Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Trials

Thanksgiving in all circumstances

Typical Thanksgiving mealHalloween was last month, and tomorrow is Black Friday, but what is today? Thanksgiving Day! It’s one American thing that we have not adopted in Australia.

Drought. Bushfires. Floods. COVID 19 pandemic. Job losses. Lockdowns. Restrictions. Financial crises. It’s been a difficult year for us. In such situations people ask, “Where’s God in this?” The prophet Habakkuk also questioned God. (more…)


Coronavirus politics

This is an appeal for calm. The number one command in scripture is “Fear not” (33 times in the ESV Bible). But there is a lot of fear. A lot of what’s happening right now in Australia, especially in Victoria, and in the world, is driven by fear. And I think that the political response is also being governed by the fear that people have. Both of those things are not helping us.

This post is based on a message by Martyn Isles of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Martyn Isles, Australian Christian Lobby - The truth of itLock-down

Victoria has the toughest lock-downs we’ve experienced at Stage 4 in 31 local government areas in Melbourne. That’s over 5 million people! There are only four reasons to leave the house: necessary work, necessary goods and services, medical care and compassionate reasons, and exercise. But exercise is limited to one hour per day within 5 km of your home. Shopping is limited to one person per household per day, within 5 km of your home. A curfew applies between 8pm and 5am, which is astonishing in a free country. And it’s the usual stuff with non-essential businesses closed. And most who still have jobs are working from home. But as a result of these measures 500,000 workers have been stood down with more to come. All this is done to save lives. But I wonder whether there is more harm being done than good? Whether we are creating fear where we shouldn’t be? (more…)


Experiencing God’s peace in the storms of life

Here’re four steps that will help you experience God’s peace in the storms of your life. (more…)


Crazy times!

Communal singing is prohibited in church in NSW, Australia!Singing prohibited!

Two weeks ago the Catholic church launched a petition for the limit on attendees at churches in New South Wales (NSW) of 10 people to be increased to the 50 person limit that applied to pubs and clubs, cafes and restaurants. This increase was granted on 1 June as the restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 are relaxed slowly. Now a maximum of 50 people (adults and children) can attend a religious service at a place of worship. But there are other requirements to fulfill like:
– People attending a religious service at a place of public worship will be required to provide their name and contact details when they enter so that they can be used for contact tracing, and
– Communal singing is prohibited! And singing with facemasks is not a current alternative.
And there is confusing advice about how many people can be in a room (Appendix A). We’re going through crazy times! (more…)


Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut

Sledgehammer and smashed nut. COVID-19 control measures are like using a sledgehammer to crack a nutDrastic measures have been taken by governments around the world to control the spread COVID-19 disease. They are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Or making a mountain out of a molehill. The measures are more stringent than are really necessary to solve the problem. They seem to be driven by fear and hysteria (Appendix A).

The control measures are justified by the saying that COVID-19 is caused by a deadly virus. But is this true? (more…)


God and COVID-19

Biblical answers to five common questions

This post comes from Philip Nunn who lives in The Netherlands.

Is COVID-19 a warning from God?This corona crisis affects all of us in different ways. Some are feeling tired of being quarantined or are losing patience with their bored children. Others are in hospitals, struggling themselves or helping those who find it difficult to breathe. Where is God in this crisis? What is an appropriate way to talk about our experience with COVID-19? We can learn from how the Lord Jesus dealt with a family disaster as described in John 11. Lazarus had died. When Jesus arrived, Martha went out to meet Him. “Lord” she said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (11:21NIV). What follows is a theological discussion that ended with a deep revelation: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (11:25-26). Then Mary arrived. She fell at Jesus’ feet. She expressed her pain and frustration with the exact same words as her sister Martha (11:32). Towards Mary the response of Jesus was different. “He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” And then, “Jesus wept” (11:33, 35). That is what Mary needed to see: the tears of her Master. Which is more important: the theological or the pastoral approach? Clearly both are. But we need sensitivity and the Lord’s guidance to know which approach is needed in each situation. (more…)


Coronavirus lockdown

A video by Philip Nunn, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
“Making the best use of time, because the days are evil”
Ephesians 5:16ESV

 

 


Grief & loss during the shutdown

Stay at home to control the spread of COVID-19Grieving with hope

We’re living in unusual times. In order to control the spread of COVID-19 we’re staying home as much as possible. People are working from home and some businesses are closed.

