6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 1 Peter 3:6,7,13
2020 has been a tough year for the global church. Some churches in Canada are struggling to maintain Christian practices and a sense of community because of lockdown measures. In other parts of the world, some churches are wrestling with the direct ravages of this virus in their communities. Recently, I ran across a missionary commenting on a Facebook post, that was complaining about the lockdown measures here in Canada. The missionary described their reality like this, “people are having to leave the bodies of their family members in the streets because our hospitals have shut down and our cemeteries are full. We’ve seen many pastors die as they try to continue to serve their churches.” Stories like that really put complaints about mask wearing, physical distancing, and “zoom fatigue” into perspective! On the other hand, countries that have relatively low infection rates and death tolls are not trouble free. In Canada, domestic violence, deaths related to drug and alcohol addiction, and mental health issues are all on the rise as a direct result of social isolation. Many in our neighbourhoods and congregations face very real financial problems due to widespread job loss. These are all very real and very serious issues. Regardless of the country, churches don’t get to opt out of the current troubles in the world. We must all face and endure whatever it is that is going on around us. So a very real question we must ask is, in the midst of it all, where do we find hope?
Peter, in the opening chapter of his first letter, addresses Christians who face persecutions and troubles of many kinds all over Asia Minor. He calls his fellow believers to what he describes as a “living hope.” He suggests to them that right here, in the middle of trouble, Jesus is being all the more clearly revealed. The troubles they experience are like refining fire that burns off the impurities and dross, and only the strong, steadfast, and valuable is left over. Peter then encourages his readers to be alert and fully sober and to avoid the temptations and evil desires that flow from ignorance. Instead they should place their hope, fix their eyes, and keep a sharp focus on Jesus. They are to take note of how Christ is being revealed right there in the middle of those dark days when things look beyond hope.
Friends, as we walk through the fire of these days together, I hope you’ll join me in letting Peter’s words and promises ring in our ears. Churches are often a mixture of good and bad, sturdy and rickety…free and entangled. The fires of our present circumstances are going to burn through the whole heap. Whatever is not resting on the foundation of Jesus, whatever is not stable and well built, whatever is weak and malformed, whatever is not good news is going to feel the heat. I know that none of us would ever willingly choose this pain, but we can trust that God will lead us through it. We can trust that the kinds of churches we have on the other side of these fires, will be far more sturdy than the ones we were a part of before the pandemic. This is not wishful thinking. These are not empty promises. This is the ongoing work of the great refiner. He leads his people through pains and trials. His church endures.
Director, Church Planting