Rejoice in Trials - 1 Peter 1:6-9 (Sermon)
Welcome. What a week. I am glad you are tuning in. This has been a hard and stressful week. I think the message today is ideal for Joy in Trials. Our sermon series is perfect for our cultural climate. This week, I searched the words “joy” and “persecution” on the internet before this week of viral trials. The first relevant news story I found was of a couple of Christians imprisoned in India from the end of November to the end of January. Sometimes a way to get out of our craziness is to focus on other people’s trials. Here is a picture of these pastors who went to prison late last year.
One is 23-year-old Ajay Kumar and the other 20-year-old Om Prakash, 20. On November 26, they were praying and worshipping in a home with twenty other individuals and seven Hindu extremists barged in, interrupted their worship, and claimed the group was forcibly converting people and needed to stop. Later the two pastors left and were surrounded by more Hindu Extremists. The mob called the police and charged the two with breaking state conversion laws. You can’t forcibly convert people from their faith in India. They said they weren’t. The police held these two for a day and sent them to prison.
Not only were they persecuted outside, but they were also persecuted in prison. They reported, “Every night [in jail] was traumatic,” a “nightmare.” They were mocked and slandered and beaten.
However, Pastor Prakash said in prison, "I spent time in prayer for two hours in the morning, and two hours in the evening…. People started to come to me with their prayer requests. I shared the Good News with all the prisoners in my barrack." One man came to Christ because of these pastors during that time, and many more have come to them with questions since.
In January, they made bail $5,600 per person, about a year’s salary, and have to report to the court every two weeks. That is their life as followers of Christ a world away. That is their trial. That is their reality.
They are not alone. This is one of the most persecuted areas in the world.
On February 7, a little over a year ago, fifty Christians gathered for a prayer meeting in this same area and were brutally attacked by Hindu extremists. They reported, “We were all frightened as they came in with wooden clubs and started beating everyone.” The pastor said, “...There was no way that we could avoid this brutality. However, I was comforted by the scriptures as I contemplated about the suffering during end the times.”
June through September of last year, the ICC recorded 29 incidents of violence involving Hindu radicals targeting Christians. This state has 204 million people, with only .18% Christians.
Here is a video of one of those arrests of another pastor in September. The men in orange are Hindus.
How do we react to this?
Prakash, who was in prison for two months, said, "Though I went through a lot of troubles and hardships, I was happy I was inside, doing the Lord's work."
Happy. How could anyone be happy or comforted enduring hardship? How does one face trials and troubles remain joyful? How do we rejoice in God with the disease spreading in America? Peter, the apostle, was in prison when he wrote his first and second letters to the church. They never released him; in fact, they killed him for his faith. Yet, he spoke of the joy in trials and grief. How?
Let’s go to 1 Peter 1:6–9 to find out Peter’s answer. I am going to have an N.P. Read for us verses 1–9. Would you stand, if you are able in honor of God’s Word?
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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. 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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Thank you. Let’s pray; God, thank you so much for your word. Help us now to hear what you have to say to us. We need you. AMEN. You may be seated.
As we look at the text, Peter told the church to rejoice in their suffering because God was at work. He gave four realities in their difficulties as they waited for their future inheritance.
Let me remind you that we are working through Peter’s two letters this year. A draft of my take on the big idea of the first letter is:
Peter calls God’s dispersed people to live their lives for God’s glory in all circumstances because of their sure hope in Christ.
This letter begins with a Trinitarian comment that communicated who Peter was and whom he was writing to. Like many other letters in the Bible, it offers encouragement before instruction. Verses 3 through 5 are a prayer of praise to God for salvation. Peter gave four qualities of this salvific inheritance that Christian have, plus an extra encouragement in God. He wrote our inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven for us. The other reason to hope is that God is protecting his people, spiritually speaking.
VERSES 6 THROUGH 9
In verses 6 through 9, Peter turned to discuss their present reality. He focused not on their contemporary suffering, but their souls. He saw four things if you are taking notes about their souls that are critical for us today to be joyful in times of trial. The church had,
LOVE FAITH JOYGLORY
in their hearts in their trials.
Before we talk about those points, let’s see the circumstance and their attitude. In verse 6, Peter wrote,
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials
Peter said they rejoiced, but he knew it wasn’t easy for some. He wrote they were “grieved.” Have you experienced that? Paul talked about being “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” (2 Corinthians 6:16) Have you felt that?
