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Joy In Trials

If you have your Bibles with you, I would invite you to turn with me to 1 Peter chapter 1. For the next little while, we are going to working our way through this book (the book of 1 Peter) – looking to see what God has to say to us today through this letter written nearly 2000 years ago.

And perhaps before we dive in, I should give you a bit of the background to this letter.

As you might have guessed, this letter was written by the Apostle Peter and it was written to a group of people who, according to the first lines of Peter’s letter, were scattered throughout the Roman provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia – and in case you don’t know have any idea where those places are, those are all provinces that would all be in modern-day Turkey today.

Peter refers to these folks as “God’s elect” or “God chosen people” who are living in exile (or are living as foreigners) in these provinces. And there’s two main theories as to who exactly these people are. Some scholars believe that these are the Jewish Christians that fled from persecution in Jerusalem. You’ll remember that right after Stephan was stoned, there was a great persecution that broke out in and around Jerusalem and Saul (before he become Paul) was right in the middle of that. But it says in Acts 11:19…

“Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria.” Acts 11:19 NLT

And if you look at a map, you see that Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria are all in the approximate same direction as the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. So it’s not hard to imagine that many of these Jewish Christians would have continued on – moving out even further from Jerusalem and eventually ending up in these provinces.

That’s why many scholars believe that Peter is writing to these Christians – exiled from their homes around Jerusalem because of the persecution – now living in these different provinces.

The other theory is that Peter is writing to Gentile Christians – not literally exiled from their homes, but living as “foreigners” simply because they are Christians. One of the themes that often comes up in Peter’s letters and Paul’s letters and through the New Testament is that, as Christians, this world is not our home. In fact, Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:20…

“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” Philippians 3:20 NLT

So, if we are citizens of heaven, then that means we are foreigners here on earth. It’s quite possible that Peter is referring to that kind of exile – where as Christians, we are very much foreigners in the world around us.

We have different values, we have a different king, we have different practices, we have a different moral code live by. And because of that, we are often misunderstood, we’re ostracized and excluded, pushed to the outskirts of society, sometimes even physically persecuted.

And I kinda think that’s the kind of exile that Peter has in mind when he writes this letter. He’s writing to Christians that are living in an increasingly hostile world. In fact, within a few years of writing this letter, Peter himself is martyred for his faith. He is killed for being a Christian. So there is certainly a growing animosity towards Christians at this time. And so many scholars believe that Peter is writing this letter to Christians in general as exiles in this world.

But either way, whether Peter is writing to Jewish Christians exiled from Jerusalem or gentile Christians living as exiles in this world, either way – Peter is is writing to encourage them in their ‘state of exile’. He’s writing to remind them of the hope and the joy they can have through Jesus – despite the hardships and suffering that they were going through.

And that’s one of the reasons why I’m excited to go through this book with you – because I think we have a lot in common with Peter’s audience. 

We too, are exiles in this world. We live in a world where our values, our beliefs, our decisions not to support or particulate in sin causes the world to reject us. They see us as misfits at best. Christians today are often seen as intolerant & hateful – we’re backwards thinkers – some would go so far as to say we are harmful to society because of our beliefs.

And more and more, as western society moves further away from the truths and the values of God’s Word, more and more, Christians are going to feel alienated and exiled. We’re not yet at the point where we’re being thrown into prison or being killed for our faith… at least to yet. Although that is happening in other parts of the world right now, so it’s not hard to imagine that kind of reality could happen here even in our lifetime.

But even putting persecution aside, there’s still the issue of struggles and trials and hardships and suffering that we all go through. Peter’s writing to people who are going through some hard stuff in life – and I’m sure they were wondering why God would let such things happen to them.

How was it part of God’s good plan that they go through such suffering? How can they believe that God truly loves them when they had to go through such difficulties in life?

Those kind of questions are not unique to Christians 2000 years ago – I think we ask a lot of those same questions.

We experience suffering. We experience hard things in life. We experience hurt. How is that part of God’s good plan for us?

Well, that’s exactly why Peter wrote this letter – to answer some of those hard questions. To give those Christians (and us) encouragement and hope – even in the midst of trials and pain and suffering. Peter shows us how to live as exiles in this world – filled with the hope and the joy of Jesus Christ!

So as I said, I’m really excited to go though this book with you. I think it’s going to be incredibly applicable to all of us.

So now that we have a basic understanding of what 1 Peter is all about, let’s start by just reading through the first 12 verses. We’ll break it down into smaller pieces afterwards, but I think it would be good to see how it all flows together at first. It begins like this in 1 Peter chapter 1, verse 1.

 This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.

