In CHESS, it’s all about your END GAME. How you FINISH the game. You can have the best OPENING moves, and not make mistakes in the MIDDLE. But if can’t trap your opponent in checkmate, you can never WIN. I’m not much of a chess player. And I’ve only got a couple of ways of finishing off a game. Sometimes it even happens BY ACCIDENT. I’ll make a move, say “Check!”, and then realise it’s CHECKMATE!”But GOOD chess players are thinking about their END GAME almost from the first move. Every move they make, every pawn sacrifice, every strategic withdrawal, is setting things up for the END GAME.
And there’s lots of LIFE that’s the SAME. Some of you are studying to QUALIFY FOR A NEW JOB. And there’s books to read, and notes to write. Difficult things to understand, and long lists to memorise. You’re learning about something new. And, as fun as learning IS, there’s AN END to it. A PURPOSE. A day when the LEARNING is OVER. And the JOB begins. Which is what all the LEARNING is about. Or maybe you’re working on a project. (Knitting a jumper. Or getting fit and losing weight. Or painting the house.) And those things are FUN. But they’re not the GOAL. At SOME point, you FINISH. And you can begin ENJOYING what you’ve WORKED for. (You WEAR the jumper. Or you run the marathon. Or you live in your freshly painted house.)
And it’s the same with Christian life. We’re running a race. And, like ANY race, there’s A PURPOSE. A GOAL. A time when running will be over. And RESTING will begin. THE FINISH LINE. And, for Christians, the finish line is WHEN JESUS RETURNS. Returns to JUDGE. Returns to bring in his NEW CREATION. The life we were MADE for.
And, as we think about ENCOURAGEMENT (the words we speak to strengthen each other), that day will mark THE END of encouragement. Because all the hard work and struggle will be over, and the celebration can begin.
It’s like a running race. As long as the race is on, the runners need to be CHEERED – motivated – to keep going. To stick it out even though their legs are aching, their feet hurt, and their lungs are burning. To make it to the end. But once they cross the finish line, there’s no NEED any more. The race has ENDED. So the need for ENCOURAGEMENT is over.There’ll be CELEBRATION. Celebration that the runner MADE it. But it won’t be ENCOURAGEMENT any more.
Same with the CHRISTIAN race. One day, it will be OVER. When Jesus returns. Sin and death and hurt will be destroyed. The struggle will be done. And perseverance and faith and hope won’t be needed any more. And so ENCOURAGEMENT won’t be needed any more. Instead, we can begin CELEBRATION.
But there’s ANOTHER meaning for the word “END”. Not just FINISH. End can also mean “GOAL” or “PURPOSE” or TARGET. And if we think about THAT meaning of END. Then what do we mean by “the END of encouragement”? What is its GOAL, its PURPOSE? Then the answer is the same. It’s ALSO the day Jesus returns and sets everything right. That day is the FINISH LINE for encouragement, And it’s also the PURPOSE of encouragement. The TARGET of our encouragement of each other.
All through the Bible, the chief motivation, the main encouragement, to keep following Jesus is BECAUSE HE’S COMING BACK.
For example, 1 Corinthians 15:58. Paul’s just spent 57 verses talking about our resurrection. About death being destroyed when Jesus returns. And then he finishes in v58.
58 THEREFORE, my dear brothers, STAND FIRM. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, BECAUSE YOU KNOW THAT YOUR LABOUR IN THE LORD IS NOT IN VAIN.
In other words, “Keep going. Because it’ll all be WORTH IT.” That’s the GOAL of encouragement.
I could show you a lot more. But we’re going to look at 1 Peter ch 1. At how Peter points us to Jesus’ return, and then encourages us to RESPOND to that. A look to THE FUTURE. Which is an encouragement for THE PRESENT. And that’s a great example for how WE can encourage each other.
