Meditations in 1 Peter : 5 : Trials Prove Faith
1 Pet 1:6,7 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 faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
The changes that have taken place in the West especially, in the past fifty years, have brought new pressures to Christians. Possibly the biggest pressure has come through the philosophy of materialism which has been bolstered because we have gone through a time of unparalleled affluence and technological change. This has had a number of effects but one of them is that we have entered into a new level of peace and comfort, which we have almost come to believe is our natural right. The only trouble is that we still live in a Fallen World and don’t seem to cope so well when things don’t go well.
Peter, like James in his letter, brings us right down to earth in terms of practical faith. He has just be saying how wonderful it is that we have this inheritance stored up for us once we leave this planet. That is why he starts here with, “In this you greatly rejoice”. It is really wonderful that we have this assured future. But then we stop looking up, and we look around us and we realise that all is not quite so wonderful here today! Oh no, Peter is very realistic when he speaks of us having to suffer “grief in all kinds of trials.” That paints the picture with big bold black strokes! You are going to have grief! Why? Because in this Fallen World we are going to experience things going wrong, which Peter refers to as ‘trials’.
James, in his letter, had exactly the same understanding: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (Jas 1:2,3). Do you see the language used by both of them: “grief in all kinds of trials” and “trials of many kinds.” It’s not just the odd, occasional thing going wrong; it’s a world that is Fallen and where things go wrong all the time!!!! Be realistic! We get sick, we have accidents, we do things wrong or badly or not as well as we could, and that has consequences; other people are nasty and say or do bad things, and so it goes on. If that seems a black picture of the world, it is, but the truth also is that the Lord is with us in it and, as we’ve recently noted, His power and wisdom is available for us so we don’t have to feel bad about it all.
There are two ways we can respond when ‘things go wrong’. The first is to sag and get full of gloom and doom and be negative. When this happens we also tend to be in a place of generally weak faith. We become anaesthetised and spiritually weak at the knees, and fruitful is the last way we could describe ourselves. In other words we just go down under whatever it is.
The second way we can respond is to view whatever it is as a test or a trial of your faith, knowing that God has equipped you to cope with just such things. That is the positive approach in line with what the Bible teaches. This is what Peter says is going on when you suffer grief from the many and varied trials that come along. He says that it is so that, “your faith– may be proved genuine.” You think you have faith, you say you have faith, but how do you know that you really do have faith? The answer has to be only when it is tested and shown, and that happens when things happen that require us to rely upon what God has told us. So often in these meditations we have noted that faith comes by hearing what God says and faith is responding to what He has said. So when the trial comes along, do we believe what He has said, that His grace is sufficient for us (2 Cor 12:9), and it is all sufficient for all we need (2 Cor 9:8) and that He will meet all our needs through Christ (Phil 4:19), so that we can do anything He puts before us (Phil 4:13)?
This faith, says Peter is “of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire.” What a comparison! Gold is of immense wealth and value, but gold when it is refined by fire can actually be destroyed, whereas our faith when it is refined by difficult circumstances becomes stronger.
But there is more. When we come through our trial and our faith is proved genuine, we see that it “may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Our faith can bring glory to God. Jesus taught that: “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16) i.e. the way we live our lives can point people to God and bring glory to Him. This is what Peter is saying as well. Your real faith will reveal Jesus to the people around you. That is the possibility for your life and mine. As we respond to what the Father has said, and continues to say, and our faith is shown to be real and based upon Him, others can see and understand and realise that He is real and we are what we are because of Him. May that be so!