JOY IN GRIEF
I think I get that mix of emotions. I loved college, yet I miss those days. They were great, yet those days are gone. My memory is happy and sad simultaneously. Another event that has joy and grief is a funeral. It is hard to say goodbye to those we love. We have good memories and happy recollections. If our loved ones were followers of Christ, they are in a better place, so we rejoice, but we weep as well.
What kind of trials do you face? What depresses you? Maybe you hear about the persecuted church and dismiss your trouble saying, “My problems are not that bad. I can’t complain. I shouldn’t complain.” Or you see what is going on in Italy and think, “My situation isn’t that bad. I don’t want to complain.” You are right. Don’t complain, however; you do have trials. These verses are relevant. A first-world problem is a problem. Life is hard. You have to put up with people who sin against you. You have desires not met, bills you can’t pay, bosses who mistreat you, fear of sickness. Anxiety is everywhere right now. Perhaps you have other woes that grip your soul. What do you do? How do we rejoice? Peter helps us with that by what he wrote next. Read on.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials. So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—
Peter connects the word trial to the test. Who is this tester? God. He is the Sovereign Lord of all who is at work in our adversity right now. God is not surprised by the statistics of the virus, stock market woes, pink slips, or lawsuits. He tests his people, and I think he tests you and me.
What comfort is that? Did you ever go to class, and the teacher said, “I have a pop quiz for you.” Did you like that? I always appreciated when the teacher forewarned us, saying, “I am not saying we are having a pop quiz tomorrow, but if I were you, I would be ready for a pop quiz.” Peter was saying, “God is testing you, brothers and sisters.” God is on the throne in 2020. That is a comfort. He has a plan for our pain. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God is sovereign and in control and working good out of this current cultural crisis for you who love him.
Some people have a problem with the thought of God testing and judging. God does. He does it in 1 Corinthians 3:13. Paul wrote,
...each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:13–15)
WHEN WILL IT END
So there is a sense that right now is a test. When will it be over? When will it all burn? When is that? Keep reading. Peter wrote that God tests us that our faith
May be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
So the test is complete at the revelation of Jesus Christ. When is that? Hasn’t Jesus already been revealed? Yes, and no. Peter just mentioned the “Last times” in verse 5. I think Peter is talking about the second coming of Christ. Christ is coming back. Jesus said, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). It is almost here. It won’t be long. We are being tested until that time. Stay strong in the faith brothers and sisters. Hold on. Hang in there.
So why the test? Peter answered that their faith might result in praise, glory, and honor. Whose praise, glory, and honor? Revelation uses these words and speaks of the blessing, glory, and honor of Jesus. Revelation says,
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11–12)
Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:26). He is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing. And he will on that Last Day. So we wait as we endure various trials.
But is that all? Are we just biding our time for a future benefit in our spiritual trials? Is there anything for us now? Definitely! Peter gives us four present realities to savor, meditate on, and enjoy as we wait patiently for the revealing of the Son of God and the salvation of our souls.
POINT 1 THEY HAVE A LOVE FOR GOD
His first thing is in verse 8. Peter wrote that these believers have a love for God. Look at verse 8.
Though you have not seen him, you love him.
They love Jesus, whom they have never met.
What do you love? Do you love dark chocolate, football, spring training, the draft, dancing, work, savings, homes, gadgets, tools, cars, travel, food, books, shopping, video games, exercise, and family? What do you love? Peter said they loved Jesus. Do you love Jesus? Jesus said,
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)
Do you love your spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend more than Jesus? Do you love your children or grandchildren more than Jesus? Why would Jesus say that? That seems a bit harsh. Shouldn’t we love our spouse and family and friends? Yes, love them. He is not saying no to love them. He is saying don’t love them more than him. Why? Because he is worth it. He is different. He is greater. He is God. He is worthy of all blessings, and honor, and thanks, and power, and wisdom, and strength.
Is that hard for you as it is for me sometimes to comprehend what loving Jesus is like? How do you love someone who died and rose 2000 years ago more than a cute kid you can squeeze with a soft cheek you can touch, or a friend who seems to understand you? How do we grow to love God as Peter says the church did? Love is more than a romantic feeling or sweet memory.
Work at loving. I think we grow in love through practice. Time, words, service, and sacrifice help us move in love. Give, enjoy, listen, and sing to God and grow in love for him.
HOW DO YOU GROW IN LOVE
Think about relationships. How do you work on them? I think they take time and energy. A relationship with God is the same. Therefore, invest in God. Seek him while he may be found. Peter recognized that although they have never met him, they knew him and loved him. Ultimately, this love is a bit out of our control. The Bible tells us that we love because he first loved us and gave his Son up for us. It says, God poured out his love in our hearts by the power of the Spirit, and a fruit of the Spirit is love. So strive to love God, who gives us love and empowers love.
