DAILY DEVOTION - MAY 4
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“Though you have not seen [Jesus Christ], 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
Oil and water. Orange juice and toothpaste. Some combinations just don’t work! But then there’s chocolate and bacon, or laughing so hard that you cry—things that seem opposed but go together well.
Yesterday we looked at Peter’s teaching about suffering and trials and his illustration of God’s purification process. Our faith is refined like gold, heated until the impurities surface and burn, until all the dross is removed. When our faith undergoes this testing, it results in a proven, durable, genuine product far more precious than gold, which can be destroyed.
Now, what is so amazing (and a bit challenging for the human heart to comprehend) is that Peter’s dialogue on suffering is sandwiched between two calls to rejoice (in verses 6 and 8). In fact, his entire discourse on suffering is hinged on an earlier passage commanding us to praise the God of our salvation (vv. 3–5).
Called to joy while we struggle? Is this a call to ignore hurt or be insensitive to pain? If so, what do I do with all these strong feelings I experience when life drops and surges like a roller coaster? Why is joy so important? How do I rejoice during times when life is so tragic and painful?
First, wrestling with these questions is important and we shouldn’t shy away from doing so. Second, having knowledge of something real, like the goodness of God, doesn’t take away all the pain and struggle. God knows that life here-and-now is not the way it was supposed to be. After all, he crafted all of Creation to exude goodness and to flourish; but because of the Fall, there is aching, groaning, mourning, and death. Yet, we are still called to rejoice.
There are many moments in life that challenge this idea of rejoicing in the midst of trials. You’ve been there! When the doctor tells you there’s something wrong, when a relationship you treasure fractures, when the job you need falls through, when an accident turns life upside-down, or when home is a place of unrest, the ache and fear you experience is deep. When news breaks of another mass shooting or another bombing or another attack on war-torn refugees, the disillusionment is real. And, when there is no relief in sight, the grief is compounded all the more.
God is not disconnected from our agonizing realities. He is not asking us to use our future inheritance to numb a painful present. He does not require permanent smiles on our faces as life assails us nor cheery replies when truthful answers are mournful. “Joy in all circumstances” is not a call to be fake or disengaged from real and present hardships. It actually honors God when we are honest about our experiences and emotions. He wants us to come to him with real pain.
Rather, the call to joy is a call to a higher perspective. We are to remember what is true and to have hope in what is promised: we’re loved and we are participating in Christ’s inheritance, even through suffering—an inheritance that is permanent, pure, and perpetual, and one with a glorious end (vv. 4, 7). In the now, we receive from God “down-payments” on this future inheritance—a living hope, the comfort of the Spirit, and a divine incentive to persevere. We are not asked to pretend away the pain, but to persevere and rejoice in spite of it. There are times when this is an extremely difficult call; there is true tension between joy and sorrow.
But, joy in sorrow is possible through God! Though it may be hard to remember and harder still to take comfort in, we belong to God. This is not a pithy comfort; it is a permanent and perpetual cause for praise. We are his. The Source of all goodness, mercy, and light is ours—rejoice! God loves us, and his is a love that does not let go and does not give up. Peter had lived this. Even when Peter denied Jesus, Jesus never denied him.
Jesus won’t deny us either. Notice the inexhaustible depth of his redeeming and claiming of us in verse 3: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...” (NIV) Having Jesus alone is cause for unending joy.
Belonging to Jesus is a saving grace, salvation given to us, and a source of joy. He is our Lord and Keeper, who gives us his covenantal love, transforms our lives, and preserves us through his resurrection power. God’s goodness and steadfast love will follow us all of our days (Psalm 23:6).
Does verse 9 (“...for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”) mean that we are not saved now? No! Rather, Peter is talking about past, present, and future elements of a salvation process that involves our justification, sanctification, and glorification. At the time of our conversion, we are saved, counted righteous, and declared holy. We are justified by Jesus through his one-time, past sacrifice. This is called justification. We then begin a life-long process in which God continually forgives our sins and helps us to live holy lives, becoming more like Jesus. This is called sanctification. The future conclusion of our justification and sanctification, because of the perseverance of God who guards us and keep us to the end, is our glorification with Christ eternally.
Tests and trials are part of the sanctification process. Though suffering is not our favorite experience, shaping and forming by God through hardship is a characteristic of every true child of God. We are also promised that whatever we experience in this world will seem like a light, momentary affliction compared to the glory and goodness that is to come (2 Cor. 4:17–18). God will overwhelm us with an eternal glory!
As difficult as it is, responding with joy in the midst of suffering is a much-needed balm to the world. In Isaiah 61, we see this co-existence of joy and sorrow, of rejoicing though there is pain. The messenger rejoices in the news of salvation, the way we rejoice on our wedding day. In the joy of that salvation, the messenger is to go to the poor, the brokenhearted, the captive, and those who grieve—and minister to them. The message is that all who mourn will be restored, healed, rewarded for their suffering, and realize they are blessed by God. Full and final salvation is coming!