What is the biggest trial you’ve faced recently? What is the hardest thing you’ve walked through? There are a variety of trials and hardships in this life. We all experience things like the ongoing struggle with patterns of sin, the brokenness of relationships, the loss of loved ones to fatal illnesses and the day-to-day difficulty of making ends meet in a broken world.
The surprising thing is that the Bible is not a fairy-tale kind of a book. The Bible isn’t a complex collection of random facts and wise sayings. The Bible is God’s love letter to mankind, written in the form of a story, with himself as the hero, Satan as the enemy and mankind as deserters who are now playing for the opposing team and are in need of rescue.
The Bible doesn’t seek to glamorize the story either. The entire book is filled with the raw and uncensored versions of people who face trial, after trial, after trial, after trial in this broken world.
The very first trial in the Bible is found early in the book of Genesis where Adam and Eve fail the trial of the standoff in the Garden of Eden with the Serpent and God rescues them (Gen. 3). The very last trial in the Bible can be seen in the book of Revelation where God’s people face indescribable tribulation as the story of God concludes with complete restoration of all broken things.
In between Genesis and Revelation there are untold amounts of stories that have trials filled with pain and suffering at the center. Consider the stories of Joseph, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, the nation of Israel as a whole, the Prophets, the Disciples and the early church.
These are all stories within the grand overarching story that are filled with the pain and the suffering of the trials of living in this broken world. So, what is the hardest thing you’ve walked through recently? What is the hardest trial you’ve faced?
All of these stories, yours and mine, and the ones within the grand overarching story of the Bible, all come together in the most horrific and humbling of all stories at the foot of a bloody cross where our perfect Savior died in the place of his enemies.
All of the trials of this life, all of the uncensored pain and suffering of the Bible, all of the brokenness we experience and observe in this world finds its meaning and its redemption at the foot of the bloody cross of Calvary because the greatest trial we all face on a daily basis is the trial of living as sin-infected people in a sin-infected world.
Peter understands all of this as he writes his letter to the churches that have been scattered under the trials of living as a persecuted people under the rule and reign of a hostile government.
The Christians whom Peter was writing to knew what it felt like to live as the outcasts of society (Heb. 3:7 – 8). They knew what it felt like to endure the abuse of a culture that was bent on evil and they knew what it felt like to live with the fear of falling away from God (Lk. 8:13). They knew what it felt like to experience and to observe the persecution that happens because of their faith (Gal. 4:13 – 14). They knew what it felt like to endure the temptation of sin (Matt. 26:41).2
Even if we can comprehend a little of what I just said (namely that we cannot escape the trials of being outcasts, enduring abuse, fear of falling away, persecution and temptation) it is still hard to wrestle with the fact that as God’s elect, as his chosen and beloved possessions, we will still experience the trials of this life; no one is immune to the pain and suffering of living as sin-infected people in a sin-infected world. In light of all this, Peter wants his listeners to know that: The trials of this life produce a kind of grief that tests your faith and reveals your focus.
1 PETER 1:6 – 9…
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: THE TRIALS OF THIS LIFE PRODUCE A KIND OF GRIEF (V. 6)
Grief is a powerful little emotion. We feel grief when we lose something we treasured. I’m not just talking about the grief we feel when a loved one dies, or our political party doesn’t get ahead, or our best friend betrays us, or our marriage falls apart or our kid rebels.
I’m talking about the kind of grief that sets in when your loss or your disappointment reminds you that you are completely helpless, powerless and vulnerable.
It’s the kind of grief you feel when you realize that you are completely exposed and without any kind of earthly protection, position or power to change your circumstances.3
It is within this kind of grief that Peter says, “in this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (v. 6). This kind of a grief is the kind of grief that is not without hope because it is rooted in the promise of complete restoration in Heaven.
It is the kind of grief that knows that the trials of this life are divinely designed as necessary to make us thirsty for the joy of heaven.4 The trials of this life produce a kind of grief that tests your faith and reveals your focus.
#2: THE TRIALS OF THIS LIFE TEST OUR FAITH (V. 7)
Our faith is only as stable as the object in which it is placed in. I can have all of the belief in the world that a chair will hold me, and I can exert all of the trust I can muster up in that chair but if that chair does not meet or exceed my belief and trust then the object of my faith is weak and therefore my faith is pointless.
The trials of this life have an interesting way of testing the genuineness of what the object of my faith is.
This is why Peter says that trials happen “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” (v. 7).
In other words, if my faith is in Christ Jesus, then when hardship comes and the wind and waves rock the boat of my life, I will remain secure in my obedience to Christ as I live for his glory while praising and honoring him in all that I think, say and do.
Trials are simply the proving ground of our faith that are designed to remove the extracts of this world and make us fit for heaven.5 This is why I say that the trials of this life produce a kind of grief that tests your faith and reveals your focus.
#3: THE TRIALS OF THIS LIFE REVEAL OUR FOCUS (V. 8 – 9)
I said something last week about the power of what can be seen versus the power of the unseen. The reality for all of us, is that we live in a world that is full of powerful visuals. Every day we see images that entice fear, lust, anger, sadness and all sorts of other emotional responders. The problem is that we are conditioned to respond to those images in sinful ways.
What we need is spiritual eyesight. We need the kind of supernatural, Holy Spirit-enabled eyesight that helps us to see into the unseen, so that we can catch a vision of the invisible endgame, so that we can live faithfully in the here-and-now as we endure the trials of this life.
This is why Peter says that “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not 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” (vv. 8 – 9). The trials of this life reveal whether or not you are focused on the visible or the invisible.
The reality is that followers of Jesus refuse to take themselves out of harm’s way because they understand that if they attempt to escape from suffering, then God’s work in them will be left incomplete; salvation’s future inheritance will be gained during this season of present suffering.6
A believer who is focused on Christ, will endure the trials of this life because they love Jesus, they believe in Jesus, they rejoice joyfully in Jesus, and they live to glorify Jesus as they await the final salvation of their souls at the gateway of heaven. This is why I say that the trials of this life produce a kind of grief that tests your faith and reveals your focus.
Even though it is hard to wrestle with the fact that God’s elect, his chosen and beloved possession, will still experience the trials of this life (no one is immune to the pain and suffering of living as sin-infected people in a sin-infected world), the verses we’ve studied today (verses 6 – 9), lend an incredible balance to the Christian’s delightful anticipation of the heaven of verses 3 – 5 and in that broader picture of heaven, we learn that our inheritance will not be won without enduring a myriad of difficulties.7
What is the hardest thing you’ve walked through? What is the biggest trial you’ve faced in your life? Where have you felt the deepest amount of grief lately? What have you been trusting in? What are you focused on?
All the trials of this life are meant to make you ready for heaven. We cannot escape the trials of being outcasts, enduring abuse, fear of falling away, persecution and temptation. But at the foot of the bloody cross, in the doorway of the empty tomb, in light of the hope of eternity, we can live full of joy (inexpressible joy), knowing that the trials of this life produce a kind of grief that tests our faith and reveals our focus.
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).
2 David R. Helm, 1 and 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, ESV Edition, 2008), 38 – 41.
3 Ibid., 43.
4 Ibid., 41 – 42.
6 Ibid., 44.
7 Ibid., 38.