Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sermon-1/14/07--Rejoicing in the Shield of God-- 1 Peter 1:6-12

In October 1993, police sharpshooters in Rochester, NY, surrounded a car. In the back seat of the car was a man with a rifle. The police attempted to negotiate with the man… no answer. The police watched and waited… no movement. Finally the police discovered the truth: the armed man in the back seat was a mannequin.

When the authorities tracked down the owner of the car, he told them he keeps the mannequin in his car for protection. “You’ve got to do this,” he said. “With the car-jackings, it helps if it looks like you’ve got a passenger.”

These are dangerous times and we all have a desire for protection. The question is whom do you rely on for protection?

Remember last week we began examining what it is that Angels are amazed at in 1 Peter 1. Peter begins by listing reasons what angels long to look into and why our Praise should change, for His Mercy, for our New Birth, for our Living Hope, for His Inheritance, and for His Protection. We’re looking closer at God’s protection this week and why we should Rejoice in the Shield of God—because of His Refuge.

Shielded by God—1:5

Through Faith

By God’s Power

Until Christ’s Return

We are Shielded from the Controlling Nature of Sin, We are Shielded from the eternal effect of sin—broken relationship with God—we are shielded from the control and manipulation of the demonic—we are shielded from the full force of temptation because God has promised to provide a way out--even though we don’t always take advantage of it.

We are Not Shielded from all Suffering, from Pain or Difficulty. We are not shielded from all problems, emotions or decisions. We are not completely shielded from the effects of sin in our own lives or in the lives of others.

Yet we are still given Refuge and a place of safety, and we can still rejoice even in the midst of trials.

Rejoicing in the Shield of God—1:6-9

Rejoice for God’s Protection Until the Reality of His Coming.—

God is working to provide us refuge, to protect us now, today. And He will continue to work and protect and guide from this moment until Christ’s Return. Until we hear the trumpet sound, until we meet Him in the air—God will be our Refuge and our strong tower. Despite the long wait our faith has experienced over the years looking forward to His return, despite those that ridicule our belief in the promise of Christ, the reality that we hold on to with Hope—not wishful thinking, but Hope, is that He is returning. And we can and must rejoice in that fact.

Peter wants us to keep everything in the proper perspective. Our hope in Christ’s return changes everything.

No matter what is going on around you today, your Perspective must remain focused on The Reality of Christ’s Return. The reality of the Second Coming should change the way you look at and handle trials. Knowing Christ is returning to establish His kingdom, right all wrongs, and Elevate His people helps us to rejoice for God’s Refuge even during trials—because we know this world and our life in it will not always be this way. There is more than just a light at the end of the tunnel. He is the light! With that in mind you are more able to

Rejoice Even during Trials—Again, becoming a Follower & Disciple of Christ doesn’t mean that life is going to be nothing but roses from here on out. It doesn’t mean you won’t struggle, that you won’t experience loss or pain. We will experience those things just like everyone else because this world is fallen, it is marred by sin.

This world is no longer the perfect garden He made for us. So we will have struggles just like everybody else because we still live here.

In some ways, being a Xn may make you a bigger target in this world. The Scriptures call Satan the “Prince of This World”, and let me assure you that he will try harder to take you down once you have crossed enemy lines.

The unbelieving world—which hated and rejected Jesus, will at times treat believers with the same sentiment.

It is happening all over the world—hundreds of Chinese Xn’s are being arrested for attending church or training seminars . School kids in America are frequently required to redo assignments because of their “religious nature”. Churches are denied access to building permits in some communities in America because of their tax status.

Believers endure hardships and trials in this world just like everybody else, and on top of them, we sometimes suffer for our faith.

But remember the perspective that Peter is trying to give you—you Can rejoice even in the trials, rejoice during them, even overcoming them because as a Kingdom Believer, with you’re your mind and perspective focused on the Second Coming, compared to eternity you know they last only for “a little while” v. 6—which means the length of our trials here on earth do not compare to our time in eternity.

So we can rejoice in the relative short duration of our trials—admittedly, this is difficult—things seem long because of our limited frame of reference.

But if you and I will fully grasp the full meaning of the Kingdom of God, and will embrace the reality of it and live such, then we will even think in terms of eternity and not just the here and now.

But we can also rejoice that our sufferings and trials are not without purpose—they are not just random events with no meaning, no purpose or no benefit.

God’s Protection protects us from so many threats that we are unaware of, but when something happens, when some trial is allowed and comes our way it always has the same goal—the strengthening and growth of our faith. In this truth, I’m sure the angels marvel at how God can make something good of our trials here.

The Goal of Our Trials—READ v. 7

Trials have the ability to bring us closer to God or drive us further away from Him. What do you believe is God’s desire?
God’s desire is that we always be brought closer. As we’ve been seeing on Wednesday nights, even God’s anger desires to draw us closer rather than push us away.

