We began this series by looking at the news and asking, "Why be joyous?" When we began, the headlines read like this:
Baghdad Explosion Kills At Least Six
SARS Epidemic Continues To Spread
Scott Peterson To Face Death Penalty For Murder of Wife/Son
Since that time, Baghdad has fallen and is in the process of rebuilding, the SARS epidemic is no longer dominating the headlines, and we still don't know who killed Laci and Connor Peterson. So what's new with the news?
A Recent Trip Home
I grew up off the coast of Georgia. Recently, during a return visit and as we drove along the marshes, my mother looked out the passenger's window and said, "Tide's in" or "Tide's out."
Life-and the news-is like the tide: it keeps coming in and going out. Good news is followed by bad news, which is followed by good news again.
Aren't you glad we serve a God who is like the tide, but whose promises are not? Allow me to clarify.
Like the tide, we can always count on God's continuity, His ebb and flow. Unlike the tide, however, God's promises never change. His Son's death, burial and resurrection have given us more than a few reasons to rejoice-no matter what life has to offer, whether the tide is in-with all its power and might-or out, showing the underbelly of the marshes, reeds swayed by the wind.
A Look Back At Parts One through Five
We began this series by looking at a verse of Scripture from 1 Peter, which reads:
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:6b, 7)
The question raised was: In what do we rejoice?
By looking back at verses 3-6a we discovered we rejoice because:
1) We have a new birth into a living hope.
2) We have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade-kept in heaven just for us.
3) We serve a God of mercy.
4) We have been given the precious gift of faith, which when tended properly, grows like a lush garden.
Reading a Bit Further
A few verses after Peter writes, "who through faith are shielded by God's power," he concludes his thoughts with:
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1: 8-12)
Though You Have Not Seen Him...You Love Him
Skeptics will say that it is impossible to love someone you have yet to see...or meet face to face. Yet ask those same doubters-say, a woman-how she felt about the child carried in her womb before birth, and she will tell you, "Oh, yes. I loved my baby even before I laid eyes on him." Ask a father, and he will tell you the same thing, entertaining you with stories of kissing the baby through the stretched skin of his wife's belly or reading to it, singing to it...even choking back tears of anticipation.
Jesus...our Lord and Savior, our Brother and Bridegroom. He is the One we anticipate returning for us, sweeping us away in a whirlwind of love and-dare I say it-joy! We have never laid physical eyes on Him, but we hold Him-like a mother her unborn child-close inside, tucked in and under and around our hearts.
The word Peter uses for love is agapao, which is the type of love we have for "persons," but goes even deeper to mean: to love dearly and is used to define a love we have for our "beloved."
Say, His name. Say it in Greek (Jesus), say it in Hebrew (Yeshua), but say it! Shout it, whisper it, allow yourself to weep as you repeat it over and over and over again.
Sweet, sweet Jesus. We love you.
...You Believe in Him
I love old movies. Just the other day I was watching Charade with Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and Walter Matthew. In one of the movie's most tense scenes, Audrey Hepburn holds a stamp in her possession worth the USPS in money. Walter Matthau stands to her right, pistol pointed toward her, ordering her to "bring the stamp to me, Mrs. Lampbert."
"Don't listen to him, Regina," Cary Grant's character (Peter Joshua) calls from behind a mammoth column, gun poised and ready to shoot the sinister Hamilton Bartholomew (Matthau). "Believe me. Once he gets the stamp he will kill you."
Bartholomew returns, "No, Mrs. Lampbert. Believe me!"
Who's a girl to believe? Which one is telling the truth? The next lines come from Grant and Matthau, telling her all the reasons she should believe what they are saying respectively. But, who will ultimately persuade her to belief? And what word or action is it that causes her to finally know that Peter Joshua (what an ironic name) is the good guy?
What does it mean to believe?
Peter's word here (pisteuo) means "to think to be true, to be persuaded of...to place confidence in."
Why Do You Believe?
Further study into the word "believe," reveals the following definition: to trust in Jesus or God as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something: saving faith mere acknowledgment of some fact or event: intellectual faith.
Why do you believe? Why do you believe that there is a God who created the heavens and the earth, who desires to be in relationship with His children, who sent His Son to die in order to enable that relationship? Why do you believe the man called Yeshua, born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, raised in Nazareth, carpenter turned rabbi, crucified by Roman execution, buried in a borrowed tomb and then resurrected to life three days later as He promised is the long awaited Messiah?
Because your parents do? Because you grew up hearing the stories all your life and never once thought to question it? Because you live in America, the country settled by Christian men and women looking for freedom to worship God without restraint, as they choose rather than as dictated by government? Why?
And if I tell you why I believe, will it mean the same to you as it does to me?
The Results of Belief
Peter gives us the results of belief. Peter? you say. Well of course Peter believed! He saw the miracles...witnesses the resurrected Christ...was called to ministry by the Messiah Himself, even being told, "Upon [his profession of faith] I will build my church."
But don't forget the dynamics of our dear friend, Impetuous Pete. Yet, nowhere in Scripture are we told that Jesus had to convince Peter to follow Him. He simply said, "Follow me," and Peter left everything behind to do so. Though Peter eventually sank into the Sea of Galilee after walking across its waters, he at least had enough faith in Whom he was walking toward to get out of the boat. When Jesus asked, "Who am I?" it was Peter who said, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God."
Peter believed because Jesus measured up to the One "the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow."
Why Be Joyous?
Peter gives us the answer right smack in the middle of the passage: [you] are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Years ago I worked for a doctor who had a beach house. About twice a month, he and his wife-along with their children and grandchildren-drove the three and a half hours to spend weekends there. One Friday afternoon, as they were preparing to leave, his three-year-old grandson began to dance about the office, singing, "I get to go to the beee-ach! I get to go to the beee-ach!" Of course we all thought it was cute, but we really laughed when, several weeks later after a harrowing week of patients and overtime, our own doctor did a little happy dance while repeating his grandson's tune, "I get to go to the beee-ach! I get to go to the beee-ach!"
I think about that moment even all these years later. Want to join with me in my own little song?
"I get to go to Heaven! I get to go to Heaven!"
"I get to sing with the angels! I get to sing with the angels!"
"I get to go to dance with Jesus! I get to go to dance with Jesus!"
"I get to go to sit at the Father's throne! I get to go to sit at the Father's throne!"
Praise God! Hallelujah! Amen! In this we can truly rejoice!
Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows, and the upcoming Shadows of Light (Barbour Books). She is an award-winning national speaker and can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at PenNhnd@aol.com or you can go to her official website.