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Suffering and Hope: 1 Peter Three


“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” –1 Peter 1:6-7 (NLT)

The theme of Peter’s letter is suffering and hope and throughout its verses he informs his audience how to hold those two in tension. His opening paragraph has reminded readers that whatever we face in life begins with Christ, specifically the salvation that he has provided. Whatever we face must be viewed through the lens of the cross, not vice versa.

In verses 6 and 7, Peter gets into the subject of trials. A textbook definition of the word trial would be “subjection to suffering or grievous experiences, a distressed or painful state; an affliction or trouble.” We don’t really need a better definition of the word trial. We already know the word quite well from life experience. The Christian distinctive, however, helps us to see the purposes that trials serve in our lives. This is where Peter invests his energy. Here are some purposes that I see that trials serve in the life of a Christian:

1. Trials reveal authenticity
Last week when I was preparing my sermon on Paul’s thorn in the flesh, I came across a line I had written in the margin of my Bible. I have to confess that I don’t recall if it came from a sermon I heard or from a book that I read. But I thought it was powerful. It said, “Vision makes leaders passionate, and thorn keep leaders authentic.”
There is something about suffering that helps peel away the thin veneer of life that we like to hide behind. Trials do produce some positive outcomes in our lives. But as a point of departure, trials reveal what’s already there.

2. Trials reveal the existence of faith
Peter’s readers were suffering because they were Christians. They endured many things simply because of their faith. There is a sense in which all of us suffer because we live in a fallen world. But there are also elements of suffering that are particular and unique to those who are Christians. Persecution is a clear example of that. God’s loving discipline is another. Everyone suffers at some point in time. Christians are called to suffer in unique ways above and beyond that.

3. Trials Develop Humility
Suffering works to produce and develop humility in our lives. They cause us to realize that we are not in control and us that we can’t fix every challenge of life. We are God dependent. We learn to rely on God’s help through others. We are not “large and in charge.” We are reliant and desperate at best. Humility teaches us that we don’t have it all figured out and that our true significance comes from God alone.

4. Trials Produce Holiness
Whenever we suffer we are invited to take inventory of our lives. We pray the words of Psalm 139:23-24, and invite God to search our hearts to “point out anything that offends (Him).” Suffering will naturally incline our hearts to walk with God. He is holy, and those who walk with him will be holy. One of the biggest battles that rage in our lives is the battle of duplicity. Those trials we experience remind us that we cannot live with one foot in each world. We must be firmly planted in God’s kingdom with both feet.

5. Trials Increase our Faith
In verse 8, Peter continues, “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”
Trials invite us to higher levels of faith. God allows us to undergo those painful experiences to prove that he is trustworthy. If we address our trials properly, God becomes larger in our lives, not smaller.

Categories : 1 Peter, Hope, Suffering

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