Michelle and I both had grandparents pass away in the last few years, and we have watched our parents and their siblings handle their parents’ estates. Sometimes inheritances are smooth and easy. Sometimes they are a bit complex. One time Faith Church received a bequest from a parishioner who passed away, and it took nearly two years to receive it! After a person passes away, there can be many details to process in the settlement of their estate. Those details are often bills that eat away at the inheritance. Imagine the frustration when what initially appeared to be a nice inheritance is reduced to pennies.
As Peter continues his teaching in 1 Peter 1, verse 4, he says the living hope based on Jesus’ resurrection, which we looked at the past few days, gives us “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”
What inheritance is Peter talking about? That word “inheritance” is defined as: “to receive something of incredible value which has not been earned.” Human inheritances can be squandered away quickly. My father-in-law loves to joke around that he is going to write us out of the will, for example, if we don’t help him split firewood. I love to say back to him, “Good, because all you have to pass on is junk!”
But not the inheritance that Jesus promises to those who are reborn. We read that it can’t perish, spoil or fade. Peter goes to enough trouble to use three individual words to describe how indestructible this inheritance is! It is imperishable and undefiled and unfading, which is a word that means “pertaining to not losing the wonderful, pristine character of something”.
Like a new white shirt. You know what happens: in a couple months or so, they lose that bright color. But imagine a shirt that stays just as white as when you bought it at the store, even if you wash it 1000 times. Paul says our inheritance in heaven is even better than that. It will never fade.
So not only do they have hope that gives them inspiration to keep the faith now, even though they face persecution, they also get to experience the inheritance of God in heaven.
In other words, Peter is saying, “Christians, you can do this! Though life is rough when you are going through hard times, remember the hope you have. That hope can motivate you to stay true to God, to follow him, even when people come against you. And what’s more, if they kill you, then you get that inheritance in heaven!”
It begs the question: just what will this inheritance in heaven be like?
Probably the most frequent thing I hear at a funeral is that heaven is a better place. The person who died “is going to a better place.” What is that better place? A mansion in Heaven? The Good Place? Have you seen the TV show The Good Place? It is a comedy about a lady who, after death, goes to The Good Place, but it becomes apparent very quickly that a mistake was made, because she was supposed to go to The Bad Place. And in the show, The Good Place is amazing!
Is that what our inheritance in heaven is? Peter doesn’t tell us. Instead he assumes that his readers who are going through hard times will know that their inheritance in heaven, which God has gone to great lengths to make available to them, and which God preserving for them, is far superior to what they are going through now.
Remember that Peter is talking to people who are being persecuted or who are threatened with persecution. He is not intending to give them a full blown treatment of what heaven is like. Instead he wants to remind them that they have hope now and an inheritance in the future.
For people living in uncertainty, there is certain hope that inspires them to stay true to God now, and an inheritance that will be waiting for them in heaven after they die.
I have to admit, during a prayer time last week, I was thinking about this passage and my own struggles in life, and I said to God, “Lord, I am intellectually thankful for hope of an inheritance in heaven, but I want to feel better now, to be done with my struggles now. I want that inheritance now.”
And instantly, you know what happened? Thoughts flashed in my mind, thoughts I take as from the Lord, saying, “That’s what the prodigal son said.”
Bam! Conviction hit me hard and fast. It’s true. I so often ask for my inheritance now, just like the Prodigal Son saying to his father, “Give me my share of the estate,” while his father was still living. What a slap in the face. Do you ever do that to God? I admit I do. I want my troubles to be done now!
But Peter is not telling these Christians going through a hard time that the hard time will stop. The persecution might not stop. Some have already died for their faith. When we are going through a hard time, we usually want it to stop immediately. Peter doesn’t say that though.
Instead he concludes in verse 5 that they are being guarded and protected by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in last (moment in) time. In other words, we can learn to wait for our inheritance in heaven. We can learn to trust in God in the difficulties of the here and now, remain faithful to him, keeping that hope, that inheritance set before us.
But there is even more to this hope, Peter tells us in verse 5. By faith our salvation is shielded by God’s power. The word “shielded” is the idea of a guard that is posted until the time that God’s salvation is ready to be revealed.
Do you see the overall theme? Though you are going through these hard times, you can still have hope of a great inheritance, and it is secure.
You and I are not being persecuted. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have challenges in life. What are the difficult situations you are going through right now? Know that your future is secure and your hope in Christ can enable you to face any challenges.
Nothing is certain in our world.
It is hard to watch the news. Our country and world seems unstable.
The stock market is up and down. Bills keep coming and finances might be tight. Maybe we get laid off from work.
Health fails. All of a sudden we can be on death’s door in a hospital bed.
Family and relationships go sour. A person has to admit to their friend, “My relationship with my spouse is on the rocks, and we are headed for divorce.” Friendships can tear apart.
Something in the house breaks. The car dies.
A school shooting. And our kids go through active shooter drills now.
Life feels very uncertain. We cannot count on the things of this world to take care of us.
But the good news is that we have a living hope. And it is kept secure for us in heaven by the power of God. That is our solid rock that will not be shaken. What is that living hope? That God is alive. That he is active in our lives. That he gives grace and mercy in the midst of the struggles. That he loves us unconditionally. That he has made new birth in Christ available to us, so that we can have an inheritance in heaven. This motivates us to pursue him in faith now!
That’s why it makes incredibly great sense to follow the way of Jesus, even when it gets hard, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when our bodies and emotions tell us to follow a different way.
Jesus’ way is the one true solid rock.
This is not just knowledge we need as we face difficulty and uncertainty! We can access this hope to make actual choices to keep following Jesus, to keep being his disciples, to keep living like he wants us to live, even when life is falling apart around us.
Have you experienced this new birth? Following Jesus starts with new birth that Peter refers to in verse 3. It means believing in him, and living your life the way he wants you to live. Or maybe you have received the new birth of the Spirit, but you know you have not allowed that to fully define your life. Today is the day to make the choice to follow Jesus. Let’s talk about that. Comment below!