An imperishable inheritance
Let’s begin at v3 where God’s qualified us for something IN THE FUTURE. He wants us to look to the END GAME. There in v3. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into A LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 AND INTO AN INHERITANCE THAT CAN NEVER PERISH, SPOIL OR FADE-kept in heaven for you,
Whatever our circumstances might look like at the moment, our future is about a generous, eternal, glorious inheritance. Our BODIES might be PERISHING. Our houses and cars and food might SPOIL. Our beauty and our popularity might be FADING. But not our INHERITANCE – it can NEVER perish, spoil or fade. And we can COUNT ON IT. It’s a LIVING hope. An ALIVE hope. It’s real and it’s sure. Jesus WON our new birth by his resurrection. But he also makes our hope SURE by his resurrection. We can be SURE that if he defeated death for HIMSELF, then he’ll do it for us TOO. And it’s SAFE and SECURE because it’s KEPT IN HEAVEN (v4). Nothing can touch it. A global financial crisis, or a tsunami, or a political revolution. Nothing can break it, or cheapen it, or lose it. It’s SOLID and RELIABLE.
And then Peter tells us how that fact should ENCOURAGE us NOW. V6.6 In this YOU GREATLY REJOICE, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
There’s REAL JOY to be experienced NOW even though, humanly speaking, there’s more reason to DESPAIR. That’s what OUR encouraging words should do for people.There’s JOY because the grief is only FOR A LITTLE WHILE. Compared to the inheritance that lasts FOR ETERNITY. Like getting a needle to cure a disease. The pain of a needle is for a second compared with the LIFETIME of health. Point one. We have an imperishable inheritance. So greatly rejoice.
Jesus Christ will be revealed
Point two: Not only are the trials BRIEF, they have a PURPOSE. To prove your faith is genuine. Life MIGHT be tough now. You MIGHT feel like giving up. But it’s not random, or bad luck. The encouragement is that God has a GOAL for it. And, once again, it’s encouragement that’s looking to THE END. The purpose is that the trials make us better prepared for the day Jesus is revealed. There in v7.7 These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-MAY BE PROVED GENUINE AND MAY RESULT IN PRAISE, GLORY AND HONOR WHEN JESUS CHRIST IS REVEALED.
Just like it takes FIRE to refine gold. To burn off all the impurities. And reveal the glorious beauty. Same with TRIALS. They burn off our independence and pride. They burn off our selfishness and self-reliance. And they leave behind a humble, gentle, trusting Christ-likeness that’s perfectly matched to Jesus himself. And so, when the perfectly humble, gentle, trusting, glorious Jesus is revealed on the last day, then we’ll be refined and ready and MATCHING. Just like HIM. And so all praise and honour will go to HIM… because of US.
That’s FUTURE. But it’s got practical implications NOW. It’s reason to rejoice IN THE PRESENT. Look at how Peter continues in v8.8 Though you have not seen him (yet), you love him (now); and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are FILLED WITH AN INEXPRESSIBLE AND GLORIOUS JOY (now),
The encouragement to be joyful, and to love Jesus NOW, is because of WHAT’S COMING.
The Salvation of your souls – the goal telosend of your faith
That’s two truths about the finish. And there in v8 and 9 we get a THIRD truth. You believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving THE GOAL OF YOUR FAITH, THE SALVATION OF YOUR SOULS.
We trust him NOW because we’re receiving the GOAL of our faith THEN. And the word there for GOAL is “END.” The END of your faith. Its TARGET, its finishing line.
And what IS that goal? What is the conclusion or the target of our faith? It’s THE SALVATION OF OUR SOULS. Rescue from judgment. Saving from death into life.
And that means we can confidently trust God NOW because it’s what happened FOR JESUS. (HIS suffering finished in saving and glory.) That’s what the next paragraph is talking about. (there in v11). The prophets revealed God’s plan in Scripture that Christ would SUFFER. But that wouldn’t be the END. See it there in v11? They predicted the sufferings of Christ and the GLORIES THAT WOULD FOLLOW.
Glories followed trials FOR CHRIST. And so we can trust God NOW, and be joyful NOW, that it will be the same FOR US.
And BECAUSE that’s in the future, it means we should do something NOW. Look in v13 to find Peter’s NEXT encouragement.
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Notice the “therefore”. Because of what’s COMING – the salvation of your souls – do something IN THE PRESENT. Prepare your minds for action. The literal translation of the phrase “Prepare your minds” is “Gird up the loins of your mind.” Hitch up your skirts, and get ready to do battle. But do it IN YOUR MIND. Get your ATTITUDES right.
First. Be self-controlled. Because there’s a reckoning coming. An examination. And you want to be found ready. Prepared.
