Glorious Joy (1 Peter 1:3-9)
My wedding day was the most glorious day of my life. I loved Tammy so much it hurt, and I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. When she started down the aisle and I got a glimpse of her, I burst into tears. She was so beautiful and everything I ever wanted; I had joy I can’t describe.
Each of you knows that same joy. Wasn’t your wedding day also one of the most glorious days of your life? Wasn’t your soul filled with joy when you were baptized into Christ? Have any of you ever held a newborn grandchild with a frown on your face? Did you go to a child’s college graduation and not just about burst with pride? What’s it like when you see your children and grandchildren working hard and achieving their dreams?
No matter how much joy you may experience in this life, you have a far greater joy; you have the promise of an inheritance in heaven: “The Christian rejoices, for heaven is coming.”
Scripture (1 Peter 1:3-9)
The Christian has been born again “to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Notice the connection between a “living hope” and Jesus’s bodily resurrection. Only because Jesus lives does the Christian have a hope which lives.
The Christian has been “born again.” Jews considered Gentile converts like newborn babies; they had given up their old life for a new identity of following God’s law. Likewise, the Christian has a radically different life before and after his conversion.
The Christian has been reborn “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” Just as the ancient Jews longed for their inheritance in Canaan, the Christian anticipates his Promised Land with God.
The Christian’s inheritance is eternal and not subject to decay. No foreign invader can capture the inheritance. No natural disaster can destroy the inheritance. No time will fade the inheritance. That inheritance is certain in heaven.
The inheritance is “kept in heaven.” This inheritance is the Christian’s final reward; the inheritance is not found in the Paradise of the Hadean world. The Christian receives his inheritance only after this world is no more and he is with the Triune God in heaven.
The Christian can rejoice in his inheritance even if in this life has has “been grieved by various trials.” In the context of 1 Peter, these “various trials” refer to persecution.
These Christians faced persecution to test the genuineness of their precious faith, a faith more precious than gold. In the first century, gold was the most expensive and rarest of all metals. A Roman gold coin costs 45 denarii; a denarius was the daily wage—you had to work a month and a half to purchase one gold coin; gold wasn’t cheap! The Christian’s faith, however, is far more precious than that extremely expensive metal.
These Christians weren’t simply facing trials, but their trials would increase their faith so that their faith may “result in praise and glory and honor” when Jesus returns.
As these Christians faced persecution, they loved their unseen Lord and were filled with “inexpressible” joy as they obtained the outcome of their faith, “the salvation of [their] souls.”
“The Christian rejoices, for heaven is coming.” The text outlines how you can have that great joy because heaven awaits.
How can you have “inexpressible joy?”
You have been “born again to a living hope” through God’s great mercy. Peter emphasized God’s work—his mercy—which allowed you to be reborn. These Christians lived a life of despair before God’s mercy allowed their rebirth. Their trials had no purpose; then, they had been born again, and their sufferings led them to a stronger faith and an inheritance in heaven.
Before you came to Christ, your life was hopeless and full of despair. You might be thinking, “Justin, I had a good life before I came to Jesus. God blessed me so much.” You might have had bountiful physical blessings, but your spiritual life was despair.
There is no hope outside of Christ. The Ephesians were to “remember that [they] were [before their conversion] separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). Before you came to Jesus, your suffering had no purpose; if you had died in that suffering, you would have spent eternity in hell.
God’s great mercy has changed your life. You have hope instead of despair. You have life instead of damnation. You have suffering with a purpose. God changed your life. Compare your spiritual state before and after your conversion and understand how much God has changed your life.
Your suffering has a point; Peter’s readers had been “grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of [their] 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.”
You’re not facing persecution like Peter’s readers, but you still suffer, don’t you? Are you facing health struggles? Are your finances seriously tight? Is your marriage falling apart, or are you simply bickering a lot? Do you spend sleepless nights worrying over your children? Are you carrying a load of sin you’ve never revealed to anyone?
Understand you are in a crucible so God can make you stronger. The crucible made Paul stronger: “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor 1:8-9). Some people think God won’t give them more than they can handle, but Paul said that he was burdened beyond his strength (it was more than he could handle). But that suffering’s purpose was to make Paul realize he couldn’t handle his struggles but God could!
Your suffering’s purpose is to purify your faith and give you hope for eternity.
These Christians faced trials, but they loved the Lord. Some folks think that that struggles mean God doesn’t love them and they turn from him. These Christians loved the Lord in spite of their great trials.
Do you love the Lord? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). Think about loving the Lord like the Christians of 1 Peter: they loved the Lord—obeyed the Lord—although it cost them dearly. They faced persecution because they loved the Lord by obeying him. They continued to love the Lord not matter how difficult their lives became.
Do you love Jesus when obeying him is hard? Moses did: “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Heb 11:26). What about you? If you just don’t feel good, do you find it easy to neglect what God says? If someone makes fun of you for doing right, do you still do right? If your friends or loved ones encourage you to sin, do you still love the Lord? If you’re having a spat with your spouse, do you find it difficult to be kind? The point is: No matter what’s taking place in your life, you must love—obey—the Lord Jesus.
These Christians believed in Jesus and rejoiced with great joy. Move from simply believing in Jesus to comprehending that every word he spoke is true. How could these Christians face their trials? They comprehended God’s word and knew that God would keep his promise to give them an inheritance in heaven.
Comprehend God in trust. The saints of old did. Noah was “warned by God concerning events as yet unseen,” and “in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household” (Heb 11:7). Noah had never seen it rain, but God said it was going to rain and flood the earth; Noah knew God was going to make it happen, for God said it. Sarah was well “past the age” to conceive, but God told her she was going to have a child, so “she considered him faithful who had promised” (Heb 11:11). She was 90-years-old, but God said she was going to have a child, so Sarah knew she was gonna have a child.
When God says he will give you “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” he is going to do it. You can face every trial with the calm assurance that God is true, and he will give you a reward in heaven.
Because your life has been changed by God, because your faith is in a crucible of refinement, because you cherish the Lord, and because you comprehend his promises, you have great cheer. Peter’s readers rejoiced “with joy that is inexpressible and [they were] filled with glory.”
You don’t need to go through life down in the dumps! Rejoice with an inexpressible joy. When you sing hymns of praise, do so with a heart full of joy. When you pray, rejoice because God hears you. When you repent of sin, rejoice in your forgiveness. When you near life’s end, rejoice knowing God has a better home prepared.
Are you able to rejoice this morning?