Meditations in 1 Peter : 6 : Believing in the Unseen
1 Pet 1:8,9 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Now I have to confess that these two verses have a very special place in my life. In the early months of my Christian life I was working with a youth evangelism team and one Saturday evening was having a good conversation with a non-believer, and prayed and prayed for him to respond positively to the Lord. He didn’t and, in my immaturity, I went home that night muttering to the Lord, how can I believe in you if you won’t turn up and answer simple prayers? The next morning I went to church and the preacher spoke on these two verses. I took note. In the afternoon I attended a young people’s organisation where I regularly taught Bible (yes, within my first year as a Christian) and it was their birthday and there was a visiting speaker – who spoke on these two verses. I sat up and took notice. Twice in one day! In the evening I went to a little mission hall where the youth evangelism team took Sunday evening services and the group leader spoke on these two verses. Three times in one day! I took serious note!
Verse 8 challenges the very core of faith. It is about believing in a God who you cannot see and often cannot hear, yet His word has come to us and convicted us and we now live in response to it and to what His Spirit says today. This is the hardest thing about the Christian faith – you cannot see God! Peter was writing to believers in Asia Minor who had come to the Lord after Jesus had ascended to heaven. They had never seen him. They had heard about him as the Gospel was preached and so now they were in the same position that we are: they believed in one who they had never seen. The writer to the Hebrews started out his famous chapter on faith with these words: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1).
This is the reality of the spiritual life; we believe in a spiritual dimension and a spiritual God and a spiritual heaven – all of which exist just as much as anything else exists – yet we cannot see them with our physical eyes; we only discern them in our spirit, and that is a faith issue. When Jesus had been on the earth, the apostle John had been able to write, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched.” (1 Jn 1:1). That was true for those earliest believers and so today we believe in their testimony, today we live a life of love for the unseen One who died for us and who is now seated at his Father’s right hand in heaven ruling. But it is all faith because we do not actually see him. This is what I had to learn as a very young Christian and I am naïve enough to believe the Lord prompted three preachers on the same day to preach this message – purely for me (and no doubt for a number of others as well!!)
Now you may have known the Lord for a long time and so perhaps I need to remind you what it was like in those early moments, those early days, those early months. There was this inexpressible and glorious joy that you felt as a witness to something wonderful that had happened to you. In the passing of the years it tends to become a more deep-seated joy that is more there in the background but it is still there. It is the reminder and recognition of the wonderful thing that has taken place and continues to take place – the establishing of a relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords whereby He grants us forgiveness and cleansing and Sonship and eternal life with the presence of His own Holy Spirit.
This, says Peter, is us receiving the goal of our faith. It is both the reason why we have faith and it is also the outworking of our faith. As we’ve noted previously, it all comes from us believing God when He has shared the Gospel with us as He convicted us of our need by His Spirit. We believed he came to give us a new life and we grabbed it like a drowning man grabbing at a straw, and we found that it was real, it was true, and we were saved. This we came to realise was what salvation was all about, about Him saving us from our sins and from death so that we could live with Him for the remaining years on this earth and into eternity. Oh what a glorious thing it was! What joy!