Shortly after my wife and I were married she lost her job. We had done our budgeting based off two incomes, and that put a kink in our plans to say the least. We struggled financially for about a year, until I was able to find a better job. For the both of us this was a trying time as we had zero extra funds and most months we were not able to make ends meet. It was a trial we were not expecting and for which we were unprepared.
We learned during that hard period (and others) in our marriage about the strength of our faith in God. It was easy for us to say that we believe in God when things were going great. It was much more difficult to see our faith in Christ lived out when times were tough for us. Christ taught us what having joy in Him really meant no matter what the situation. God used that time (and others like it) to strengthen our marriage and mature us in Christ.
Peter writes to believers encouraging them as they themselves were facing trials and difficulties because of their Christian faith. After encouraging them by reminding them of their living hope and their salvation in 1 Peter 1:1-5; Peter focuses on another Christian virtue, joy. Peter encourages these believers to continue to have joy in their tough circumstances. What it really comes down to is that Peter wants these believers to be encouraged and live appropriately as Christians in a pagan world. Peter desires them to have the proper perspective when it comes to trials. Here are six questions that Peter answers in 1 Peter 1:6-9 in regards to trials.
1. Is There Any Hope?
In the midst of pain and suffering a person can often reach a point where they ask the question “is there any hope?” When things seem to go from bad to worse and they have reached their breaking point, that is when they truly see where their hope lies. Peter knows that the believers that he is writing to in the letter of 1 Peter are enduring terrible pain. He begins by reminding them that there is something to hope in. He tells them in 1 Peter 1:3 that they have a “living hope” through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Recently I was teaching part of this passage to the Elementary kids Sunday School class in my church. I asked them how they can have a “living hope?” One of them responded “because Jesus is alive and not dead.” This was a great answer. The hope of the believer is not based on the things of this world that he can lose or have taken away. His hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not so much as a something, but a someone that gives the believer hope. Peter even clarifies and says that Christ is our true hope, and what awaits us in the future is so much better than anything that this world has to offer.
It is an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and reserved in heaven for us. In the middle of times of grief and hardship it should be comforting to you to know that what you hope in cannot be assailed by this world. God is not dead, His name is Jesus Christ, and He is a trustworthy hope.
2. How Can I Have Joy In This Trial?
The other day at my work, one of my employees asked me about the difference between happiness and joy. My quick response was: Joy comes from Christ and happiness is circumstantial. As I thought about the question later I pondered, from where does our Joy come? Joy is a product of our union with Christ. Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit produced in our lives as we submit to Christ and obey His commands (Galatians 5:22).
As we are filled with the Spirit, He produces these characteristics in our lives. Joy does involve aspects of happiness, but I prefer the term “gladness” when speaking about Joy. Biblical Joy (gladness) does not depend upon the circumstances of the believer. We can go through times of grief and suffering and still have joy and still rejoice.
Another question that I pondered (you have to do something on the drive home), was “what is the basis for the believer’s joy?” Or, to put it another way, what reason do you have to be joyful when your world is crumbling around you and you are in real pain. That is where God’s word meets our need. Peter gives us the answer in 1 Peter 1:6-9. Peter begins in verse 6 by saying “in these things you greatly rejoice…” What are “these things?” He is referring to the previous verses 1:1-5. In those verses he discusses what God has done for us “through the resurrection of the Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3).
First, God has chosen us (the doctrine of election) to obey Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2). We were not an afterthought in God’s mind. He chose us to be His children. Peter repeats that great truth in 1:3 as well when he says that God has caused us to be born again. WOW, what a privilege!
Do not think that if you are going through tough times that God does not care. He chose YOU! What a comfort to know that God has a plan for you; not just for this life but for all eternity. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Peter also says that you are part of the New Covenant (1:2). Parties entered into a covenant together (ratification) through the sprinkling of blood. This is seen in the Old Testament in Exodus 24:8, when Moses sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the people to symbolize their entrance and duty to the covenant with God at Sinai.
You are part of the New Covenant ratified in the blood of God’s sacrificial Lamb, Jesus. You can read more about this New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:26-27, and Mark 14:24. We remember His sacrifice and commemorate it when we partake in communion (1 Corinthians 11:25).
Finally, Peter says that our salvation is reserved in heaven for us, as an imperishable, unfading, and undefiled inheritance. This salvation is awaiting its fullest revelation in the last days when Jesus Christ returns to earth. No matter what circumstances we go through on this earth, what is awaiting us is SO much better and cannot be assailed or taken away by anyone.
THIS is what Peter was referring to when he told these Christians that they are to continue rejoicing. THESE are the things from which your joy comes. Not from your spouse, your kids, your job, or your friends; it is from the fact that God has saved you from eternal damnation and a life separated from Him. When you think about your new birth, and your union with Christ according to the New Covenant (ratified in His blood) you should have no trouble “greatly rejoicing”. You should be joining Peter in saying:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!”
3. Are Trials Really Necessary?
This question and the next are the two most often asked questions by those that are enduring hard times. Do I really need to go through this? Lord is this really necessary? Peter answers this question in 1 Peter 1:6. He says that “if necessary” they have been distressed by various trials. What is interesting about this phrase, “if necessary” is that it is a first class conditional statement in the Greek (all you Greekies can smile quietly to yourself). What this means is, though Peter uses the word “if”, he uses it in a way that it is assumed to be true.
