“All Kinds of Trials”
A Study of 1 Peter 1:3-9
Introduction: Perhaps you’ve been following the story of Pastor Andrew Brunson in the news. Thanks to Turkey’s brutal dictator, Erdogan, Brunson has become the most recent global face of persecution against Christians. Interestingly, 2000 years ago the apostle Peter wrote to believers in the very same place—the provinces of Asia Minor/Turkey (1 Peter 1:1-2), telling them how to respond to persecution and to all the other kinds of suffering in life. First Peter 1:3-9 is arguably the Bible’s most practical passage when it comes to bear up to trouble, trial, and tribulation in life. This is one of my go-passages and I quote it to myself frequently. It’s perhaps the best explanation for human suffering in the Bible, for here the Lord tells us to do three things when we find ourselves in trouble
1. Praise the Lord for All of His Blessings (verses 3-5)
Verses 3-5: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His great mercy He has caused us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
What a paragraph! There is a sermon in every word. The first word of verse 3 is “Praise!” Here was a man—Peter, who may have been writing this in prison—and the theme of his letter is suffering. Yet he opened the body of his letter with: “Praise!” When the walls close in around us, we have to look up. We have to learn to say, “Praise the Lord anyway.” We have to train ourselves to focus on the positive power of our omnipotent God. We have to praise Him for all His blessings.
Notice how Peter spotlighted the resurrection of Christ. For Peter, this was a most energizing moment of his life. On that Passover weekend, he fell into the darkest hour of his life. Then suddenly, he heard a report that the tomb of Jesus was empty. Shortly thereafter Peter met the risen Lord face to face. That experience changed Peter’s perspective forever. From that moment, Peter was on fire, full of praise and power. Thirty years later, even in a time of panic and persecution, he could say: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His great mercy He has caused us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you,
Notice how he described the eternal life that is ours in Christ—an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for us. I’ve been thinking about the longevity of the USA. Somehow we think this nation is going to be on earth forever, but one day its laws will implode, it monuments will collapse, and America will go the way of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Rome. The kingdoms of this world are transitory. Everything in the world is transitory. But we can say: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His great mercy He has caused us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you…
Peter continued: …who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
At the moment we make our minds to be followers of Jesus Christ, we’re in mortal danger from Satan, whom the Bible describes as our adversary, the god of this world, and the prince of the power of the air. But at that moment of our conversion God clamps a shield around us. Do you remember how Satan complained about the fact that God had put a hedge around Job? Psalm 125 says, “Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed but abides forever. As the mountains surrounds Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people both now and forevermore.” According to the prophet Zechariah, the Lord is a wall of fire around us.
In some way I don’t fully understand, we’re hated by the enemy but we are shielded by God’s power until Jesus comes again. For these things we should praise Him. First Peter 1:3-5 tells us the first way to deal with the sufferings of life is to praise God for all His blessings.
2. Trust the Lord With All Your Burdens (verses 6-7)
But now, Peter shifts gears and tells us we must trust God with all our burdens. Verse 6 says: 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 to that your faith—of much greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may prove genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
This might be the Bible’s most definitive passage about personal suffering. It explains the concept of suffering in a way that is unique to the history of human literature and psychology. There are six pillars of understanding here.
First, even in the midst of suffering we can rejoice in God’s blessings. Notice how verse 6 begins: In all this you greatly rejoice, though…. The hard times of life do not prevent us from counting our blessings and praising the Lord. We have to remind ourselves that worship and praise and thanksgiving can get us through the difficult times.
Second, suffering, though common, is not necessarily continual. Notice the phrase, You may have had to suffering grief. Peter did not say, “You are always suffering grief.” He says, “You may have had to suffer grief.” We have a lot of days in which the good outweighs the bad. By God’s mercy, we typically have more sunny skies than stormy ones.
Third, suffering, when suffering does come, it arrives in many forms: You may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. Peter didn’t limit his discussion to suffering from persecution. His letter tells us how to respond to grief in all kinds of trials. Worries and pressures can come from a thousand different directions. There are all kinds of trials.
Fourth, the process of suffering is a short-term experience. It is temporary, passing. Our inheritance in heaven will never perish, spoil, or fade; but our suffering only lasts a little while: In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. To make sure his readers didn’t miss this, Peter repeated it at the end of his letter (see 1 Peter 5:10-11). Twice—in the first chapter and in the last—Peter describes our suffering as lasting only a little while. Not a while. But a little while. They are light and momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17). Have you ever heard the phrase, “This too shall pass”? All our problems are temporary; all our blessings are eternal. The opposite is true for non-Jesus-followers. Their blessings are temporary; their problems are eternal. But for us, whatever negative energy is happening in your life, is fleeting, passing, temporary, ephemeral.
Fifth, suffering grief in all kinds of trials is redemptive. It has purpose and meaning and good comes from it. Verse 6 says: These have come to that your faith—of much greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may prove genuine. There are core values and strengths, which can only be developed by pressure. You can’t play a violin without pressure on the string. You can’t develop your muscles without pressure from the weights. Romans 5 says, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” When I travel around and preach, as likely as not someone will come up and give me a book they have written and self-published, in which they have told the story of something that happened to them. None of these books are New York Times bestsellers, but they truly are some of the best books I read. People want to somehow preserve for their friends and grandchildren the story of something they went through. These books are never, “My one-year-trip to Disneyland” or “My Sixty Years of Marriage Without One Problem.” The titles are things my: “My Journey with Cancer;” “My Experience in Vietnam,” “My Life with Disability,” or something like that. They have gone through a deep period of great difficulty, but they want to write down the lessons they learned, the truths they sustained them, they unexpected blessings they came. They wanted to share with others and to never forget how God sustained them and brought them through things with strengths and insights and faith they would never had otherwise discovered.
Sixth, it will be worth it all when we see Jesus. The passage goes on to say: These have come to that your faith—of much greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may prove genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. So in a period of struggle, we have to praise God for His blessings and trust Him with our burdens. We have to surrender them to Him. There is a surrender involved in suffering. You have to say, “Lord, I cannot resolve this area of suffering in my life, so I surrender it to You by faith and ask You to turn the burden into a blessing.” The great poet of Berlin, Paul Gerhardt, said: “Commit whatever grieves thee into the gracious hands / Of Him who never leaves thee, Whom heaven and earth commands.”
3. Love the Lord with All Your Being (verses 8-9)
Finally, to deal with the tough times in life, we have to love the Lord with all our being. Peter ended this passage saying: 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 end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
The man who wrote this had seen Jesus Christ, but he was writing to people who had not seen Jesus face-to-face, but who nonetheless loved Him and believed in Him. Peter encouraged them to keep their eyes focused on Christ.
I recently read of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Her father was a pastor, and one day when Harriet was fourteen-years-old, he preached a sermon that brought her to a personal commitment to Christ. She became a zealous Bible student. But as she went through her life, she encountered much suffering. Her youngest child died of cholera. Her eldest drowned. Another son was wounded in the head at the battle of Gettysburg. But we find the secret of her resilience later in her life, when she endured a long, dark Northeast winter, she wrote to a friend and said, “This winter I study nothing but Christ’s life…. It keeps my mind steady, and helps me to bear the languor and pain.”
The is the only way I know to deal with the sufferings of life. Praise the Lord for all your blessings. Trust the Lord with all your burdens. And love the Lord with all your being. According to 1 Peter 1:3-9, those are the three moment important things to do when you fall into a season of suffering.