Students of the Bible understand the importance of context.
When reading a particular book, for instance, it's vital to have a grasp on the times in which it was written, and it's helpful as well to become acquainted with the person who wrote it. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll is kicking off a new study, and this time we're looking at the first letter written by the Apostle Peter. Peter was a fisherman and one of the twelve that Jesus recruited. His past, we'll learn, included a season of brokenness.
Chuck titled today's message, Hope Beyond Failure. What was his role? What was his role within the band of twelve? This man, Peter. Well, he reached leadership early on.
He's not only the leader and it was in his home that they met on occasion, but he's the spokesman for the group. He was impulsive in his loyalty. Take it from Mark 14. Mark 14, 27.
This is after they have had the last meal together. Now Jesus pulls them up close and he says to them, you will all fall away because it is written, I will strike down the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered. But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee. But Peter said to him, even though all may fall away, yet I will not. Jesus said to him, boy this must have hurt.
Truly I say to you that you yourself this very night before a clock crows twice, you will have three times denied me. While those words were still warm in his memory, while Jesus' rebuke was still a sting, he begins to act them out. Immediately a cock crowed a second time and he remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him before a cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.
He began to weep. In Mark chapter 16, at the scene of the resurrection, when those visiting the tomb found that it was empty, please notice in verse 7 an invitation specifically designed with Peter's name on it. Mark 16, 7.
Well let's take verse 6. He said to them, do not be amazed, you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene who has been crucified. He has risen, he is not here, behold here is the place where they laid him. Go now, tell his disciples, isn't that great, and Peter. He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see him just as he said to you. And if that isn't enough to encourage you, look at John chapter 21, the very last chapter of John. The last scene John records, 21, 15, they've gone back to fishing.
It looked as though all hope was gone. They thought well we'll try our hand at the fish again, we'll see how we do, and they didn't catch a thing, Jesus came on the seashore and told them where to cast the net and they did and they took up this enormous catch of fish, great number of fish, and somebody said, it is the Lord. Verse 7, when Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on for he was stripped for work and threw himself into the sea. Now that's the old Peter again.
Most of us would think, oh, not him, he grabs his coat and he dives in, it's the Lord. There's something about Christ that was magnetic to draw Peter, the failure, back to him. And once they're on the shore and they've eaten this wonderful fish breakfast that Jesus has prepared, verse 15, Jesus said to Simon, Simon, son of John, do you love me?
Do you love me more than these? And he said, yes, Lord, you know that I love you and then tend my lambs. He said the second time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? He said to him, yes, Lord, you know that I love you. He said, shepherd my sheep. Look what he's saying.
Get back involved in it. You're to be a leader in my plan. You're to be a shepherd for the sheep. And he said the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter is now agreed because he said that the third time, do you love me? And he said to him, Lord, you know all things, you know I love you. Jesus said to him, tend my sheep. That is an invitation for this man to move on in his life and to get back into leadership. That is a role that God had planned for him. It's like a second chance.
It's like a re-ordination. Now Peter, it's time for you to go for it. The Lord knew he had failed.
He knew his denial was in his past. If we were to take the time to work our way through the book of Acts, which we cannot, we would find one scene after another where the man is in leadership in the church. For the first 12 chapters, he is the central figure.
Just listen. In Acts 1, he is the individual who oversees the choosing of the 12th apostle to take the place of Judas who took his life. Peter leads in that decision. In Acts chapter 2, it's Peter who preaches the sermon, the first sermon with the gospel message to the early church. It is Peter who leads them in salvation for that first 3,000 who become members of the body of Christ. In chapter 3, it is Peter who heals the lame man at the temple. In chapter 4, it is Peter who defies the Sanhedrin and continues to tell others of Jesus. In chapter 5, it is Peter who oversees the grim task of disciplining Ananias and Sapphira. In chapter 8, it's Peter who deals with the deceit of Simon Magus.
In chapter 10, it's Peter into chapter 11 who leads that Gentile family of Cornelius and his family to Christ. It's Peter, the early leader of the church. Peter. This is the man God chose to write a couple of letters that would later be included in the canon of scripture and you know the last person who would have guessed that? Peter. I think if we had asked Peter on the heels of his denial when he was trying to get back on his feet, do you realize God is going to use you to write a letter or two to be included in his book of time? This book of life? This magnificent sacred scripture? Peter would have said, never, never, never would it be me.
