1 Peter 1:8-9 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Peter had certainly seen Jesus and had been with Him almost constantly for three and a half years, but he is writing to people who didn’t fit that category. However, Jesus had prayed for them, as He prayed for us: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” (John 17:20) Peter knew that God’s love in Christ extended to them not just because he had heard Jesus pray, but because he had seen God work in their lives. He also probably remembered what Jesus had told Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) This is why the Church didn’t die out after the 1st Century: God hasn’t changed, and He still encounters anyone who comes to Him in repentance and faith. The more we open ourselves up to that encounter, the more we receive the joy that Peter talks about here. We need to be careful that we don’t have just a “feel good” faith, that is, one that believes only when things are going well. After all, Peter has just been talking about suffering “grief in all kinds of trials.” (verse 6) Peter is encouraging his readers, including us, by reminding them that faith is strengthened through trials, and the reward for faith is glorious indeed. When we focus on the trials, complaining about them to God and to anyone who will listen, we are miserable indeed. When we focus on what God has done for us in Christ, reaching on into eternity, we have a joy that cannot be shaken.
This is something that I’m still learning. I don’t feel I have suffered much at all, compared with the suffering of many I know about around the world, but even minor suffering can distract us from the truth. I occasionally get disgusted with myself when I realize I have allowed inconveniences to steal my joy! As a pastor I am constantly telling people what is written in Hebrews: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus certainly didn’t have it easy on this earth, so I have no reason to complain! As gets pointed out on Facebook and elsewhere, I have a standard of living that would be the envy of over 90% of the world’s population, and yet I still complain. On top of that, and far beyond that, I have the assurance of eternal life. I have nothing to complain about! I need to see through the devil’s lies as soon as they come up, and rest in the peace and joy God has prepared for me.
Father, thank You for Your overwhelming grace and patience toward me. Help me respond in full obedience and love, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!