In 1 Peter 4, Peter continues to offer encouragement to his readers to live for God and to use their spiritual gifts to serve others. Peter is realistic about us, however, when it comes to helping others. He seems to understand that sometimes putting others ahead of ourselves can feel like a chore. Maybe we’re tired, or we have other things we’d rather be doing. That’s why he writes in v. 9: “Offer hospitality to one another without complaining.” Perhaps what he should’ve said was “Offer hospitality to one another whether you complain or not.” Peter has to know there are times we will complain, grumble, mutter under our breath, or however we want to put it. So, what is Peter really saying?
He begins this chapter by reminding us that the end of all things is near. In other words, he’s saying, Jesus is coming soon. I’m sure that those words meant one thing to his audience at the time; after all, Jesus’ resurrection had taken place around 30-40 years before he sent the letter and many of Jesus’ contemporaries were still alive. For us, over 2,000 years later, “soon” has lost its meaning. Except … we only have a finite number of years to live before our time on earth will come to an end. Even if Jesus doesn’t come again during our lifetimes, how we live in relation to others still matters.
And then, just to drive his point home, Peter offers another example. In verses 11-12, he writes, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Now, I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I speak, I can’t even manage to string a coherent sentence together, let alone speak the very words of God. But Peter is reminding us that when we speak and serve, we are not doing it through our own strength because the truth is we can’t. We are relying on God’s power and grace to work through us. And when we do that, God is glorified and praised.
Here's the thing – and I have found this to be true – when we speak and serve willingly and out of love, even if it’s something we don’t particularly enjoy doing or didn’t feel like doing, we can find joy and fulfillment in it. It’s like that old saying, “It’s better to give than to receive.” When we give of ourselves, we receive God’s blessings in return.
Does Peter expect us to always get it right? No. As he says in v. 8, “Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.” It’s like he’s saying, “Hey, we all mess up sometimes, but if we hold onto love and love deeply, we can forgive and move on.” So, whether you’re serving others, speaking, praying, or simply loving, remember that you are doing it in the strength and grace of God. As Peter says in the final words of this chapter, “Continue to do good.” What good can you do today to bring glory and praise to God? A thought to ponder.
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