IN other words, when Peter says that “if necessary” they have been distressed by various trials; he is assuming that the trials are in fact necessary. Does that make sense? Peter is saying that trials are necessary for the Christian. He actually says “various trials”, which means “all kinds” of trials. Trials may not all be about physical violence and persecution. They may be many different things that are pressing against us. Social ostracism, financial hardship, emotional stress, physical pain and the like.
Remember that your New Birth as a Christian sets you apart from this fallen and evil world. If the world hated the Master, how can His servants expect anything less (John 15:18). Why are these trials necessary? Take a gander at the next point.
4. Is There A Purpose for Trials?
I know that you are waiting with baited breath…what is the purpose in trials? Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:7. Trials are for the strengthening of our faith. What is a better proof that we are truly believers than to suffer for the cause of Christ. Suffering has been said to be the crucible of faith. Peter says that a believer’s faith is more precious than gold, and is tested by fire.
Last year I had the privilege of visiting a good friend of mine in Melbourne, Australia. On the trip he took me to a place called Sovereign Hill. This is a refabrication of a 19th century gold mining town. In it we saw firsthand the process that raw gold ore goes through in order to remove the impurities and transform it into pure gold. There was a crushing of the ore and an application of great heat, and when the process was done all that was left was a beautiful solid gold bar.
Peter says that the believer’s faith is tested by fire. It is the trials of this world that lead to “praise, honor, and glory” in the next. What kind of faith would we exhibit if at all times things were going great for us? If all believers were healthy, wealthy, and wise then how would our trust in God grow?
Suffering for the sake of Christ is the means that God uses to mature His children. It is often said that persecution acts to purify the Church. The fires of this life show the genuineness of your faith. They are not fun, but they are beneficial. God gives trials to strengthen our faith in Him and demonstrate to the world that we truly are different.
Even the pagans understand that trials are valuable, if only for the benefits that they bring. The Roman Philosopher Seneca said many centuries ago, “Fire tests gold, suffering tests brave men.”
5. How Long Is the Trial Going to Last?
This is another question that is commonly asked by everyone of us when we go through a trying time. How long oh Lord is this going to last? Peter gives these believers an answer. He says that they have been distressed “for a little while.” How long is a little while? The best answer that I can give is: as long as God determines that is necessary for His purposes to be fulfilled.
I know what your thinking. That helps me a lot… I believe that Peter is intentionally vague because no man can know how God is working to mature him. The process of sanctification is a lifelong one. The temporary trials and tribulations that you go through are just a part of the overall process by which God is conforming you to the image of Christ. Many Christians love to quote Romans 8:28. This is a good passage, but we must look at the entire point that Paul is making. You must look at Romans 8:28-30.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
The ultimate good for the believer is his conformity to the image of Christ. God uses trials to accomplish this purpose for you. Peter begins his letter and ends his letter in much the same way. He says in 1:6 that trials are for a “little while” and then in 1 Peter 5:10 he says this, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”
At the end of his letter Peter reminds these believers that their trials are temporary and that God is in control. I know that many of you were hoping that I could give you a specific time frame. But alas, I cannot. Ultimately it comes down to God is God and we are not. He knows what is in our best interests and has our good at heart. We must trust in Him that He will always do what is best for us. To Him Be the Glory.
6. What Should I focus On?
Peter says that in the midst of trials the believer’s joy is demonstrated in his continued loved and faith in Christ. In 1 Peter 1:8 says that the believer “greatly rejoices with joy inexpressible.” How is a person to rejoice in such a manner when he is in the middle of the Refiner’s fire. It is by keeping his focus on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter remarks that these believers love Christ even though they have not seen him. Peter could not say the same thing about himself. He could say that he loved Jesus; after all Jesus asked him that very question three times as recorded in John 21. Yet, in spite of all that these Christians were going through, they were able to rejoice in the person that matters most. Peter says that they continually love Him. It is the habitual action of their lives.
Earlier in this post I spoke of where the believer’s joy comes from. Our joy (gladness) comes from the work of Christ and the salvation procured through the sacrifice of Christ. Here in 1:8 Peter is speaking of rejoicing over the Person of Christ. What Peter is describing is a personal relationship with the Messiah that is based solely on faith. Being able to rejoice in trials comes from two things: remembrance of Jesus salvific work on our behalf, and a love for Him personally.
Ultimately, the two are interconnected. The source of our joy (gladness) is based on what Jesus has done for us. While the focus of our joy is not based on our circumstances or possessions, but on the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Love and Faith in Christ Jesus, His person and His work bring us great Joy.
Going through tough times is not something that one seeks out. No one in their right mind seeks after pain and heartache. What happens for the believer is that he goes through trials for his own benefit. We must keep the proper perspective when it comes to trials.
Our joy has its basis in the Salvation of God, brought about through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We have learned that trials are in fact a necessary way of life for the believer while he lives on this earth. We have also looked at the purpose of trials to strengthen the believer’s faith and prove that one is actually a child of God.
Finally we have looked at the focus of the believer’s joy, the Lord Jesus. He is not a dead idol, but rather our living hope, and great joy. I challenge you to love Him and trust Him, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your soul (1 Peter 1:9).