One very essential characteristic of the Christian life is joy. Paul tells us that we should “rejoice in the Lord always.” (Philippians 4:4) But this is not any kind of joy. It is a joy characterised by praising God. God has given us so much cause for praise and optimistic rejoicing. We should therefore be able to praise God no matter what circumstances we face.
I’m sure that all of us are aware of that and we all want to do that very much. But we all know also that it is easier said than done. Can you say that during the past week your life has been characterised by sincere and heartfelt praise to God? Were you always rejoicing in the Lord in your heart?
When God provides good things for us, it is easy to praise Him. But when things go against us and we have to struggle and endure hardship, it becomes very hard to praise Him. All of us who belong to Christ will have our share of trials. As long as we live in this fallen and sinful world, in bodies that are still corrupt and subject to the curse of original sin; we will always have to contend with changes, setbacks, dis-appointments, and difficulties from our circumstances. Our faith is challenged by these things. We, therefore, need to learn how to rejoice in times of trials and testing.
What was it that enabled the early Christians to rejoice when they were going through trials that were much worse than ours? One person who could do this was the apostle Peter. He rejoiced that he was counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name when he and the other apostles were arrested, imprisoned and beaten (Acts 5:41). When Peter was imprisoned and awaiting execution, he was found sleeping peacefully when an angel came to deliver him (Acts 12:6). How was he able to do that?
In the two epistles that Peter wrote, one important concept stands out: Faith in the midst of trial and suffering. He was greatly concerned that believers should apply their faith in God well during times of trial and suffering. When faith is properly applied, believers will not only find peace and comfort in the midst of trial but even great rejoicing!
How is this possible? How can we find cause for rejoicing when things are not going well for us? From God’s Word in 1 Peter 1:3-9, we learn that we can do this when we apply our faith in three ways.
The Power of God to Keep Us
There are times when we are afraid that something will go wrong in our lives. We become worried and insecure because we feel threatened by the circumstances we are in. We need to be convinced that our God is the Omnipotent God who has the power to keep us. This fact is expressed in 1 Peter 1:3-5. And in v.6 Peter says, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice.” This means that all that was said in vv.3-5 is meant to make us rejoice.
In v.3 we see that this divine keeping originates in God’s mercy. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again….” God’s mercy to us is described here as being abundant, i.e. it is so great in the extent that it actually overflows. The same sentiments are expressed in Psalm 103:11, “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear him.” God’s mercy has no limit.
The same thing is true about God’s power. There is no limit to it. And it is by this unlimited power of God that we are kept, according to v.5 – “…who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” By this power, we are kept from falling till we are presented faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24). This power keeps us walking in the paths of righteousness, and never fails to chastise us when we go astray. And it will not rest until we have reached that salvation which is ready to be revealed at the last time (v.5).
Therefore, we can rest with full assurance that we will be kept by Him through all circumstances of life. His abundant mercy and His unlimited power will see to that! Why should we be anxious about what can happen to us, or about what the final outcome of our trials will be? God will surely keep us. That final outcome of our lives is already fully settled, confirmed and assured for us. In fact, Peter says in v.4 that the inheritance God has for each of us has already been reserved in heaven for us. It is already there, just waiting to be revealed the last time.
Grasp this truth firmly in your heart and mind, and then you will be able to persevere through every trial you face.
The Purpose of God to Try Us
This purpose is stated in 1 Peter 1:7 – “That the trial of your faith, bring 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.”
Our trials have been deliberately placed and carefully positioned in our lives by God for our own benefit. This helps to answer the question that is usually uppermost in our minds when we are in the midst of them, “Why must this happen to me, Lord? Why must it be so painful?”
The answer comes from the refining process of gold. It is an analogy of the purifying of our faith. The faith that we have now is like raw gold ore that has just been dug out from a gold mine. There are three stages in the whole refining process. The first stage is to separate the gold ore from sand and gravel by using flowing water. The sand and gravel get washed away, while the gold ore, which is heavier, sinks and remains.
In the second stage, mercury is added to the gold ore. This liquid metal combines immediately with the gold and makes it very brittle so that it can easily be separated from other materials. In the final stage, the gold ore is placed into a crucible and subjected to intense heat, so that it melts into molten gold. This vaporises away the mercury that was added in the second stage and also burns away any remaining impurities. The end result of all this is pure gold, which is both beautiful and precious.
While gold is the most precious metal to man, faith is even more precious than gold. Our faith also needs to be refined like gold. This refining takes place as we go through the various phases of trials in our lives. Some trials we face can be likened to being flooded with unceasing streams of water that washes away the sins of fear and doubt from our lives.
Other trials may be likened to having burdens added to us till we become aware of how weak and brittle we are, and learn to rely totally on the Lord for strength and provision. The trials that we dread the most may be likened to being in a fire. Although going through them is painful and most distressing to us, they are often the most effective to purify our faith in the Lord until it reaches its best form, a form that is many times more precious than the purest gold.
Whenever you go through difficult trials, please understand that God will use them to accomplish His mighty work in your life. By putting you through them, He refines you. Your faith matures. You become more like Christ. You develop more virtues. You become less and less dependent upon yourself and more dependent upon God. Through trials, you become better than what you were before.
And because of that, you ought to endure them patiently and willingly. You endure them with understanding and with trust in God who lovingly brought these trials into your life. And you can trust that being the expert refiner that He is, the Lord knows exactly how many trials you can bear, and He will not allow you to suffer more than you can bear. Your trials will not go on and on without end.
Verse 6 tells us that we are in heaviness through manifold temptations for a season. How long is a season? Not long at all. It is an old English word for a short length of time. When we are actually going through a trial it seems as if there is no end to it. Time seems to go by at a dreadfully slow pace when we are suffering. But take heart. It will soon come to an end, and we can look forward to its end. And when it is all over, we will be able to look back and see that something good has come out of it.
The Promise of God to Reward Us
In verse 7, Peter turns our attention away from the painful experience of trials and tells us to look forward instead, to the praise, honour and glory that will accompany the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just the thought that we will see Christ one day can fill our hearts with joy and make our trials so much easier to bear. This joy is described in v.8 as joy unspeakable and full of glory. As Esther Kerr, an American composer once wrote:
“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ!
One glimpse of His dear face, All sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race, till we see Christ!”
Imagine yourself on the day of Christ’s return, beholding the face of your beloved Saviour. What will it be like to meet with the Lord who had given His own life to redeem you? What will it be like when you receive the crowning object of your faith, which is the bliss of eternal life with Christ in heaven?
If this is the final outcome of your trials, then every effort that you make now to persevere through them is more than worthwhile. The joy and wonder of that blessed encounter with Christ will far exceed all the suffering you have endured in this life.
May the Lord help us to rejoice in the midst of trials by applying our faith in the power of God to keep us, the purpose of God to try us, and the promise of God to reward us.