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Rejoicing when there’s nothing to smile about
1 Peter 1:6-9
I love a good question. When I meet new people, I like to ask questions that tell me a lot about them, such as:
“If you could have dinner with any five people still living, who would you invite?”
“What five people who are no longer living would you invite to dinner?”
“Which one would you choose as a friend?”
“Would you accept one million dollars to leave the country and never set foot in it again?”
“If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one ability or quality, what would it be?”
“Is there anyone you envy enough to want to trade lives with them? Who is it?”
“Would you accept twenty years of extraordinary happiness and fulfillment if it meant you would die at the end of that time?”
“If you were at a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner and you found a dead cockroach in the salad, what would you do?”
The best questions are the WHY questions. The bible asks them, Jesus asks them, and WE ask them. One of the difficult why questions we ask, sometimes under our breath, is why does this hurt so bad Lord? Why this trial? Why did this happen to me right now?
What do you have going on in your life right now that is causing you to ask why? It could be about relationships with a spouse, a child or a parent. It could be about hardship over money, a job or health. It could be a trial that hit you hard and suddenly. Whatever it is, Peter is now going to answer your question in 1 Peter 1:6-9.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
Christians react differently than everyone else to trials. Christians can smile when there is nothing to smile about. Genuine believers should be bright on the darkest days. True Christians will rejoice during trials – what does Peter say? We can be . . .
#1 Rejoicing because our future is guaranteed by God
Peter said in verse 6, “In this you greatly rejoice.” “In this” meaning, on the basis of the heavenly guarantee God gives us in verses 1-5, you all can greatly rejoice during trials. Like a mother who says, “The baby overshadows the labor.” A Christian endures trials in this life, knowing that something far better is coming. The journey on earth will be rough, but the destination in heaven will totally overshadow the journey. We can have joy in the midst of the difficult journey here, because at our destination is mind-blowing delight forever. And the “greatly rejoicing” described here is glad celebration; a verbal, physical, rational and emotional expression. It is not subdued, held in check, covered, plugged up or resisted, but expressed celebration of joy – even when you are tested by trial. Even in the midst of the most difficult trials, you can be . . .
#2 Rejoicing because trials are powerful tools in our lives
In the remainder of verse 6 through 7, Peter actually describes the powerful tool that trials are in our lives, when used and guided by the master craftsman Himself – our LORD. Peter actually shares 7 truths about trials we need to know.
1st Rejoicing because trials are temporary. Verse 6, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while.” That describes your entire life on earth: for a little while. Peter reminds us that trials are only temporary – for a little while. Compare 90 years on earth in trials with forever in heaven in total perfection and you will smile, even on dark days.
2nd Rejoicing because trials are necessary. Verse 6, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary.” Literally, in Greek “if necessary” is actually “it is truly necessary.” “You have been distressed by various trials.” You only have trials when it is necessary for God to correct you, grow you, make you more capable to comfort others in their trials, prevent you from sinning, or make you more dependent! And God applies trials to each of us uniquely, everyone of us has our own story, and God’s unique plan for us is distinct from others.
3rd Rejoicing because trials are painful. Verse 6, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.” I love the Navy Seals, especially some of their slogans, such as, “Anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger . . . Pain is weakness leaving the body . . . The only easy day was yesterday.” That is a lot like a Christian’s view of pain – by using the words distressed or grieved, our Father is acknowledging our hurt, but underneath, internally, God also has given us joy and a great awareness of the temporary nature of our trials. Rejoicing in trials comes in spite of our pain, not because of our pain.
