1 Peter 1:6-9
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. ESV
Introduction: What is Precious?
If you were to sit down and write out your plans for the day or the week or the next month or year or five years – what would you write? If you were to sit down and write out what you would like to see happen before the end of your life, what would you write? If you could let yourself dream about a really good and successful life, what kinds of things come to mind? Excellent weather, good health and safety, close friends and family, abundant and good food, financial success and stability, being appreciated and praised, being effective in all your endeavors?
Or to think about it another way, what kind of things wouldn’t come to mind? What sort of things would be excluded from your plans? Icy roads, disease and illness in ourselves or in those we love, loss of loved ones, strained and broken relationships, poverty, hunger, persecution, pain any kind, failure and futility?
If we were to write down our dreams about what we would like to see happen before the end of our lives, and we were honest, I wonder if our hearts desires would reflect the priorities that we find in our passage this morning.
A Text About Value
Our text this morning is calling us to renew our thinking about what is most precious in this life. Peter is really helping us thing carefully about what really matters here during the time of our sojourn. He is giving us the truth we need to understand this life that don’t often match the life we would have planned. If we ignore the truth of what Peter is saying here we are going to be more discouraged and more susceptible to stumbling. This passage is teaching us about God’s good purpose for every difficulty we face.
Last week Peter began by praising God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for what He has done in causing us to be born again to a living hope through Christ, who lived, died and rose victorious over sin and death. And Peter praises God for what He is doing right now in guarding and securing our imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance in heaven and in guarding and securing us by His Spirit for that promised future inheritance. And He is doing it through faith.
Rejoicing Yet Sorrowing
And here, verse 6 begins, “In this you rejoice…” I pray that this is true of you. I pray that as you hear the wonderful news about what God has done and is doing for your everlasting joy that you taste that the Lord is good. I hope that your heart is filled with love for God and love for Christ and love for the Spirit. God has caused us to be born again, born of the Spirit, to an inheritance in the heavenly country forever and ever in life and joy through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Soon the Lord of glory will be revealed and we will receive our promised heavenly inheritance – I pray that you do rejoice. I pray that your life is marked by joy! Joy in the Father. Joy in Christ. Joy in the Spirit. Joy in our living hope. Christians are a people who rejoice in the gospel.
But Peter makes it plain that even as Christians greatly rejoice in God’s work for them in Christ Jesus and what that work means for our future, Christians are not without grief in this life. He says in verse 6, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…”
There are few things that Peter highlights here about Christians and suffering.
Suffering is Real
The first is that suffering is real. Pain is real. I think we need to note the fact that being born again does not mean we have ceased to feel pain. Even as Peter says these Christians rejoice – he follows that immediately affirming that they have experienced real grief.
It was the apostle Paul who said in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18,
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
But he also said in Romans 8:23,
…we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
I think it is important that as we eagerly wait for the Day of the Lord that we don’t pretend that all our pain and heartache has evaporated. Even as we always have reason to rejoice there will also be times when we are weeping in this life. Is this a contradiction? I don’t think so.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say a little boy and his father are walking down the street together. The little boy sees something on the other side and manages to pull his had free from his father and runs into the road. A car is coming. The father only has time to throw himself in front of the car. The man wakes up in the hospital in a body cast. His whole body is raked with pain. And there before him is his wife holding their son and he is perfectly healthy and safe. In that moment there is both joy and groaning.
We should not deny that life is painful and difficult when it is, but for the Christian there is always abundant reason to rejoice in Christ our Savior. Suffering is real and so is our joy.
Suffering is Varied
But suffering is also varied. Peter says these Christians have been grieved by various trials. There are many ways to suffer and many different kinds of painful circumstances. Consider the description of the early Church’s varied sufferings.
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
We may not all be martyrs for our faith, but some might. We might not all go to prison, though some might. We might not all have our property plundered, but some might. We may not all get cancer or loss a home or a job. We simply don’t know what sufferings will be required of us.
Suffering is Short
But, even as Christians suffering is real and it is varied, Christian suffering is short. Peter says in verse 6, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…”
Peter is helping us gain perspective on our suffering in this life. Peter is not saying that Christian suffering is short when compared to this life. He is saying that this life is short – and we know this because he points us to relief “at the revelation of Jesus Christ” in verses 7 and 9. This life time is when we are grieved by various trials and it is this life that is short. I don’t care how old you, everyone of us is icing on the cake of human history and all of human history is not even dust on the scales when compared to the endless ages prepared for those who are in Christ Jesus. This life is short.
2 Corinthians 4:17
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Christian suffering is short.
Suffering has a Purpose.
As true as all these observations are, we have not yet reached Peter’s true point here. The point that Peter is making in this section is that Christian suffering, which is real, varied, and short … has a purpose.
Notice the little phrase, “if necessary” of “if needed.” Peter is alerting us to the fact that, in some way, our real, varied, and short sufferings are needed for something. Why would it be necessary or needed that Christians are grieved by various trials? This question is getting to the heart of what Peter is trying to tell us. Verse 7 gives us the answer to this question,
…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.
Verse 7 lets us in on some very important facts, the first being that God Himself has a purpose in our suffering. You may be asking yourself, “Where do you see in this text that God has a purpose? God isn’t even mentioned.” Well, think carefully about what Peter is saying. Christians rejoice in the glorious hope of the gospel, though now for a little while, if necessary, they have been grieved. So Peter is saying that grief in the Christian life may be needed to accomplish something. It is needed for some purpose.
