3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! 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, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
“You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.” The African slaves who first sang those lyrics likely weren’t professional exegetes like we are, but they knew their Bible pretty well. St. Peter puts it a bit more elegantly than they, but he makes the same point: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! 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.”
There it is. That’s it in a nutshell. When you get right down to it, that’s what this thing called life is all about, the living hope that belongs to all those who are born again in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus our Lord by the washing of water with the word. Not Jesus and wealth; not Jesus and fame; not Jesus and success; not even Jesus and ministry. Only Jesus. Our hope is in Him alone. “You can have all the rest; (just) give me Jesus.”
But along with Jesus comes His cross. And that’s the hard part, of course, but it goes with the territory – and that St. Peter acknowledges too. “For a little while” he writes – as irksome as that “little while” is, he’s right, in light of eternity – “for a little while …you have been grieved by various trials.” And that’s pretty much it, isn’t it? Those trials come in different sizes, shapes, and durations, but they come most surely and certainly to us all. The ministry these days is not for sissies, and we all have our own bruises, bumps, and scars to show for it. I venture to say there’s not a man among us here who has not been grieved by various trials.
There is a certain gravity to grief, and we will learn a lot more about that tomorrow. (Schulz lecture) But the weight of grief and all the sufferings of this present time wrapped up together aren’t worth comparing to the glories that most certainly lie ahead.
Ministry these days often comes with a high price tag. It’s not easy holding forth the Word of truth when our world prefers to live a lie. People actually begin to believe they can “have all this world” plus Jesus too, and that makes ministry an uphill road. When promiscuity and perversion are the order of the day, it’s hard to preach and teach a life of chastity, self control, and the marriage bed undefiled. When the world is fixated on self indulgence and personal advancement, it’s difficult to preach self denial and sacrifice in the name of Jesus – and you are likely to be branded a killjoy and a hater if you take up the mantel of the Ministry and earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.
Then there are the darts and arrows the evil one directs against the conscientious servant of Christ; discouragement, despair and dismay are frequent visitors in the homes and studies of most ministers of the gospel, and you and I know that we are not impervious to the common temptations of all men since the fall of Adam nor are we strangers to sin, guilt, and shame. We too think we can have all this world, until life caves in and despair hits and we realize the world has us instead.
No wonder then, that we sing: “Give me Jesus.” That’s who we need: Jesus Christ our Lord. The One who was once crucified, dead and buried is now risen again from the dead, living and ascended to the Father’s right hand. From thence He shall come on the final great and awesome day to judge the living and the dead. And on that day we shall receive the inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven until the day of his appearing when He will usher in joy inexpressible and glory and honor unbounded. And on that resurrection day we will clearly see with our very own eyes what we behold only dimly now by faith: Namely, the salvation of our souls. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed; Alleluia!
+ In the Name of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT +