Greetings, Created For. Brooklyn is in the house. I’m so grateful and honored to have been asked to be able to share with you a little bit about how do we restore a sense of presence, both a sense of God’s presence with us and a presence with each other? And man, when I think about the last three years, it has been crazy when it comes to how disruptive it has been for our rhythms, right?
I think of three different components. I mean, one, there’s obviously COVID and the way in which—I mean, we literally lived through a type of global pandemic that hadn’t been seen in 100 years. And both in terms of the type of just loss of life, the sense of our own mortality, and what that has done has created a sense of challenge for us. But not only that; I think about the epidemic of racial strife and racism that we’ve seen, right? I’m gonna go all the way back to George Floyd in May of 2020, and his murder, and how we were as a world rocked by that reality; to more recently with Tyre Nichols; and then of course the instances of anti-Asian hate as well; and we could just go through the list of the ways in which, over the last few years, we’ve been very divided. And that division has led to the other part of that, which is how it’s impacted the church. Many of us know what it has felt like to be in spaces in which you’re the ethnic minority, and your perspectives are discounted or understandings of what it means to be marginalized—that that understanding be politicized or attacked as somehow un-Christian or your concerns as not faithful to a biblical worldview. And all of these things have been super disorienting.
Well, those are the challenges, and Proverbs 13:12 tells us and reminds us that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” And I think at the end of the day, there’s a struggle with hopelessness that many of us see and experience and have encountered over this time, and that hopelessness impacts our ability to have true sense of presence with God and with each other. The good news is that the Bible both anticipates and prescribes how to respond to this sense of despair. And in particular, in 1 Peter, Chapter 1, we see some really helpful insights that I think would be helpful for us. In the first verse, we see Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Let me just stop there.
Peter uses two important words back-to-back: elected exiles. Now, exiles, we understand, are people who have been coercively, disruptively pushed out of their home into a place where—because of political, ethnic, religious, or other types of divisions—they’ve been marginalized and pushed out. And as a result of that, they are exiles, right? And we see this in the Old Testament, with the Northern Kingdom being exiled to Assyria, the Southern Kingdom being exiled to Babylon. And what it meant was that these folks had no plans on doing that. Daniel did not anticipate being in Babylon; he didn’t choose that. He experienced this sense of disruption—disruption that I feel like is very—you could say pandemic-y. And so he calls them exiles, and that exile is multi-layered, and it’s a struggle to be an exile. But he also calls them elect exiles. Elect.
And he expands on what it means for them to be the elect. In Verse Two, he says, “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father and the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ, for sprinkling with blood.” What? Wait a minute. He says elect means that God chose and appointed that we would be living in this time, in this season, for such a time as this.
Now, this is only one aspect, and I would never try to presume to explain all of why we are living in the times that we’re living, but at least one component of it that we see in the foreknowledge of God is for our sanctification and our obedience to Jesus Christ. And you know what? Peter would know a lot about this topic, because you can remember he was the one who said, “Even if all the rest of the disciples would disavow Jesus or deny him, I won’t.” And what ended up happening? He denied Jesus three times and wept bitterly. Perhaps Jesus allowed that circumstance to draw something out of Peter that he needed in his sanctification process. We see on the Sea of Galilee in John Chapter 21, as Peter has given up on his call, has moved on and gone back to fishing, and Jesus invites him to breakfast.
And it says, “Do you love me?” Because once Peter understood that God loved him, even in the midst of his failures, it freed him up to express and to commit to a deeper sense of loving Jesus all the more. And the response was, “Feed my sheep.” And so in Verse 1, when it says Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, that in and of itself is a response to hopelessness. We can have hope because ultimately our doubts, our disappointments, our failures do not impinge on God’s love for us. That’s the first point.
But beyond that, we also see another key component in Verse 5, where it says those of us “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” This is significant. Because many of us have experienced doubts in our time. And I know for me, I have struggled with that because seeing other people denounce their faith. I had a close friend who is actually probably singularly influential in my life in getting me to the place of being in full-time ministry and serving, and he very publicly, over a year ago, denounced his faith. And it rocked me—not just emotionally, but even spiritually, like, “How could this happen? How could this be?” And it was really helpful and important for me to see and to go back to the fact that Peter says here, “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed.” So much of the struggle involves us being reminded of the fact that when doubt occurs, we can either double down on dependence on ourselves and our intellect, or double down in our dependence on God. I wanna challenge you to double down on your dependence on God, double down on the fact that he, by his power, will guard your faith through salvation for a time to be revealed. Not everything is gonna be revealed right now; there are still mysteries that are yet to be understood that some of you may be struggling with right now, like I have been. And in the midst of that it is so helpful and so encouraging to remember God’s power to keep me even in the midst.
Then the last point is that in Verse 12, Peter says, “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you.” He’s referring to—the “them” was the prophets. He’s saying that the prophets of old—Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Jacob, David, Daniel, Isaiah, all of these folks—that they were revealing things that they knew in part, but that they didn’t understand the full revelation of God’s plan. And he says that they were essentially revealed that for our interconnectedness as a community, our faith needed to be joined together.
What’s the point? The point is that we need each other. And even in the way that God revealed the salvation plan of Jesus, we needed each other. Part of moving from hopelessness into hope, part of moving from a sense of absence to presence is to recognize we also have to go from isolation to interdependence. We need each other, and I don’t just mean we need to physically be together; that’s part of it, but it also means I need to share my struggles, share my burdens, share my doubts with others in community, so that God can restore us as we are dispersed and bring us together as exiles who still worship and serve the King. Created For, that is my hope and my prayer for you and for me and for all of us as we travel in these times. And I know that as we do that, we will experience and encounter God in deeper ways. Blessings to you.
Want to dig a little deeper?
Check out Ep. 31 of our podcast: How To Hold On To A Living Hope with Rasool Berry