He would have been shocked. Now there's something to learn in this before we even look at Peter for a few moments. We tend to remember too long the evil. It was Shakespeare who wrote in Julius Caesar, Act 3, the evil that men do lives after them, the good is often interred with their bones. Our minds are like steel traps when it comes to evil, but how quickly we forget the greatness of a life. We remember the spot. We remember the denial.
We remember the failure. And we tend to overlook the greatness of a life that has been broken. Peter is a wonderful example of a man given another chance. Aren't you glad God did that to him because he did it to him?
He will do that with you and me. Now if you will look briefly in the balance of our time at the letter itself, you will see some things about the letter that will make sense now knowing what you know about the man. He has a heart for the hurting. He has a heart for the broken.
Peter has a ministry to those people who are undergoing intense times of suffering. So we're not surprised that his first letter is written to people like that. Peter writes that he is the one who has put the letter onto paper.
He identifies himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Now notice the recipients. To those who reside as aliens scattered.
Who are the recipients of the letter Peter wrote? Scattered aliens. Scattered aliens. Humanly speaking, they were scattered aliens who knew the Lord Jesus but from a heavenly point of view the last three words are encouraging.
Who are chosen? You are scattered and you may feel as though life is nothing but a fractured mishmash of events. You're away from your home. You have been driven away by persecution but the good news is you are chosen.
God's hand is on your life though you are a thousand miles from home. James Moffat writes so graciously, this beautiful epistle is addressed to Christians who needed heartening and encouragement under the strain of a persecution period. It was a time of tension due to interference by the state authorities who had obviously become suspicious of the Christian movement as immoral and treasonable. This set up in some circles of the church a feeling of perplexity and hesitation. Christians were suffering from the unwelcome attentions of government officials as well as from social annoyances and they required to be rallied. The purpose of Peter is to recall them to the resources of their faith.
Don't miss that. The purpose of Peter is to recall them to the resources of their faith. Hence the emphasis is upon hope. My hope is in the Lord. My hope isn't in my circumstances. My hope isn't in the treatment I'm receiving from the government and from other people and from what seems to be blind fate and unfair circumstances.
My hope is in the Lord. So the theme of the letter is that. It is encouragement to suffering saints during a time of acute testing.
That's the purpose. That's the theme of the letter to encourage suffering saints going through times of acute suffering. What a ministry and who could better understand it than somebody who has been broken? A very simple question would answer I think easily.
You could answer easily. Who ministers to you and your suffering better? Someone who has never known such an experience or someone who has the scars to prove they've been there. You suffer from it seems like the endless black plague of some chemical dependence. You cannot seem to get beyond it. Who really can minister to you at somebody who knows the dark nights and the endless battle with those habits?
That's the person who reaches you best. Who can understand what it feels like to doubt your faith better than a Peter who was right there by the fire only hours before they drove the nails in the Savior's hands? He knew. Now my friends, you can count on this. God never wastes tests.
Never wastes tests. What seems to you to be a most unfair situation could very well be the makings of your ministry in the future. All through the book there is a reminder of the suffering. Chapter 1 verse 6.
In this you greatly rejoice even though now for a little while if necessary you have been distressed by various trials. That the proof of your faith being much more precious than gold which is perishable even though tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Wonderful words written by a man who knew whereof he spoke. Chapter 2 verse 18. Servants, he writes, servants be submissive to your masters with all respect not only to those who are good and gentle but also to those who are unreasonable for this finds favor if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.
So he writes to servants who have unfair masters. Chapter 3 verse 15. But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you yet with gentleness and reverence don't come off proud and this is a man who once refused to do that. This was his moment in time to say to the servant girl yes I am one of them but he didn't however that failure readied him to write such a passage as this and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. Chapter 4 verse 12. I want you to see in each chapter there's a reminder of this thread that's woven through the passage. 4-12. Beloved do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of his glory you may rejoice with exultation.
5-8. Be sober, be of sober spirit, be on the alert. You even have demonic attacks. Your adversary the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour but resist him. Firm in your faith verse 10 and after you have suffered for a little the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. You have a hope you can look forward to.
You're going to be like a rod of steel spiritually speaking. The purpose of the letter is to remind the Christians that painful times are not ends in themselves. That there is hope beyond the hurt.
I can think of three lessons learned from Peter's model so far and we've mentioned them in passing and let me just kind of wrap a ribbon around each one and tie a bow on it. The first is this failure in the past does not nullify purpose in the future. It is easy for us to convince ourselves we are through once we have failed or failed badly. We are through permanently now that we have made this terrible mistake. We've really blown it but I want to ask you what else is forgiveness but a clean slate.
