On Sabbath we began a new sermon series on the first letter of Peter called Hope Wins. In the five short chapters of this “book,” Peter show us how hope triumphs over trials. No other NT letter addresses suffering and overcoming as much as 1 Peter. His letter is the “safe room” of the New Testament, showing us how to stand strong in hard times.
Peter tells us the purpose of this letter in his conclusion in 5:12, “I have written you this brief letter…to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Take your stand in it!” We need this kind of encouragement today, so let’s begin our journey.
Rewind to 1 Peter 1:1-2. The author of the letter self-identifies as “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Even in the salutation we are confronted with hope. The fact that it reads, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,” rather than “Peter, the denier of Jesus Christ,” says HOPE WINS! Peter was the forgiven failure and this simple introduction reminds us that there is no fatal failure except the failure to accept God’s forgiveness.
Verse 2 spells out the recipients of Peter’s letter: “To God’s elect, strangers in the world…” As Christians in an increasingly secular society, those who are following the Lamb are becoming stranger and stranger, social oddities and easy targets for late-night comedians and satirists. Sometimes we get it twisted and think we are residents here. But those who follow Jesus will always be strangers here. This world is not our home. Peter’s letter will teach us how to be in the world, but not of it.
These Gentile converts to Christianity were feeling like strangers in their own homes. But by addressing them as God’s “elect and chosen ones,” Peter is giving them hope that even though they are strangers here, they have a home in God. They are wanted, loved, and chosen by the only One who matters. And if you’re feeling alone and like a stranger in your own home because of your decision to follow Jesus, know that you are needed, loved, and chosen by God.
This knowledge gives us “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade…” (vs. 3, 4) The resurrection, which is permanent, guarantees that the fiery trial is temporary. Whatever you and I go through, it cannot survive or outlast the resurrection. Therefore, Hope wins when you know that your salvation is secure.
Peter’s readers are beginning to suffer all kinds of trials that will soon get worse. These new converts are becoming discouraged and wondering if it’s worth the trouble to follow Jesus.
Peter reminds his readers that every trial is a test. Just like gold has to be tested in the fire before it is pure, the trials that come to us are to purify us, not destroy us. Hope wins when we realize that trials aren’t meant to take the strength out of us, but to put God’s strength into us.
Peter uses the Greek word Poikilos to describe our trials (“Various” in NKJV and NASB.) It literally means “many-colored.” Peter uses that word only one other time in 4:10 to describe the grace of God. This means that our troubles may be multi-colored, but so is the grace of God. Hope wins when you know that there is no trial that God’s grace cannot match.
When life gets hard and faith is difficult, you can stand fast in the grace of God because at the end, Jesus wins, and so will we. –Pastor Randy