1 Peter 1:7


Sermon preached on September 1, 1996 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 1996. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.


My brother-in-law was telling me about a Prayer Meeting that he attended. There was a request for a man named Charlie. He was having trouble with his back. Now I don't know how someone missed it but there was one guy there who wasn't paying attention when they were writing the prayer requests on the blackboard. During the prayer time he took a turn praying. When he came to the item on the list,
Charlie's back, he prayed, "Lord, we thank you that Charlie's back from his trip. I don't know where he's been or what he was doing there but we're glad that Charlie is back."

Sometimes we can totally misunderstand things. That's the way that this life is.

Most of you know that before he left last spring
Bruce gave a concert for our congregation. A while before the concert he asked me to make up a program for it. On the front of the program he told me to print, "An Evening of Sacred Music". So I did. But during the evening of the concert I really got a fright one time when Bruce stopped to speak between two of the songs. He said that while he was standing just inside the church entrance before the concert began one of the young boys picked up a program and read the first part of it aloud. He said, "An Evening of Scared Music". When I heard Bruce say that my heard stopped because I wondered if I had spelled 'sacred' wrong, because all you have to do is to transpose one letter to get 'scared' instead of 'sacred'. So I immediately reached for a bulletin and checked, and thankfully I had spelled it correctly, the guy had read it wrong.

But the reason I like that story is because it brought back lots of memories about when I was young and how there were a lot of things I didn't understand. So I think I could relate to his confusion. Was there a whole category of music called "Scared Music"? When I was young concerts and all that stuff were things to be dreaded. So there's not much of a leap from dread to scared, so in a way it made some sort of sense. But of course it wasn't an evening of scared music, it was an evening of sacred music. Sometimes we totally misunderstand things.

And it's the same way with many things in this life.
We Christians tend to view trials as things that are purely negative. And indeed, it's true that there is much that is negative that is associated with trials. Here in verse 6 Peter mentions the grief that comes from certain trials. Sometimes trials are very hard and there is much grief associated with them.

Yet
consider what God says about our trials, what God says about the things that bother us the most, the things that bring us grief. What He says here is truly amazing and is a truth that we all ought to pay close attention to.

God tells us that it is especially in these things, in the hardships, in the trials, in the things that bring us grief

He is working to make us better.

Look at what Peter says here about the trials that bring us grief. He says,

"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."

Peter argues from the lesser to the greater. If we think so much of gold, a corruptible metal, that we prove it by fire, so that it may acquire its real value, what wonder is it that God should require a similar trial of our faith. Our faith is much more precious than gold. It is fully worth being proved. And when it is proved it will result in praise, glory and honor being given to Jesus Christ on the last day.

I love how God is working in redemption!

What grace! For what we see here is that He is taking the worst things that are happening to us in this life and He is working in them for our benefit!

Now consider how wonderful this is. I suppose that
there could only be one thing more wonderful than this and that would be if God would immediately end all of our trials and take us immediately to heaven. That would be better. The apostle Paul himself expressed this when He said,

"I desire to depart
and be with Christ,
which is better by far."

But God has not chosen to take us immediately to heaven. He has placed us here and He has a purpose in it. His purpose is that we live to His glory and we bring others to Him.

And isn't it wonderful that He tells us that in all trials He is working to make us better?

How deep His grace flows!

The natural effect of trials and tribulations, of sickness and trouble is to get us to lose heart, to get us to become discouraged and depressed. Satan designs difficulties to harm us, to cause us to lose faith, to cause us to curse God. Satan was working in Job's wife when she said to him,

"Curse God
and die."

This old world, full of sin and it's effects can sometimes be a horrible place.

But look at how deep God's grace flows. The Holy Spirit tells us that if we take the worst that this sinful world can throw at us, if we take the worst that Satan can dish out at us—that even in those horrible, trying experiences—God's grace is there and His grace is working to do the exact opposite of what those experiences would naturally do to us. His grace reaches right down to the lowest depths of human experience and works to overcome and reverse the devastating effect that they would have upon us. God is taking the worst things that can happen to us—and rather than allowing them to harm and destroy us—overturns them so that they actually help us, so that they actually refine and purify our faith.

