We will make it to the end…
1 Peter 5:10–14 (ESV)
“How much farther?” “How much longer?” (said in whiny voice…)
Our sermon today is about gaining Perspective on Making it to the End.
There are perhaps few questions that we ask that convince us of our own finiteness more than “How much longer?”
We ask, “how much longer?” because the situation is usually uncomfortable or difficult and outside our control. Sure, there are specific actions we might take in the midst of these situations, but often, the situation itself is bigger than us. It reminds us of our finiteness and limitations.
We don’t ask “how much longer?” because we really need to know the exact duration. We are essentially longing for what comes next—rest, relief, restoration, satisfaction, comfort, or security.
Is there a specific situation in your life for which you are asking “how much longer?”
We don’t actually see this question in our text this morning, but we see the answer to it. And, the answer is both comforting and challenging.
Our goal this morning is to gain perspective on how to make it to the end.
We will see that we will make it to the end…
We are entering the final sermon in our series in 1 Peter, which we’ve called “Perspective.” Through the previous 21 sermons in the series, we’ve worked to gain perspective on our new birth, our prophesied salvation, the Fear of the Lord, and the nature of the Bible.
We’ve seen Christ as the Cornerstone, ourselves as a people for God’s possession, and our responsibility to live under the authority of human institutions.
We’ve learned about marriage, defending our faith, and Jesus’ suffering for the unrighteous. We’ve had several sermons on suffering, as that is a theme throughout the book. We’ve explored the dangers of pride and the call to humility. We’ve even talked about church government and our Chief Shepherd who cares for us. Finally, last week, we considered our greatest enemy, the Devil, and how we are to resist him.
Peter wrote this letter to encourage the elect exiles—Christians who were suffering and being persecuted in Asia because of their faith in Jesus.
Suffering often makes us feel isolated and cut off from God and his people. Peter reminds them that this actually identifies them with God’s people in a unique way. Daniel told us last week that “We’re not suffering because we’re excluded from God’s people. We’re suffering because we’re part of God’s people.”
Peter uses the topic of suffering as bookends for his letter. This itself is instructive. Our own impulse is often to avoid passing along instruction for Christian living when someone is going through a hard time. Peter, on the contrary, leans into their suffering to remind them that God will use it in their lives for their sanctification and also for God’s glory.
Let’s review some of the things Peter has said so far.
Notice the prominent place of suffering in Peter’s teaching and disciple-making!
Just recently, I was with a brother in the church who was exclaiming how thankful he was that this church has taught him well in the area of God’s sovereignty in the midst of our suffering. It is good to be taught how to think about suffering before it comes.
We should not define “suffering” so narrowly that it excludes many Christians.
This brings us back to our verses for this morning. Look back at 1 Peter 5:10.
What exactly is a little while?
Unfortunately, I don’t believe Peter is promising them that their suffering will end in a couple of hours, or days, or weeks, or years.
In general, I think he means the time between now and when the Lord returns. Peter refers to this in different ways throughout the letter.
We know from 2 Peter that God’s timeline looks different than ours.
2 Peter 3:8 (ESV) — But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
It’s not “a little while” because the suffering isn’t significant, painful, or even prolonged. No one in the midst of suffering feels like it is only a little while.
The point here is not to minimize the suffering, but to compare it to something far greater in value and extent. Our suffering is finite. Our glory is eternal.
Peter wrote this earlier in Chapter 1:
We’ve been born again…
1 Peter 1:4–5 (ESV) — 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.
Paul makes a similar comparison in 2 Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 4:17 (ESV) — For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
Or again in Romans 8
Romans 8:18 (ESV) — For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
What Peter and Paul are encouraging us to do is look beyond our current suffering to what is beyond it. There is one way of looking at heaven so much that you’re no earthly good. But, there is a healthy remembrance that God is working out something for us so amazing that any amount—truly any amount of suffering in this life will be overshadowed and in fact rewarded in the next.
In Tolkien’s Middle Earth, we see Boromir asking a similar “How Long?” Question of his father.
“How many hundreds of years needs it to make a steward a king, if the king returns not?” he asked. “Few years, maybe, in other places of less royalty,” my father answered. “In Gondor ten thousand years would not suffice.”
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, Book Four, p. 669
Because of the majesty of the Kings of Gondor, 10,000 years of faithful waiting, even through war and strife, would be worth it waiting for the true king. How much more is that true of us as we wait for the King of King and Lord of Lords!
The first part of gaining perspective to make it to the end is realizing that our suffering is only for “a little while.” The next step is to see God’s personal involvement in keeping us till that day.
