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.
Jonah and Daisy are performing in their school musical soon. And they’ve been rehearsing for MONTHS. Learning lines, practicing songs, going over choreography and staging.
And, as fun as all that IS, there’s AN END to it. A POINT. A day when rehearsals are OVER. The first performance.
The practice is pointless unless there’s A REASON for it. An END GAME.
And it’s the same with Christian life. We’re running a race. And, like ANY race, there’s A POINT. 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 separate his sheep from the goats. Returns to bring in his NEW CREATION.
And, as we think about ENCOURAGEMENT, that day will mark THE END of encouragement. 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. The struggle will be done. The fight is won. It will be the end of Encouragement. And the beginning of celebration.
But there’s ANOTHER sense in which we use the word “END”. In Greek, as well as in English, it can mean “GOAL” or “PURPOSE”. Like in the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. What is the chief END of man? In other words, what is the chief GOAL of man? What’s his PURPOSE, his main reason for living?
And so we can ask the question about the END of encouragement. What’s it’s GOAL? It’s PURPOSE? It’s TARGET?
And the answer is the same. The GOAL of encouragement is the same as its FINISH. THE FINISH LINE. The day Jesus returns and sets everything right.
All through the Bible, the chief motivation for keeping on following Jesus. Is BECAUSE HE’S COMING BACK.
For example, 1 Cor 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.
Or here’s ANOTHER example. Heb 10:23. Words of encouragement to keep going.
23 Let us hold UNSWERVINGLY to the HOPE WE PROFESS (look forward to the finish line), 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.
The finish line’s approaching. You can see it up ahead. The pace has picked up. It would be TRAGIC to drop out NOW. So encouragement REMINDS people about that goal. Points them there. And calls people to KEEP STRIVING to THE END.
That’s just a couple of verses. But we’re going to look at 1 Peter ch 1 in a bit more detail, and look at how Peter directs our attention to Jesus’ return, and then encourages us to RESPOND to that. A look to THE FUTURE. Which is an encouragement for THE PRESENT.
An imperishable inheritance
Pick it up at v3 where Peter’s praising God for something he’s qualified us for IN THE FUTURE. He’s directing us to THE FINISH LINE. 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,
The encouragement NOW is that Jesus has won an imperishable inheritance for us IN THE FUTURE.
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 then Peter tells us how a sure hope – that END – that FINISH – 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.
There’s joy because of the TIME FRAME. The grief is only FOR A LITTLE WHILE. Compared to the joy of the inheritance that lasts FOR ETERNITY. The pain of a needle is a moment compared with the LIFETIME of immunity.
Point one. We have an imperishable inheritance. So greatly rejoice.
Jesus Christ will be revealed
Point two: Trials have come so that your refined faith might be proved genuine when Jesus Christ will be revealed.
Life MIGHT be tough now. You MIGHT feel like giving up. But it’s not random, or bad luck. The encouragement is that God’s got a PURPOSE in it. And, once again, it’s encouragement that’s looking to THE GOAL. 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. 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.
And so Peter’s giving us TWO reasons to be joyful now in the face of trails. Because of their TIME FRAME – they’re only for little while. And because of their PURPOSE – they’re refining us to be ready for Jesus’ appearing.
Like Jo when she had to have another operation on her broken leg. There was JOY while she was having and recovering from the operation even though there was PAIN. Because the PAIN was only for a SHORT time, and there was A PURPOSE to it. The end result would be a LONG TIME with a leg that worked properly.
The Salvation of your souls – the goal telosend of your faith
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. It’s TARGET, it’s finishing line.
And what IS that goal? The salvation of our souls. Rescue from judgment. Deliverance from death into life.
And we can HAVE faith NOW because it’s the way things went FOR JESUS. That trials ended in deliverance. That suffering ended with glory. That’s what the next paragraph is talking about. We can be sure of the END of suffering. It’s GOAL. Because that’s what happened with Jesus (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 NOW, and be joyful NOW, that it will be the same for us.
Jump down to v13 to find Peter’s NEXT encouragement for the present.
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. There’s a much better picture in the literal meaning of the phrase. “Prepare your minds” is literally “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. And you want to be found fitting.
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 over the top of all the sparkly things that compete for our attention and our affection. Importance, comfort, acceptance, pleasure, control, power. Instead set your hope 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 awaiting us. 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. Ambassadors. We’ve got diplomatic immunity, under the authority of another Sovereign. He’s the one who sees every action, hears every word, knows every thought. The one who judge JUSTLY.
And it means we can let go of OTHER people’s behaviour TOO. 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.
In other words, If we’ve been born again, then the finish line in THIS WORLD is only the BEGINNING. We were made for ETERNITY.
God’s WORD last forever, and we’ve been powerfully CHANGED by God’s word so that WE, TOO, last forever.
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 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 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 Revelation 21:3-4
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.
Jump over to Revelation 21. The whole book is a vision given to a suffering church. A church struggling to see the big picture. GOD’S picture. And God shows them, through John, a picture of their END. Their GOAL.
21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the END.
Let’s ENCOURAGE each other with these words. Heb 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.