“And we know that all things to work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
Romans 8:28-29 (NET)
The words of Romans 8:28-29 are some of my favorites in all the Scriptures for they help me understand that God is at work in all the events of my life to make me more like Jesus Christ. Although the circumstances themselves may not seem good, God uses them for my benefit to make me truly beautiful through the things that come my way. As we consider trials this week, think carefully about the beauty that God brings out of the ashes.
Reread 1 Peter 1:1-21 to see the flow of the passage and the context of what we will look at today.
1. According to v. 6, we greatly rejoice “in this.” Go back through the 1:1-5 and list everything there in which you personally rejoice.
2. What do you learn about the nature of trials in v.6? In other words, what are they like according to this verse?
3. What is the final result of trials according to v. 7?
4. As you pray for believers who are experiencing trials, what can you pray for them according to vv. 6-7? Write down some specifics from these verses.
It helps me to see that the Bible says that trials can be distressing. So often as believers we think that living joyfully means that there is no distress. Joy is an inward attitude, but it doesn’t rule out sorrow, pain, or grief. At times it helps me to turn to Scriptures such as this chapter in 1 Peter so that I am reminded of the reasons to be joyful. When I begin to get depressed over my circumstances, I need to refocus on Jesus and on His promises.
5. Sharing question: Are you in the midst of a trial that is distressing you? What is it? Be prepared to share it with your group so that they can pray for you.
6. Sharing question: Describe one way that you have found that helps you bring your focus back to God when you are in the midst of a trial.
Reread 1 Peter 1:6-7.
7. Verse 7 says that your faith may be tested by fire through trials. When you took tests in school, what was the purpose of the test? (Hint - It was not to get a grade!)
In my education classes in college, I remember hearing that tests should also be teaching tools. The test itself can help the students learn. At the time I didn’t really believe that it could be true, but I remember an exam at seminary where I went straight home and looked up the questions that I had skipped. I had somehow missed the information and actually wanted to learn about them!
8. Sharing question: Share with your group about a trial you have experienced that taught you while it tested your faith. Share what happened and what you learned as a result of that trial.
9. Response to God: Write a prayer to God asking Him to help you learn what He needs to teach you through a specific situation that you are facing right now. Ask him to make you a more beautiful woman from what you learn.
Reread 1 Peter 1:6-21.
We saw in our Day One lesson that there are reasons to rejoice although we are dealing with trials in our lives. Peter talks about rejoicing later in this chapter.
10. What can help you rejoice according to 1:8-9?
We also saw in last week’s lesson that we have been born again to a living hope (1:3). As Peter mentions trials, he also mentions hope. Sometimes we use the word hope to mean a possibility, a “hope” that something happens. That is not the idea of the hope here. The meaning of this hope is “Hope, desire of some good with expectation of obtaining it.”1 This kind of hope is one that you do expect to happen; it is not doubtful.
11. According to 1:13, 21, what truths can give us hope?
12. Sharing question: Think of a difficult circumstance in your life right now. Perhaps you would call it a trial or perhaps just a difficult situation. How can the truths that you have learned here in 1 Peter about rejoicing and hope help you face this circumstance?
We do need to keep in mind that we are sometimes the cause of our own trials. We have sinned or just messed up and have created the consequences. Perhaps you are in deep debt because you have overspent, being enticed by materialism. You may have acted unwisely in dealing with other people and are left with problems in relationships. I know Christians who rarely consider their personal responsibility in their situations but tend to blame Satan for everything that happens to them. We will study our enemy more in the last lesson, but here we should understand that he is not all-powerful and that we are responsible for our choices and the consequences.
Yet, there is hope even when we have sinned and blown it!
Read Romans 8:18-30.
These verses can give us hope and reason to rejoice even when we have caused the problem ourselves. They teach us that God uses every situation to make us more beautiful because we become more like Christ.
13. Romans 8:28-29 is our “Precious Word from God” for this week. Copy it below and memorize at least v. 28.
14. Sharing question: Share with your group a time when you recognized the principles of Romans 8:28 as true, once you looked back on the situation.
15. Responding to God: Write a prayer thanking God for His redemption of your mistakes. Think of a specific time when you created a bad situation and yet, He brought good from it. Thank Him for the good He will bring from your current trial.
As we continue to consider the topic of trials in the life of a believer, we want to look at some other passages that may help us see them from God’s perspective.
Read James 1:2-4, 12.
16. Explain the process and outcomes of trials that James describes.
17. What is your attitude to be in the midst of these trials? Why can you have this attitude according to James?
So often we hear the question, “How can a good God let this happen?” We need to remember in the midst of our trials that death, disease, and war entered the world because of the sin of mankind. Our lives involve pain and death because we are sinners. If you do not know the story of how sin entered this world, read Gen. 3.