Peter’s readers may be in a bad place with their families now, surrounded by hostile people. But they can greatly rejoice because (verses 1-5), they are chosen by God, made alive, with the certain hope of Heaven, guaranteed and protected by God Himself. Friends, trials are painful – never make light of another’s test, or guilt them into smiling while they endure its weight . . . So how do we endure this pain? We keep our eyes on Jesus, like Hebrews 12:2 says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
4th Rejoicing because trials are varied Verse 6, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.” Peter uses the word various or manifold, which literally means variegated or many-colored. Some versions say all kinds, or many. The term various points to an image of a Rembrandt, with all his paints on his palette, choosing just the right blend of colors, applying them with a perfect stroke, to create a masterpiece of us looking more like Christ. God uses trials like an artist–He never wastes paint, He never misses a stroke, and the end result will be Christ formed in you and seen through you. God is using your trials to make you into His masterpiece, one He loves and delights in forever – and that masterpiece is YOU, painted by various many-colored trials to make us look like Christ! James 1:2 also uses the same word various for trials: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.”
Peter uses the same word “various” in 1 Peter 4:10 to describe how God’s grace is also many-colored. As a steward of grace, God has commanded each one of us to serve others in a many colored way. 1 Peter 4:10 “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Each member of the body of Christ is to serve in a special way and when we do, we show off the many-colored, varied grace of God.
Peter’s point at the end of verse 6 is this: there are different kinds of trials for different kinds of people. In the first century, mosaics were many-colored stones placed together to form a picture. And today, there are many different types of trials to form a picture of Christ in us as a body too. Some will suffer for the Lord, others will be persecuted for their faith; all will experience the trials that come from just being alive, merely living on a sin-groaning planet. But it will be just the right trials, applied by the Master Artist, making each of us into the image of His Son.
5th Rejoicing because trials have a purpose Verse 7, which begins with a ‘that’ or ‘so that’: “that the proof of your faith.” This word “that”, the Greek word hina, communicates purpose. Your pain has a purpose, and your distress has a design. What is it? The proof–or literally, the testing of your faith. God brings trials in your life to prove your faith. This is not an unloving act; it is actually a very precious act of God. Often we are in the midst of a trial and we say, “Lord deliver me from this.” But I think the Lord replies, “Why? I gave it to you. You need this; I’m helping you; I’m blessing you, I’m making you what you want more than anything: to be more like Christ!”
It is gracious of God to give you a trial because you will not see things about your life nor develop stronger faith unless you go through this particular trial. Trials clean your spiritual glasses; trials force you to take spiritual inventory; trials show you how little you depend on God; trials expose selfishness and pride in your life you would not see unless God had given you this specific trial. No trial is ever permanent, random, unnecessary, easy, the same or without a purpose!
6th Rejoicing because trials have great value Verse 7, “that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire.” These words all come together in the Greek to give a picture of ancient near-east metallurgy. A priceless picture of God’s use of trials in our lives. Have you ever dreamed of finding gold? Because I dive a lot, I’ve imagined discovering a chest of gold doubloons under water. Then I’d melt it into gold bars, sell it, give the money to my kids, my sending church, then pay half of our future permanent facility. Why half? Because it would be wrong to rob you of the joy of giving the other half. “Gold” means wealth, riches and value.”
Peter says your faith is more precious/valuable than gold! Your faith is tested and proven by the fire of trials, the same way gold is tested. How was gold tested back then? They didn’t have refineries, but they had a melting pot; a hard metal bowl, of varying size, that would be used to melt the gold. Because gold is found naturally in the ground in varying strata, it has impurities in it, earth layers that run through it. So they’d put the gold in the pot and heat the gold until it melted. And because gold is heavier than other minerals and impurities, the gold would go to the bottom, the dross would float on the top, and they would scrape those impurities off the surface of the gold. As they did this the gold would cool a little, so they’d heat it back up again and see if more impurities remained. They’d look for little spots or other items in the gold, and they’d scrape those off the top, repeating this process as many times as necessary until the metallurgist would look at the gold and see his reflection in the surface of the gold, like a mirror. Then he knew the gold was purified, proven and tested.
