Who would have thought just a couple months ago that we’d be facing the first Easter in my lifetime where people of faith would be prevented from gathering and celebrating the glorious resurrection of Christ due to a global pandemic? It is a clear reminder of how uncertain life can be and what a blessing it truly is each and every time God’s people have the privilege of gathering for corporate worship. It is my prayer that this season will create in us all a true appreciation of and longing for gathered worship.
Though this is the first time in my life where this has happened, it is certainly not the first time God’s people, historically, have been dispersed and unable to gather and worship freely. Far too often disease, death, war, and persecution have forced the church to worship privately, isolated from one another. The apostle, Peter, knew all too clearly the reality of these dynamics, writing his first letter to “elect exiles of the dispersion” (1:1) who had been “grieved by various trials” (1:6). His readers had been dispersed, not by a pandemic, but rather by severe persecution, however the result was the same. Free, gathered worship was disrupted and forced into the privacy of Christian homes. God’s people were left with difficult questions, and many found themselves drowning in a raging sea of fear and anxiety, desperately seeking an anchor for their hope.
With the heart of a pastor and the stubborn resolve of a hardened fisherman, Peter writes to both encourage and challenge his scattered flock. He reminds them of foundational gospel truths and examining their sufferings within the context of God’s love and sovereignty. He paints for them a clear picture of what godliness looks like in the context of suffering and uncertainties. The faithful apostle wanted his readers then and now to remember the following:
You Are Not Alone – Though our suffering, fear, and anxiety often cause us to feel alone, as God’s beloved children we are never truly alone. I had a long talk with Gela about this in the early morning on Monday. You see, Gela lost her father to COVID one week ago, and received a call Monday, notifying her that the virus had also taken her brother. Being on the other side of the globe from her home, having lost two people very precious to her in one whirlwind week, she felt alone and abandoned by God. Peter reminds her, and me, that we are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood…a people for his own possession” (2:9), having been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ. The One who loved us enough to die for us calls us, with broken hearts and doubts, to cast “all our anxieties on Him, because He cares for us” (5:7). Please pray for Gela as she looks to God to heal her broken heart
You Are Not A Helpless Victim of Chaotic Forces – Peter’s readers were struggling to understand the persecution that they were experiencing. It seemed to them like life was swirling out of control. Their possessions, their homes, their jobs, and in some cases, their lives were being taken. Perhaps their struggles were like Mike’s. Mike came to me last night and said, “Chaps, I’m freakin’ out. A few weeks ago we had a massive swarm of locusts come through here, now there’s a plague sweeping the world, and Bill Gates is saying we all need to get tattoos so the government can track us. What in the world is going on?” He was terrified of COVID and feeling completely helpless to do anything. We opened up the Bible to Peter’s letter and were reminded that God uses painful, frightening, chaotic seasons to purify our faith, like gold going through the furnace, and that when He is finished, “God will, himself, restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” us (5:10). Our pain is not pointless. Chaos does not reign. God, himself, does. Pray for Mike as he wrestles with fear, anxiety, and trusting God in the midst of confusion.
So, what does Peter tell us that godliness looks like in times of crisis? We’ll save that for another blog, but for now, consider these two simple instructions, and I challenge you to take out pen and paper and write down what it would look like today for you to apply them in the context of your questions, confusion, fears, and suffering.
“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (2:17)
“Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (4:19)
See You Soon,