1 Peter 1:8-9, “8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
It is a strange thing when you come across someone who really believes something to be true. It doesn’t entirely matter if the thing believed is true: just to see someone who is so assured that it is, it is not something you see every day. Now, to take a step away from the sincerity of belief, it really does not matter how sincerely you believe something if it is sincerely wrong.
A man, standing in the middle of the road, can believe that the car headed right towards him is smaller than him and will bounce off him. He can believe that sincerely all he wants, but he will still wind up on the losing end of that exchange. So, it is not just sincerity of belief, but it is whether the basis of that faith is valid.
My favorite movie is Field of Dreams. At one point the lead character, Ray Kinsella, attempts to convince Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones) to come with him to Minnesota, to pick up an old baseball player named Moonlight Graham. Just before grudgingly agreeing to go, Terrence tells Ray, “I wish I had your passion, Ray. Misguided though it may be, it is still passion.” Now, we know from the rest of the movie that the passion of Ray and the “truth” of the magic come together to form a very heartwarming conclusion. That is what we are invited to in the midst of trials: a passionate belief of a certain truth that leads to more than just a heart-warming conclusion, but a joyous end of our faith walk.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. This is the first step of the faith walk that Peter leads us through. The truth is: we have not seen God. None of us have seen God. None of us have seen Jesus. Yet, many of us will say that we love God and we love Jesus.
How is that possible to say that we love someone we have never seen? It is only possible through faith. The more we believe to be true about God the more we will love Him because His character and His acts are worthy of praise and love. The more we understand His great grace for us, the more we will celebrate this and order our lives around His word.
The Christian life is a life of faith, being sure of what we do not see. For the readers in this letter, they are being challenged to see God through the trials and persecution, through the suffering and separation, through the fear of death or even the fear of life as they know it.
When I meet with people who are going through any kind of adversity, I always stress the need to fight to see God in this situation. God is there even if we don’t know how it makes sense. As God provides, as God directs, as God heals and strengthens, we begin to find that our love for Him grows even though we have not seen Him at all.
Though you do not now see Him, you believe in him. This phrase brings us back to the upper room, where the post-resurrection Jesus appeared to the disciples (minus Thomas) and then the second time (with Thomas). Thomas doubted and said that only if he could actually see Jesus, wounds and all, would he believe. After Jesus appeared and showed his wounds, Thomas believed. However, Jesus told Thomas that “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Peter was in that room and heard what Jesus said, and now communicates that to these dispersed followers of Jesus. They are blessed in that God has revealed this truth to them despite the lack of visual confirmation and all who have been given the gift of eternal life are equally blessed.
Obtaining the outcome of your faith: there is a sense that Peter is driving at here is that we get to enjoy the early fruits of our salvation. Numerous times, I have heard a preacher ask, “When does this eternal life begin?” The expected answer is “when this life is over.” However, the preacher goes on to say that eternal life begins right now.
The already/not yet sense of the kingdom is something that followers of Jesus get to enjoy as well. We are able to enjoy the life with Christ, in the midst of a cursed world and plenty of trials. Peter says that we “rejoice with joy that inexpressible.” Perhaps a way to illustrate this is how a child feels in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Children know that Christmas is coming. They know that there will be presents under the tree. They know that there will be great (albeit rather temporary) excitement on that day because they will receive these gifts that they have asked for. They may also get some clothes, but the younger children are not as excited about that part. So, while the joy is fully realized on an actual day, the hearts of these children is filled with excited anticipation because they know that day is coming. As fellow partakers in the salvation given to those chosen by God, we look with similar eager anticipation of the final day, and that brings us a joy that is inexpressible.
The Christian life is one of faith: faith that believes what we cannot see loves Jesus who we cannot see and lives with joyful anticipation of the full realization of our gift of eternal life. We enjoy many blessings and provisions along this journey of life, and we rejoice in them, but our greatest joy, our greatest excitement is that one day we will see Jesus, we will enjoy close fellowship with God. What greater joy could there be than to see God and to dwell with Him?