“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things into which angels long to look.” (I Peter 1:12)
A key phrase here is “they were not serving themselves, but you.” This verse is speaking about the Old Testament prophets who were given divine insight into “the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” (:11) many years in advance. We can read such passages as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, which were written up to 1000 years before the crucifixion of Christ, but which portray the details of His death with amazing accuracy. The Bible tells us in I Peter 1:11 that the men through whom these prophecies came, sought to know to whom these prophecies were referring. Our present verse (:12) is the answer they received — and it also has implications for some of the things which happen in our own lives which we do not understand.
Verse 12 says that God showed them that “they were not serving themselves, but you” — in other words, the prophecies they received were not really for their own benefit; they were for the benefit of those in later generations, like us, who can now look back and see God’s hand in their fulfillment in Christ. Although this happened “through” them, it was not really “for” them.
All of which says something to US: we often seek to understand why certain, often difficult, things happen in our lives. But sometimes the answer must be, just like with these Old Testament prophets, that what happened to us was not for our own benefit, or our own time. God has an intricate plan and purpose for this universe, in which every detail fits together. There are things which happen to us that we can’t understand, but the fact is, it will have some benefit or impact in future generations.
The lesson is: it is not all about us! This can be hard to accept, as we tend to be very “egocentric” and want to believe that the world and all of its events are for our own benefit, but they are not. There are things which will happen to us, for purposes which God has planned to benefit future people or generations, which we may never understand in our lifetime. Like these prophets, we may never see any fruit of it, or understand why it happened, as long as we live.
So our responsibility is to TRUST GOD and His purposes. Something happening to you right now may not be for your benefit at all; it may benefit or shape your child, or grandchild, or some future church or movement or nation. Just trust that your good God is causing all things to work together according to the counsel of His will. (Eph. 1:11) Like those Old Testament prophets, God may be doing something in and through you which will not benefit you, but serve His kingdom purpose in people and times to come.