This is the picture Peter uses of the trials we go through. God is refining us. He’s applying trials like heat into our lives. He does it so impurity will be manifested; we will see our sin – usually sins hidden to others, usually the sins rooted deep inside us, like pride, selfishness, a lack of dependence, an unwillingness to submit, secret rebellion, a bent that wants control, sin we want to keep. The trial will bring us to a point of confession and repentance until God can see the face of Christ in our lives like a mirror. And sadly, I have found in my own life, and I’m sure in your life too, that often it takes more than one trial to deal with a sin. More often, it takes repeated heatings to get all that dross to rise to the surface and conform me to the image of Christ.
If you are in the middle of a trial right now, take it seriously. Examine your life in light of the Word of God, repent of those areas God exposes so you learn God’s lesson. There are some trials that never go away – they are present as a continual reminder of our need for moment by moment dependence, like Paul’s thorn in the flesh – always there to curb our pride. Other times, out of great love for you, God will send another trial your way to keep that refining process hot in your life and your growth strong. Thank Him – for what He is doing now . . . and for what He will do – since trials have value.
7th Rejoicing because enduring trials have future reward Verse 7, “that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This is not praise and honor and glory of Jesus Christ. Do you know what this is? This is praise and honor and glory of Jesus Christ of us–for us–to us. And why does this happen? Because of our refining that has been accomplished through trials. We are rewarded as we endure and grow to be more like Christ. Praise is public approval, it’s the well done good and faithful servant. Glory is becoming more like Christ, and thus greater blessing to us; and honor is reward–most feel it’s some position of distinction. Trials are to bring you to a place of great reward; the Greek indicates that trials literally put you into the sphere of reward. But, it won’t happen today. Peter says it’ll be at the return of Christ – when He comes to judge the lost and reward His children. If you embrace that trials bring reward, they’ll bring you joy. If you don’t understand their purpose, trials will only bring distress – anxiety, pain, depression or discouragement.
Ever tried to do a job but didn’t have the right tools? You can’t do it. But with the right tool, the job is a snap. God is building your life; the Lord is shaping you into His image and trials are the right tools, the necessary tools to get the job done. Got family coming for the holidays? Trial tool!Some trials are screwdrivers, just a little twist is all it takes. Some trials are power tools. Visiting relatives are the table saw in God’s hands to do some major cutting in your life. Trials come from circumstances like money, health, school work, the flu, house or budget. Often trials also come from people, like a spouse, parents, children, friends, a boyfriend, a neighbor, relative or member of your lay staff, or brother or sister in Christ, someone you care about–but they are a trial! Just remember, God is not punishing you – He already punished His Son in your place, that was sufficient, it was enough! You don’t need to beat yourself or others up; it is finished. God is refining you – ask what sin does this trial bring to the surface of my life, so that God can now refine it out of my life. Then ask the Lord to give you grace so at the end of the trial, you will hear from Him, well done good and faithful servant.
So verse 6, the readers of 1 Peter were greatly rejoicing over their trials because they are temporary, intentional, necessary, difficult, varied, purposeful, valuable and rewardable. And the Lord is so encouraging; He wants us to know we can be . . .
#3 Rejoicing because Christ is present in our trials
Verse 8 is a sweet verse of Scripture: “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” The Him here is speaking of Christ mentioned at the end of verse 7, and Peter reminds these believers and us today that even though you have not seen Christ physically with our eyes–you love Him. Peter may be reminding them that He, Peter in fact, had seen Christ, and He’s marveling at their love for Him whom they have not seen. You have not seen Him, but you love Him! Why? The Bible says, You love Him because . . . He first loved you . . . He chose you . . . of what He did for you on the cross . . . you were dead and He made you alive.