Peter

We see this in the apostle Peter. Peter was the one that Satan desired to sift as wheat. He wanted to completely destroy Peter's faith. But Jesus said to Peter, (Luke 22:32)

"But I have prayed for you, Simon,
that your faith may not fail.
And when you have turned back,
strengthen your brothers."

And then Peter went through a great trial. He denied Jesus three times and called down curses upon himself. But then, just when Peter denied Jesus the third time, we read that Jesus turned, (Luke 22:61)

" and looked straight at Peter."

And that was a look that brought Peter to his senses and brought Peter back to Jesus. And what Peter saw in that look we don't know. It could have been that Jesus looked so disappointed in Peter. But however that look appeared, it was a look of love. And then later when Mary Magdalene and the other women went to the tomb the angel told them that Jesus was risen. And then he said,

"But go, tell his disciples and Peter
'He is going ahead of you into Galilee.
There you will see him,
just as he told you.'"

Notice those words, 'and Peter'. What they must have meant to Peter. He was not lost. He wen through a most grievous trial and because of God's grace he came out of it strengthened, more devoted to Jesus, stronger to resist any foe. Satan designed it to crush him, but Peter emerged greater and stronger.

How deep His grace flows!

Now this means two things for us.

The first is that

you should make sure that you successfully overcome trials.

It is vitally important that you successfully overcome trials so that your faith will be proved true and that on the last day it will result in praise, glory and honor being given to Jesus Christ.

Peter failed his test, yet his experience will result in praise, glory and honor to Jesus Christ on the last day. That will be because Peter will be there and it will be a testimony to God's grace. Yet in Romans 6 we are warned against sinning so that grace may abound. (Romans 6:1f)

Rather, you should try to persevere in trials and successfully overcome them.

You see, we are tested so that our faith will be proved genuine, and the only way it can be proved genuine is if we are successful in overcoming trials.

Trials come so that your faith will be purified.

This is one of the answers to the question of suffering in the life of a Christian. It is not the only answer, but it is one of the answers. Why do trials come? Why do troubles come our way?

As the Holy Spirit tells us in
Hebrews 12:10,

"but God disciplines us
for our good,
that we may share in his holiness."

One of the purposes of trials is to refine your faith, to make it pure gold.

How important that you properly react to trials.

So when trials come to you—ask yourself, what is God teaching me here? What dross needs to be removed from my life?

Psalm 32:9 warns us and says,

"Do not be like the horse
or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled
by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you."

We are to grow spiritually in trials.

What we must not miss here is the process involved in our faith being proved genuine. Peter mentions how gold is refined, how it is purified when it is refined in the fire. As gold is subjected to fire in order to refine and purify it, so faith is refined and purified by fiery trials. The faith that does not endure under persecution cannot be acclaimed as genuine. But the faith that is genuine is not diminished by trials, rather it is strengthened. One of the commentators (Hiebert) has said in response to this passage,

"The faithful are purged in order to be 'pure gold'."



There are many dregs of unbelief remaining in us, and when by various afflictions we are refined as it were in God's furnace, the dross of our faith is removed, so that it becomes pure and clean before God.

One of the things you ought to be doing in trials is trying to grow spiritually.

In testing you should be seeking to get rid of the dross. We see this in Psalm 119:71 where David wrote,

"It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees."

We have many examples of trials being helpful to Christians.

Paul's thorn in the flesh.

One of the best known examples is that of the apostle Paul and his thorn in the flesh.

He knew that there was a great lesson to learn. We're not told that God told it to him. Perhaps he had to figure it out himself. But in any case—what was the lesson? Paul gives it in
2 Corinthians 12:7. He wrote,

"To keep me from becoming conceited
because of these surpassingly
great revelations,
there was given me a thorn in my flesh,
a messenger of Satan,
to torment me."

The disciples failure to cast out a demon.

