A good friend of ours contracted cancer many years ago. He suffered dearly as he drifted closer and closer to his death. One of the few things he could eat was my wife’s home made cinnamon bread, which she made often for him. Even though our friend was suffering, his prayer life and walk with God was inspiring. He would call us regularly from his bed to see how he could pray for us, but would never ask for prayers for himself. He kept a prayer list faithfully updated until the day he died. I choose to think of the example of my friend, not as why believers suffer, but how believers suffer.
In the first chapter of Peter’s first letter, he is addressing a group of people who have been displaced from their homes and are suffering because of their faith. In his letter, Peter is encouraging the readers with a gold mine of wisdom:
1 Peter 1:22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.
Look at the last part of the verse 22 first – “love one another fervently with a pure heart.”
Love one another… with a pure heart
Where can we get a pure heart except from God? It is only through His regeneration in the Holy Spirit that we are purified. In His Power, often through suffering, we are purified by the fire of trials. It is only through the fire that our impurities and priorities are burned away and turned toward Godly righteousness.
God is the vine dresser, cleaning His vineyard, clipping and chopping, burning the waste, so that He will get the glory of the harvest. God uses His wisdom to cut away parts of our lives, often with a great deal of anguish, to make us ready to bear fruit. His goal is to create in us the fruit of a pure heart that is free from corrupt desire; free from sin and guilt; free from what is false. He wants us to be blameless and innocent – unstained from the guilt of anything.
Love one another… fervently
Imagine you are hiking with a friend along a treacherous path high in the mountains. The view of the valley below is awesome, but the stones are loose beneath your feet. Suddenly, your friend’s foot slips and he begins to slide toward the edge of a cliff, clawing and grabbing for anything that will stop his fall. He reaches out to YOU with one last grab of his hand – one LAST CHANCE!
The verb fervently Peter uses, means to “stretch out the hand” with intensity. It is not a fake, insincere hand that is reaching out. An insincere hand will not have the strength or the capacity to save. There is no hypocrisy in a fervent hand. There cannot be.
Now, look at the first part of the verse – “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit”
Love one another… through the Spirit
As a follower of Jesus Christ, when God is alive in you, you have His power in the form of the Holy Spirit living and working INSIDE YOU. When you are suffering, when you come to the end of yourself, you are in a great position. God’s Spirit is in control:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” - Galatians 5:22-26
I believe that Biblical principles still work if they are “obeying the truth through the Spirit.” (1 Peter 1:22) It’s when we allow our self to get in the way of the Spirit that ruins the purity of the Christian love. Why? Because the love we give is not of Christ, if it is of our self.
As born again believers, God has put His Word in our hearts. Jesus said the very first priority to believers:
“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31
Therefore, we must FIRST obey God, and then “love one another in the Spirit, with a pure heart, fervently,” remembering the fervency of Jesus as he reached out BOTH HANDS to us on the cross.
Pastor Jay Merritt
Pastor Jay Merritt writes about God in every day observations.