Perseverance – Faith in Christ While Suffering Persecution Because of Living Hope

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. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
(1 Peter 1:3-12 ESV)

As I wrote about in my previous post, Peter’s letters have captured me over the summer. This summer I have spent my study time diving into Peter’s two letters. They have devastated me. These posts will be lessons I learned and notes I took from I and II Peter. -jon

Perseverance. This word means alot to me. Just this morning I was at the gym and I looked up and on the wall was a painting & mural with these words: “Sweat + Sacrifice = Success.” That is true, but only half true for if all it took in life was hard work and determination then why doesn’t everybody succeed? And not just in business or sports, but in family, life and marriage. How about with personal character and life choices? I see alot of people that are working hard (some are hardly working) but most are still failing in multiple areas of life.

Tiger Woods is an example of this. Is he a success? Answer the question and then think about it for a minute. If you determine success by awards on a golf course or by dollar signs than yes. But if you value success by obedience, character and loyalty…obviously no. That takes me back to reading Peter’s letter written at the time of Emperor Nero and vast persecution of the early church around AD 62-62. Peter is living in Rome and writes this letter to the believers who could easily see from wherever they lived in the city, the vast pagan temples and the coliseum where Christians would be executed for their faith.

Now that is real persecution and to go thru all of that and remain faithful to the gospel is perseverance not just running an extra lap or swimming a mile at the gym. Peter understood that to persevere in life you needed more than just sweat and will power. Peter encouraged his readers to endure suffering and persecution by giving themselves entirely to God. Peter was teaching about faithfulness, real faithfulness.

Peter wrote extensively in these chapters about “remaining faithful” in “times of distress” because of a “living hope.” What is this living hope? How would God deliver them? Would God even deliver them? This brings me back to our American culture where we think we have it tough because gas is $4.05 a gallon. We really don’t understand the concept of perseverance, because we have never really been faithful, because most have never been persecuted. We think we have had it tough, but compared to the early church, we have it easy. Compared with the reformers, this is a cake-walk. Compared to far east asia and other dictatorship countries…we don’t and couldn’t get it on our own if we tried (though we don’t and won’t because we think we are good already).

Peter referred to this attitude of proud and arrogant attitude/thinking as our “former ignorance” 1:13. He also reminded us to have “purified obedience” that was “sincere” 1:22. Peter then called those that still don’t get it that they were just babies who hadn’t grown up and that weren’t ready for big boy food 2:1-3. Basically, Peter called Christians who don’t persevere…brats.

So what is the deep truth that can motivate, inspire, drive, and push the Christian to be faithful thu all difficulty?

Living Hope.

We should have faith in Christ, even while suffering persecution because of living hope. Now this is heavy, and if you got a study Bible, go read the passage and then read the commentary. Pray and then continue reading this cuz the complexity is awe-inspiring.

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… (1 Peter 1:3 ESV)

Our salvation is due to God’s grace from Christ on the cross. So Peter points to our being born again to a living hope, not a dead hope or a theoretical hope, but a real, live, living hope. This hope is the future resurrection after death, it is eternal life as promised by Christ. It is no hell and all Heaven. We have a hope that cannot be shaken no matter how badly your knees shake. We have a hope that will always endure no matter if physically it seems that you cannot go on. We have a hope of life beyond this life because of Christ death then resurrection.

This is the key driving understood fact that the persecuted Christians understood, and because of their faith in this many would be slaughtered. Peter reminds them of what this living hope was in vs 4…

to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, (1 Peter 1:4 ESV)

This hope is the faithful believers inheritance given from God to them that cannot be taken away by anything, even torture and death. They were living & some dying for the “prize of the high calling” as Paul wrote. This inheritance, this hope, this living promise from Christ to believers is described by Peter with amazing profoundness.

Imperishable.

Our living hope in Christ cannot perish. What we go thru for the King, is not a waste nor is it just a trial. It is on purpose and planned, therefore I should remain faithful thru the storm because my hope last beyond the storm.

Undefiled.

We live in a depraved world with depraved definitions of good. Here, Peter reminds the believer that our hope has not been tainted by sin but is straight from God. It is better than we can imagine. It is perfect.

Unfading.

Sometimes we can think that God has forgotten about us or that God is so far up there in the sky that we are not of importance to Him. This thinking is wrong because our living hope is ever before our eyes. We have a hope that is sure. We have a light that will never go out no matter how much evil is committed either to us or around us.

So here is where the connection takes off and my eyes get big from the depth of this chapter. vs 5-6 just explode off the page…

who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,
(1 Peter 1:5-6 ESV)

Did you catch that? We are guarded by God’s power thru any trial. Our faith for salvation, our living hope will be revealed and we can rejoice even when its raining because God must be letting it rain if it is raining. We are guarded by His power. The consequential truth that pours out of this chapter shakes me because it means that nothing that has happened to me in my life was by accident. Although we say this, this has future ramifications to it as well. Nothing that will happen to me in the future has not already be vetted by God for His glory.

So with this understanding of living hope, the truth that God knows the outcome of my life and is testing me and guiding me and guarding me along the way, we understand Peter when he says “praise and glory and honor” be to Jesus when we see Him. For right now it is hard to persevere because we love who we cannot see, but one day we will see Him.

I find it interesting that in vs 10-12 that Peter reminds us of the prophets who said that Jesus would come…many of those prophets were persecuted.

The convicting truth is that we have been blessed to not have had to endure such strong persecution as those before us and yet it is consequently sad that most have evidenced a lack of perseverance to obey God when it’s easy.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV)

Thoughts to chew on:

  • Though we haven’t seen Jesus, we must love Him
  • If we believe and stay faithful, we can enjoy this Living Hope now which the angels wish they could see (vs12)
  • Believing in Him is proven by an inexpressible joy that is filled with glory by living out your faith
  • The living hope is Jesus resurrected, this has huge meaning (life eternal, heaven, forgiveness, love, hope, joy)
  • It’s easy to press on when you trust God to help you finish the race.
  • Success then in life is measured by God’s standards, so a life lived for God is a success. Every other life lived is a failure.    
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