“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
As we hold on to the hope of our faith we are called upon to endure trials. We live in a world that has been cursed by sin. Therefore, as believers in Christ, we will suffer in this life and we will face persecution. As we examine this passage, there are five things that we see in relation to the trials that we must endure.
Joy in the trials. Verse six tells us that we greatly rejoice even though we may have to suffer for a season. This joy that we have comes from the hope of our faith. Knowing we have an inheritance to look forward to and knowing we serve a risen Savior, brings a joy that is beyond anything imaginable. Therefore, even though we suffer in this life and even though we are faced with persecution, we can still have a life of joy. As believers in Christ we have much to rejoice about. When you think of all that God has done for us and all that He has promised to us; it naturally brings a sense of joy and an attitude of rejoicing.
Growth through the trials. As we go through the trials of this life, our faith is made stronger. Great spiritual growth takes place during times of suffering and persecution. The analogy is given of gold put into fire in order to improve its qualities and take away its blemishes. Peter mentioned in verse six that we will go through trials for a season ‘if need be.’ Moving from that thought to the analogy of gold being tried with fire we find that in the great sovereignty of God, He will allow the believer to suffer for the purpose of being purified. Think about it. Do you know of any believer that is perfect? Can you name one person that has absolutely no spiritual and moral blemishes? Do you know any believers that do not have any need to improve? The Bible seems to indicate that one of the evidences of faith in Christ is the suffering that we endure. A believer in Christ will suffer in this life. Why do we suffer? Because we do not belong here. This world is not our home. Just as this world hates Jesus, so do they hate us. God will thus use the persecutions and trials of our faith in order to purify us and to perfect us in order that we may be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. Going through trials is a part of our sanctification. As we are tried in the fire of trials and persecution, God is making us to be just like Jesus so that we may share in His glory. God is perfecting His saints in preparation for the soon return of Jesus. Therefore, when we go through a trial we can take comfort in the fact that God is simply cleansing us and preparing us for the soon return of Christ.
Now, is God the inflictor of suffering upon His children? No. God does inflict this world with His wrath because of the curse of sin. However, He does not inflict suffering upon those who trust in Him. However, since we live in a world cursed by sin, we are susceptible to all types of suffering including and especially persecution. Does God remove the suffering and persecution? No. Why? Because it is in the suffering and persecution that our faith is made stronger. For example, if a terrorist storms into your church and kills a few people and takes you captive, could God stop the bullets and intervene? Yes, He most certainly could. However, in most cases, He will not. Why? Because He knows that in allowing you to go through such a horrible ordeal, your faith will be made stronger. Therefore, He chooses to simply not intervene for your own good. God is not the one that pulls the trigger of the terrorist’s gun or waves his sword. However, He may step back and not intervene in order for the strengthening of our faith, for the furtherance of the Gospel, and for His ultimate glory. The same is true with all types of suffering. God does not purposefully take a disease like cancer and place it into the body of a believer. However, as a cancer grows in the body of a believer, He may simply choose to step aside and allow the disease to take its course in order that faith may grow. Think about it. When we go through a time of suffering, relationships grow stronger. You are closest to the people that you have suffered with. Hard times have a tendency to bring people closer together. God desires that we are close to Him. God is working to make our relationship with Him stronger the closer we get to the return of Christ. Could God intervene and remove all suffering in this life? Yes. However, because He loves us, He does not remove all the suffering, because the suffering draws us closer to Himself. Therefore, though God may not be the inflictor of suffering on the life of a believer, He is the sustainer and the healer for the believer who may be suffering. As believers, we should rejoice in the midst of the trials, because it is in those trials that we are made to be more like Jesus.
Glory from the trials. In the later part of verse seven we find that the trials of our faith that strengthens our relationship with the Lord results in honor and glory. Christ is glorified in our suffering. At the appearing of Jesus we will be ready to see Him, because of the growth of our faith which we have received through suffering. Therefore, there is glory that comes through trials. It is a glorious thing because Christ also suffered. In our suffering, we are identifying with Christ. Just as we share in the sufferings of Jesus, we will one day share in His glory.
Love embracing the trials. Verse eight speaks of our love for Christ. We have not seen Him with our physical eyes, yet we love Him. Why do we love Him? Because He first loved us. Because He rescued us from the penalty of sin and He is sustaining us by His blood. Loving Jesus brings an incomparable joy. Such a love for Christ gives us the courage to embrace trials. As Christians, we should not run from trials or fear trials. Instead, we should embrace whatever trial that comes, because those trials strengthen our faith and brings us closer to Jesus. When you love someone, you want to be near them. The thing that brings us near to Jesus in this life is suffering. Therefore, when trials and persecution come we embrace it. We do not have to enjoy it. We do not need to be thankful for it. We must simply embrace it for what it is, knowing that it will bring us ever so close to the Savior whom we love.
Salvation after the trials. In verse nine we find that the trials that come points us to the end of our salvation. In other words, as persecution and trials in the lives of believers increase around the world, we can take comfort in the fact that our final redemption is near. This brings great comfort to those who are suffering.
Persecution and trials are not fun to talk about. Pain and suffering is not something we enjoy. However, it brings great joy. Trials strengthen our faith and allows us to share in the glory of Christ. We can embrace these trials because of our love for Him. Great comfort is given in knowing that as trials increase, we are that much closer to the return of Christ. So, embrace the trial and gain all you can from it so that you may be closer to your Savior.