Joy in Our Faith (1 Peter 1:6-9)

More than once in my life I’ve been a stranger in a strange land. In our years of ministry I’ve traveled to numerous countries around the globe. I’ve lived almost as much of my life outside my homeland as I have inside. I identified with the phrase in verse one. Peter wrote, “To God’s elect, strangers in the world . . .” Many of you can identify, like I can, with that feeling of being a stranger in this world. Some may think I’m just strange, but that’s a different story.

It’s easy to feel like an outsider while living away from our birth culture. And the same is true when we become members of God’s family. Suddenly our home is no longer the USA, Ghana, Iran, Austria or the Philippines. Our culture changes when we are born again and we become strangers in this world. There are many parallels in the fallen world where we presently live and Peter’s revelation in these verses. When we move to a different land we discover another culture, maybe another language, definitely another way to thinking. This makes us the outsider and the stranger. With this comes a certain hazard inherent in our transplanted home. We discover trials, difficulties and other inconveniences which constantly remind us that we are the strangers living in someone else’s world. They also bring our attention back to our new, true home with God. This is where we discover a reason to greatly rejoice.

The believers Peter addressed understood living as strangers and were troubled by their trials. Turn with me to chapter one beginning in verse six to see God’s advice through Peter’s letter.

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, . . .

In what do we greatly rejoice? My friend Bjoern spoke about this a couple weeks ago. He listed reasons to rejoice from the opening verses of the epistle. In verse five we saw that we rejoice in God’s protection, His shield which keeps us until the end of the present world. God will not let us go. With His omnipotent hands, He holds each of us. Our hands tell the story of our lives. Each wrinkle, crevice and crease reveals who we are. Jesus’ hands spoke of His obedience and love for us. Jesus also spoke about God’s hands and what it means to our salvation?  Join me in the Gospel of John chapter 10.

John 10:27-30 (NIV)

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.

We are called to greatly rejoice in our salvation. This rejoicing is to find a place above everything else going on. It’s not here in the present world we plan to spend eternity but with God. Once we focus our lives on the eternal future we can deal with the limited present. God wants to turn our attention away from the finite present to the infinite future. At times his teaching instrument is a test. And tests are seldom fun. Back to verse 6:

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

I’m glad Peter used a special word for various. The Greek word ποικίλος (poikilos) can also mean many colored. I like that imagery. This word is used by Peter in one other place. Glance at Chapter 4 verse 10. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV) Our troubles may be many-colored, but so is the grace of God; there is no color in the human situation that grace cannot match. There is grace to match every trial and there is no trial without its grace. (W. Barclay) We don’t know what is coming but God is sufficient whatever the challenge.

In verse 6 we also read, “. . . though now for a little while.” While God’s grace is never ending, our trials do end. I’m comforted and can have great joy knowing there is an end. Trials are distressing and a burden. But we can rejoice in Jesus promise when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV) But nothing happens without a purpose in God’s world. Back to our passage:

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine. . .

I have faith in the security of the believer. I find comfort in God’s assurance of my salvation. Sometimes events make us look closely at our faith. One year our daughter lost her baby only a few weeks before her due date. During that time our faith was tested as we suffered grief. God used that tragedy in our family to help us understand his grace and the surety of our faith. We could stand with God in our faith or turn away. But turning away isn’t an option for the true believer.

I agree with the Apostle John when he writes about those who appear to lose their faith, “19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (1 John 2:18b-19 NIV) There are many “posers” in the body of Christ. There are people who say the right things, do the right stuff but don’t believe. True believers know who they are and rejoice that God is protecting their salvation.

Our trials are for our benefit. We don’t usually see the benefits of trials while they’re happening. We just see the problem. It just isn’t fun! Peter doesn’t say it’s fun. But he gives us hope. He gives us a reason to rejoice. There is a purpose in what befalls us as believers. We are tested so our faith, “of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine.” (7) The word picture is fascinating.

We may not be familiar with refining gold through fire. The metal is heated in a pot until it’s a liquid so the refiner can skim off the bad stuff which rises to the top. The result is considered purified gold. God wants to skim off the bad stuff in our life. And the only way to do that is to put us to the test. Gold doesn’t stay in the pot once the yucky stuff is gone and God doesn’t leave us in the fire once we’ve been purified. Once taken from the pot gold must still be checked. Gold is checked by applying acid to determine the karat or purity of the refined gold. The acid test proves it’s genuine and not fool’s gold. Again, in verse 6 and 7:

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 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.

Genuine faith produces results. There are present results and eternal results. Our faith produces praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Who’s being praised, honored and glorified in this verse? It’s us! Yep, God’s children will receive praise, glory and honor at Christ’s return. This is the result of God’s refining fire. When Jesus Christ is revealed we will again greatly rejoice. Joy again and again weaves its way through our lives as Christians. Whether in trial or good times our focus should be the great joy we have in God. But, Peter says this proof of our faith will be evident when Christ is revealed. What do we do until then? Back to our passage . . .

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 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. 8 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, . . .

We love! We love Jesus. Do you see Jesus in the room? I don’t. I see his work in the faces and lives of His people. Unlike Peter who walked with our Lord, the readers of this letter never met Jesus face to face. Neither did you or me. But, I still love Him! I still believe in Him. Through the testing of our family this year I am filled with inexpressible and glorious joy as God proves my genuine faith.

I’m fascinated with the word “inexpressible.” It comes from the word for “unspeakable.” When we are true believers we hold within us a joy which we cannot express. We can’t shout it out because that would be insufficient. A smile just doesn’t carry the depth of our joy being held in God’s hands. No song, no matter how moving can touch the heart of our joy. It is beyond words, beyond expression, tied to the very heart and love of God.

We don’t see God now but we love Him. John writes about this in his first epistle.

2  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3 NIV)\

I don’t know about you but I look forward to that day. Still, in this day, at this time, the goal of my faith is being achieved. There are things I don’t have to wait for. Again in 1 Peter 1:

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 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. 8 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, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Salvation is not some future, mystical, promise but an ever-present reality. God is working in and through us today, at this moment, in this place. Where God’s children abide, Jesus is there. Listen carefully to Romans 6:22 and 23:

22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, {this is past tense, it happens at salvation} the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)

 To understand and live with an inexpressible joy we must be saved. We must accept the free gift of redemption Jesus purchased with His blood at the cross. Only through Jesus can any man approach God.

We may experience trials today but that is nothing compared to the future. Paul encouraged the Romans when he wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 3:18 NIV) God has us in His hands and there we shall stay. Again, in Romans 8:35 Paul writes, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” And the answer is found in verse 37; “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

As tested and proven genuine believers we have a reason to greatly rejoice today, at this moment, in this place. If you’re in a trial today take courage. It has an end and a purpose which will strengthen and purify your faith.

If you don’t know the love of God, the wonder of His love and grace, come to Him today that we may greatly rejoice together.

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