What is Felt vs. What is Fixed (I Peter 1:3-6)
Topic: One Mission: Through Many Tribulations Passage: 1 Peter 1:3–1:6
What is Felt vs. What is Fixed
I Peter 1:3-6
(One Mission: Through Many Tribulations)
August 12th, 2018
I. Is That the 'Check Engine' Light?
When I think about the idea of getting stuck, several things come to mind:
First, I see that image of Winnie the Pooh, stuck in a hole in the side of the hill because his tummy was too full of honey.
Second, I think about someone on a game show who WAS on a roll, until they were asked some Einstein-level question.
Third, and most often, I think of a car on the side of the road. Last week I asked you if you'd ever been stuck. I'm guessing when I posed that question some of you did, in fact, think about a time when your car overheated , or somehow just broke down.
Well, if we move forward with that image in mind, I believe there are many ways that situation can be really instructive. No, I'm not doing a message this morning on road safety, crisis management, or auto repair. I believe the idea getting stuck vehicular-ly can be helpful when it comes to getting stuck spiritually.
You may remember that was our focus last week: spiritual stuck-ness...that condition or feeling of complacency or confusion, of aimlessness or numbness or stubbornness. As we saw last time, the author of Hebrews called it “sluggishness” or “laziness”, the Apostle Paul compared it to a fire that needs to be rekindled, and Jesus, through the Apostle John, described as being “lukewarm”.
As God encouraged last Sunday, feeling stuck spiritually is something all of us will wrestle with. He knows. In the face of our forward-less-ness, we learned that God is both urging and understanding. He is calling us forward, but he's also sympathetic to our struggle.
II. The Passage: "Born Again to a Living Hope" (1:3-6)
This morning, I want to deepen your encouragement in the face of feeling stuck. Look with me at I Peter 1:3-6. Let me read. Consider how this speaks to those feeling spiritually stuck...
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials...
So let's just move through that passage line by line. But...let's do it backward, starting in v. 6.
1. “Though Now” (v. 6)
Notice where Peter ends up in this passage. He ends up acknowledging the painful reality in which his readers find themselves. The second half of verse 6 reveals how these followers of Jesus were “grieved by various trials”. The rest of the letter goes on to describe just some of these “various trials”: slaves with harsh masters, citizens dealing with severe public officials, and neighbors being pressured and slandered by those in their circles, all because of their faith. This was part of what defined their “now” according to verse 6.
But this is not just a random aside. As we move back up through the passage, it will become clear to us that Peter is writing in light of how they feel, the very present grief they were experiencing.
How does any of this help us in light of spiritual stuck-ness? I think there is a connection when it comes to the issue of feelings. Sacred Scripture, as penned by a writer who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, recognizes and is responsive to how its readers feel. Peter's first readers felt grieved. And maybe that's how some of you feel this morning. But as we've been talking about, many of us have felt or do feel...stuck. We feel spiritually stuck.
Does God know that? Yes. As we saw last time, in light of how we feel, God is both urging and understanding. But in this passage, we see God, through Peter, doing something else in light of their feelings...and our feelings.
Notice what Peter does right there in verse 6. First, he uses the phrase “a little while” to remind them that their grief will not last forever...to encourage them to not lose heart. But second, he begins that verse with the word “rejoice”...”in this you rejoice”. In what? Well, that leads forward, or backward, into verse 5.
2. “To Be Revealed” (v. 5)
Look at what Peter points to at the end of verse 5. There is a “salvation” (a rescue, a deliverance”) that is “ready to be revealed in the last time”. At some point, says Peter, your “now” will give way to this “last time”. And when it does, you will experience the saving hand of God in all its fullness. That must have sounded pretty good to people who felt pressed down by persecution, slighted by slander, and despondent because of discrimination.
And just in case his readers were concerned about being crushed by the pressure or being pushed toward compromise, Peter reassures them that “God's power” is at work to guard them from such a fate. How is God's power at work? Through their faith! Even when we feel spiritually weak, God strengthens the faith of his children, so that we will not give in or give up in the end. Isn't that wonderful!?
So knowing how His children feel, the Father speaks through Peter to encourage them. How? By pointing them to what will certainly happen “one day” AND to how he is at work “this day” to preserve them...regardless of the trials and feelings they were currently experiencing.
Think for a minute about what that means for us when we feel stuck. Just as Peter longed for his readers to look up and to look ahead, God wants you to look to what He will do. You may feel stuck right now, but growth and change and momentum are in your future.
3. “Kept in Heaven” (vs. 3, 4)
And the certainty of that peace-inspiring proposition is rooted in the realities Peter describes in verses 3 and 4.
Again, moving backwards, in verse 4, Peter describes that future salvation in terms of “an inheritance”. There is a poverty every Christian feels in this life. Sometimes that comes from our own sin nature. Sometimes it simply comes from being strangers and aliens in a fallen, corrupt, rebellious world. But one day, we will experience the fullness of God's redemption in the fullness of his presence. That poverty will be washed away when we inherit that fullness.
And just as Peter reassured his readers in light of God's protection, he also reassures them about this inheritance. It is untouchable. It is inviolable. It is indestructible. It is irrevocable. Or as Peter puts it in verse 4, your inheritance is...an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
And lest we think that all of this is somehow connected to what we've done, are doing now, or will do in the future, Peter's opening sentence points us back to the firm foundation upon which all our certainty rests. Verse 3...