I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 2 God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

May God give you more and more grace and peace.

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 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.

8 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. 9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

10 This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.

12 They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.

1 Peter 1:1-12

And we’ll pause here for today. Already you can sense the joy and the excitement that Peter is conveying to these Christians! He talks about a “great expectation” of “a priceless inheritance”  – he talks about “wonderful joy” – even “inexpressible joy”. It’s so wonderful that even the angels are excited about it! 

It is pretty clear that Peter is not throwing a pity-party for these suffering Christians – as you might expect.  There’s no “I’m so sorry for you guys – it must be terrible for you to go through all that… I wish there was something I could do…” No, in Peter’s mind – this is awesome! There is something incredible going on.

So what does Peter see that maybe we don’t?

One of the first things Peter does in this letter is that he reminds these Christians that even though they are exiles or foreigners – they have been chosen by God. He mentions it twice in the first two verses…

This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. 

I am writing to God’s CHOSEN people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 2 God the Father knew you and CHOSE you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

May God give you more and more grace and peace.  1 Peter 1:1-2 [emphasis mine]

Right off the bat, Peter makes it very clear that these Christians aren’t suffering because God has forgotten about them or that He’s upset with them or that He hates them! On the contrary – these are God’s chosen people. God made a decision long ago to love them and to invite them into His family. God’s plan was that they would be made holy by the Holy Spirit and be cleansed of their sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. Peter isn’t describing an indifferent or angry God. Peter is describing a God who obviously cares very much about them.

In fact, the Apostle Paul says something very similar in Ephesians 1:4-5. Paul writes:

4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:4-5

Before we were born – even before God made the world – God knew us intimately – and He loved us. He knew all about our many sins that we would commit and our continual failures and our ever-present weaknesses – He knew all about that, but he loved us and chose us anyway! This is what He wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure to do it!

That alone should be a great encouragement to us. God has chosen to love us. He didn’t have to! In fact, after all the times we’ve ignored Him and rejected Him and disobeyed Him, He had every reason not to love us! God had every reason to reject you and I – but instead…

God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.

That’s pretty incredible. That alone should help get us through the hard times in life, because we know that even when the world rejects us, we have a loving heavenly Father who has accepted us. He loves us and has chosen us to be part of his family.

And because of that, even though things may be tough in our present situation, we have an incredible future in store for us. And that’s kinda the second point that Peter makes as he continues his letter. In verse 3 he writes:

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. 1 Peter 1:3-5

We often use the word ‘salvation’ to describe what we have now as Christians. And that is partly true. We do have salvation right now in that we have been forgiven, in that we have new life, in that we have a restored relationship with God – and those are all things that we have right now – but we’ve yet to experience the fullness of our salvation.

Right now – we still struggle with our sinful nature. Right now we still experience the consequences of our sin and the sin of others. Right now, we still live in a world filled with hurt, with pain, with death and decay. Right now, this world is not our home. We are aliens and exiles. But we have a great expectation of a priceless inheritance – An inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

And Peter reminds us that we only have this priceless inheritance by the great mercy of God – because God raised Jesus from the dead.

It’s not because of anything that we’ve done – it’s all because of what God did for us – which I guess is really how an inheritance works, right?

You don’t earn your inheritance, do you? You just receive it as a gift. The person who died did all the work. They earned that money or that house or that property or whatever the inheritance is… They probably worked hard over the course of their lifetime to earn all that. But you just get to receive that inheritance as a gift.

That’s how it works with our salvation too. We did nothing to earn it. We are only born again because God raised Jesus from the dead. God did all the work. Our only part in this whole process is just receiving this inheritance as gift – and we do that simply through faith in Jesus.

We receive our salvation by trusting that Jesus is enough. By trusting that his death was enough to pay the price for our sin. By trusting that his resurrection was enough to give us the power to overcome death. By trusting that his perfect, sinless life was enough to earn us the reward of eternal life in the joy-filled presence of God. Jesus is enough.

Our total faith in Jesus is all that is required for God to guarantee our salvation. Peter writes, And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

We haven’t yet received the fullness of our salvation, but through our faith in Jesus, God is protecting us by His power – until we receive our salvation in full.

And that is most certainly reason to rejoice – even if we have to go through trials and tribulations in this life! That’s why Peter continues by saying:

6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 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

Here Peter gives us two reasons to be truly glad – to be joyful – even through we must endure many trials.

The first reason is that…

#1. Our trials are temporary.

Peter says “S be truly glad, there is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.” The trials of life will not last forever. They are not permanent. It often feels like they go on forever – but they don’t. And I know it’s hard to have that perspective – especially when you’re right in the middle of what feels like a long period of suffering! But please be encouraged – that whatever you’re going through right now, it will not last forever. 

