TAKE THE LONG LOOK
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now, for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of you faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6-9).
Peter could not be more positive than he was in these three sentences, as well as those that went before. If we place these truths side by side with Paul’s in Ephesians 1: 1-3, we have an amazing declaration of what these early believers had in Christ compared with what their pagan or Jewish beliefs had offered them.
Let’s unpack these sentences and explore what he was actually saying.
The first thing that stands out is that their present circumstances (and we know that Peter wrote to encourage them to keep on believing in spite of the ‘fiery ordeal’ – ch 4:12 – they were suffering), were transient and were nothing compared with what lay ahead for them if they kept their eyes on the big picture. Their suffering would not last forever; it was only a part of this life. It would come to an end when they entered into the presence of the one they loved.
Suffering for their faith in Jesus was inevitable but it had a purpose. Like gold refined in the fire until all the impurities were removed, their confidence in God had to be put to the test to remove the dross. Everyday, comfortable living would not do it. It had to be purified in the fires of adversity until nothing would move them from their trust in God. After all, faith was the invisible link between themselves and God. Without their trust in Him, they had no connection with Him and with everything that was theirs through Jesus.
Why do Christians suffer? The age-old question does have an answer – to put us into situations where we are forced to cast ourselves on God alone. It is a natural, inborn flaw is us to be suspicious of God. Adam was before he even sinned, and we are too because we inherited it from him.
How can we ever navigate a world full of trials and adversities of every kind if we do not trust God implicitly? How can we learn to trust Him if our faith is not put to the test? When the crunch comes, do we crumple up, scream and give up or do we keep going because we are secure in Him?
The next thing I see is that these believers were going somewhere. Life for them was not just a jumble of meaningless events and purposeless living. They were being groomed for something after this life which was indescribably wonderful beyond their imagination. Was this just a pipe-dream, the fantasy of someone’s fertile brain? Definitely not! Why could Peter be so confident about what he wrote? The hope of which he wrote was not just a futile wish but a declaration of fact because it was backed up by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
The whole point of Jesus’s coming, His living and dying and the miracle of His rising again was to accomplish something – not for Himself initially but for them – to rescue them from their plight and restore them to their rightful place in the family of God so that they could enjoy the glorious things God had prepared for them and for all who follow them through faith in Jesus.
Instead of being drowned in the misery of what they were suffering, Peter urged them to look ahead. The very things they were called to endure for the sake of their faith in Jesus were proof that they were on the right road. At the end of the tunnel there was the real life they had been promised – ‘the salvation of your souls’. Their broken and imperfect souls would be restored – made whole, unblemished and pure so that they could stand before God in the perfection of His beauty and enjoy Him forever.
Was it worth enduring the suffering? A thousand times, yes!
When you are faced with the uncomfortable experiences which are part of your lot as humans in an imperfect world, or the ridicule thrown at you because you will not take part in the debauchery of sin or even, as some are doing right now, losing their heads because they refuse to deny their faith in Jesus, there’s a glorious light at the end of the road.
Rejoice, because you’re on the right way and at the end of it your destination is heaven!
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.