What comes after “a little while” is very good news. In short, God gets involved in your personal story and makes sure you make it to the end.
When we go through suffering, we long for grace from God and others. In the middle of our suffering, we are often tempted to see God as unhappy or critical with us. Our default posture is not to see God as the loving Father who disciplines us, but rather to see him like our own earthly fathers who disciplined us with mixed motives.
We can add to that the fact that we often sin in the midst of our suffering. We complain. We respond in anger. We revile in return. We give into temptation. Won’t this make God treat us with more disdain? No, on the contrary, God is a God of all grace.
We have such a difficult time seeing God as the gracious Father that he is, looking down the lane for our return, and running to meet us as we humble ourselves to return to him. We serve a God who will leave the 99 sheep to find the one that is straying.
God is not gracious to his children merely some of the time.. he is a God of ALL grace.
Why should we expect God to be gracious to us?
God is gracious to those whom he has called.
We have seen “called” or “chosen” language throughout the letter. He begins the letter by calling them “elect (or chosen) exiles.” He’s pointing out that they have been chosen out of the world. He goes even further in Chapter 2, verses 9-10.
1 Peter 2:9–10 (ESV) — But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
God has not merely called us out of something (out of darkness) but to something (to his marvelous light). Here in Chapter 5, he has called us to his eternal glory in Christ.
This is not just the external call that goes out to all who hear the gospel and have an obligation to respond. This is the effective call that gives what it requires and brings us into God’s family through the new birth. To use Paul’s language from Romans 8, “those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Peter is saying that those whom God called, he called to his eternal glory in Christ—he did not just call part of the way.
Peter has already used “calling” language in relationship to suffering in Chapter 2.
It’s refreshing here in chapter 5 to be called to something more glorious—to be called to experience and enjoy eternal glory in Christ. Peter has mentioned this glory before.
It is vital to remember in the middle of our suffering that the same God that called us to salvation, called us to his eternal glory in Christ.
There is a point of emphasis that we don’t want to miss in verse 10.
As we recently emphasized in our “Being Reformed” discipleship class, we wholeheartedly and happily affirm that God is sovereign over all things. But, I must admit that sometimes, in our emphasis on God’s Providence, we can lose touch with the personal nature of God’s dealings with his elect children.
Peter won’t let us get away with that here. He does not describe some force or impersonal Providence at work to orchestrate all things so that we make it to glory. The God who called us to his eternal glory “will Himself” make it happen.
The moments of our deepest suffering are the moments when we are the most likely to feel as if God is distant and uninvolved. Peter is reminding his readers that the God who personally called them to salvation will personally restore and fortify them until the end. Our emotions or feelings in the moment cannot negate the truth of God’s personal involvement.
What exactly does God himself do for us to bring us to the end? Peter uses four different words to describe God’s preserving power. The point of these four words is not to distinguish among the specific things God does to uphold us, but to pile the words on top of one another to communicate the overwhelming support that God personally gives us in our suffering and sanctification.
Galatians 6:1 (ESV) — Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
One way to think of these is to consider what you might lose or experience in the midst of suffering.
Though I believe the final and main application of “a little while” is our glorification when the Lord returns, that does not mean that we won’t experience the first fruits of vs. 10 during this life. The main point is that God calls and sustains us to the end. Wayne Grudem expresses it this way:
Indeed, after you have suffered a little while—an expression intentionally vague in the amount of time it implies, allowing for restoration either in this present life or later—the God of all grace will restore them or ‘make them fully prepared and complete’ with respect to any resource or ability which they have lost through this suffering.
- Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 205.
The exclamation point on what Peter is saying is in verse 11.
Our salvation is a work of God from start to finish. It is accomplished by his initiative and his power. He is the sovereign ruler over all that he has made, and exercises dominion over all things.
The hope that will sustain the church through its fiery trial of suffering is hope in the sovereign grace of God. It is God who saves, from start to finish. God’s initiative stands at the beginning of salvation. He has called us by his grace. God’s purpose arches over the end of our salvation. He has called us to his own glory.
- Edmund P. Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, The Bible Speaks Today, 217.
In order to gain perspective on making it to the end, we’ve seen that we must understand our struggles in this life as merely be “a little while” and that we need God’s sustaining involvement in order to preserve us to the end.
Now let’s look at Peter’s final words in his letter.
1 Peter 5:12–14 (ESV)
We’re now down to the closing credits (I mean greetings and exhortations) of Peter’s first letter. First, he mentions Silvanus, otherwise known as Silas. There is some debate as to whether Peter is indicating that Silvanus helped write the letter, or if he merely delivered it. It’s not terribly important for our purposes to make a decision on that point. It makes a bit more sense for Peter to commend Silvanus if he is the one delivering the letter. New Testament authors typically don’t write a commendation for co-authors.
