Have you ever suffered specifically because you are a Christian? I don’t know that I have, at least not in ways that would be considered significant suffering, or suffering that led to bodily harm or loss of opportunity or privilege. Yesterday, I related a story from author Scot McKnight who counseled a teenager who did face discrimination and suffering because that young man began to follow the way of Jesus.
But maybe you have faced suffering for being a Christian.
So how do we have the right perspective about this suffering for Christ? That is a huge reason Peter is writing the letter of 1st Peter, which we have been studying for a few weeks now. If the Christians don’t have the right perspective about their suffering, they could easily say “Forget this. If this is what I get for following Jesus, I’m done.” And they could give up. So Peter gives them numerous reasons for looking at their suffering. Let’s continue looking at 1 Peter 1:6-12 to see what Peter has to say.
First, Peter says that they need to remember that suffering is for, “a little while”, and contrast that with our inheritance in heaven, which is eternal. For those that suffer for Christ, that is one way they can have a healthy perspective on their suffering. Suffering won’t last forever. But heaven will.
When you are in the midst of suffering for Christ, it can seem like it will last forever. That’s how it is for anything difficult we go through, right? Not just suffering for Christ, but any suffering. There seems to be no end in sight. I can think like that when I am struggling. It’s called worst-case scenario thinking. Peter says, “Time out on that thinking. Your trial is only for a little while.”
Second, he says greatly rejoice. Greatly rejoice? In what? We greatly rejoice in the hope we have, Peter says. Remember that Peter talked about hope in verses 3-5 which we studied last week? Even though we are currently in the midst of trials, we have hope of our inheritance in heaven.
Because we have hope, we can rejoice in the midst of trials.
I don’t want to hear that. I want God to take the trials away. I don’t any of this business of rejoicing in the midst of trials. I’ll rejoice after the trial is done. Anyone else with me?
But that’s not what Peter says. He say that because we have hope, we can rejoice while we are still in the middle of the trial.
Third, he says trials are the good stuff in life. Ugh. More words I don’t want to hear. Trials are the good stuff? I’m not sure I agree. But let’s at least try. Peter doesn’t use those actual words. “Trials are the good stuff” is my paraphrase. Look at what he says in verses 7-9, “Trials have come so that faith may be proved genuine.”
Here he uses an analogy, a comparison to gold. Faith is of greater worth than gold (because gold perishes in fire). That might be a shocker. Faith is greater worth than gold? I can very, very easily want gold. Money. I can believe that money will take care of me.
My prayer often goes like this. “Lord, if you just drop $10,000 in my lap…well…better make it $20 grand…then my life will be so much easier. Now that I think of it, can it be $30 grand? That would really do the trick.”
I think about how much we can be tempted to value huge sums of money. We can be tempted to think that money is the solution to our problems in life. And no doubt, we need to pay the bills and provide food and shelter. Money is necessary. But it is so tempting to think money can care for us in the hard times of life.
So when Peter teaches that faith is of greater worth than gold, we can wonder if Peter is nuts!
When the hard times come, especially the financial hard times, will we believe what Peter is teaching?
He is convinced, and he wants us to agree, that our faith in Christ is worth more than gold. Therefore he wants our faith to be proved genuine. Peter knows that when we are persecuted for our faith, we can turn back on our faith. During those hard times, it is our faith that is causing hardship to enter our lives. Get rid of the faith, and hardship goes away. That is tempting.
But Peter says, don’t do that. Keep the faith, pursue your faith, grow your faith. And what you will find is that keeping your faith in the midst of trials will bring you joy and maturity that you will value far more than gold.
Finally your faithfulness will result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed some day in the future, either when you pass on or when he returns.
The point that Peter is trying to make here is that Christians view and respond to suffering differently from the rest of the world. When we are persecuted, we respond with joy because God has not left us. We are not alone. We can keep the faith and actually grow in him!