by Roger McCay
15 December 2019
Sermon Passage: 1 Peter 1:6-9
Link to Audio Version
Did you know the loss of hope can kill you?
It is told of the experience of Maj F.J. Harold Kushner, an Army Medical Officer held by the Vietcong for five and a half years:
Kushner got to know one POW, a tough young marine who had already survived two years of prison camp life. The marine was a model POW, keeping himself in good health and leading the camp’s thought-reform group, mainly because the camp commander had promised to release those who cooperated. As time passed, however, the marine gradually discerned that his captors had lied to him. When the full realization of this fact sunk in, he became a zombie, refusing all work and rejecting all offers of food and encouragement. He simply lay on his cot sucking his thumb. In a matter of weeks he was dead. 
When he gave up hope. When he believed there was no hope for release—nothing he could do. He died.
There are so many in this world that experience suffering without hope. They are miserable. They have no concept of joy. They can see no escape from this world of torment.
Such is not the case for a disciple of Christ. Indeed, hope is a defining characteristic of Christians. Where there is hope, there is life. We hope in Christ. We have life in Christ. We have life in Christ. We hope in Christ. Consequently, in the midst of hardship, we can find true joy in Christ.
This concept is something that just does not compute in the world. The idea that we can rejoice, even in the midst of suffering various trials just makes no sense. But, they don’t have Jesus.
Peter explains this concept in our passage today (why we can have joy right now, even if we are suffering, due to our hope in Christ). Peter addresses the grief, purpose and joy of something we all know a bit about… trials of various sorts.
So, first, the Grief of Trials.
Now, you may remember from the sermon last week in Phil. 4:1-7 how we are commanded to rejoice always. We can do that because our rejoicing is not rooted in our happiness, which is fleeting. Rather it is rooted in the Lord, who is eternal, whose promises never fail, in whom we put our hope, and in whom we find our salvation. In the Lord, our perspective is moved from our present circumstances (with, perhaps, some idea of living a few years into the future) to the perspective of immortal beings who will live for an eternity in paradise. As we saw in 1 Peter 1:3-5, our hope is a living hope grounded upon the living all-powerful Lord God. It is an eternal inheritance worthy of God the Father who has bequeathed it to his children. It is also guaranteed by the Lord himself, who keeps it secure for us where no-one can snatch it away. So, as our joy is grounded in the Lord, we are enabled to rejoice no matter how difficult our circumstances, no matter what trials we are facing.
Thus, Peter says in v. 6, “in this you rejoice,” which can also be translated, “in whom you rejoice.” It is in the Lord God himself and the hope we have in him that we can rejoice. Peter, who is writing to a persecuted church, and has personally experienced the difficulties of persecution, then continues, saying you can rejoice, even “though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.”
Various trials are just that, various. Lots of scholars try to narrow down the various (perhaps, down to just persecutions), but why do that? Peter says “various.” That’s an all-inclusive adjective upon which, in the immediate context, he puts no limits. So, trials can include temptations, persecutions, suffering, physical ailments, sickness, physical and mental disabilities, grief at the loss of a loved one, dealing with poverty, dealing with all the problems associated with being elect sojourners (exiles) in a world that is not our home (1 Peter 1:1); and whatever trials you want to include. These trials are real; they are grievous. They involve pain and suffering that hurts and haunts.
However, no trial can ever be anything other than for just “a little while.” This is from God’s perspective, of course. Our trials may last for 40 or more years or until the day we die. Even so, that is only “a little while”—not even an eyeblink in eternity. Hence, as Paul says in Romans 8:18, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” In the meantime, we deal with the struggles and pains inherent in a fallen world.
Peter also says that if we suffer various trials, it is because such trials are necessary. At first glance, we might say, “What? If necessary? How come that person doesn’t have to suffer like I do. How come I suffer but that Christian over there doesn’t? Why is it necessary for me and not necessary for them? Well, just because you do not perceive that someone else is suffering, that does not mean that they are not suffering trials of various sorts. Some trials are just more obvious to the onlooker. Also, if someone is not suffering like you, what is it to you? If anything, give thanks that they are spared your trials.
Further, in our self-pity we might ask the question, How can these trials I’m suffering be necessary when we have a loving all-powerful Father in heaven?” The thing is, that is exactly the point. Various trials are necessary because we have a loving, all-powerful Father in heaven. Our trials are not random misfortunes of chance. They have a purpose that is tailored to us.
Hence, our second point, the Purpose of Trials. Verse 7:
7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Trials are a test of our faith. It is by our trials that our faith is tested and proved to either be genuine faith, or proved to not be genuine faith. This is along the lines of what Jesus said in the “Parable of the Sower.” In Mark 4:5-6, he speaks of the seed sown on rocky ground, which quickly dies because it had no root. He explains what he means by this in vv. 16-17:
16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
Every single Christian is different, and our faith is as varied as we are. It makes sense that each of us has our own trials that test and refine our faith custom to who we are—various trials for various people. Enduring these trials and persevering through them in the Lord demonstrates that our faith, your individual, personal faith, is true. Remaining rooted in the Lord, solid and unmovable, we rejoice in the Lord. And think about it. How might you know that your faith is actually true saving faith, if it is not a faith that has been tested in a personal way?
