Grace and peace be yours in abundance. Amen.
1 Peter 1:3-9
In the name of Jesus who has conquered death – dear triumphant ones!
A week of bickering had come to an end. It must have been exhausting in the way a week of bickering between husband and wife can be sometimes. But the bickering was over the events of Easter Sunday. You see, ten of the disciples had seen the risen Lord Jesus, Judas was out of the picture, and Thomas had not seen Jesus yet. Thomas refused to believe the eye-witness testimony of his band of brothers. He stubbornly insisted on holding out until he saw Jesus’ hands and feet, and touched his pierced side. One can only imagine the turmoil amongst the disciples! Thomas simply would not listen to anything they had to say about the resurrection. A week of turmoil. A week of heated discussions and debates. It took its toll and everyone began to wonder just a bit about what exactly was happening. The peace of the resurrection was in question all week long because Thomas doubted the fact of the resurrection. Finally, by the amazing grace of Jesus, Thomas stopped doubting. The turmoil was over. Peace reigned supreme amongst the brothers! Now Thomas saw it! Now he felt it! Now he heard it! Doubt often robs us of the peace that the risen Lord wants us to have. Doubts about forgiveness. Doubts about eternity. Doubts over God’s love and care. Doubts, doubts, doubts. The devil uses them to rob us of the peace of the resurrection. But Jesus has defeated the devil. His resurrection is sure! Doubts must disappear! Today the Spirit reminds us through the Apostle Peter – Easter Changes Everything for us!
We spend much of our time in the doubt-filled world of Thomas. Temporary problems abound in life. There never seems to be a shortage of problems to deal with. Even Jesus advises that each day has enough trouble of its own. It is so easy to become down, so easy to become discouraged and to give up. But take notice that God always describes these problems in terms of being short. Yes, friends the difficulties we face are short-term difficulties. Jesus said to his disciples in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday: “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart you have overcome the world!” That is the way Jesus puts our troubles into perspective. It’s as if he says, “Don’t worry about it! I have it all under control!” In this same spirit Peter writes: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though 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. Peter reminds us that we have eternal life through the risen Christ. That fact makes any and every problem we face a mere temporary one. Paul put it this way: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Each time we face hardship our faith is exercised. Just as one needs to train for a running race or condition the body for an athletic contest – so we need to put our faith to use by facing the challenges of life with the confidence only Christ gives us. As we face the trials of life our faith is proved genuine – it is no fly by night, lip service thing, we truly believe it. In the end as we face these challenges to the faith – Christ will give us strength and help us overcome them, which results in praise, honor and glory. Even in the midst of life’s toughest challenges, challenges that don’t go away – there is still a place to praise and honor and give glory to God. We simply follow in the steps of our dear Lord. We gladly take up our crosses and follow him. For he is leading us to our heavenly home! As we face the problems of life our faith is exercised – it is pressed and pushed and stretched and tested. All of this is a refining process – which pushes faith to seek its object Jesus more and more!
Here is the paradox of Scripture all of God’s people must wrestle with – it runs counter to our natural way of thinking. We tend to think that these are terrible things that are punishments from God. Instead these are the times when God blesses us the most as he forces us to turn our attention to him and away from ourselves. God is not the author of anything evil, however he does allow trouble to come our way so that he can show us his loving care and gracious blessing. God is always involved when we face hardships. He deals with our trials in one of three ways. Sometimes he takes our troubles away. Other times he uses our troubles to strengthen our trust in him and his Word. On other occasions he makes our troubles turn out for our good – like Joseph – sold into slavery by his brothers, wrongfully accused and thrown into prison, but eventually God made him second in command of all of Egypt. Members of Immanuel, you have faced these kinds of challenges individually and collectively for the last 11 years that I am aware of and for years before that. You know what Peter writes about here. Praise God for them! Trust that this same God is always with you and is always working to bless you through everything that happens! Patiently wait to see how God will use your struggles for your good! The risen Lord appears to you today with his greeting of “Peace!” Easter changes everything for us – it changes our perspective on problems. All the challenges we face as God’s people are indeed opportunities – opportunities to see God’s grace and mercy, to grow in our trust, and to receive his blessing.
Peter goes on to write: 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. Jesus works with the same power that he used to conquer death to keep us in the saving faith. So we are comforted to know that our faith is shielded by God’s power. We are comforted to partake in the Word and Sacraments for our spiritual nourishment. So the encouragement for you today is keep trusting Jesus for everything! He knows your needs, he knows the needs of your Immanuel congregation trust that he will provide you with all you need and always at just the right time. Patience goes hand in hand with this kind of trust in your risen Savior.
Above all else find your greatest comfort and assurance in these confident and joyful words of Peter – for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. With this comfort we are truly prepared to face every challenge life throws our way! For in the end – we have eternal life! We belong to God! Easter truly changes everything for us! Death is dead! Fear is gone! Guilt is taken care of! Joy is ours – an unending joy. Because Jesus lives so do we – eternally! Face all the challenges of life knowing your risen Lord Jesus is always with you to guide you and to comfort you! The resurrection changes everything for us – it changes our perspective about problems – they will not last – it changes our outlook for eternity – we are going to heaven!
When faced with your own troubles recall the resurrection – it is our game changer – it is our victory that Christ has won for us! In the light of the empty tomb problems are temporary and eternal life is ours! So we confess with the Psalmist – I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. The risen Lord has rescued you for eternity! You are his! Find constant comfort in this fact! Amen.