Joy in the Journey

Life can be hard to understand sometimes. There are so many conflicting experiences we can have. We experience times of joy and times of sadness, times of happiness and times of sorrow. In 1 Peter 1:1-9 we are given a picture of life in microcosm. In a few brief sentences we are given the whole scope of life – but, as seen from heaven. A couple observations about life:

First, Life is Journey. Writing to the church, in verse two, Peter refers to them as strangers. The word in the original language also means pilgrim. He was referring to them as I believe God sees all of His children in this world. In this world we are strangers on a pilgrimage. Heaven is our true home (cf. 2 Cor 5:-10). So while we are here, we are on a journey.

It can be a hard journey, a joyous journey, a journey filled with confusion and adversity or with contentment and happiness. A lot is dependent upon what we experience in life. The things we cannot control, for instance, lead us in many ways; and more often than not, our ability to cope and overcome hardships with a positive attitude and joyful spirit and a heart filled with faith lead us as well. But no matter what we experience and how we face the challenges of the journey, scripture makes it very clear that life is just that, a journey.

It may be stating the obvious to say so, but it is important to understand that point; because if we understand life as a journey then we will not allow ourselves to become too settled. By that, I mean we will not become too attached to the things of the world and the things in this life. We should be content with such things as we have, but we should never be content to put the journey on hold for the sake of this world. We can enjoy life, and of course we should. God created life to be enjoyed. But that must never to be goal of the journey. The first goal of the journey is to embrace it as such.

Of course, on the journey there are many trials and challenges. So in verse six Peter tells the church that they should rejoice in the experiences and trials of life. He says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials…” His point is simply this: The experiences of life shape us into something that God want us to be. And in verse seven he tells us what that is. He says, “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tested by fire, may be found to praise honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

What do we learn from this? We learn that we need to embrace all the experiences of life. For in everything, the good as well as the bad, the easy as well as the hard, we learn that in all things God is working in our lives for a purpose (Rom 8:28). And that purpose is to lead us to know him.

Ecclesiastes says it like this:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace (3:1-8).

Then the book sums up all of life with this observation: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is mans all” (Ecc 11:13). This is a loaded statement. The bible teaches that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10). To fear God is to be in awe of His majesty; it is to respect His Word; it is to learn to be obedient to His will. To keep His commandments is not simply to obey precepts; it is ultimately to learn to love God.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded with, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). The Ten commandment are given in the negative, because they are not meant to lead us to heaven, but to inform us how we fail to obey the greatest commandment, which is to love God above all things (Rom 3:19-20).

As we reflect on what this means, one of the obvious questions to ask ourselves is this: where are we on this journey?

The second observation is that there are some discoveries to make on the journey. In verses 3-5 Peter communicates three discoveries that God wants us to experience in life. These discoveries, I think, can account for much of what happens in life. God has a way of using our circumstances and shaping our experiences to lead us to make these discoveries. God wants us to understand:

First, we are never alone. In verse two Peter refers to the church as the “elect.” This word has many meanings that impact our understanding of God. The most significant is that we learn of God’s knowledge of His children. In short, God’s knowledge of you is complete. There is nothing of which He is unaware concerning your life. Psalm 139 teaches this as well. The Psalmist wrote, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (v. 7). The answer is nowhere. God is ever present with His own. Because of that truth, we need never be anxious or worried about life. God knows all of our needs and responds accordingly (Matt 6:8).

Further, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God was telling us that we have not been abandoned and we have not been forgotten because of our sin. In fact, in the cross we see our God enter into the suffering of His people. God knows and has experienced our sorrows and pain. He will not leave you alone; and He will never condemn those who believe in His goodness and love as given at the cross. He wants you to learn to cast your cares, concerns, sorrow, in short everything, upon him – even your sins. He wants you to seek him and find your strength in him. He wants you to learn to seek the abundance of His grace in daily living.

He wants us to understand that we are always loved. Verse two tells us that God has his eyes upon those who come to him in faith (the elect). Verse five informs us that He is guarding us. He says that we are “kept by the power of God.” In the original language the word “kept” is a military term and it means to guard something. God the Father is protecting His children. He is guarding and watching over you because he loves you.

The bible says,

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:31-39).

He wants us to understand that we are provided for. First, He has provided our salvation. In verse three we are told that according to the Father’s abundant mercy we are “begotten again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Salvation is not something we need to worry about. When our Father provided for our salvation it was complete, lacking nothing (Heb 10:10). The resurrection of Jesus was the Father’s validation upon Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. Further when Jesus was on the cross, He said, “It is Finished” (John 19:30).

He has provided an eternal home in heaven. He writes that it is “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” Our Father has provided a home quite unlike anything we can experience in this life. It is a home of abundance, beauty, fullness of life and it cannot fade, sicken, die or be taken away (Rev 21:1-4). What a contrast to the world we currently live in.

In light of all this, what is our response? He wants us to rejoice! Peter writes, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (vs. 1 Peter 1:8-9).

May we never lose sight of the journey; and may we make those discoveries that make our joy complete.

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