Remember the words of Mark 16 7 go tell his disciples and Peter. Failure in the past does not nullify purpose in the future. By the way the last person we usually forgive ourselves. Some of you are fighting an endless battle these days not to forgive someone else. Your battle is to forgive yourself. I don't believe Peter could have ever led in the early church had he not come to full terms with absolute forgiveness before God. The forgiveness of himself.
He saw himself as God saw him and then he was useful. Sometimes that takes people years. The second lesson I learned a broken heart is great preparation for healing fractured lives.
A broken heart is great preparation for healing fractured lives. We've had an interesting thing happen among our staff. We've had some of the great guys to say yes to our invitation and to join our staff but we have had a whale of a lot of trouble getting them settled in homes. I've said for a number of years that finding individuals is hard enough but getting them to come and to go through the domestic battle of relocating in homes that is kind of the last straw. And we've kind of got a team working among us now among people who've had trouble getting settled and there is a sense of understanding among guys the guys who have been in that same mold for a period of time. When another man comes on the staff and he begins to encounter problems in getting settled you can look across the table at staff meeting and there's another fellow saying yeah I know exactly now let me tell you how to handle that and he goes right in helps him with it helps him work through it. This is what you can tell your wife. This is the way you too can handle that kind of thing. They have had the same feeling and like second Corinthians chapter one says the comfort wherewith we were comforted of God we were able to comfort others as well. The same kind of comfort fits. So it is with Peter.
Third and last. One letter of hope brings more encouragement than a thousand thoughts never expressed. One letter of hope brings more encouragement than a thousand thoughts never expressed.
You know what I learned from Peter? I learned to express encouragement not just think it. I learned the value of putting it down in writing. Of saying this is what will help or this is the thing I've learned or let me help you with this or let me give you a little hope or even just a little note. Some of you think so well of other individuals and you have been through tough times and now you know they are going through tough times. Write them.
Tell them. Express in writing your encouragement. One letter is better than a thousand thoughts never expressed. That's why I'm so glad we have the letter of First Peter not just thoughts of Peter that he might have imagined. We have a letter that he wrote to people going through suffering. This is a wonderful occasion for anyone who doesn't know Jesus Christ as Savior regardless of your background, regardless of your past, your failure. The limitations of your life for you to give your heart to Jesus Christ. That same Savior whom Peter denied went right onto the cross and paid the penalty in full, the penalty for sin.
That was the penalty of death and when he came back from beyond he offered eternal life to all who would believe. Take him now or as a child of God claim his forgiveness to whatever has stood between you and him in recent days. Let's pray. How grateful we are our Father for the perfect body and the precious blood of Jesus. Through centuries of time your people have met in places around this world and we at this moment in time join our lives with theirs. Find favor in our worship. Hear the cries of your people and those invitations of those without the Savior and come and meet our deepest needs. Lord, our strength and our Redeemer for Jesus sake.
Amen. You're listening to the first message in Chuck Swindoll's study of 1 Peter. His topic is Hope Beyond Failure.
Even as we get started it's obvious this series will be rich with meaningful application. You're listening to Insight for Living and if you'd like to learn more about this ministry visit us online at insightworld.org. Well I know that Chuck's message may have stirred up a lot of memories for you. Some of those memories are pleasant and some carry a measure of regret but in every case we have good reason to hope again. That's the title of our series Hope Again When Life Hurts and Dreams Fade and you'll be glad to learn that Chuck has written a companion book by the same title. Seventeen chapters filled with solid evidence that God knows about your suffering and he stands ready with open arms to embrace you with hope.
In the first few pages of the book Chuck admits this. Hope isn't merely a nice option that helps us temporarily clear a hurdle. Hope is essential to our survival. Whatever you might be going through we highly recommend listening to this entire series and to fully engage in this journey we invite you to read Chuck's book as well.
It's available for purchase when you go to insight.org slash store or call us if you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888. I want to remind you that Insight for Living is a nonprofit ministry fully supported by voluntary donations. It's not the sale of books or resources that keeps us going but this daily program is made possible through the generous gifts from grateful friends like you. If it's been a while since you gave a donation or perhaps you've never done so please reach out today.
Your gift no matter the size truly makes a difference. To give a donation today call us if you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888. You can also give a donation online at insight.org. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us next time when Chuck Swindoll explains how to smile through our suffering on Insight for Living. The preceding message, hope beyond failure, the broken man behind the book was copyrighted in 1988, 1990, 1996, 2005 and 2010 and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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