Some people have lost their jobs and are now unemployed. There are travel restrictions. Social activities and celebrations are cancelled. There is physical (social) distancing. We have less freedom. It’s almost like wartime. There’s economic gloom with the possibility of a depression. These are unprecedented times for us. (more…)


What does the Bible say about a major disaster like COVID-19?

What does the Bible say about COVID-19?The disease COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the world. By 11 April 2020 over 103,500 deaths have been attributed to the virus and secondary pneumonia.

What does the Bible say about a global pandemic like COVID-19?

This post is based on an article by the US theologian and author, John Piper. (more…)


Three lessons from COVID-19

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)The disease COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the world. By 4 April 2020 over 58,900 deaths have been attributed to the virus and secondary pneumonia. Governments have introduced stringent measures to combat it, which are having negative social and economic impacts.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus. It is contagious in humans and is the cause of the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that was designated a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) in January 2020 and a pandemic in March 2020. (more…)


War on Coronavirus

South Korean soldiers spray disinfectant at Dongdaegu railway stationA message from Europe

The world is at war against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19.

This post comes from Philip Nunn who lives in The Netherlands.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. They have been causing problems for a number of decades now. The new version we are currently fighting was first transmitted to humans in Wuhan, China, towards the end of 2019. Since then it has remained in the headlines of all our newspapers and news bulletins. Last month the World Health Organization gave this coronavirus disease the new name COVID-19, and five weeks later declared it a pandemic. Presidents, Prime Ministers and others in authority are now busy closing national borders, events, shops and schools. They are imposing restrictions on our freedom of movement which have never before been used in peacetime. You may still think it is all fake news, you may think the restrictions are too strict, or far to slow and too lax. Like it or not, the world is now at war with this coronavirus! How are you reacting? Are you fearful or frustrated? Is your faith in God strengthening you in this time of worldwide crisis? Perhaps with a little more time on your hands, it may be worthwhile taking some time to consider what the Bible has to say about the spreading of bad things. (more…)


How to respond to the coronavirus pandemic

COVID-19 response measures include: social distance, wash hands, & clean surfacesToday Frank told me, “It feels like I’m in jail”. He is elderly and lives alone. But because of Government regulations, he is unable to attend the men’s social group at his local community centre. So he is now socially isolated because he has few opportunities for contact with other people.

This post is based on a message by Dave Sheath of the Lakes Church at Tuggerah in NSW Australia. It looks at how we can respond to the world-wide coronavirus pandemic. (more…)


Trials, struggles and COVID-19

The global distribution of COVID-19 on 24 March 2020

Another message from Ian Taylor in Winconsin, USA while he is in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What can we do when difficult times come? How can we understand what’s going on? We need to remember that God is still in control.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pt. 5:8-9NIV). (more…)


You don’t have to fear!

Reasons why Christians don't have to fear COVID-19A message from Ian Taylor in Winconsin, USA while he is in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

David: “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Ps 5:3NIV).

David: “As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice” (Ps 55:16-17). (more…)


How to be a peacemaker

Sibling conflict in a word where disagreements can lead to conflict, strife and violence

What does the Bible say about conflict management?

We live in a world where differences of opinion are common. But these disagreements can lead to conflict, strife and violence. This happens in marriages, in families, in neighborhoods, at work and in churches. It happens in all kinds of relationships between people.

Conflict between nations can lead to war. In January 2020 Donald Trump announced a Middle East peace plan to solve the Israel–Palestinian conflict. And after more than 18 years of war in Afghanistan, the US has signed a peace treaty with the Taliban.
Peace has been elusive. These wars go on and on. There are so many barriers to peace. (more…)


A new harmful mutated virus

Many people wearing masks as protection against the COVID-19 coronavirusSo far there have been more than 67,000 cases and over 1,530 deaths from the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is a 2% fatality rate. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak of the new coronavirus a global emergency that threatened to be potentially worse than terrorism. Previously swine flu and Ebola were declared public heath emergencies. Infection and immunity laboratories are in a worldwide race to develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus. But the first vaccine targeting the new coronavirus could be 18 months away. (more…)


Unexpected good

Dear God, from all this pain, please bring unexpected goodIt seems cold and unfeeling to make lists of good things in the midst of all this pain – especially while things are fresh and even still happening. But part of making sense of what’s happened and finding meaning in despair is finding the good.

