Phil Cox

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Holding on in times of trial

26th July 2006

This week, a few thoughts from:

1 Peter 1v1-9
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To Godís elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fadeó kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by Godís power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faithóof greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire ó may be proved genuine and 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 an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter is writing to "Godís elect, strangers in the world" and, although he specifically mentions "Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" all God's people can read his letter as if it's written to us as well.

Peter describes us in four important ways:

  • We are God's elect. That is, we are the people chosen by God before the beginning of time to be His people. Peter says this more explicitly in 1 Peter 2:9-10 you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
  • We are strangers in the world. Why don't we quite seem to fit into society? It's because we're strangers! Our citizenship is in Heaven - not Earth (Philippians 3:20). We are increasingly thinking the way God thinks - not the way our friends think. We're becoming more and more different from the world.
  • We may be suffering grief in all kinds of trials
  • We can know grace, peace and inexpressible and glorious joy.

Although Peter's writing to people who are suffering grief in various kinds of trials, he prays that they might enjoy grace and peace. We see, then, that it's possible to know God's grace and peace even when we're in the midst of trials.

There are some things that no-one can take way from us.

Here's one: We know for certain that In his great mercy he [God the Father] has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We know that we have eternal life! We know that one day we will stand in glory and see Jesus face to face. We know that, one that day, there will be no pain, no sorrow, no sin, no guilt, no depression, no sickness, no bereavement, no lonliness.

Here's something else no-one can take away from us: an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fadeó kept in heaven for you. Our treasure in heaven cannot go rotten, it can't become impure, and it can't fade away - it's certain! The treasure you've already laid up in heaven will never be taken away from you. It's a "done deal". You can add to it by continued faithful service to God, but no-one, not even God, will ever take away what is already laid up.

How can we know that we'll inherit this treasure? Here's a third thing that no-one can take away - our assurance of salvation! We know that we are shielded by Godís power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. That's right, we know that we'll survive the trials that we face - because God is protecting us!

We even learn in this passage why we need to face trials at all. It's so that [our] faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

That's right! Our faith is being tested to prove that it is genuine - to produce character in us.

I know that may not sound very comforting to those who are really going through a tough time. But surely it's good to know that the reason we're suffering is because God is proving that our faith is genuine. It's NOT because God's forgotten about us, or because He doesn't care about us. It's because he wants to bring us to maturity in the faith.

And, if we really believe this (and it's not always easy to do that) then it's easier to be filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I'm really not writing this so that anyone who reads it while going through a major trial can feel even more of a failure. I just want to say that sometimes it's really hard to believe that God still cares, and God is still in control. But He is! And if we can accept that our trial is something that He's allowed because He knows that it will ultimately be good for us, then we won't stop hurting, but we might be able to experience some joy at the same time as all the pain we're going through.