Sermon: Praising God During Hard Times

Text: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Second Sunday of Easter
Listen to the Sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s easy to praise God when life is good, everything is going your way, and life is full of good cheer. But there are times when our lives are shrouded in darkness and sorrow. And there are moments when praising God seems far from our hearts. How could one praise the Maker when life seems to have lost all its goodness? When the road ahead is rough, do you still have it in you to give thanks to God? It’s a fact that life can be challenging, and in those difficult moments, thanking and blessing God can seem like a hollow gesture. St. Peter the Apostle once wrote a letter of encouragement to Christians who were going through hard times. This reading from Peter can help suffering Christians today to keep praising God, even during their trials.

Remembering God’s Past Mercy

Peter began by blessing the Lord and giving thanks for His mercy. We can be thankful because God has shown us mercy. Because of God’s goodness and mercy, we have life and hope, not because we earned or deserved it. God’s mercy towards you is rooted in past events. “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pe 1:3).

The Father sent His only begotten Son to die for your sins and then raised Him from the dead. And that, dear friends, is why we praise God! On Easter morning, Jesus rose from the dead, and death itself is conquered! Christ’s resurrection is why we sing praises, not just because our Lord lives, but because we live too through his resurrection! Through the resurrection of Christ, we’ve been given new life. We can praise God because we have been born again.

Being born again is the miraculous change that God’s grace works in us. What God did for Jesus on that first Easter morning, He’s also begun to do for us through the Word joined to the water. By the Holy Spirit, you were born again in Holy Baptism. But how is it connected to the historical event of the resurrection? You see, by giving new life to Christ, God has also given new life to all who are united to Jesus in Holy Baptism. When the Holy Spirit comes to us, He unites us with Christ’s death and resurrection so that the death that Christ experienced is counted as our death, and His life becomes our life. Through this union, our debt is paid, and we no longer fear God’s judgment. His death counts for us, and we are united to His life.

And this isn’t just an external change, but a transformation that happens deep within us, at the very core of our being. We are given faith, a gift that brings us from spiritual death to life! The new life created within us is the beginning of the New Creation applied to us here. God has already begun the new creation in the resurrection of Jesus. We’ll see that fulfillment on the last day when the dead shall be raised. So, as a pledge of that, God gives us a downpayment of his grace here and now (Ep 1:14-16). You can praise God because you have experienced His mercy in your own life when you were given new birth in Holy Baptism.

Looking ahead to our Future Inheritance

Peter doesn’t just leave the reasons for us to praise God in the past. He also talks about our future! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why? “He has caused us to be born again to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Pe 1:3-4). Just as God gave the land of Israel as an inheritance, so too has He promised us an inheritance. The word inheritance implies a future. To be baptized is to have an inheritance secured for you. Our inheritance will be revealed on the last day. But God has already prepared it for us. It’s finished, done, and complete.

We can praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ even during the most challenging times of our lives. Why? Because our inheritance is being kept safe for us in heaven by the Father Himself! The curtain will be drawn back one day, and our earth will be transformed. We are promised a New Creation permeated with God’s presence, love, and mercy. The inheritance He’s prepared for us is perfect, unchangeable, and kept safe by God Himself. Through the resurrection of Jesus, God has already started His new creation. At this very moment, it’s being kept safe, out of sight, in heaven.

Some of you may worry about your earthly inheritance being eaten up by taxes. But, dear friends, that won’t happen in our case. Our salvation won’t rot or decay. It will never become impure, wither, or become old. Your inheritance will be there forever. You have treasures in heaven, where nothing can destroy them. Not moths, not rust, and certainly not thieves. (Mt 6:20). And it’s free from any defect, and there is nothing to jeopardize its greatness. The New Creation that we, the baptized, will inherit is permanent. Nothing in this world can ever affect it. Not catastrophes, pandemics, human sin, nor decay can touch it. You can praise God because nothing will ever destroy your hope for salvation. It’s safe and secure with the Father, under lock and key in heaven!

Trusting in God’s Protection

An inheritance is no good to the heir unless he lives to enjoy it. An inheritance is “for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Pe 1:4–6). Peter is saying that if that new creation is being kept safe for us, that means we are being kept safe for it too! It’s as if the Father has us in protective custody, keeping us safe until all is completed. But what about those hard times, you ask? Sometimes it may look like God is not doing a very good job of keeping us safe! Yet He is! Even in the hardest times, God is with us, protecting and keeping us safe.

Trials and hardships should not surprise us or cause us to doubt God’s faithfulness. As Christians, we experience hard times differently from the rest of the world. We see God’s purpose in it all and trust Him even through painful times. Our trust in God will guard and keep us during hard times. Like gold is smelted through a refining fire, our faith is being smelted in the fire of various kinds of trials in this life. Fire does not destroy gold. It only removes impurities. And so it is with our faith. God allows trials to befall us to strengthen our faith in Him. You have faith and trust in His promises, but sometimes there are impurities. Sometimes there’s murmuring, sometimes, there’s pessimism, and sometimes you put your trust in money or power instead of God. It’s like dirt mixed with the gold of faith. So, God allows us to go through trials and difficulties to refine our faith. His goal is to make it purer, more genuine, and dependent only on him, not on anything else.

Faith is not about what we do but what God does for us in Christ. Faith is trust in God’s mercy and protection. Enduring hard times will show us how much we appreciate God’s past work in our lives and how much we trust His promises for the future. The trials we experience are only for a brief moment. We are guarded by tenaciously clinging to God’s promises, come hell or high water. Our trials keep us trusting, burning away our self-confidence and driving us to our Saviour. But do not fear. We have the Father’s promise that no trial will be more than we can bear (1 Co 10:13) because the God who works for us also works in us. We are guarded through faith, and God has given us that faith. He has given us a living hope through His Son’s sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. God uses trials and hardships to purify our trust in His promises and keep us firmly connected to Jesus through whatever trials come our way.

We praise God for what He has done for us in the past. Jesus died and rose for you! And through Holy Baptism, the Father gave you new birth, and your experience a taste of resurrection life here and now. But that’s not all. We also praise God for what He surely will do in the future. Your inheritance is a New Creation and that can always be counted on. No matter what happens you will always have hope of brighter days ahead! But what about the present, you ask? Do not fear, for God places you under guard through your trust in His promises in Christ Jesus. No matter how much we suffer, we have good reasons to praise God for His immeasurable mercy toward us. So let us lift our voices in praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has done great things for us in the past, He will surely do great things for us in the future, and He is guarding us in the present through our trust in Him.        

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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