College football, PGA golf, and Dateline. Those are my top 3. Yes, if my husband Tanner and I are going to be watching something on TV, those are always my first choices. Not The Office (though I really am starting to enjoy it) or The Voice or even a good chick flick. And if it’s not the weekend for some football upsets or the spring for a strong leaderboard going into the weekend, it’s rare that I don’t find myself enjoying an episode of Dateline. Call me old. Call me boring. Call me simple.
I realized last week why I love Dateline so much…yes, it’s short so I usually can manage to stay awake for an episode and yes, it’s a true story so that obviously makes it more interesting. I enjoy Dateline because there’s conflict and there’s resolution. I know that in the first 45 seconds of the episode, Keith Morrison or another one of the Dateline anchors with one of those investigative type voices, will present the conflict and tension of the episode. And by the end of the hour (or 2 hours for those longer “special edition” episodes”), there will be resolution. A criminal will be in prison. A missing person will be found. And all will be right in the world, until the next episode of course.
As we find ourselves in chapter 5 of 1 Peter, I’m experiencing much of the same feelings. There’s been conflict. And there’s coming resolution. In teaching a Bible Study on 1 Peter at Journey the Way church, we’ve spent over two months walking through 1 Peter. We’ve talked about themes like enduring suffering, and submission to others. We’ve seen Peter provide an example of suffering and submission in the person and work of Jesus. And now, we look at chapter 5 and see how Peter exhorts both leadership within the church (verses 1-5) and living within the midst of suffering (verses 6-14).
In verses 10-11, I resonate with both the conflict and the resolution of Peter’s letter. Remember, Peter has written this epistle to elect exiles to encourage them in the midst of their suffering. As Christians, we too are elect exiles in this world. And we too will suffer. Your suffering probably won’t look like mine. My suffering might be complaining that Wichita is too cold. Or that I miss my friends in Texas. And your suffering might be your demanding job, crumbling marriage, or recent health scare. Regardless, we are all going to suffer. We will all experience the conflict. And for most of us, it is relatively safe to say that our suffering in this life won’t look like the conflict Tanner and I will probably see on Dateline tonight. But for those of us in Christ, there’s resolution. There’s a better day coming. And Peter tells us this at the end of this letter.
Dial back just for a second. In the second half of chapter 5, Peter is encouraging the reader of how to endure suffering. We are told to humble ourselves before God (verses 6-7) and then to resist the devil (verses 8-9). And then Peter gets down right to the basics in verses 10-11. In implicitly calling us to trust God, Peter gives us the resolution to our conflict of suffering. He’s already told us in verse 9 to be “firm in our faith” and now he tells us the way: a better day is coming. This suffering isn’t forever. Those moments of sadness will cease. The smiles of joy will come.
And yet, it’s not the easiest thing when your life is falling apart to just “trust God.” That can often come across as not the most helpful counsel when a relationship shatters, a job overwhelms you, or exhaustion sets in fully. And yet, Peter helps us in verses 9-10. Here are four ways to be strengthened in our faith in the midst of trials:
(1) See the trial clearly. Peter tells us the trial will only last “a little while” (verse 10). Even earlier this week, my husband so patiently reminded me of this. Hard days don’t last forever. And even more than that, our entire lives here on earth are still so short in light of eternity. Paul also speaks to this in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.
(2) See God continually. He is “the God of all grace” (verse 10). He is not the God of a little bit of grace. He is not the God of some grace. He is the God of all grace. His grace is abundant and sufficient. And yet, remember that Peter has told us that God gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). And thus in the midst of our trails, we come dependent. We come needy. After all, God actually really does delight in our dependence.
(3) See God’s calling for you confidently. He “called you to His eternal glory in Christ” (verse 10). We didn’t call ourselves or chose ourselves. God called us apart from us. And he has called us to himself – to the richness of his eternal glory in grace. Friends, this is a living hope. This is living hope to remind ourselves of our calling that is sure even when our days seemed to be marked by suffering. Our calling is sure. And we can see it with confidence.
(4) See God’s purpose for trials correctly. God will “perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (verse 10). Trials refine us. Just as metal is refined to make the finished product, God is refining us like metal, sharpening us, molding us – all to make us look more like Jesus. God is using our trials to render us complete as followers of Jesus. He is strengthening us. He is laying a foundation of our identity in Christ and his authority as God. Just as Jesus described the house founded on the rock that weathered the storm (Matthew 7:25), you and I are called to stand on sure footing in the midst of our storms.
Friends, we just don’t see what God sees. In the midst of our conflict, in the midst of our suffering, we just don’t see the resolution. But may we be encouraged that resolution is coming. God isn’t wasting your suffering. Keep his glory in view. After all, God is always writing a better story.
So for those of you who are suffering today, who are coming out of suffering, or who will be suffering in the days to come, I pray that the “God of all grace has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever.” 1 Peter 5:10-11