Jesus told us, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Growing up in rural America it has been easier for me to keep His words at arms-length. For my younger self, war, unrest and violence have always been in foreign places. Today, my older self finds it very different; the fallenness of this world is relentlessly breaking in upon my mind like the waves in a storm. Disasters flash in red banners across my computer screen demanding attention: the devastations of addiction; broken marriages and families; the ravages of cancer and disease; the outrageous ambitions of science; consequences of monumental greed and corruption and unthinkable violence. How do I keep my head above water in this broken world? The rest of Christ’s words (Jn. 16:33) lift me above the fray and place my feet on solid ground: “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Just as Edward Mote penned in his hymn about the Christian’s hope:
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
How does Jesus’ promises and shed blood stay my heart and mind? Peter’s first letter teaches us that the ground of our hope is Jesus. By God’s great mercy we have been “born again to a living hope” through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Not a ‘hope so hope’ but a hope filled with life and energy. We have also been born to an estate, that is “to an inheritance” which is salvation; eternal life! Exiles, leaving homes behind, have no inheritance but this is not the reality for children of the heavenly Father! This inheritance belongs to us for a certainty now, and we will take possession of it in the future. A salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Peter describes this inheritance as “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading”. A one commentator put it, “In substance incorruptible; in purity undefiled; in beauty unfading” [Alford]. And we are assured that this inheritance is “kept in heaven for you”. Calvin wrote:
“The inheritance is said to be reserved, or preserved, that we may know that it is beyond the reach of danger. For, were it not in God’s hand, it might be exposed to endless dangers. If it were in this world, how could we regard it as safe amidst so many changes? That he might then free us from every fear, he testifies that our salvation is placed in safety beyond the harms which Satan can do. But as the certainty of salvation can bring us but little comfort, except each one knows that it belongs to himself, Peter adds, for you”.
1 Peter 1:3, 4 is a passage to help us deal with the tragedies and sorrows of this world that would otherwise crush us. In these stormy times, it is also a word of hope for us to hold out to those who want to know how it is that we can identify with the pain of a fallen world and yet retain hope – ‘sorrowful yet always rejoicing’. Let us be bold to share our confidence in Jesus that others might draw near and “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”. May God increase our faith to stand even more securely on the solid Rock, Christ Jesus our Lord.