While the bushfires [wildfires] have burned in Australia the media have reported on all sorts of stories of hope and positivity. Which has been enormously encouraging. For example, bush regeneration that’s already begun, the heroism and selflessness of our amazing volunteer firefighters, the brilliant effort to save the rare Wollemi Pine, the fact that more people are now thinking about how to care for the environment and live with an unpredictable climate. (more…)


How to overcome anxiety

Last night there were 26 emergency-level fires burning across NSW and VictoriaAnother difficult day for communities around New South Wales in Australia. At midnight, with the threat still not over, there are 7 fires at Emergency Warning and 11 at Watch and Act. Last night there were 26 emergency-level fires burning across NSW and Victoria. In NSW, about 3,600 firefighters were battling blazes while hundreds of others were pre-positioned to tackle outbreaks.

A state-wide total fire ban remains in place for Sunday, 5 January. The Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner said, “I don’t know the length but I imagine there would be more than 15,000 km (10,000 miles) of fire edge we’ve got to try and contain”. (more…)


How to overcome fear

Jesus calms a storm

Fear is a response to a perceived threat or danger. Some common fears are of spiders, snakes, heights, flying, dogs, thunder and lightning, injections, public speaking, being alone, darkness, death, failure, rejection, the future, terrorist attacks, nuclear war and germs.

This post looks at when Jesus’ disciples were afraid of drowning in a storm, which is described in the Bible. We will see that because everything is under God’s control, Christians can trust in God no matter how bad the circumstances instead of suffering from fear and anxiety. (more…)


When to praise God

Emotions are a powerful part of our lives. But do we control our emotions or do our emotions control us? For example, do we only praise God when we feel like it?

Job was a wealthy man with a large family who lived before the time of Moses. One day four separate disasters wiped out all his possessions and children. His oxen, donkeys and camels were stolen and his sheep were killed by lightning. This was a total loss because there was no insurance in those days. And his children died when a house collapsed on them in a severe storm.

How did Job respond to these calamities? He would have been devastated and stricken with grief and loss. Did he stop trusting in God in such trying circumstances? (more…)


Facing slander – Psalm 27

What’s the source for our confidence?

How do you cope with your fears and anxieties? Some take time out, or use breathing techniques, or face their fears, or imagine the worst, or look at the evidence, or don’t try to be perfect, or visualize a happy place, or talk about it, or have a meal, a walk and a good night’s sleep, or reward themselves. David, the shepherd who became king of Israel, experienced many dangerous situations. What can we learn from the poem that David wrote when he was facing slander (Ps. 27ESV)?

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid? (more…)


Responding to external problems

What keeps you awake at night? According to the World Economic Forum, the biggest risks facing our world in 2019 are climate change, natural disasters, large-scale conflicts and cyber attacks. And many people struggle with poverty. David wrote many psalms in the Bible and it seems as though he spent many sleepless nights. One of the biggest problems he faced was that king Saul wanted to kill him. During this time period, David lived as a fugitive, seeking refuge in various places and moving around to avoid Saul and his men (1 Sam. 18-30). He feared for his life. Also, the Philistines were a perennial enemy of Israel and David faced them in battles. The best known of these is his victory over Goliath.

25 of the psalms are prayers by David for God’s help against his enemies. But most of these (84%) end up praising God and with an assurance that God has heard his prayer and will answer it (see Appendix). And only 8% have no praise or assurance. For example, in Psalm 54 David prays for deliverance from enemies (Saul’s supporters) who are trying to kill him (v.1-5NIV). The Ziphites betrayed David by revealing his location to Saul (1 Sam. 23:19-20). So David writes: (more…)


Responding to personal problems

chemotherapy 3 400pxMy parents in-law are going through tough times with weakness because of chemotherapy and confusion because of dementia. We can all experience such internal problems, which can be physical or mental. After all, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:33NIV).

Twelve of the psalms are prayers for God’s help for illness or depression (See Appendix; Ps 6, 13, 16, 30, 38, 41, 42, 43, 71, 88, 102, 116). In these lament psalms the psalmist brings their problems to God. But most of them (83%) end with praise to God. For example, Psalm 13 describes David’s suffering:

1How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts [he was depressed]
and day after day have sorrow in my heart [soul, spirit]?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
(more…)


Following Jesus in a hostile world

Floods 4 400pxIn the last few days, millions of people were evacuated due to floods and landslides in Japan. Tough times come to everyone at some point. Serious illness, disability, unemployment, financial problems, family strife, conflict at work, the death of a loved one. Life doesn’t always work out the way we would like it to. We find ourselves thinking, why is this happening to me? How could a loving God allow this hardship? Why aren’t you doing something about this, God?