We love Christ even though we don’t see Him because Romans 5:5 says, “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Don’t pray for more love, pray to show the love you already have! What is love? Sacrificial action for the benefit of another – love! Genuine Christians sacrifice themselves . . . for their spouses in marriage . . . for their children in discipleship . . . for the church family in ministry . . . for the lost in evangelism. Let’s be honest – you are not very good at loving the way you ought to love. Some of you have not yet learned the importance of placing yourself in certain commitments that force you to show God’s love faithfully–a date night with your spouse, scheduling time with each child, faithful weekly ministry, and intentionally sacrificing for the lost around you in order to share Christ. All of us struggle with catching those random moments to show Christ’s love through sacrifice, we miss them, so we need to plan regular expressions of sacrifice or we will not be loving CHRIST very well. Love is so important, that to not love Christ is dangerous. 1 Corinthians 16:22 says, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed.”
So, how do you start? Peter has already told you in verses 1-5–every day go back to the cross, understand what God did for you. God so loved you He sent His Son–we love Him because He first loved us. While you were yet sinners, Christ died for you. Then commit to love in the ways God commands you to, in those relationships God wants you to–your marriage, your children, your church and this lost world of people.
True Christians love Christ whom they’ve never seen – verse 8 continues, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him.” Love and belief go together . . . if you love Christ you will believe Him and if you believe in Christ you will love Him. Peter says, though you do not see Him now – which is what Peter and His readers have in common–we don’t see Him now, but we have faith. Faith is relying on something or someone no one can see. Do you believe Christ? When His Word commands you to dependently obey, do you? When His Word comforts you, do you trust? When His Word promises you, do you hope? When His Word guides you, do you follow? “Though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him.” Genuine Christians believe Christ, that’s why you are called “believers”. And believers don’t live by what they feel, or by what they think, but believers live by what they know. And only God’s Word is what we know! Not our preferences, ideas or traditions but by truth. Animals live by instinct, people live by emotions, but Christians live by truth. We follow God’s Word as if Jesus were physically next to us and telling us what is best to think, feel and do through His Word.
Will you admit that you are not very good at living by faith, at believing Christ’s Word, especially through trials? Yet every true Christian in this room wants to believe Christ, so act like it! Would you agree our hearts are wicked and we often deceive ourselves? Because there are times when traveling on vacation, we have to miss gathering for church, we turn those unavoidable times into a license to miss church when we’re too tired, or to attend a sporting event, or we have a week off of ministry. Then we find ourselves regularly excusing our disobedience to God’s clear command to gather together in Hebrews 10:24-25. Because there are times when we can’t serve others when we’ve just had a baby or our child is sick, we turn that into a license to never serve in faithful ministry to the church, and excuse our disobedience to God’s clear command for every Christian, male and female, to use their giftedness in the church family in 1 Peter 4:10-11. Some excuse their disobedience by saying, “My family is my ministry,” when God says your ministry is to use your giftedness within the local church body. Do you believe God? When His Word commands you to obey, do you?
Peter continues, “You greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Again, “greatly rejoice” is the same word used in verse 6, the same kind of rejoicing–you jump up and down with great emotion! With joy unspeakable your heart is so full of love–it grows so big that it actually plugs up your throat so you can’t even speak! Because your heart is so huge with love . . . I love you . . .Jesus . . . I . . . (choke) . . . (gag). I can’t say it but I have to . . . Have you ever been that full of joy–you couldn’t express it? How about during a trial? That’s God’s point here.
