THE ETERNAL VALUE OF EARTHLY TRIALS
1 Peter 1:6-9
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 16, 2013
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
-- 1 Peter 1:6-9, ESV
When you think about it, Christianity has a tremendous upside. We’ve are chosen by the Father, empowered by the Spirit, and cleansed from our sin by the Son. We’ve been covered by God’s mercy, born again into abundant and eternal life, and guaranteed an inheritance in Heaven. And right here on earth we enjoy the hope and faith that comes from a saving, eternal relationship with God. All these things are spelled out in the first five verses of 1 Peter, then to begin the sixth verse he writes, “In this you rejoice.”
It is quite easy to rejoice in the upside of Christianity. But what about the downside? Apparently, there is one. The people to whom Peter originally wrote certainly understood the downside of the faith. They were being downtrodden by the lowdown Roman emperor Nero, whose hatred and persecution of Christianity is infamous. Yet, as Peter writes in verses six through nine, there is a way to endure these down times and still “rejoice with joy.”
There is a reason why eternal life is not an easy life on earth. There is an eternal value to our earthly trials.
Joy and Grief Go Together
Almost all television Christianity and most church Christianity is an paltry exercise in positive thinking. Televangelists and too many pastors wear painted smiles that make them look like they are living in the face of a constant wind. But Simon Peter, a true pastor writing to true Christians, says “you rejoice” and “you have been grieved” in the same sentence. This echoes the ethos of an earlier Jewish preacher who wrote of “a time to weep, and a time to laugh;a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (ref. Ecclesiastes 3:4). Or as my otherwise happy baby girl says, sometimes you just need to cry.
Though modern English translations speak of grief coming “if necessary,” it is necessary. This is a more accurate rendering of the text, and more consistent with New Testament faith. Jesus did not say we might have tribulation in this world, He said we would (ref. John 16:33). Paul did not promise some troubles might come, He said many troubles would come (ref. Acts 14:22). James did not say to rejoice if trials come, but when (ref. James 1:2). So, the grief that comes through trials, troubles, and tribulations are a necessary part of the Christian life.
This may not be news to most of us, but what may be news to some of us is that both joy and grief are ordained by God. The God who “caused us to be born again” (ref. vs. 3) so that we can have great joy also causes us to experience a number of very trying situations so that He can test our faith (ref. vs. 6-7). Who do you think caused Joseph to be sold into slavery by his brothers? Who do you think brought Job to the attention and attacks of Satan? Who do you think was pleased to crush the life out of the Messiah on the cross? Who do you think leaked persecution into the early church so that Christianity would spread across the globe? Who do you think is behind the problems you are experiencing right now?
The God who loves you and chose you and saves you is a God who has given you a Christian life filled with constant joy and occasional grief. There is a purpose for both. The joy speaks for itself, I think, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (ref. Nehemiah8:10). But I also think Lucy was saying more than she realized when she said it was “Good grief, Charlie Brown!” Joy in the Christian life is great, but grief can be good, too.
Grief Comes to Give Greater Joy
The grief comes from experiencing “various trials.” The word translated trials is a versatile word with different meanings in different contexts. It can speak of the trouble caused by succumbing to temptations from within to sin; or, it can refer to the pain and pressure caused by external forces that test the soundness of one’s faith. Clearly, Peter is writing about the later in this text as a test of true Christian faith.
Only an authorized superior can give a subordinate a test, like a teacher to her student or a father to his child. This further demonstrates that the trials in questions are tests given by God to His children. They may come in the form of sinful actions by people like Nero, or other antichrists who inflict pain upon Christians. They may come in the form of sinful actions like an employer who unfairly terminates your employment, a spouse who unfaithfully walks out on your marriage, a friend who in an unfriendly way betrays your confidence, a perfect stranger who robs you of your possessions, or an imperfect illness that robs you of your health. Be assured that the people who hurt you will be accountable and responsible to Almighty God for their action. But be assured also that it is Almighty God who allowed and even ordained such actions to take place.
Trials are God’s tests, given to you, to give you a chance to prove something to God, and to give God a chance to prove something to you, to prove that you have something He has given you that is more valuable than the most valuable element on earth. “Your faith [is] more precious than gold” (ref. vs. 7). Gold, even refined gold, does not last forever. No material possession can be deposited in this life and withdrawn in the next. Even relationships with lost people, like lost people themselves, will perish. The faith that you have, from God and in God, the faith that you share with other covenant members of God’s kingdom, the genuine Christian faith that can be tested and trusted, is what you have in this life that is the ticket to Heaven in the next. Cherish it. Hold onto it even if you might lose everything else. It is by far the most valuable thing you possess. Rejoice and praise God for it, especially in the grievous trials of life.
The Way to Turn Grief Into Joy
When Peter’s friend Paul was nearing the end of his life, he said simply, “I have kept the faith” (ref. 2 Timothy 4:7). When you stand before the Lord one day, you will not want to say “I have kept the money,” or “I have kept my youthful appearance,” or “I have have kept my house finely furnished and neatly decorated.” That will not get you any reward from the Lord.
But if, when other people would not have faith, when other professing Christians were living contrary to the faith or abandoning the faith, when people occasionally persecuted you for having faith, and you kept the faith, then for you there is “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (ref. vs. 7). There will come a time when God will say to you personally, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (ref. Matthew 25:21-23). And the joy you will experience at this time, “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (ref. vs. 7), will be worth every ounce of grief you had to bear during your Christian life.
How can sustain a tough-minded faith in tough times? How can we pass the various trials that come our way? How can we finish well with the faith God has given to us?
First of all, love and keep on loving the Lord Jesus Christ, and never lose your first love. “Though you have not seen Him, you love him” (ref. vs. 8). It is hard to see Jesus in the hard times of life, but it is not hard to remember Him who endured the hardest time of all on the cross. Remember His sacrifice and be willing to sacrifice for Him, for true love is total sacrifice. Remember the price He paid for your faith and prize your faith as your most precious possession. Remember His love for you and keep on loving Jesus, and you will get through the trial.
Secondly, believe and keep on believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep the faith. “Though you do not see Him, you believe in Him” (ref. vs. 8). God is with you. He was with Joseph and Job, He was with the three Hebrew friends in the fiery furnace, He was with Peter and James and John and Paul, He is here with us, and He will walk with you through all the joys and trials of life. Believe it. Have faith in God, and you will get through the trial.
Finally, remember that this life is an extremely short boot camp in preparation for the life to come. Nothing is more important that “obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (ref. vs. 9). Struggling with problems, not in spite of your faith but because of your faith, is part of God’s plan in this life to get you ready for the next. He knows you have faith, He gave it to you. But He also knows that sometimes you need to prove it to yourself, and to others. Trials come. Grief happens. Joy rises. Faith wins. That’s why, after being tested, your faith is more valuable than gold. And, that’s the eternal value to our earthly trials.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org