There’s a phrase in the Old King James Version of the Bible that is repeated 176 times. And there’s a Christian comedian who says that phrase is his favourite Bible verse. It goes like this:

“And it came to pass…” And that’s it. That’s the phrase… It came to pass. It didn’t come to stay – it came pass! All the hardships and the struggles and the trials we go through in this life will come to pass. They will have an end! But the eternal inheritance that we have to look forward to never end! Joy and peace and the goodness of being in the presence of God continue for eternity!

So certainly, even as we go through painful, but temporary trials of this life – we can be truly glad for these is wonderful joy ahead!

The second reason that we can be joyful even in our trials is…

#2. God allows our trials for a purpose.

Even though God may not cause all our trials, any trials we do experience have been allowed by God. And if God has allowed them, then He intends to use those trials for his good purposes.

And Peter says that one of those good purposes is the testing and refining and strengthening of our faith. He says that just like how gold can only be refined and purified by fire, so too, our faith can only be refined and purified by trials.

Now most of us aren’t goldsmiths, so maybe another analogy might be helpful. All of us have muscles, right? Well, you can think of faith kinda like a muscle. And muscles only grow under stress. If you want to build muscle, you have have to work out. You have to push the limits of your muscles. You actually have to tear the muscle fibres to cause them to get stronger! No pain – no gain! Right?

Our faith is kinda like that. Faith only grows when it’s tested – when it’s pushed to the limit. Trials cause us to put our faith in God. The more desperate our situation, the more we need to trust in Him! If we were never to have any trials in life — I wonder how many of us would have no need for God? If everything is going our way – what would we have to trust God for?

But when the trials do come – when we face difficulties and hardships – those are the times when we have to trust God. And the more we do that, the more we learn just how trustworthy God is. Going through the tough stuff of life is what builds our faith.

Now again, I’m not saying God causes all these trials in our lives – but he certainly uses those trials to draw us to Himself – to cause us to trust in Him all the more!

And even that is a little bit encouraging. To know that our suffering isn’t pointless. The hurt we experience isn’t for no reason. If nothing else, God uses those trials to strengthen our faith – and in the end, God will reward us. Peter says.., 

“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. 8 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. 9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:7-9

I don’t think Peter’s trying to down-play the hard things we go through in life. The pain and suffering we go through is very real and it’s difficult to endure. But the encouragement here is that, as Christians, we can know that it is temporary, that there is wonderful joy ahead, and that in the end, when our faith remains strong, we will receive a great reward!

Everyone goes through trials – Christians and non-Christians alike. But the big difference is that, through Jesus, we can have have hope – we can have joy – even in the midst of our trials. Hebrews 12:2 says…

2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2

If anyone knows about pain and suffering, I think Jesus is your guy. He endured the shame of the cross, the pain of the cross – in fact, he carried the shame and the guilt of every sin (including yours and mind) and he took it to the cross.  He died there – alone and abandoned by friends and family. And why did he do it? This verse says “Because of the joy awaiting him!”

He did it so that you and I could experience true joy – life forever together with Him in the presence of God. He did it so that he could give us a priceless inheritance – an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

This morning we want to celebrate communion together. We want to take some time to remember the trials that Jesus went through so that we could receive that priceless inheritance.

The cup reminds us of Jesus’ blood – blood that ran down his head and his back, which were lacerated by the whips and crown of thorns that was beaten onto his head – the blood that spilled down from his hands and his feet as they nailed him to the cross, the blood that gushed out from his side as the Roman solider trust his spear into his body to make sure he was dead.

The bread reminds us of Jesus body – his body that was beaten and spit upon, his body that hung on a cross between two thieves, his body that was eventually taken down and placed in a cold, dark tomb.

And today we share this cup and this bread as reminders that Jesus willingly allowed all of that to happen to him – because of the joy awaiting him – the joy of bringing praise and honor and glory to God – and the joy of providing a priceless inheritance for you and I.

2 Comments

  1. I really enjoy your sermons. I’m very strong in the Lord due to that. I like the way you analyze the word of God I just want to know about which Bible are you using.

  2. Dave Dave

    Edwin – I’m glad they are helpful! I typically use the New Living Translation. It’s a thought-for-thought translations (rather than a word-for-word translation) so I find it’s helpful to convey the big ideas of particular passages. I’d still recommending a more literal translation like ESV or NET when studying a passage, but the NLT does a good job at communicating the writers’ main points. (Plus, it’s very read-able… I think it’s a grade 8 reading level.)

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