Verse 8 “And you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Full of glory means Christ will show Himself in ways you’d never see nor understand except through this specific trial. Full of glory means your love is centered on Him and is consistent with His character, His desires, His affections and His will. Full of glory means in the midst of your trial, you express the highest praise–the love of Christ has so filled your heart, that God’s character in you shows through you in amazing ways. Why all this talk of loving and believing the unseen Christ? The context is suffering and trials. Peter is clearly reminding us in the midst of trials, that Christ who we love, is intimately with us. You may feel alone, you may think self pity, but you know . . . Hebrews 13:5b “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”
Peter affirms these Christians who are starting over in a hostile land, surrounded by suspicious people, for rejoicing greatly! They are celebrating in joy during their many trials because God is using those trials like tools, and they have the loving presence of Christ with them through faith. Don’t allow anyone or anything steal your joy–no matter if everyone else is singing half-heartedly, you sing with your whole heart. If everyone else is filling in notes mindlessly, you engage. If others serve routinely, you serve with enthusiasm. Did you know the word enthusiasm comes from two greek words, en and theos – in God. When you’re in God, you’re enthusiastic. I am not encouraging you to do anything in worship you don’t want to do, but I just wonder sometimes how we can sing with little emotion and no heart. If Christ were here physically, and we were singing His praise, would you hold back? Yes or no? Then love and live by faith! We can smile on the darkest day, because Christ is with us.
#4 Rejoicing because faithfulness in trials proves our final salvation
Verse 9, “Obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” Salvation is goal-oriented. Faith has an outcome. Your soul will be saved and you will find yourself standing in heaven, and what a day that will be! The word obtain is receive pay. The outcome of proven faith through trials is ultimate salvation. This verse is speaking of our final salvation, not merely salvation from the penalty of sin which we have in Christ. Not merely salvation from the power of sin which we currently have through the indwelling Holy Spirit. But verse 9 speaks of our final salvation from the very presence of sin forever.
Peter says when your faith is tried and proven, the result is the final and complete deliverance of our entire being, spirit and body, our eternal soul forever with Christ in heaven in perfection. Does heaven bring you joy? Does the inevitability of death bring fear, a smile, or anticipation? A pastor friend of mine had a blood clot and almost died. He was visited by some fellow pastors the next morning. When he saw them he said “Hi,” with disappointment in his voice, and told them he was having a rough morning. They asked why, and he said, “Because I thought for sure I was going to heaven yesterday, but this morning I woke up and you’re here . . . which means I’m still here.” The thought of heaven should bring you joy and anticipation. We should be rejoicing because our future is guaranteed, trials are powerful tools God uses in our lives, Christ is present with us through our trials. Faithfulness in trials proves we are someday going home to be with Christ forever in perfect joy and delight.
So, among all these other truths, here are some final charges . . .
1 As you wait, keep your focus on your heavenly home
Colossians 3:1, “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is.” Keep your focus on your eternal home. The truth of heaven is more powerful than the stress of trials. The truth of heaven is more powerful than the distress of your loneliness, your lack of a boyfriend, your marriage, your wayward child, grades, family, your current trial.
2 Live by truth, but show your joy
If you ever hope to be a witness to this world, then rejoice during your trials. And if you ever want to motivate your children or other Christians, it will be as you show your joy–you motivate people more with joy and delight than you do rebuke or correction.
3 Trials demonstrate who you really are
In the parable of the soils, Jesus actually says that the gospel sown in some hearts is rocky soil, so when trials hit their lives, they walk away from Christ, showing they were not saved in the first place. Trials prove a lack of genuine faith–are you saved? For the Christian, trials discipline us, keep us from sin, and equip us to care for others in ways we could not without those trials.
Loving Christ means you will intentionally love others
1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Stop coming to and leaving church as if loving others was a matter of convenience or an option. No, love is the fruit of the Spirit. Love is the greatest commandment, lack of love is anathema, and without love you are just a big noise. This church loves, but we need to excel still more, to the stranger, to all. Do not wait for love to happen, Christ didn’t–intentionally choose to love others, find people to love, be obedient and love!
Turn to 1 Peter 5:6-11 and see how Peter describes suffering later. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, [God is in charge, it is His mighty hand that controls suffering and trials] 7 casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. [You’re not the only one.] 10 And 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/complete, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Some, like the disciple Thomas, need to see and touch Jesus in order to believe. But those who have been born again do not! Remember this conversation in John 20? “26 And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27 Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.’ 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29 Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.'” Anyone in this room seen the risen Savior? Yet you are blessed!