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...
Our new life now flows from that new life powerfully revealed in the resurrection of Jesus. To use Peter's language, we have been “born again”. That isn't simply a way to talk about a fresh start. It means we have been born into a new spiritual reality, especially that we have been born into a new family...God's family. That's why there is heavenly inheritance for us!
But remember, we are children of God because of the Son of God. Everything is grounded and founded, everything is rooted in and resting on...Him; on his finished work. Why does Peter describe our hope as a “living hope”? Because our hope rests on a living Lord, a living Redeemer. Is it about our efforts? No. All we can do is believe that Jesus did it all.
But did you notice the opening declaration of worship is directed to the Father. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Peter understood that it was the Father who sent the Son. It was the Father's mercy that resulted in our rescue. It was the Father who has willed our inheritance. It is the Father's power that protects our future and our faith.
So our confidence does rest on the Son's finished work on the cross and his victory over death. But it also rests on the Father's faithfulness and power. In fact, these things are inseparable when it comes to our salvation and hope. In light of all this, it's no wonder that Peter can declare (with a kind of prescriptive reminder): “In this you rejoice...”
III. But at the Same Time
“But wait a minute”, you might be saying, “I thought we were talking about being spiritually stuck.” We are. Don't you see? Knowing exactly how his readers were feeling (“grieved by various trials”), Peter begins his letter by addressing what was felt in light of what was fixed. Did you hear that? Let me say it again...in the opening paragraph of this letter, Peter addresses what was felt in light of what was fixed.
His readers felt shaken and unsure about what would happen. But Peter reminded them that God's word is certain and Christ's work is firm.
How do you feel this morning? Do you feel stuck? Spiritually stuck?
One of the most important things to do when your car is overheating or shutting down or has blown a tire...one of the most important things to do is to stay calm and move the car to a safe area, away from the flow of traffic. And to do those things, and to handle what comes nest, you've got to maintain a healthy perspective on what's happening.
You are not on a spaceship crashing into the sun. You are not dangling above a pit of crocodiles, suspended by a frayed rope. You are not looking down the barrel of terrorist's machine gun or the mouth of hungry tiger. You are in a car that is having issues. Yes, it isn't fun. Yes, it might be a hot day. Yes, you might not be sure what to do next, but it will be okay. There are things you can do. You don't have to be scared.
You see, maintaining a right perspective is so important when it comes to the question of what to do when you're stuck. That is true vehicular-ly, and that is true spiritually.
How easy it is when we are spiritually stuck to be tossed back and forth by waves of guilt and fear and hopelessness and doubt and disappointment and anger. And oftentimes, those feelings can tempt me to believe that reality, that my reality, is painted only with colors like black and brown and dark, dark gray. And when that happens, I sink just a little deeper into the spiritual mud.
But through Peter, God reminds us that instead of focusing on how we feel, we need to stretch and strain our eyes toward what is fixed...by God.
Remember what Psalm 119:89 tells us...Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. What does that mean? It means that if God said it, or if God says it, nothing can change it. Nothing can stop it. Peter reminds us of the same point at the end of our main chapter. Look at verses 23-25 of chapter 1. We read...
...Since you have been born again [tied to v. 3!], not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;  for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,  but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news [the gospel] that was preached to you.
The claims of men, the certainties of the world, even the very foundations of human society and human achievement, all of it will fade away. But God's word abides. What He's declared will be done. And the gospel of Jesus is the crown jewel of what God has declared.
What does that mean for us? It means, again, instead of focusing on how we feel, we need to stretch and strain our eyes toward what is fixed...by God.
Even when I feel stuck, my Redeemer still stands.
Even when my sin feels heavy around me, I know Jesus took it all on himself.
Even when I feel aimless, God still has me on his track.
Even when I don't see growth, God is still making me like his Son.
Even when I feel indifferent, my High Priest is still interceding.
Even when I'm stubborn, He is stubbornly pursuing me.
Even when I'm weary, He is at work in my life.
Even when I'm distracted, He remains devoted.
Even when I feel dragged down, Jesus has still been raised.
Even when I'm flailing, He anchors me by His Spirit.
When I can't see a way forward, He sees.
When I don't know what to do, He knows.
When I feel jaded, He cares.
How do I know? Because He said so. And if God said it, nothing can change it. His word is fixed. His word abides. Your stuck-ness cannot change His faithfulness. What you feel cannot change what is fixed.
So...does all this mean we do nothing? That our stuck-ness is no big deal? No. The truth of the gospel of grace should do two things when you feel stuck: it should comfort you in light of what Jesus did...and...it should convict you in light of what Jesus did. We should be humbled by what Christ gave...and we should be inspired to give as Christ gave...to live for the One who died for us.
No, your reality is not painted with colors like black and brown and dark, dark gray. I know it can seem that way when you feel stuck. But the gospel, the word of God reveals the beautiful and brilliant colors with which God has shaped your destiny in Jesus. Do you see them?
This is the foundation we need as we move forward with this issue of being spiritually stuck. We don't go forward in worry, but in His word. Amen? Let's give thanks to God for what is fixed, and ask Him to help us, in light of that, with what is felt.