Or think of the disciples failure to rid a boy of demon possession. We read about it in Matthew 17:14f. The boy's father brought him to Jesus' disciples but they couldn't heal him. It was a great trial for the disciples. They were publicly embarrassed. When they were alone with Jesus they asked him, (Matthew 17:19)

"Why couldn't we drive it out?"

Jesus replied,

"Because you have so little faith."

They were taught an important lesson. They had to rely upon God more. (See also Mark 9:29) Their trial taught them much about faith.

Naaman

Or think about Naaman the Syrian. (2 Kings 5) He had some faith in the power of God but it was very defective. So when he went to Elisha to be healed he was expecting great things. He thought that Elisha would come out to him, call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure him of his leprosy. But Elisha didn't even come out. Instead he sent a messenger who told Naaman,

"Go, wash yourself
seven times in the Jordan,
and your flesh will be restored
and you will be cleansed."

When Naaman heard that he was furious. He went away angry and it was only at the urging of his servants that he did what Elisha said. That day he learned a lot about God and a lot about humility. His trial taught him such lessons.

The Shunammite woman.

Or think about the trial of the Shunammite woman. (2 Kings 4) She had been kind to Elisha and as a reward Elisha told her that she would have a son. And sure enough, she did. But awhile later the boy died. She was devastated. She went to Elisha and said,

"Did I ask you for a son, my lord?
Didn't I tell you,
'Don't raise my hopes'?"

What a trial she went through. But God restored her son to life. She learned about the kindness and the power of God. She learned that God does bless faith. From that story we too know that God does bless faith. Someone we love may be torn away from us. But for God's people it is only temporary. That's why the New Testament refers to death as 'sleep'. (1 Thessalonians 4)

Stand firm that your faith may be purified.

God's design is that we grow in trials.

God knows if we will

New soldiers
. Some of them might wonder- how will I react in battle. Will I freeze in battle? That happens to some soldiers. Fear paralyzes them. They don't function well. But, that is very rare. And after the battle, most soldiers know that they functioned just fine. And they never have to worry about freezing in battle again. They're not that kind. They've proved themselves. They can face the next battle with confidence.

And it's the same with Christians. If we know that we are true Christians we can have confidence, that the Lord will be beside us every step of the way and that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We don't have to be full of doubt and worry. We are children of the King and we should be able to say with Paul, (Philippians 4:13)

"I can do everything
though him
who gives me strength."

You see, God knows about our faith. He knows if it's genuine. At first we might think that it's proved genuine to God. Sometimes the Bible puts things that way. In the Old Testament we know that God tested Abraham. At the end of the test God said, (Genesis 22:12)

"Now I know that you fear God,
because you have not withheld from me
your son, your only son."

God put it in terms of His learning something about Abraham.

But of course even before the test God knew that Abraham's faith was genuine. God knew what would happen. We know this from
Isaiah 46:10, where God said,

"I make known the end
from the beginning,
from ancient times,
what is still to come. I say:
My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please."

Even before the test God already knew what Abraham would do. He knows the beginning from the end.

So why are we tested if God already knows the genuineness of our faith?

The answer is that God tests us in order to bless us and in order to bless others.

God sometimes sends trials our way to affect others.

Our faith will be proved genuine to them.

To the world.

1 Peter 2:12

"Live such good lives
among the pagans that,
though they accuse you of doing wrong,
they may see your good deeds
and glorify God on the day
he visits us."

1 Peter 3:16,

"keeping a clear conscience,
so that those who speak maliciously
against your good behavior in Christ
may be ashamed of their slander."

Even now the enemies of the truth are constrained to acknowledge such fidelity of faith, innocence and patience, but more in the last days and in the great day of Christ.

Titus- make the gospel attractive.

Titus 2:9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

Consider what Jesus endured to save you—what He endured to make you holy. How can you refuse to participate in that process? How can you be disappointed in the process or wish that you didn't have to go through it. We have been given a great privilege—to be placed here in this environment to learn how to become holy. Let us put our shoulder to the plow with joy, with anticipation, with praise and hope.