What is that purpose? We are told that the purpose is so that the tested genuineness of our faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at Christ’s appearing. Suffering and trials are used to test our faith so as to show the genuineness and reality of our faith – and it is tested genuine faith that results in praise and glory and honor when Christ appears. Suffering in you life has this purpose: to test your faith and to prove it to be genuine so that when Christ arrives we will receive praise and honor and glory.
So whose purpose is that? Whose purpose is it to ensure that our faith is tried and true so that it results in praise and honor and glory when Christ appears? It’s not our adversary the devil’s purpose. It’s not our persecutor’s purpose. Whose purpose is it to bless us with praise and honor and glory to us at the revelation of Christ?
It is God’s purpose.
God Intends Good
Verses 3-5 were all about praising God for causing us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading kept in heaven for us, who by God’s power are being kept through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Peter is tell us that all this is true, that God is abundant in mercy toward us and seeking our everlasting joy in Christ Jesus – even when we are grieved by various trials and in fact that grief has a purpose in God’s gracious plan to bring us to glory.
I want to make sure that we are hearing this. God has a gracious purpose in all our suffering. Whatever pain you have experienced or are experiencing, whatever trial you are walking through, God has a kind intention in that suffering. Even as the devil and evil people have evil intention toward us and are seeking for evil reasons to multiply our sufferings (and that is exactly the context into which Peter is writing – these Christians were experiencing persecution), God our loving Father in Christ Jesus intends good through those same sufferings.
How can this be? How can evil things happen to us by the hands of evil people and those same things be intended by God for good and kind purposes? Is that possible? Yes.
Remember Joseph’s words to his brothers after their father Jacob had died and the brothers were nervous that Joseph would now take revenge for the evil things they had done to him. Joseph says,
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
The same actions, intended by the brothers for evil, were intended by God for good.
Or, take for example, the crucifying of our Lord. Was it evil to deliver Jesus up and crucify the Lord of Glory? Oh course it was! And yet as Peter makes plan in Acts 2:22-23 all those things happened as God had planned and all God’s plans are good.
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
Peter wants us to know that even as we face horrifying and painful circumstances and even as they may be done to us by the hands of evil people – God has a good intention in all your suffering. The grief you are experiencing is not without purpose it’s not outside God’s control and this text tells us about that good purpose.
The Treasure of a Tested Faith
So let’s make sure we understand this good purpose of God in our suffering. What is God’s intention in our suffering? Well, verse 7 says it is so that the tested genuineness of our 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.
This verse tells us something very profound about God’s priorities and it should inform our priorities.
God’s priority is your faith, not your finances. What is most precious in this verse? Gold? Riches? Comfort? No. Tested genuine faith. It is more precious than gold refined in the fire. Why? Because gold perishes. God is interested in securing your full and lasting treasure, not in making sure you have small and temporary ones. Abundant earthly riches and success and comfort are not what you need and in fact those things can become nothing more than distractions and idols.
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
Our heavenly Father knows what we truly need. God knows the treasure that will really satisfy our hearts forever and it’s not gold. It’s not earthly comforts. It’s not anything this world can afford. We think if God loved us he would make our lives comfortable, but God is far more interested in your long-term comfort in Him.
God is in the business of getting His children to glory. He is not in the business of making them comfortable on their way to hell.
What is the treasure that will satisfy? It is God Himself seen in the face of Jesus Christ. The only thing that will bring us lasting and full pleasure is God Himself – He is what makes our inheritance glorious. So what God wants for His beloved children is to get our hearts off of the things of this world and fix them upon Christ. He is working to strengthen and refine our faith in Christ and Christ alone.
Tested genuine faith is the most valuable treasure we can possess in this world. When Jesus Christ appears it is the tested genuine faith that will be shown to have been of infinitely more value than all the treasures and comforts this world offered. All the treasures this world could afford will result in dust and ashes. It is the heart that is genuinely clinging to Christ that will result in praise from God and honor from God and glory from God at the revelation of Jesus.
You dream about a successful life. Do you dream about possessing genuine faith which had been tested by the fire, which results in everlasting glory? That is the successful life.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Loving the Unseen
Peter is showing us that God has a kind intention is all our suffering. We have been and will be grieved by various trials so that our faith in Christ will be strengthened and refined. He is getting our hearts off of the perishable and on to the imperishable. He is showing the small value of temporary and limited comforts so that we rest wholly upon the full and everlasting Comfort. We look not to what is seen, but to what is unseen.
1 Peter 1:8-9
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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This is what our gracious Father is working in us through these very real, short, and varied sufferings. Praise Him!
In 2003 John Piper did a biography of Adoniram Judson, a Baptist missionary to Burma in the 1800’s. I highly recommend that message which is available at desiringgod.org. The title of that message is How Few There Are Who Die So Hard!
Adoniram Judson poured out his life in this world to make Christ known among the Burmese people. His life was full of suffering. He said once,
“If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.”
Judson believed what Peter taught here. But it is Adoniram Judson’s wife, Ann, who I’d like us to hear as we close. She joined this missionary and they had three children, all of which died. Piper recounts, “The first baby, nameless, died and was dropped in the water between India and Rangoon. The next Roger Williams Judson dies at 17 months old …And the next, Maria Elizabeth Butterworth Judson died 6 months after her mother, Ann, died.”
So Ann was acquainted with suffer. But Ann believed that God was not against her. Rather, she believed that He had kind intentions in all that happen to her. At age 23, after loosing her second baby, she wrote this,
“Our hearts were bound up with this child; we felt he was our earthly all, our only source of innocent recreation in this heathen land. But God saw that it was necessary to remind us of our error, and to strip us of our only little all. O, may it not be in vain that he has done it. May we so improve it that he will stay his hand and say, ‘It is enough.’”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.