1 Peter 1:3-4 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, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you.
I’m thankful that the Japanese translation of this passage didn’t try to preserve the Greek sentence structure, but broke it up into several shorter sentences. Long sentences weren’t just a characteristic of Paul! Regardless, the content here is indeed rich. Jesus found Peter when he was an ignorant, headstrong fisherman, but he was massively transformed by his experiences and by the work of the Holy Spirit in him. He starts this section by praising God. It is the practice of many Japanese Christians to start any letter, on paper or electronic, with an expression of praise. Americans, myself included, tend more to “get to the point” immediately, but we would actually do well to remember that our very existence is dependent on God’s mercy and grace. Peter is here writing to people who were being persecuted for their faith. Very few Americans have tasted genuine persecution, and we sometimes take our own faith lightly as a result. An untested faith isn’t likely to be strong! Peter here writes of our “living hope,” that comes to us because we serve a living Savior. Peter was certainly transformed by his experience of watching Jesus die and then encountering Him after the resurrection. It is said that when he was forced to watch his wife being crucified, immediately before he himself was crucified upside down, he cried out to her, “Remember Jesus!” Peter had seen personally that death no longer had dominion, and it galvanized him for the rest of his life. We haven’t seen Jesus with our physical eyes, just as Peter writes in verses 8 and 9 of this same chapter, but we have experienced His touch in our heart, and we can have the assurance Peter speaks of here. Our physical bodies won’t live forever but our spirits will, and that is the inheritance that is prepared for us. We need to let the Holy Spirit work that knowledge, that conviction, into the depths of our being, so that nothing in this world can shake us.
This of course applies to me. Yesterday I participated in an online “short-term missions trip” of a group from Taiwan. We already sponsor, legally speaking, a Taiwanese missionary family (we don’t provide their finances, but rather the legal framework for them to be here) and this was a group of six people who are considering coming to Japan as missionaries. I told them that Japan is not unreasonably called “the graveyard of missionaries,” and if they come it should be with the attitude that they are surrendering their lives to serve Christ here. I’m not sure how firm my own grasp of that was 41 years ago when I came to Omura, but I did know that my life was to be spent in obedience to my Lord, wherever He wanted me to be and whatever He wanted me doing. That’s not always an easy thing to maintain! Like everyone else, I have my own preferences and desires, and actively submitting them to Christ can be a real stretch at times. I don’t have so much trouble with the big questions, but the little details can really trip me up all too often. Several years ago God very graciously told me to rest, relax, and rejoice. I’m still learning to do that! However, I do know that what is laid up for me in heaven, as Peter says here, will be more than worth it all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Father, thank You for this reminder. I feel like I’m under spiritual assault after all that went on yesterday. Thank You for speaking to the Taiwanese through me. I do pray that they, and I, would surrender everything to You in order to hear You accurately and follow You completely, so that Your purposes may be accomplished through us for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!