The book of 1 Peter teaches us suffering. Everyone suffers, and this book shows us what to do when we suffer. I am to use suffering as an opportunity to give glory to God. I am to see my suffering as potential rather than a problem.
In the introduction of the book found in the first two verses of chapter 1, I learn that it was written by the apostle Peter to people who were suffering. They had been driven from their homes, their jobs, and their families by those who were hostile toward Christ. They were Christians who were hated and persecuted because of their faith in Jesus.
It was written for the purpose of showing how to give glory to God in the midst of suffering. You may not be suffering because of your faith, but how you deal with the difficulties and challenges of life are no different regardless of their cause.
In chapter 1, the apostle Peter helps those who are suffering by setting before them the idea of salvation. If I want to get through the hardships in my life, I need to keep my salvation in mind. Peter addresses three points in chapter 1 as it relates to salvation.
Notice the modifiers that Pete uses. He refers to God's abundant mercy and a living hope.
Peter is writing about the mercy of God which is abundant, and His abundant mercy resulted in our having living hope. What does the Bible mean when it uses the word “hope”? There are two passages in the book of Proverbs that define hope.
In the above passage, the word hope is used interchangeable with the word “expectation.” From this we can define hope as expectation. Hope and expectation are parallel. Let's consider another passage.
In the above passage, we find the word “hope” and again it is used with a synonym. Notice how the word hope is paired with the word desire. From this we can define hope as a desire. Hope and desire are used interchangeably.
Let’s put these two thoughts together. To have hope is to have an expectation of something you desire. In Titus 1.2, I can read about the hope of eternal life. What I am reading about is the desire and the expectation of eternal life. We desire eternal life, and we expect eternal life.
When I take this thought back to 1 Peter 1.3 and read about this living hope, here is what I find. I am suffering, but I desire something better and I can expect something better. It was God, in His abundant mercy, who made it possible to desire and to expect something better. I can better deal with current hardships by knowing that there is something better waiting for me.
Watch how Peter describes what we hope for.
I am suffering, but I can get through it because I have the hope that there is something better waiting for me. I have an inheritance waiting for me. He describes this inheritance as “incorruptible,” “undefiled,” and “does not fade away.” What is waiting for us will always be there. It will never rust. It will never deteriorate.
Verse 4 also tells me where this inheritance is located. It says that it is “reserved in heaven for you.” Peter is writing to people who are hurting. He says to them that there is hope of something better. Something better is waiting for you because God made it available by His abundant mercy, and it is waiting in heaven for you.
The hope of going to heaven helps us get through the pain and the suffering in this life. When you feel yourself at your lowest point and you are hurting, what you need to do is remember that there is something better that is coming. There is a home in heaven where there is no sorrow for God will wipe away every tear from your eyes (Rev. 21.4).
Don’t just read over that. I am protected by the power of God through faith for something that is better than here. In this world, I have temptations. In this world, there is heartache. In this world there is suffering. But I can handle suffering today because of what is coming tomorrow.
The hope of heaven will help me get through hardships, but Peter then talks about something else related to salvation that will help us.
Here are people who are suffering. However, they can endure their suffering and in the process bring God glory because they have the desire and the expectation of something better, a home in heaven. For that reason, they greatly rejoice.
The phrase, “greatly rejoice” comes from a single Greek word which carries the idea of someone who is so overflowing with happiness. They are in a state where they cannot contain themselves and are jumping up and down with joy. I find it of great interest that the word is in the present tense. That means that I can be suffering, and right in the middle of hardship, I can jump up and down with joy. Every day, even those days in which we suffer, are days where we have the hope of someday being with God in heaven.
Wait a minute! I am being abused by the world. I am in pain. I don’t feel like rejoicing. How can I rejoice? Peter tells us why we can rejoice. He refers to the ability to rejoice greatly and then says, “though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,” Does it seem like there is no end to suffering? You hurt and you suffer, and there are times when you feel as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Are there times when you wonder how long you are going to have to endure this? You can find comfort and we have reason to rejoice knowing that the time will come when there will be no suffering. Even if the only end to suffering is the end of our lives when we find ourselves comforted in heaven, we know that the suffering in this life is only for a little while.
Paul made the same point in the book of Romans. In Romans 8.18, he wrote…
Our suffering in this life is viewed in light of our home in heaven where there will be no sorrow or crying for God will wipe away every tear. With that hope, we have reason to rejoice even while we suffer.
