1 Peter 1.3-9
I’m quite a fan of those cheesy icebreaker questions that ask: if you were an animal or chocolate bar or Spice Girl, what would you be and why? (FYI it’s a Labrador, Kitkat and Baby Spice for me). Questions like that get me thinking in a different direction and often bring with them unexpected discoveries, along with a decent amount of silliness, of course.
So, let me ask you the same question but this time, about your faith. Just humour me for a moment, if your faith were an animal, what would it be? … A hardworking little ant, maybe. A full of flap flamingo. How about a kind of weather … a calming sunset perhaps. Or maybe a thundering storm. And what if you were to describe your faith as a kind of metal? … On my good days, my faith feels like copper cabling, not so impressive looking but a conduit for useful stuff – but there are certainly days when my faith feels too easily bent out of shape, a little rusty at the edges and not all that fancy to look at. More like tin. Yes, there are definitely tin faith days.
Today’s passage points us to a different metal altogether.
When describing faith, Peter says that it is more precious than gold. How remarkable that the everyday, faltering steps of our faith are compared to something so valuable and beautiful. That precious material that adorns and shouts of wealth: gold. We’re told that such genuine faith will result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus is revealed. The Message translation puts it brilliantly saying: ‘When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith… that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.’ Our faith may feel feeble, it may seem weak and inadequate, but it is extraordinarily valuable to God and, as this passage explains and celebrates, it leads to the most incredible gift: the salvation of our souls.
In rising from the dead, Jesus has won for us an inheritance that Peter describes as imperishable, undefiled and unfading. To put it another way, it is going to last forever, it’s pure and it is vibrant. This inheritance is our salvation. We’re told that it is ready and waiting for us – it is kept in heaven.
But that isn’t to say that it is a purely future reality. Peter tells us that we are already in the process of receiving this living hope, this outcome of our faith, this salvation of our souls. And therefore, we don’t sit counting down the days until we reach heaven. We live our salvation today.
This calls us to a new perspective on the difficult things in our lives. Peter doesn’t pretend that suffering doesn’t exist, remember that he was writing at a time when believers were being killed for holding fast to the Gospel, but he refers to suffering trials as being ‘for a little while’. In the same way, Paul says in 2 Corinthians: ‘this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure’ (4:17). It’s as though, when we eventually hold our inheritance fully, even the most awful things of our earthly life will somehow seem to have lasted a mere moment. It’s easy to hear the words, isn’t it, but how much harder to live a life where faith and suffering stand side by side while trusting that an eternal hope is on the horizon. Praise God that it isn’t reliant on us. As Peter says, ‘we are being protected by the power of God’ and so when holding on to hope feels hopeless, we can be sure that God is fighting alongside us in the battle.
God has given us the gift of this inheritance because of his great mercy. We haven’t earned our salvation nor do we need to strive to prove the genuineness of our faith. It is all in Him and to His glory. We are simply called to rejoice in the receiving of it. And when such joy doesn’t seem all that forthcoming, let us remember that whether our faith feels like trusty copper cabling or an old piece of tin, in the eyes of our loving heavenly father, it is always, always golden.
Father, thank you for the gift of our salvation. Thank you that it is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. When the difficulties of today overshadow the promised glory of our inheritance would you change our perspective and give us joy. Help us to trust that our faith, however feeble it feels, is valuable to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.