a new job. While wearing a cute apron, I worked part-time at a friendly self-serve frozen yogurt shop in our neighborhood. I loved riding my bike to work on quiet streets lined with large trees. Greeting guests and offering them samples of our yummy flavors was fun for me. Everyone is happy in a frozen yogurt shop, right? Well, early in my training, a guest impatiently fussed about a number of things and when she left the store, my team leader, who has wisdom in many areas, encouraged me not to let it get to me, as this lady was known for her grumpy, insulting attitude. My new mission was to show extra genuine kindness, blessing this guest until she could not help but to enjoy her fro-yo with a smile. When we have been blessed by God’s love, how can we not desire to bless others, especially those who may not know Him yet? Over time as this lady came into the shop, she warmed up to what I like to believe is God’s love flowing through, and now she even smiles and says kind words. This is a blessing to me and to all those around her.
P.S. During my long ankle recovery I contemplated a variety of jobs that I might like to explore and added dog walking to my now-mobile days. I also went back to the yogurt shop. It is just one of many good venues for living out Peter’s teaching: be tenderhearted, keep a humble attitude, when rudeness comes respond with kindness. This is the way to living a blessed life.
1 Peter 3:8-9 NLT
God’s Story is passed on through the perspective of Peter. He used to be a fisherman and then he had a change in careers. This was not a smooth transition for Peter, but an important one, and by the end of his life those who knew him learned about many blessings of God. Do you need a good reason to praise God today? Peter gives us several as he begins his first letter written to Gentile Christians who were living in a time of great hostility to the gospel. “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…” Peter, the fisherman, also known as Simon and Cephas, wrote this. But Peter did not write this right away. First he needed to experience and then process those experiences.
Friendship with Jesus changes people. In John’s Gospel we read that it was Peter’s brother Andrew who introduced Peter to Jesus. Peter lived and learned what it meant to truly trust God by seeing Jesus in action. Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus led Peter up the mountain of transfiguration. Jesus told Peter where to fish and so many fish were caught it must have been talked about for years. Another time Jesus told Peter to catch a fish and that fish had a coin in its mouth which was used to pay taxes. Peter heard Jesus’ sermons and was able to ask the smartest Man who ever lived question after question. And then, when the time came, Peter denied that he ever knew his Friend. But that is not where God’s Story ended for Peter. It went on to see Peter’s reconciliation with a resurrected Jesus. God’s Holy Spirit filled Peter with boldness to preach and gave him a purpose worth living for. Praise be to God, who has so richly blessed His children, born into a hope that will not die, with an incredible inheritance guaranteed. God’s mercy is great and the promise of what we have yet to receive is unimaginable by human minds. Thank You, Father God, for raising Jesus from the dead and through Him offering us abundant life and a living hope. Amen.
1 Peter 1:3-4 ESV