God’s desire is that our momentary trials be understood in light of our greater eternity—these trials Refine our Faith and make our eternity even better.

Even though it may be painful, these things help us in some way, they prepare us for something, they refine us. With our limited perspective, we probably won’t ever fully understand how God will use our trials this side of His coming.

Alan Mairson wrote an article for National Geographic about beekeepers who raise and transport bees for a living. He told the story of Jeff and Christine Anderson and how their daughter overcome an allergy to bee stings.
To build up her immunity, doctors administered a series of injections to Rachel over a four-month period. But, in order to maintain immunity, she needed a shot or a bee sting every 6 weeks .
So every 6 weeks Rachel’s parents would go outside and catch a bee. Then, as Rachel recalls, “Mom would take hold of my arm and roll my sleeve up. Then my Dad would make the bee mad and stick it on me and count to ten before he took the stinger out. But it worked.

”Now when I accidentally get stung, it barely swells, it barely hurts.”
Imagine how hard it must have been for those parents to know this was the only way to help their daughter live. In a world full of bees, a loving father must not shield his child from every sting. In fact, for the child’s own good the father must at times induce pain.

Your Faith, your Eternity is more important to God than your happiness, it’s more important than your comfort—your faith is “of greater worth than gold”. So He is willing to do anything to make your faith better, more pure, more beautiful, more glorifying to Him.

You’ve probably seen pictures of gold nuggets, but have you ever seen gold ore? It’s not very pretty, in fact, it really doesn’t look anything like gold at all. Not until you begin heating the ore does the gold begin to separate from the other minerals and elements. Only after careful, deliberate and intense heat can something beautiful be made. God is refining you today so you will be beautiful in eternity.

Do you value your faith as much as God does? If your faith is this valuable to God, shouldn’t it be valuable to you as well? In fact, your faith should be of greater value to you than any earthly treasure—even gold itself. Even the purest, most beautiful gold will not last in eternity. Your faith must be similarly refined so it can be PROVEN GENUINE. In other words, if your faith is real—then nothing will come between you and God. No person, no hurt, no failure, no threat will be able to pull you away from your faith in God.

God wants to see your faith Proven Genuine! A genuine faith brings greater glory to Him!

Everything that happens in our lives must be understood in light of what will bring glory to God. Everything in your life is preparing you for service and glory today.

When your faith is proven genuine and made pure it results in Praise, Glory and Honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

A Genuine Faith is one that Walks by Faith, not by sight.

Unseen Faith at Work-- READ v. 8.

Sadly instead of living by faith and not by sight—you and I live most days by sight and not by faith. It comes more naturally to us. But we have so much more available to us.

These believers were either 2nd Gen. Xns or not in Israel during the life of Jesus—so they had never seen Him physically. But that did not keep them from loving Jesus with all their hearts. This describes you and me today—we have not seen Him, but we love Him and I hope you realize that He is the source of joy.

Many times during our trials our hearts sympathize with what Peter says—“though you do not see Him now”. In the midst of our struggles it seems like we cannot see His face, feel His Presence or hear His voice. But we still believe He is there walking us through the valley of the shadow of death. We still know that the unseen hand of Jesus is at work all around us.

Last week I reminded all of you of the fact that we will not be aware of the majority of instances when the Shield, Protection and Refuge of God is working. Even during trials and struggles His hand is still working.

The Hand of Jesus is working even when we cannot see Him. And True Faith will still believe in Him no matter what and in the midst of the trials God can and does fill you “with an inexpressible and glorious joy”.

It is based on the Hope in the Future and a Certainty of Christ’s Return which changes how we look at, how we respond to and how we handle everything that Life throws our way.

God’s desire is to refine us and prove us genuine. He wants to see you and me succeeding and growing in our faith because He does value us more than any treasure. We are God’s Pearl of Great Price—buried in a field that He was willing to sell everything and purchase.

We can Rejoice in God’s Shielding because when our faith has been proven genuine and when Praise, Glory and Honor Results in our lives at the coming of Christ we begin to understand that we are receiving the Goal of our Faith—vs. 9--the salvation of our souls. Our eternity is secured.

It may not make sense to us, but it is ours. We may not understand everything, but God is more interested in our Faith than our understanding.

The angels enjoy the benefit of seeing the spiritual world. They know by sight that it is real—whereas we live by faith

And I believe they marvel at how God relates to us and how we still desire, trust and have faith in Him. I believe they lean in when they see us filled with joy even during trials—especially those that come because of our faith when it would be so easy to avoid by denying Christ. I believe they are amazed at how God is refining you and me into something even better.

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