And second. SET YOUR HOPE FULLY on what you’ve got coming on that day. The grace of your INHERITANCE. The grace of your SALVATION. Make it a conscious decision of your MIND to look past all the sparkly, earthly things that attract us. Importance, comfort, acceptance, pleasure, control, power. But none of them LAST. And none of them SATISFY. Instead set your hope – focus your MIND- on what TRULY satisfies, and what TRULY lasts. That’s how you gird up the loins of your mind.
And what that looks like in PRACTICAL terms is seen in the next verse. V14.
14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
You don’t BELONG in this world. It WON’T LAST. So don’t CONFORM to it. Instead, imitate the one you’ve been created for. The one you’ll spend eternity with. Be holy as God is holy. Practical encouragement for TODAY that’s focussed on the END. The GOAL of our faith.
The Father is the impartial Judge
And the fourth pointer to the finishing line is there in v17. WE CALL ON A FATHER WHO WILL JUDGE EVERYONE’S WORKS IMPARTIALLY. That’s what’s waiting for us. JUSTICE. It’s REAL and it’s CERTAIN and it’s TRUSTWORTHY. There’s no DELAYING him. No BRIBING him, no DISTRACTING him from his goal.
And so that’s obviously got consequences for our behaviour IN THE PRESENT. V17.
17 SINCE you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, LIVE YOUR LIVES AS STRANGERS HERE IN REVERENT FEAR.
Not in fear of the police, or the tax department, or popularity polls. But in reverence to the One who’s opinion REALLY matters. Live in fear of GOD. The impartial judge.
We’re STRANGERS here. Aliens. Our passport is from another country. And, ultimately we answer to another AUTHORITY. Our HEAVENLY Father is the one who sees every action, hears every word, knows every thought. The one who judge JUSTLY.
Which means we can let go of reacting to evil WITH evil. We can give up revenge, or jealousy, or complaining about the unfairness of a lack of justice. Because EVERYONE will receive EXACTLY WHAT THEY DESERVE from the impartial judge. So we can just get on with living our lives here in reverent fear of our heavenly Father ALONE.
You have been born of imperishable seed that lasts forever through the Word of God that last forever
And the FINAL pointer to the finish line is there in v23. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of IMPERISHABLE, through the living and enduring word of God.
God’s WORD lasts forever. If we’ve been born again, then we’ve been powerfully CHANGED by God’s word so that WE, TOO, last forever.THIS WORLD is only the BEGINNING. We were made for ETERNITY. That’s our NATURAL home. Not THIS world. We’re just PASSING THROUGH.
It’s like driving a top of the line Porsche around and around in the carpark at Westpoint. Then finally making it to the exit gate. It’s the finish line of the carpark. But it’s only the beginning for the Porsche. THE OPEN ROAD is what the Porsche is designed for. Where it can do what it was DESIGNED to do. Accelerate quickly, handle beautifully. Go FAST!Same with US. We’ve been born again of IMPERISHABLE seed, not perishable. The finish line of THIS life is REALLY the STARTING line.
And so, says Peter, into ch 2.
2:1 THEREFORE, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Get rid of all the stuff that’s about PERISHABLE things. Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander. And, instead, crave the stuff that’s IMPERISHABLE. Stuff that grows you for eternity. The pure milk of God’s powerful word. Crave that.
It’s like putting bike tyres on the Porsche, and filling it with lawn mower fuel. It’s not going to WORK. It’s not what it was DESIGNED to run on. Our fuel is the true spiritual milk of God’s Word. That’s GOOD and NOURISHING and POWERFUL. CRAVE that. HUNGER for it. FEED on it. And GROW. BE, TODAY, what you ARE. You’re made of imperishable seed. So LIVE like it.
The end of encouragement
Until we come to that final day when all those things will begin. When we’ll receive our inheritance. When Jesus Christ will be revealed. When we receive the salvation of our souls. When the impartial Judge delivers his verdict. When our imperishable life begins. On THAT day, encouragement will be ENDED. There’ll be no more NEED. Because the GOAL of our encouragement has arrived. Because the race will be over. (And the struggle. And the HOPE.) And joy and life and intimacy and celebration will begin. Which is what we were MADE for.
Let’s ENCOURAGE each other with these words. Hebrews 10:23
23 Let us hold UNSWERVINGLY to the HOPE WE PROFESS, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may SPUR ONE ANOTHER ON toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us ENCOURAGE one another-AND ALL THE MORE AS YOU SEE THE DAY APPROACHING.
What a day THAT will be!