As the 1860 presidential election approached, William Henry Seward was the front-runner to take the White House. The Senator from New York was well known and mostly well-liked. Seward was so confident about his presidential prospects that he took an eight-month trip to Europe in 1858. Not smart! Seward was received in Europe as if he were already the President, but he would not even win the Republican nomination. Lincoln shocked the nation.
Seward's actions remind me that what we believe about tomorrow impacts how we live today. This is a message Peter wants us to understand:
One of the cardinal rules of interpreting Scripture is this: When you see a "therefore," you must ask, "What is the 'therefore' there for?" Peter tells us. This life as we know it is almost up. Eternity is knocking on our door. The Day of Jesus' return is near. That Day could be tomorrow. In light of that, Peter shares four ways that Day should impact this day:
- What you believe about tomorrow should impact how you PRAY today.
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers (1 Peter 4:7). To be sober-minded means "not intoxicated with worldly cares and pleasures." We should pray rather than indulging our fears or our pleasures. Why? Because prayer is our lifeline to the risen Jesus, the one who said, "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Does your prayer life reflect that you really are powerless apart from Jesus?
- What you believe about tomorrow should impact how you LOVE today.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9). Luther said, "As God with His love covers my sins if I believe, so must I also cover the sins of my neighbor." The more I reflect on the Jesus of eternity -- especially how he forgave me -- the more I should want to extend that same forgiveness to others. How can I hold back from loving others when God has not held back from loving me? Are you harboring unforgiveness and withholding love? Give to others what God has given to you.
- What you believe about tomorrow should impact how you SERVE today.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace (1 Peter 4:10). Christianity is not a spectator sport. You are gifted to serve. God entrusts each of us with certain amounts of time, talents, and treasures. Our job is to invest them well. That's good stewardship. How are you using your gift/s to serve others?
- What you believe about tomorrow should impact how you SUFFER today.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12). When it comes to suffering, no one gets a free pass. Paul told his protege "all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Persecution looks different for each of us. It may mean ridicule, losing a job, losing the love of family members, or as in some parts of the world it may mean physical abuse and even death. What sustains us in these times is Jesus and the certainty that he is coming to right our wrongs. In what ways are you or might you suffer?
Peter's message is simple and powerful. What we believe about tomorrow should impact how we pray, love, serve, and suffer today.
I can get so focused on this day that I forget about that Day. So I'm learning to refocus my heart. How? Each morning I am saying/praying the following:
He is coming!
It could be today.
Lord, help me to live like I believe it.
I like to imagine the impact God's people would make were we all to live with that Day in view.