And we wonder, how can we get through such difficult times? In particular, how can God help us get through hardship? In this article we’re going to answer this question from the letter of 1 Peter in the Bible. There will be three main  points:
– God helps us through the privileges of salvation.
– God helps us through Christ’s example.
– And God helps us through godly living.

Context

Peter was a disciple of Jesus and an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry. He was put in jail more than once for proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead (Acts 4:3; 5:18; 12:4). He knew that Christians had faced opposition since the beginning of the church. They were jailed and interrogated by the Jewish leaders and commanded not to speak about Jesus (Acts 4:1-22; 5:17-42). These leaders seized Stephen and made false accusations against him and stoned him to death (Acts 6:8-7:60). Then “a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1NIV). Some went to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch (Acts 11:19). Saul made “murderous threats” against the Christians and went to Damascus to arrest them and take them as prisoners to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-2, 21). Then king Herod arrested some Christians “intending to persecute them” and he executed James the brother of John who was an apostle like Peter (Acts 12:1-2). Paul also suffered for following Jesus (2 Cor. 11:23-26).

1 Peter is a letter from the Apostle Peter to Christians living in provinces of Asia Minor (now Turkey). It was written about AD 62, in the middle of the reign of Emperor Nero, who persecuted Christians. You can see this on Peter’s timeline. These Christians faced threats, slander and the possibility of having to “suffer for what is right” and to “suffer for doing good” (1 Pt. 3:13-17). And they were being persecuted, which is described as to “suffer grief in all kinds of trials”, “abuse”, a “fiery trial”, “the sufferings of Christ”, being “insulted because of the name of Christ”, to “suffer as a Christian”, unjust suffering, and being wrongfully accused of wrong doing (1:6, 17; 2:121; 4:3-4, 12-16). This hostility towards Christians was being experienced across the Roman Empire: “the family of believers throughout the [known] world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (5:9).

Peter timeline 700px

The purpose of the letter is to encourage them to persevere and endure in their trials and suffering and not give up.

1 Peter’s themes

Peter says that those following Jesus will face trials and suffering. It’s inevitable. They will “suffer for what is right” and “suffer for doing good”. They lived in a world that was hostile to Jesus. And so do we. Do you notice how often Christians are ridiculed in the media? So we will look at this letter as though it was written to us.

Responses to suffering 400pxThemes in 1 Peter 400pxIf trials and suffering are inevitable in the life of a Christian, what do we do about it? We have a choice to trust God and endure the suffering or go our own way into bitterness and resentment. Will we draw near to God or turn away from Him? These two responses are shown in the schematic diagram.

Peter says we are to prepare for suffering and hostility beforehand, and endure it by persevering in the Christian faith. He gives three ways to ensure endurance. These are: the privileges of salvation, Christ’s example, and godly living. We will look at these themes in turn and they are shown in the schematic diagram.

Prepare for suffering

Some people stumble in their faith when they are impacted by suffering. They think how can a good God allow such suffering?

Peter tells them how to get ready to face suffering because it’s coming (3:13-17; 4:2-6). When they face criticism and hostility they should, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. And do this with gentleness and respect” (3:15-16).

If we live in a wildfire (bushfire) zone, we need a wildfire (bushfire) emergency plan. If we live in a flood zone, we need a flood emergency plan. We need to get ready and be prepared. Likewise. Christians need to be ready to face criticism, ridicule and hardship. This means being ready to answer questions like. How can anyone believe in God after a disaster? Hasn’t science disproved God? Why would you read the Bible? Why do you go to church? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why don’t you sleep with your girlfriend or boyfriend?

We don’t know when this situation will occur. Can we say why we are a Christian? Are there good reasons for what we believe? Have we thought through what we believe so we can testify to others? We need to know why we believe what we believe. Do we respect those we are witnessing to? Is what we say supported by a consistent life? We need to both show and tell.

So it’s good to prepare for suffering. But what should we do when trials and suffering appear?

