The Christian life is not easy. If we were sitting in a room together and I said out loud, “The Christian life is not easy“, you would have all responded with a resounding, “Yes!“.
It all starts out well enough. There is that sweet communion we enjoy with God when we first believed. The zeal we have for God burns brightly. But then trouble comes. Soon, the threat to our communion and zeal shows itself.
Suddenly we’re faced with opposition from many, even from those whom we considered close to us. Our newfound faith does not agree with them. They don’t like the idea of Jesus being the only way, they don’t understand the holy desires we have for the Bible, for prayer, and for fellowship with other believers. Many a time, they vehemently oppose everything we stand for.
In other times, it’s unexplainable suffering and loss. There’s sickness that ambushes us, there’s the loss of basic needs and income, and then there’s the painful death of loved ones. We are usually blindsided and thrown off the normal course of life by such unfavorable circumstances.
Or, we’re facing an onslaught of sin and temptation. The zeal that once burned so bright is now a pitiful ember. A heart that was once burning hot for the Lord is now languishing in coldness.
A Common Experience
Why is this the common experience for all of us? And not only for us but for all those Christians throughout history?
Peter gives an answer in his first letter. He calls the recipients of his letter as exiles or sojourners in this world. The world they lived in was not their real home, but they were on a journey, a beautiful and painful journey towards their true home where Jesus Christ is. If they were at home, they would have felt at home, but they didn’t and they were are not at home. Hence the opposition, hence the suffering, hence the battle against sin.
If there were any of group of Christians who were suffering heavily, it would be those Christians who Peter was writing to. They were grieved by “various trials” as Peter wrote. They faced trials at work, with the government, in their marriages and with their peers.
However, in-spite of all the suffering, Peter said that it was having a profound effect on their faith. There was a purpose to it all. On the one hand, they were not to be surprised by suffering because Jesus Christ also suffered. His followers were also to suffer as a consequence. But it wasn’t all in vain.
Look at what 1 Peter 1:6-7 says:
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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.“
What does Peter say is the reason for them to go through various trials? So that the genuineness of their faith may be proven and secondly this genuine faith will ultimately bring glory to Jesus Christ on His return.
But why is that so great? Why should I find encouragement in these things?
Here’s what I think:
1) Tested Genuineness
God uses suffering to separate the true believer from the false believer. The true believer endures the suffering and comes out still clinging on to God, while the false believer falls away and denies his previously held beliefs.
That’s one thing. Why is it important for you and me to know that our faith is real? Because one of the greatest struggles we face is doubting our faith. How many of us can say we haven’t doubted our faith? Many of us have probably doubted countless times. But when you go through trials, when you go through suffering, and you can say, “Hey, I’m still here. I’m still trusting God.“, that is a sign of the genuineness of your faith.
What faith is this? Faith in the Son of God, who before the making of the world, set His love upon you and me to make us His own, and went to hell and back to secure our entry into His family. All of these plans were set in motion and we were completely oblivious to its workings.
We should make it an effort to marvel at what God has done for us, and we should be glad that our faith in this God is real.
2) Praise, Glory and Honor
The end goal of this faith is to show the excellencies of the God who saved us. In the moments when our mind is at its sanest, when it’s not bogged down by sin and guilt, we want to worship and honor God. That is the desire of a true believer. We want God to be magnified, He must become greater and I must become less.
Imagine then, that our faith, which is being refined by suffering, will be one of the loudest songs of worship when Jesus returns. The very things we desire, that is, to praise, honor and glorify God is what our faith will do.
Keeping this in mind, our faith is indeed more precious than gold.
In This You Rejoice
All this talk about faith comes by virtue of those Christians clinging on to something, rather, on to Someone.
If you read from verses 3 to 5, it says
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
When verse 6 says, “In this you rejoice“, what do they rejoice in? They rejoiced in the God who caused them to be born again. Think of those two words, born again. Born Again. It signifies a change, a chance to live a new life, because the old life is futile, leading to death. The new life is actually life, but a life we couldn’t attain on our own, since we were dead. But He caused us to be born again.
On what basis did He cause this to happen? Simply because of His mercy. Not because of our qualities or lack of it, but simply of His own volition.
Finally, we who are exiles and sojourners, seemingly helpless and foolish, are being guarded by God Himself, till we reach heaven.
Read verse 25 from chapter 2, “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.“
What does “Overseer” mean? The Greek word denotes it as someone who “keeps a close eye on“. How comforting it is to know that the one who is guarding me is also lovingly keeping a close eye on me.
As suffering Christians, let us hope in the God who already went before us and suffered, and who awaits us in heaven, not as a detached deity, but as a God who walks closely with us.
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