If I may, I’d like to begin this sermon with a confession. Many of you are aware that I am a bit of a sports fanatic. I have been this way as long as I can remember. I confess, however, that in my first year of University, my fanaticism got away from me. I thought I knew so much about sports that I began to bet on baseball and hockey games. I’m not talking a lot of money here, but I was gambling, and that is poor stewardship of what God had provided for me.
I wish I could tell you that I was overwhelmed by Christian conviction, and that is why I stopped gambling. No, I stopped gambling in a matter of weeks because I quickly learned that with all of my knowledge of sports, winning these bets was a matter of great uncertainty. As my pocket book revealed, occasions of uncertainty outnumbered occasions of certainty.
Perhaps I should have heeded the old adage, ‘There is no such thing as a sure thing’. Another adage that comes to mind is the saying that the only certainties in life are ‘death and taxes’.
Yet, the good news of the gospel is that there is, at least, one more certainty. For the Christian who awaits the end of his earthly life, there is the absolute certainty of heavenly glory. This is Peter’s message as he brings his letter to a close.
Peter writes, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen” (5:10, 11).
Peter is calling his readers to keep their eye on the finish line. At the present, they are suffering. Things do not look well. But, after this temporary suffering, Peter reminds us that what awaits is eternal glory. This is an important reminder.
Some of you know that, last Sunday morning, my stepfather died. At times like this the feeling of sadness is so immense that you despair whether the suffering will ever end.
It will end, Peter assures us; it will end on that day when we enter eternal glory.
Surely, this is what Fanny Crosby had in mind when she penned the words to her hymn:
All the way my Saviour leads me, cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial, feeds me with the living bread.
Though my weary steps may falter, and my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the rock before me, lo, a spring of joy I see!
Until that day—until that day when we are called home to be with the Lord, there is work to be done. There is work to be done so that we might see ‘Thy kingdom come’ and ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. And what Peter explains is that, not only is God concerned with the renovation of this world, but He is also greatly concerned with the renovation of you and I. Peter explains that God “Himself” intends to perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you—for His sake.
Before inquiring what, exactly, all of that entails, we should note who intends on doing the work here. Some mistakenly think that salvation begins as God’s work with Christ on the cross, but that the end result is up to us. Some think that what Christ has done is He has created an opportunity for salvation, and now it is up to us to meet certain requirements. Beloved, such notions will not be found in the Bible.
The only reason we can have such certainty and assurance regarding our eternal destiny is because God is behind it all. From start to finish, “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jon. 2:9). Paul tells the Philippians, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it” (Phil. 1:6). It is God who calls us, and it is God who perfects, establishes, strengthens, and settles us.
Yes, our participation is called upon—we are told to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2Tim. 2:1)—our participation is called upon, but it is certainly not depended upon. As Paul explains, “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).
I hope you will forgive me as I express my disdain for what are described as ‘self-help’ books. Do I want to be a better person? Of course. Do I want to be a better husband and father? You bet. What I despair, however, is whether these ‘self-help’ books can provide me with even a modicum of assistance apart from the grace of God.
As I look to the Scripture, what I find is a need to be delivered from my ‘self’. My ‘self’ isn’t the answer; my ‘self’ is the problem! But thanks be to God—He promises to do what I cannot; He promises to perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle me.
The word “perfect” comes from a Greek word, which means, “to complete thoroughly”. God promises to complete in you and I that which is lacking. To be complete is a good thing. If we begin a project, our goal, presumably, is to finish it. Now, I realize that some of us procrastinate more than others, and so there may be times when after beginning a project at home, a husband may be gently chided by his wife, ‘When are you going to fix that fence?’ People usually don’t like to live in an unfinished environment.
But sometimes there are projects that we begin that we are unable to complete. As a young boy I set out to collect certain hockey cards in order to complete my collection. The problem is that I lack the resources to buy the $5,000 Bobby Orr rookie card I need. Although I desire to complete my collection, I simply lack the resources required to do this.
And so it is with my likeness to Jesus Christ. I simply do not have the resources within myself to be like Christ. If I am to be like Christ; if my character is to truly match His, then I will need God to work in me according to His good purpose; I will need to rely on God to perfect and complete me.
Peter also promises that God will “establish” us. This Greek word means “to set resolutely in a certain direction”. Perhaps the most frequently employed image in the Bible, to describe disobedient humanity, is the image of a straying sheep. We are told that the road to life is ‘narrow’, yet we have great difficulty staying on the right path. Peter explains that in preparing us for eternal glory, God intends to resolutely set us in a certain direction.
I was doing some reading on the Internet this week on the science behind sundials. I can say that the science behind sundials involves a complex combination of mathematical and astronomical principles, and I confess that I did not entirely understand much of what I read. One thing I did glean, however, was the importance of accurately setting the dial plate and the pointer of the sundial (called the ‘gnomon’).
For example, if an equatorial sundial is to provide accurate time, it must be set precisely, with the dial plate lying parallel to the equatorial plane. If set incorrectly, the sundial will not function as an accurate device for measuring time.
What I hear Peter promising is that even though we are currently prone to straying, there will come a day when God will resolutely set us in the correct direction. There will come a day when we will function precisely as God intended for us to function. This process began when we became a Christian, and will be perfected in heavenly glory.
God’s renovation of our character continues as Peter assures us that we will also be strengthened in Christ. It is interesting that the verb Peter uses here is not used anywhere else in the New Testament. The noun does, however, appear in the Greek version of Job, who speaks of the strength of the lion (Clowney, 1Peter, 219). Earlier, Peter warned that our “adversary, the devil” is prowling about “like a roaring lion”(5:8). Now, it is as if Peter is saying, ‘Don’t be alarmed. God will give you sufficient strength to contend with the roaring enemy’.
Peter promises that Christ will complete in us what is lacking, He will set us in the right direction, and He will strengthen us. Oh yes, and there is one more thing—Peter promises that Christ will settle us. The Greek also means, “to lay a foundation”. Peter is saying that our being completed, our being set in the right direction, and our strengthening is not simply for a season but it is a settled fact. Our transformed character is cemented into the foundation that is Jesus Christ. How firm, indeed, is our foundation, ye saints of the Lord.
Completed, set straight, strengthened, and settled. What Peter is promising the Christian is certain victory over sin and death.
Remember my illustration of gambling? Let me ask you, if there were such a thing as a sure thing, how much would you bet? If you knew without any doubt that a particular horse was going to win a particular race, how much money would you lay down? Well, if it really were a ‘sure thing’, the wisest course of action would be to bet everything. If the chance of winning were 100% why would we hold anything back?
Beloved, you know that no such scenario will ever come about. But there remains, for the Christian, a sure thing. Shall we not invest all that we have, and all that we are, into the kingdom that will never fail? If heavenly glory is a certainty, should not the service of our Lord be our greatest priority?
How are you investing your time? How are you investing your talents? How are you investing your money? Surely, much of what you have invested will pay dividends in this life only.
Our Lord Jesus offers us a better plan, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth . . . But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Mt. 6:19, 20).
This sounds to me like a sure thing. May God grant you the wisdom and strength to invest all that you have, and all that you are, into His eternal kingdom. Amen.