Endure suffering

Peter also tells them how to cope with suffering (4:12-19):

  1. He says, don’t be surprised about suffering as a Christian. It’s not unusual. It’s the normal Christian experience.
  2. “All kinds of trials” can test our faith (1:6-7). Traffic jams, the slow queue at the supermarket, cancer, depression, mental illness, marriage problems, and hostility from others because of our faith, all test our Christian faith. Some of these things happen to us sooner or later. Hard times prove our faith is genuine. James says that the testing of our faith by “trials of many kinds” produces perseverance (Jas. 1:2-3).
  3. Also, suffering can train us and mould our character. Those who endure suffering are strengthened and become more spiritually mature (5:10).
  4. And suffering is temporary; “for a little while” (1:6; 5:10). It’s only for this life. “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (5:10).
  5. Peter also says, “it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God … But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God” (2:19-20). God is pleased when we endure undeserved suffering without retaliation. “Endure” means to hang in there. To carry a heavy load without complaining. To be strong. God gives that ability. He does not want us to suffer from a sense of duty but from a conviction about His purpose for us. He wants us to patiently endure suffering even when we do good. How much hostility can we take? Are we resilient?

At the end of the letter, Peter says, “I wanted to encourage you and tell you how kind God really is, so that you will keep on having faith in Him” (5:12CEV). It was written to encourage them to endure and persevere in trials and suffering and not give up trusting God.

The summary statement for Christian suffering is, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (4:19). Nothing can happen to us without God allowing it. He wants us to put our trials into His care. He will sustain us. “Doing good” means to the benefit others. Hardship isn’t an excuse for wrongdoing.

So it’s good to prepare for suffering, and to endure during trials. But Peter also reminds them of some other reasons for enduring and persevering in trials and suffering.

God helps us through the privileges of salvation

The first way that God helps us through hardships is through the privileges of salvation. Peter focuses on three of these: our secure future (1:3-12), our direct access to God (2:4-8), and the fact we are special to God (2:9-10).

We have a secure future

The Bible says that “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” Christians have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1:3-4). And “this inheritance is kept in heaven [by God] for you”.

It‘s human nature to break promises. Governments make and break promises. Advertisers and politicians make and break promises. And people make promises to each other which are often broken. Many of these promises do not materialize. Thankfully, God’s promises are not like ours. Every promise He makes, He keeps. The promise of a secure future is certain to be fulfilled.

So Christians should be confident about their future. Their inheritance is guaranteed.
And God is protecting them until it’s revealed when Jesus comes back. This promise gives them joy even “though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1:6). They have inner peace despite these trials.

We have direct access to God

Peter says that each Christian is like a “living stone” in a new building and Jesus is like the cornerstone. God builds this spiritual building by adding Christians to the global church. One day this building will be finished, then Jesus will come again. This spiritual house is like the temple in the Old Testament, where the priests had access to God. Today Christians are like these priests: they have direct access to God. They are “to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices” to God.

When a relationship breaks down and the couple have children, the Family Court may deny one parent contact with a child if there is a serious physical or emotional risk for the child. In this case, one parent has direct access to the child, but the other doesn’t. In the same way, Christians have direct access to God, they are no longer separated from Him. This means they can pray to God anytime. We can confess our sins to God, pray for others and offer ourselves to God.

We are God’s people

The Bible also says that Christians are God’s special people (2:9-10). They are “a chosen people”. Like the Israelites were God’s chosen people in Old Testament times, Christians are His chosen people today. They are “God’s special possession”. They are safe because of His protection. And their purpose is to praise God.

At the Australian State of Origin Rugby League Football game this week, supporters were praising their teams. And Queenslanders even think they are chosen people, but those from New South Wales don’t agree! Anyhow, this gives people an identity, a purpose and something to celebrate. In the same way, Christians have a special identity, a purpose and something to celebrate. So we can feel safe and represent God in our world.

So their secure future, their direct access to God, and their identity as God’s people helps believers to endure and persevere in trials and suffering. They don’t worry about ridicule or persecution. Besides these privileges of salvation, Christ’s example can also help.

God helps us through Christ’s example

The second way that God helps us through hardships is through the example of Jesus who suffered when He was unjustly crucified (1:11; 2:24; 3:18; 4:1, 13; 5:1). It’s mentioned in every chapter of this letter.

Jesus was a model for how to deal with a hostile work situation (2:21-25). After commending those who bear up “under the pain of unjust suffering”, and who “suffer for doing good” under harsh employers, Peter says, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth’. When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted himself to Him [God] who judges justly” (2:21-23). Peter also says, “since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude [as Jesus], because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin” (4:1).

In Peter’s day, retaliating to a personal insult or injury was considered a virtue. Non- retaliation was interpreted as a sign of weakness. Our society is much the same. Our heroes tend to be those who fight back with physical strength or litigation. But Jesus didn’t do that when He suffered unjustly and for doing good. Instead He prayed for His killers, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). When He was falsely accused, insulted and abused, He didn’t retaliate. Instead, He left these things in the Father’s hands.

