Jeremy Wray, Senior Cross-Cultural Service Major
I recently spoke to a couple thousand college students about the hope we have in Jesus. I emphasized that the hope we have is one that is alive, and its life is found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. I also encouraged the oft forgotten reality of our inheritance as saints. To those who are alive in Christ, there is an inheritance kept for us that can't fade, refuses to decay, and does not perish—its eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The sermon I preached was based off the first chapter of Peter's first letter to the exiles of the Dispersion. It is in this section that Peter reminds these believers to remember their hope and their inheritance, and to join him in exuberant praise to God. Truly, the entire passage echoes back to the third verse: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Peter suggests that it is God's mercy, full and powerful, that has caused us to be born again to a living hope and to an eternal inheritance. He says that it is in these we rejoice (v. 6), even though we are being grieved by various, tenacious, and ferocious trials. Peter, like many other writers of Scripture, says that we are to rejoice even when life gets hard. He says that our faith is not yet complete, or genuine. The purpose of these trials, struggles, and pressures in our lives is to make us nothing less than praising, glorifying, and honoring to Jesus.
He does not shy away from the struggles of our lives with pithy words of endearment. He does not tell these exiles that they must toughen out their Christian lives and be stronger than the persecution of their day. Peter insisted, rather, that they must rejoice! I insist today that we as God's people must rejoice. We must see the mercy of God in Jesus, we must enjoy the hope of life we hold, and anticipate the joys of eternal life we will have. And we must rejoice in the tough stuff. It is the same God that is sovereign over our salvation that is sovereign over suffering.
By this I mean that the trials in our lives are designed to make us genuine, and that God is sovereign over trials that stretch and transform us to be more like Christ. This sunk into my heart deeply when I contracted strep throat the week after preaching. I had tonsils the size of golf balls and blisters to boot. My entire week was described by attempting to swallow air, food, drink, and meds without excruciating pain accompanying it.
It was last week (and not two weeks ago when I was preaching) when I realized what it actually means to thank God for all things. I had to take to heart the truths I had expounded for many others to hear. I realized at heart level that we truly do have every reason to give thanks in Christ Jesus.
There are many aspects to prayer. It is when we sin and are convicted, we know we must confess. It is when we see the struggle and hurt of others, we choose to intercede. When the Word dwells in us richly and we understand the presence of God through faith, we commune with Him. The aspect of prayer that I am attempting to highlight with this post is adoration and thanksgiving towards God.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes. 5:16-18)
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3: 17)
Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord in your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:19-20)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places! (Eph 1:3)
These verses are not mere Christian literature designed to give us proper distinction as a religion and add to our tenets of religious practice. These verses are aimed and charged directly at the people of God, so they might rejoice, thank, and praise God for all their spiritual blessings! This is the God of all our words and deeds. The God of all our circumstances. The God of our songs and melodies. The God of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The God of heaven and blessing.
You cannot truly teach someone to be thankful. You cannot tell them to say "thank you" and it be adequate gratitude. Words are not enough to show reality, for they are temporary and often masqueraded. True thankfulness arises from a heart that has tasted and seen that the Lord is good. It is the heart that has been washed with the blood of Calvary that sings to the Savior. It is the heart that has seen the glory of God that is transformed and overflowed.
It is also only in thanksgiving and adoration that that the heart realizes how great God is. Have you ever gone up to a speaker, performer, chef, or teacher and thanked them for what they had done? It is in the act of showing gratitude that you truly realize how overwhelmed your heart is. It’s when you go out of your way to thank someone that heart has gone full circle on the roundabout of gratitude. It is the same with God.
This is why Peter would invite the exiles to rejoice in the God whose mercy has given salvation. Paul knows that for the heart to be fully blessed, it must bless the One who has blessed it! Thanksgiving is the natural response of someone who has been touched by the grace of God. The sad part is that many have become too accustomed to grace and its flavors, colors, and marvel. Many forget the depths of Jesus' service to us. Many cloud the grace of God with classes, meetings, agendas, and people.
May we be the people of God that are truly and exuberantly thankful to our God, because such is the joy of living. We taste the joy of eternity when we rejoice in God and his gifts today. I find 1 Peter 1:8-9 a tremendous chorus and conclusion to the song of praise we started with at the beginning of the chapter.
Though you have not seen Jesus, you love him. Though you do not now see Jesus, 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.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.