Read John 9:1-3.
18. What was the purpose of the illness of this man that Jesus met?
The disciples believed that all illness was caused by specific sin in the person’s life. We must never assume that any individual sickness or trial is because of that person’s sin. That can be the case, but only God can reveal the reason for any trial, and we outsiders do not need to know. God gives us info only on a need to know basisJ I don’t need to know why you are experiencing a trial.
When I encounter a difficult circumstance, I take it before Lord for understanding. God does discipline us when we need it and we must be sensitive to what He is telling us in the midst of trials. It is hard to consider that we have sinned and that God is disciplining us for it. Our hearts are deceptive and we prefer to ignore our own sins or to minimize them.
19. List everything that you learn about God’s discipline in Heb. 12:5-11.
20. Sharing question: Describe a time in your life when God disciplined you or when others attributed a trial in your life to your personal sins. How did you respond? How did it make you more beautiful?
What we learn from the verses we have seen this week is a larger perspective, the big picture, concerning trials in our lives. When we encounter difficult circumstances, God wants us to get a broader point-of-view than we can see from within the situation.
Reread 1 Peter 1:3-13; James 1:2-4, 12; Rom. 8:18-30; Heb. 12:5-13.
21. Summarize what you learn from all these passages about the larger perspective of our trials, i.e. what are some of God’s purposes when believers face trials.
22. What truths have you learned from these passages about how to respond to trials?
These truths can help give us the hope and the joy that we are to have during hard times. However, often people need assistance to refocus on God and His goodness. I have learned to pray for God’s wisdom in encouraging others because sometimes quoting Rom. 8:28 makes their sorrow or distress seem wrong or trivial. I have to be sensitive to their feelings in the words that I choose to bring comfort to them. We can have joy and sorrow at the same time, and we have to allow believers to deal with pain, which is not a sinful feeling.
23. Sharing question: What are some ways that other believers have helped you see the big picture when you have dealt with difficult times?
The thing about difficult circumstances is that they are so… well, wearing! One or two – maybe even three difficulties at the same time can be dealt with, but when crisis upon crisis occurs like dominos falling, your body and mind do not have time to recover before the next crisis hits. The impact of stress on the body and mind leave you depleted of internal resources to cope, and you find yourself in despair. What can you do when you reach this level of physical, emotional, and spiritual weariness?
There was a time years ago when I found myself in this state. Loss of income, death of loved ones, shoulder surgery, loss of friendships and other disappointments had taken their toll on my mind and body. I felt I was so buried in despair I could never dig my way out. But I refused to give in to the pressure to give up and walk away from God. A few years prior to that time, I watched as people I knew and loved turned their back on God, and what they knew to be the right thing, in order to do what was right in their own eyes. I knew I did not want to do the same thing. Deep down, I knew that turning away from God was not the answer even though at times I felt forsaken.
When I sat down to pray, the words would not come. I found myself crying to God saying “O God, please do not let me go. Even though I have lost my grip on you, please do not let me go but keep me in the palm of your hand.”
As I cried out to Him, I found Psalm 101:3. The words of this verse were like a surge of energy to my soul. “I hate the work of those who fall away. It shall not fasten its grip on me” (NASB)
This verse became my commitment to the Lord during a difficult time. My commitment was that I would not allow life’s troubles to fasten their grip on me forcing me away from God and my faith. I felt I was losing my grip, but I also knew of God’s promise to never leave me nor forsake me. I clung to that promise even during the times when I questioned it.
God heard the cry of a wounded heart, a defeated mind, and a weary body. He brought me out of the miry clay, set my feet upon the Rock, and filled my mouth with praise to My God. Psalm 40:1-3. He healed my broken heart, and has used the difficulties of my past to soften me in response to the pain of others. He has forced me, through my own suffering, to be more flexible, understanding, and patient when faced with the suffering of others. Broken relationships in my life have been mended because I am more forgiving having been taught forgiveness while in the fires of tribulation. I didn’t like having to go through everything I went through, but God was with me through it all and has not wasted the experiences but is using them for His glory.
When trails come, it is so important to cling to what we know to be true from God’s Word because His promises are true! The answer to the question in the first paragraph is “fight back”. Don’t give up… don’t give in, but fight back with Truth!
Thanks be to God that as I place my trust in Him no matter what life brings my way, I am blessed!
24. Response to God: Write a prayer in which you are completely honest with God about how you feel about a current trial or difficulty. Ask God to give you the grace to make it through whatever you are dealing with in your life right now. Ask Him to give you hope and joy in the midst of this situation.
25. Write a note to a friend who is struggling in her life to encourage her. Write a prayer for her that God will bring beauty within from the ashes.
1Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1992), 570.