Light flickered from the lone candle sitting, wax-dripped, in the center of the rough-hewn table. It’s light glimmered streaks of yellow and gold off of the worn-out faces that sat silently worshiping quietly as one of them led a hymn. These were the outcasts; the green-card carriers of Bithynia. Driven from Rome by Claudius they had made their way to an unfamiliar and an unfriendly city. They could find no work. When people found out they were followers of “the way” (their name for Christians) they just weren’t interested. Public meetings were forbidden so here they were, huddled around the candle.
There used to be more of them, but as the persecution had grown, their numbers dwindled. Many who thought they believed were willing to cash in their faith for food and only the faithful remained. And those faithful were losing hope. Disappointment after disappointment, trouble by trouble, their strength had ebbed away. From the loss of their homes to their forced exile to their persecuted existence in this god-forsaken town, they were about ready to throw in the towel. Their hope was gone.
Suddenly through the silence, a knock came at the door. Everyone tensed together. Who was it? They had been forbidden to meet. Had someone heard their quiet singing and called the authorities. Their leader raised his finger to his lips to signal for silence, then called out, “Who is it?”
Expecting the rough answer of a Roman soldier, they were all surprised to hear a whisper. “It’s John. Quick! Let me in!” Sighing with relief the door was opened and a wide-eyed excited John burst into the make-shift church.
“I’ve just come from the docks. I didn’t tell anyone, because I didn’t want you to be disappointed anymore than you already were, but there was a courier sent from Rome.” Pulling a parchment out of his cloak, He said with great anticipation. “It’s a letter . . . from Peter.”
They all gathered around as John began to read:
I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds. Not one is missing, not one forgotten. God the Father has his eye on each of you, and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus. May everything good from God be yours!
What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our
Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.
The prophets who told us this was coming asked a lot of questions about this gift of life God was preparing. The Messiah’s Spirit let them in on some of it—that the Messiah would experience suffering, followed by glory. They clamored to know who and when. All they were told was that they were serving you, you who by orders from heaven have now heard for yourselves—through the Holy Spirit—the Message of those prophecies fulfilled. Do you realize how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this! So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now.