Peter begins (3)with praising God for who believers are in Christ. He starts off with identity. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” God is merciful, not a little bit but great in mercy. And because of that mercy disciples have been born again into a living hope through Jesus resurrection. God hasn’t treated believers as they deserve, he hasn’t paid them back for their sin, he has counted their sin to Jesus account and he has paid for it. The resurrection is the receipt that their debt has been paid and their new birth certificate.
And because of Jesus resurrection they have a living hope of an eternal unspoilable, unassailable future that is totally secure because it’s kept in heaven for them. But not only is their future secure but (5)they are shielded now through faith by God’s power. God working in ways they cannot see to protect them even when things look at their worst.
Peter begins his letter to suffering disciples by praising God with them for their new identity in Christ. An identity that is rock solid. The suffering they are experiencing does not change who God is or who they are in Christ.
One of the lies we’re tempted to believe is that our suffering is a sign that God has forsaken us? That somehow suffering changes God’s identity and ours. But says Peter that’s not true! Suffering doesn’t change who we are. We’re secure in Christ, in Christ God has shown us mercy and he is faithful he doesn’t forsake his people. He shields them until their salvation is ready to be revealed.
Suffering doesn’t teach us about God or about who we are but it does teach us about our world. It reminds us that our world isn’t as God intended it to be, that it needs complete renewal not just a minor upgrade. And that our hope is in God’s new creation because of Jesus.
Don’t let suffering shrink your perspective. Pain can do that. If we burn ourselves it feels like the only thing we can feel is that burn. Suffering can become like that. We see and feel everything through the lens of our suffering. Sufferer becomes our identity. But Peter says don’t let suffering define you, don’t let it be your identity, or shape who you believe God is. How do we do that?
(6)starts “in this you greatly rejoice…” it’s referring to everything in v3-5. Suffering disciples refuse to let suffering define them as we rejoice in who we are in Jesus and in who God is. We’re not forsaken. God is merciful, active in our suffering shielding us, and our hope is sure because of Jesus and it is held, secure, safe, waiting for us when Jesus comes again.
Many in our church family are suffering. Some of us are grieving loss, some have significant chronic illness, some face battles with their mental health and on going bouts of depression, some of us suffer with family worries, or job concerns, or a combination of a multitude of the above. Can I ask you this morning to honestly look at how you view yourself and how you think of God? Your suffering is not your identity. You are a sufferer, yes, the Bible does not minimise or dismiss your suffering, God cares about it and or you in it. But you are first and foremost a saved shielded saint secure in Christ and with a certain hope you can rejoice in.
How do we think of ourselves in our suffering? Is suffering warping our view of ourselves or of God? Will we greatly rejoice in our identity in Christ even as we suffer?
Just as Peter writes to encourage these suffering saints to rejoice with him in who they are in Christ so we must encourage one another to do so. Peter writes this so everyone in the church knows how to encourage one another in suffering. As a church family we need to learn that lesson. We need to help each other rejoice in our identity and security in Christ. We need to constantly remind one another of who we are, of our hope, of God’s mercy. That suffering isn’t our identity but a temporary part of our lives as God’s children until Jesus returns. The church should be like a compass constantly pointing the sufferer to our identity and hope in Christ.
We need to do so frequently as we speak and meet together. But we also need to do it sensitively, not clumsily. Patiently and graciously as we talk with, walk with, and pray with one another. Drawing one another to praise God for his mercy in Jesus that gives us that new identity and a certain secure hope.
But that’s not all. It’s not just that disciples have a better hope for the future. We have a better hope for the present even as we suffer.