POINT 2 THEY HAVE FAITH IN GOD
Not only that, but Peter also writes these followers have faith in a Jesus they do not see. They loved Jesus they never met, and they believe in a Jesus they don’t see.
Though you do not now see him, you believe in him
Do you think they doubted? When trials happen, were they tempted to be skeptical? Doubting God in trials is normal.
In Mark 9, it records Jesus met a dad whose son would self-harm because of an evil spirit. The son and dad suffered. That was their trial. The man had heard of Jesus’s healing ministry and power. He approached Jesus and asked him for help. Jesus said I could help if you believe. How did the dad respond? The Bible says, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Do you believe in the goodness of God in difficult times, yet doubt? I believe, help my unbelief.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE
Everyone believes something. Do you believe he works all things for good? What do you bank on when things go sideways? Is your stockpile, savings, work ethic, health, and family what you depend on? Are you a “see it to believe it” kind of guy? Thomas, one of the twelve disciples, was like that (John 20:29). Jesus said it is more blessed to believe when you don’t see. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Faith, trust, and belief are not created by science, history, or archeology. Those assist belief, but ultimately don’t cause it. There are things in life that we know are real, but we can’t put a weight, volume, or measure to. We can’t measure love, for example, yet it exists. The audience in 1 Peter believed in Jesus amid their crisis, though they don’t see him, they believe in him. That was a reason to rejoice.
GIFT OF FAITH
Hebrews 12 says that this faith ultimately was a gift from God. He is the one who gives it. He is the author and perfector of our faith. They loved a Jesus they never saw and believed in this Jesus they never met.
POINT 3 THEY HAVE A JOY IN GOD
Peter also wrote,
Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible
We can’t see Jesus now, but we can read and hear about him. We can meet him in prayer. We can experience him in our church community. You are the hands and feet of Jesus on Earth, fellow followers in this cultural moment. Having an ongoing relationship with the living God leads not only to love, faith but also to a joy that we can’t put into words.
How does the Christian rejoice in prison and comfort in trial and be at peace with sickness? How? Because God is still at work and in control. James wrote,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4)
God is our ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1) and gives good gifts to us in troubling times (James 1:17). The world doesn’t understand this. Your family, friends, classmates, co-workers, and neighbors may see Christ in you as you have joy in the storm, not a foolhardy, flippant response. Your perspective is powerful.
The first article in the Westminster Confession of faith is that the chief end of man, our purpose, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever in good times and bad. Our mission in life is to give God the recognition he deserves and find pleasure in him. Joy is good. God is its inventor. Psalm 16:11 says that God makes known the path of life, in his right hand, are pleasures forevermore. Peter noted these guys understood joy so well; they had it in bad times as well as good. It might be harder to see God, but it is there. He is good, and his love endures forever. It is like faith and love. Joy is a gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit. God gives what he requires.
POINT 4 THEY HAVE A GLORY IN GOD
Finally, Peter wrote, they were
filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
So these believers were filled with
Who is filled with glory? Great question. I think it is the Christian. They are filled with glory as they glorify God. What is this glory? The word can mean a place, praise, or honor. There is a sense that it is a recognition of the work they have done. The other three attributes are in the believer. Glory is not different. Last week I shared a verse that relates.
2 CORINTHIANS 4
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 CORINTHIANS 4:16–18)
The Bible teaches that we are to do everything for God’s glory. The believer is filled with love, belief, joy, and glory. How? I think this glory is an honor or recognition of what God is doing in us and through us. The letter to the Philippian church gives the believer credit but qualifies it.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13)
This makes sense of God rewarding the believer on the Last Day. It helps us understand the crowns and treasures Jesus and Paul talked about in the Bible. In a sense, we get credit. There is honor and recognition or glory. However, ultimately that credit goes back to God who is at work in us through these trials. He causes us to believe and love, to rejoice, and obey. He is the ultimate cause and gets ultimate praise, honor, and glory forever and ever and ever and ever.
APPLICATION: REJOICE IN GOD IN YOUR TRIALS THAT DEMONSTRATE YOUR IDENTITY
So when you face trials, how do you love, believe, rejoice, and glory? Seek him while he may be found, ask for faith in your unbelief, revel in the good he gives, and give God credit as you obey. PRAYER
Let’s pray. God help us live for you. We need you. We desperately need you to help us be joyful in hope and patient in affliction, as Paul said, and Peter encourages. In your great name, we pray. Amen.
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