Peter illustrates the concept of our faith tested through such trials by comparing our faith to gold.
“your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire”
Concerning this statement, John Calvin rhetorically asks:
If gold, a corruptible metal, is deemed of so much value that we prove it by fire, that it may become really valuable, what wonder is it that God should require a similar trial as to faith, since faith is deemed by him so excellent? 
While refined gold is precious to the world, it perishes. Even gold will be destroyed when the Lord returns in judgment, bringing the new heavens and the new earth (Is. 51:6; 2 Pet. 3:10). In contrast, true faith is eternal. Our faith is more precious to God than all the gold in the world, and his power secures it. God uses fiery trials to test and refine our faith, refinement that carries into eternity (1 Pet. 4:12). This testing is also for our benefit (Rom. 8:28). Finding that our faith continues and is refined through the fire, we are reassured in our faith. Our confidence in our salvation and the Lord is confirmed. And, we find even more cause to rejoice.
This present-hope joy, in the midst of various trials, will continue until the Lord returns bringing his Kingdom. At that point, in the presence of Christ, our tested genuine, refined faith will result in praise and glory and honor. When the Lord says to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant;” when we receive our reward in heaven (Matt. 25:20-23; & 34); then we will cast our crowns of glory and honor at his feet (Rev. 4:10), praising and worshipping him as the one who is worthy to receive glory and honor and power. Thus, in the midst of our various trials we have true cause to rejoice.
So we come to our third point, the Joy of Trials. Verse 8:
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
Unlike Peter, we have not seen Jesus, and we do not see him now. Yet, disciples of Christ trust in Jesus and love Jesus. As Jesus said to doubting Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Although we have not seen, we, miraculously, have believed. This miracle was decreed by the Lord, initiated by the Lord, and is carried through by the Lord. It is not of us. It is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Therefore, we rightly rejoice.
But, what is this “joy that is inexpressible,” that Peter mentions? Well, joy in Christ in the midst of trials can certainly be inexpressible. It is hard to cry and laugh at the same time. And, as it is “inexpressible,” how can I describe it here? It is suffering terrible grief, yet, finding joy in Christ, in whom every tear will be wiped away, keeping you from despair. It is a seemingly hopeless situation, yet, suffering no loss of hope due to your belief in an all-powerful, perfectly-loving God. It is suffering from sickness, injury, life changing debilitations, even old age, yet, rejoicing in the hope of the perfect, glorified body you will possess for all eternity, which is part of your inheritance kept for you in heaven by the power of God. It is tied into that peace that passes understanding. Sometimes you experience great trials, yet, you find yourself having peace and joy, and you really cannot put your finger on exactly why. Sometimes these things are beyond us. It is enough that we know the why is Jesus.
Maybe you are thinking of times when you’ve experienced just this type of inexpressible joy. I know many of you know exactly what this is. It’s a joy filled with glory, isn’t it? God’s glory, because secure in him we never have reason to despair. All praise and glory to God!
And so, we come to The End of it All. Verse 9:
“obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Notice this does not say, the salvation of your spirit, the salvation of your body, or the salvation of your mind. It says, “the salvation of your souls.” Your soul is your entire being, body, mind, and spirit.
The outcome of your faith, the faith of a disciple of Christ, which has been tested true and refined by fire, is that when the Lord returns, your whole being will be saved from the wrath of God. As Jesus said in Matt. 25:34, concerning his words to his people at the Last Judgment, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” And in that end, we find the beginning of life.
Are you going through various trials? Most people are in some form or another. How are you holding up? Do you find yourself focusing narrowly on the troubles immediately at hand? Or, do you have the long perspective, even, an eternal perspective?
My friends, there is no reason to despair if you are in Christ. He is our living hope! Look to Jesus, in the grief of your trials, to find that joy that is inexpressible, confident that your faith has been tested and found sure. Find your peace in the Lord. Look to the eternity that is before you as an immortal being, perfect, and powerful, unhampered by sin. It is right there. It is close enough to touch.
And live your life following the call of Jesus (whom you love, and whom you trust), keeping your eyes on him, the author and perfecter of your faith, who for the joy set before him endured the Cross. Your joy is set before you. You can persevere in him.
The story is told of an old man who struggled through great difficulties without feeling sorry for himself, or betraying the least impatience. One of his friends asked the old man if he could teach him his secret of contentment. “Sure,” the old man replied; “I can teach you my secret; it consists of nothing more than making a right use of my eyes.”
Seeing how perplexed his friend was, the old man explained, “In whatever state I am, I first of all look up to heaven, and remember that my principle business here is to get there; I then look down upon the earth, and call to mind how small a place I shall occupy in it, when I die and am buried; I then look abroad into the world and observe what multitudes there are who are in all respects more miserable than myself.
Thus, I learn where true joy is placed; where all our cares must end; and what little reason I have to feel sorry for myself or complain.” 
In this life we suffer the grief of various trials. But, in Christ, we know they have a purpose. In him we can find joy despite our pain. Look to Jesus in love and in faith, and find your salvation. Since the salvation of the Lord’s people is grounded in Him, we should view present hardships from an eternal perspective.
 Philip Yancy, Where is God when it Hurts? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 212.
 John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 33.
 Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 273.