There are times when you and I are under a tremendous amount of pressure, and this pressure comes from a variety of sources. So you have the phrase, “various trials.” There are times when this pressure is unavoidable. I have the pressures of life that cause me to have a heaviness of heart, but they are only for a little while. In contrast, I have a hope of eternal life. I have a desire and an expectation of something that is better. This new life with God in heaven is a life that is incorruptible, undefiled, and does not fade away. For this reason, I greatly rejoice.
What gives me the ability to rejoice as I am under pressure from the various trials I have to endure in my life? Why do I have this desire and expectation of something better? The answer is in verse 7.
This verse is telling me that I suffer hardships so that my faith can be tested. It is easy to have faith when everything is going well. However, when you under pressure, you begin to question your faith and wonder if God is really there for you. Does God care when I am hurting? Where is the God of justice? So we suffer as a means of testing, and the more I my faith is tested, the stronger my faith becomes.
So I suffer, and in my suffering, I am developing a stronger faith. Others see the kind of person I am becoming through suffering when they see how I am responding to hardship. They see my faith in action, and God is glorified. The happiness that comes from the hope of heaven, and the happiness that comes from knowing that my suffering is making me a better Christian gives me reason to be happy.
You and I have never seen Jesus in the flesh. You and I have never witnessed His miracles or heard His sermons first hand. You and I were not near the cross as He suffered in agony until He finally breathed His last. You and I were not there when He was raised from the dead and showed Himself to over five hundred brethren at once. Even though we have not seen Him, we love Him and believe in Him. For that reason, we rejoice.
What does it mean to believe in Jesus? Biblical faith is a faith that compels me to do what God says I need to do. Biblical faith is an obedient faith.
Now watch what Peter just said. I am suffering. If I have a faith that moves me to obey the commands of God, the end result of my faith is the salvation of my soul. Knowing that, I can have confidence in someday going to heaven, and that helps me rejoice in the midst of suffering. I am happy because of the hope of eternal life which I have as a result of an obedient faith. This is what helps me deal with suffering in this life.
You and I will go through life, and we will suffer. The question we often ask is, “How am I going to get through this?” You get through it with God. You put your faith in Him who promises you eternal life because He is a God with abundant mercy. That helps me to rejoice even in the midst of suffering.
Then Peter refers to one more point that is related to our salvation. He refers to heaven.
“This salvation” is what is mentioned in verse 9 that comes because of the faith that we have in Jesus. The Old Testament prophets searched carefully wanting to understand the salvation that we get to enjoy. As far as we know, they never were able to grasp what we would have.
It is said that Isaiah 53 is an accurate depiction and gives us a visual of what happened in the death of Christ. It is as if Isaiah was brought forward in time and set in the shadows of the cross where he sat and took notes. Yet, as far as we know, Isaiah never grasped the full blessings of the salvation you and I get to enjoy. They wanted to know. They searched diligently to find out.
You and I are suffering hardship. We are experiencing difficult times. Peter reminds us of the hope that we have, so that we can better deal with the problems of today by looking forward to the better days when we will be with God in heaven. That salvation, that home in heaven that is waiting for me helps me endure the suffering I am experiencing today, and even gives me reason to happy even while I suffer.
The Old Testament prophets wrote about these days and they searched diligently because they wanted to know more about it. The angels are also very interested and wanting to look into this salvation to know more about it. So we are in possession of the hope of someday going to heaven that is so valuable that the prophets and angels searched it out. We have what angels desired to look into.
Sometimes we hurt simply because we are Christians. This is a hostile world, and sometimes we find ourselves in the crosshairs. Satan is walking about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Regardless of why we suffer, what do we do? How do we get through it? We live our lives looking forward to something that is better. In doing so, the world sees the way we handle suffering. They see the hope that is in us. And we glorify God in our suffering.
Summary: This chapter discusses this idea of hope. When I am suffering, I am able to endure because of hope. I am able to remember that there is something better that is yet to come. Specifically, I can look forward to eternal life, a home in heaven where there will be no sorrow. More generally, I have hope that eventually things will get easier. There is something better in the near future. Things will get better. When there is something better to look forward to tomorrow, it helps us to better deal with the suffering that is today. There are individuals who have cancer and know that they only have a few months, weeks, or even just a few days to live. And they can look at life and be happy. What makes them happy? They know there is something better waiting for them in the life to come.
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