Life: Focused faith

• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 13 focuses on 1 Peter 1:3-9, 13.

Every person on Earth lives by faith. Each one trusts in something or someone. The object of faith, however, varies greatly.

Where do you place your faith? Is your faith based on wishful thinking? “Sure hope it rains, so my garden will grow.” “Maybe this will be the year the Cowboys win the Super Bowl.” The outcome of either one of those statements is based on an it-might-or-it-might-not-happen hope.

As followers of Christ, our confident assurance is not based on wishful thinking. We are to fix our lives on Jesus Christ who is our sure hope. In him, we live, move and have our being.

Christ’s finished work

In his first epistle, Peter wrote to people scattered throughout the world because of persecution. Suffering, prejudice and death were not uncommon experiences for the first century church. What kept them from giving up and denouncing their faith? It was their faith in Christ alone.

In 1 Peter 1:3-4, the apostle speaks of the new birth given by a merciful Father to those who believe in the resurrected Christ. Those who receive this new life through Jesus now experience a living hope. This hope brings an inheritance that cannot expire, disappear or ruin.

It is tempting to put our hope in our circumstances, our plans or our bank accounts. Our circumstances change in ways we never could predict. In the blink of an eye, lives are altered in big and small ways. The economy takes a downward turn, and our finances are ruined.

Christ is our living hope in which we have confident assurance. He never will die, because he defeated sin and death on the cross. Those who put their trust in him will not die either. In the finished work of Christ on the cross, our hope is made secure.

Refined by fire

From the moment we receive Christ until we stand before him face-to-face, we are being changed, saved and transformed from the inside out. We live in a fallen world and have to deal with the consequences of sin. Peter reminds us we are shielded by God’s power (v. 5) throughout our journey. Even as our Savior suffered, so will we. Why are we surprised when people disagree with our beliefs, mock our faith or seek to silence our voices?

God uses these difficult times in our lives to refine us. Peter says our faith is more valuable than gold (v. 7). Even gold will perish, but a faith made strong through all kinds of trials will endure to the end. It will bring honor, glory and praise to Jesus when he is revealed fully.

Many in the world today understand the refiner’s fire. They live under repressive governments who persecute them for following Christ. In his book, The Insanity of God, Nik Ripken gives a riveting account of faith lessons learned from the persecuted church.

Nik heard Stoyan’s (his name means “stand firm”) story of a focused faith that helped him survive prison and persecution.

Stoyan: I thank God, and I take great joy in knowing that I was suffering in prison in my country, so that you, Nik, could be free to share Jesus in Kentucky.

Nik: Oh no. No! You are not going to do that! You are not going to put that on me. That is a debt so large that I can never repay you.

Stoyan: Son, that’s the debt of the cross! Don’t steal my joy! I took great joy that I was suffering in my country, so that you could be free to witness in your country.

Christ suffered for us so we can be free. For whom do we take great joy in our suffering so they can be free to know Jesus?

Yet to come

Through faith, we love a God we do not see. We believe in a faithful, steadfast God who fills us with joy almost beyond description. An old preacher once proclaimed: “We were saved. We are being saved. We will be saved.” The end goal of our faith is the salvation of our souls (vv. 8-9). We don’t just wait for heaven to enjoy our salvation. It is something we experience now with growing understanding because of the knowledge we gain about the work of Christ in us.

As we wait for that day to stand in Christ’s presence, Peter gives us three things to equip us for what is yet to come (v. 13). First, he tells us to prepare our minds for action. His words are reminiscent of Paul’s in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The second admonition is to be self-controlled. In 1 Peter 5:8-9 he expands his teaching: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

He also urges us to set our hope fully on grace. Our confident assurance is focused solely in Jesus. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. He endured scorn and shame for our sake so we might live with him. Why did Jesus do that for us? “So that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3).

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