Christians should expect hostility because they follow Jesus. They should be prepared to endure trials and suffering. Believers have a choice between sin and suffering. If we live like an unbeliever, we can avoid hostility and suffering. But if we live in a godly way and not under the power of sin, we will face hostility. Do our friends know that we follow Jesus? Are we willing to endure ridicule because of this?

So the privileges of salvation and Christ’s example can help us to endure and persevere in trials and suffering. Godly living can also help.

God helps us through godly living

The third way that God helps us through hardships is through godly living. The previous helps were what to know (doctrine), now they are told what to do (practice). They are instructed how to live and behave in a pagan society where they were misunderstood and insulted for their faith.

First, they are urged to be holy (1:13-2:3). God says, “for it is written [in the Old Testament]: ‘be holy, because I [God] am holy’”. This would have reminded them of the Israelites who were to be devoted to God and different from the other nations by following God’s laws for them (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:8). Now Christians are to be holy and live for God and so be different to unbelievers.

The hippies who dropped out of society in the 1960s were counter-cultural. Today it might be those who aren’t online watching things like Facebook or Youtube. Or those home schooling. Or those in an outlaw bikie club. These ways of life and attitudes are completely different from those accepted by most of society. Likewise, God wants Christians to be different from our pagan society.

Christians are like foreigners on earth because our ultimate allegiance is to a heavenly kingdom (2:11). We are to behave differently to our previous sinful lifestyle. God wants us to be like Him and He gives us the Holy Spirit to empower us. We are to be driven by the Holy Spirit and not the sinful nature (Gal. 5:16). The standard for distinguishing what’s sinful and what’s holy is the Bible, because it’s God’s message to us.

An example of holiness is the fruit of the Spirit which is “ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23NLT). What do we do with our sexual desires and how to we use our money? We are regularly bombarded with temptations by the media. How do we react to these?

Second, Peter urges them to show godly behavior in their relationships with others.
He mentions at least four areas of life where we should be humble, submissive and respect others. These are: towards governing authorities (2:13-17), at work (2:18-20), in the family (3:1-7), and in the church (3:8-12; 5:1-10).

The media often depict those in positions of authority as incompetent, disrespected, and corrupted. And if we criticize a teacher, a cop, or a spouse, it shows our lack of respect for authority figures. If we want our kids to respect us, we need to demonstrate that we respect others.

So the privileges of salvation and Christ’s example and godly living can help us to endure and persevere in trials and suffering.

Enduring hostility today

Jesus faced hostility. Peter faced hostility. The Christians that Peter wrote to faced hostility. And today Christians face hostility. Since the times of Jesus, the world has been hostile to Christ and His representatives.

In our postmodern world, Christians are viewed as intolerant and unloving bigots because of their view on marriage, abortion and euthanasia. They are characterized by hate, fear, oppression, abuse, power, and violence. And Christianity is misrepresented and ridiculed. While non-Christians are seen as being tolerant and compassionate because of their love, justice and mercy.

How resilient are we? When trials and suffering come our way, do we choose sin or suffering? Trouble is meant to draw us closer to the Lord, not push us further away.

Peter quotes from the Old Testament to prove his point. We need to substantiate what we believe from the Bible. That’s why it’s important to read and study the Bible.

Summary

Our original question was, “How can God help us get through hardship?” To answer this we have looked at the letter of 1 Peter. And we’ve seen three ways that God helps us get through trials and suffering. He helps us through:
– The privileges of salvation – like our secure future, our direct access to God and being God’s people.
– Christ’s example, of enduring unjust suffering.
– And godly living, by being holy and respecting others.

Conclusion

Trials and suffering can cause us to sin and give up following Jesus. But God offers us the privileges of salvation, Christ’s example and godly living. Now we must use these to persevere in hard times and not give up.

Cave rescue 1 500pxIt’s the Football (Soccer) World Cup once again. But the team getting most attention last week was the one rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand. It was a great example of perseverance, hope, heartbreak, and victory. Just like the way Christians should respond to a hostile world. They escaped a dangerous situation. But the Bible says that those who don’t follow Jesus are in a more dangerous situation. The letter of 1 Peter was written to those who followed Jesus. As we have seen, they have plenty of resources to endure tough times. To get these resources we need to realize that our relationship with God the Father is broken. And if we trust in Jesus’ death for us, we can be reconciled with God. And He can become the cornerstone of our life.

Written, July 2018