Peter also sends greetings from Mark, which is most certainly John Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark. He calls Mark his “son” to indicate their discipleship relationship. Mark was to Peter what Timothy was to Paul.
Then we have this interesting reference to “She who is at Babylon.” The city of Babylon is in ruins by this point, and most understand Peter to be referring to the church in Rome. As Babylon was once the center of opposition to the Jews, Peter is identifying Rome as the center of opposition against God’s church, the new Israel.
Peter testifies to them that he has written to them declaring the true grace of God. Peter, of course, had first hand experience with the Lord and his teachings. And he witnessed the sufferings of Christ.
But he is also emphasizing that salvation is all of grace. It is not earned. It is not deserved. It is a gift of God from start to finish, from our calling and new birth in Chapter 1 to eternal glory in Chapter 5.
Peter is also warning us against a grace that promises an easy and painless life here on earth. This is not “health and wealth” or “name it and claim it” gospel that Peter preaches.
Because Peter’s message is the true grace of God, he commands them to “Stand firm in it.” He’s not urging them merely to keep some kind of moral code or doctrinal fidelity, though there are plenty of moral commands in the letter and your beliefs truly do matter.
He’s commanding them to stand in the gospel of grace. Do not turn aside from grace to your works or performance or ceremony. Hold fast to the truth that salvation is of the Lord. Rest your hope fully in Him.
Even in the midst of suffering or hardship, don’t lose your confidence in the sufferings and subsequent glories of Christ. Hold fast to your Chief Shepherd who leads and cares for you.
The command to “stand firm in it” does not suddenly make salvation dependent upon your works. This isn’t Peter saying “Don’t screw it up!” The very thing that you must stand firm in is realizing that salvation is by grace alone. Resist spiritual pride. Resist trusting in your own righteousness.
I’m sure some of you just couldn’t wait for me to get to the “kiss of love” at the end.
Peter is referring to a familial custom of the day. Family members, or even servants and masters would greet one another and show familial intimacy by kissing one another. This could be on the head, on the cheek, or even on the lips. It was even at times practiced in business with clients.
This was not a romantic kiss, but did show a relational closeness. The word for “love” is agape, and the word for “kiss” is derived from phileo (brotherly love).
Paul mentions a “holy kiss” in some of his letters. Eventually, the early church adopted a ceremonial “kiss of peace” as a part of the liturgy, but we should not imagine something so formal or ritualistic here.
This is likely a custom that doesn’t translate well to today’s culture, but that doesn’t mean that we should overlook the principle Peter is getting at.
We are to treat one another as brothers and sisters. We are to have true affection for one another, and not be content with relational distance, disinterest, or disunity. Peter expects and promotes a relational closeness within the church that challenges many of us.
A “holy handshake” doesn’t quite feel equivalent to a kiss of love. Perhaps a “holy hug” gets closer at the idea. But the point is that we should be giving a warm, personal welcome to fellow believers that goes beyond mere formalities. We are, after all, in the family of God together—we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
There is really no category here for avoiding one another or giving one another a cold shoulder in the body of Christ. We are all in need of God’s grace to make it to the end, and one of the means of grace God uses to get us there is our relationships with one another.
Let’s work hard as a church to walk in humility and love toward one another by moving toward instead of away from each another.
Peter ends his epistle with part of the blessing he declared to them at the beginning—peace.
We often imagine peace as the thing we can only experience outside of our suffering or “after we suffer for a little while.” Peter, though, expects us to experience God’s peace as long as we are in Christ. Apart from our circumstances, we can experience true peace if we are connected to Jesus by faith.
If we have put our faith in Christ alone for salvation, we have been promised a resurrection “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 (1 Pet 1:4-5).”
And though we suffer in our “little while of exile,” we need not believe that our joy should be diminished.
We have made it to the end of 1 Peter. What now?
What to do at the end of a series like this:
Some of us are still stuck at the introduction to the sermon today. “How much longer?” How much farther?”
Psalm 13:1–2 (ESV) — How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Don’t be discouraged by Peter’s answer. It will just be a little while. And, after that, God himself will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Don’t just try to “tough it out.”
Humble yourself (1 Pet 5:6)
You don’t have to pretend you have it all together.
You don’t have to pretend you haven’t blown it.
Receive God’s mercy
Ask for prayer (the prayer team is down front after the service).
We are a church built on the Bible, guided and empowered by the Spirit, striving to make disciples, and pursuing holiness in the context of robust biblical relationships.
10am on Sundays
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