3. Secrets To Joy In The Midst Of Trials (1 Peter 1:6-9)Related Media
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 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. 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 goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:6–9
Application Question: What are common responses to suffering?
In this epistle, Peter is writing to Christians that are spread throughout Asia Minor, which is modern-day Turkey. They had been scattered because of the persecution coming from Rome. These believers were being persecuted for following Christ; they were being persecuted for being different. He writes to encourage them. Listen to what he says in 1 Peter 1:6: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (emphasis mine).
Peter says it is possible for these believers to have both great joy and grief in the midst of their trials. This verse can also be translated as a command “rejoice in this.” The believers were suffering in all kinds of trials. The word kinds can be translated “various or multicolored.” Some had, no doubt, lost their land, their loved ones and their careers, and yet Peter says they can still have great joy in the midst of these multicolored trials.
What is the secret to joy in trials? What’s the secret for a Christian to have joy while suffering through bankruptcy, cancer or even a lost child? Is it realistic that both joy and grief can exist together?
As we look at Scripture, we see that Peter is not the only writer who teaches this apparent paradox. Paul in fact lived it. Look at what Paul said about his trials in 2 Corinthians 6:10: “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (emphasis mine).
Paul said he was at the same time “sorrowful” and still “rejoicing.” To have joy in trials is not to deny pain. It is to recognize the fact that they can exist together. They can co-exist in the same way an expectant mother can go through the travail of birth and still have joy in thinking about what is to come. She has joy because she has the “right focus” as she considers this new baby that will be birthed into the world. In the same way, believers must have the right focus in order to have joy in their multicolored trials.
In this study, we will see six secrets to having joy in the midst of trials.
Big Question: What does Peter teach as secrets to joy in the midst of trials? How can we live this type of Christian life in the various multicolored trials we go through?
Focus on the Benefits of Salvation
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:6
Observation Question: What is Peter referring to when he says in “this” you greatly rejoice?
In the flow of thought, this is pointing back to our new birth and inheritance in heaven in verses 3–5. Listen to what he says in the previous verses.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth 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 (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:3–5
Why should believers have joy in their trials according to 1 Peter 1:3-5?
1. We rejoice in our new birth.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth (emphasis mine) into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3).
Peter says we have been given a new birth (v. 3) into a living hope through the resurrected Jesus Christ. We rejoice in the fact that we are new and we are not the same anymore. There was a time when we were dead to God, but now we are alive to him. We are alive to his Word, alive to worship, alive to one another, where before we were dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1–5). This is something we can rejoice in even in the midst of trials. But that’s not it. Peter says there is more.
2. We rejoice in our undefiled inheritance.
“And into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you” (1 Pet 1:4).
With this new birth, we receive an inheritance in heaven (v. 4). Jesus said in his high priestly prayer in John 17:22 that the glory he had in heaven has been shared with us. Romans 8:17 declares that we are co-heirs with Christ, and therefore, what is the Son’s is ours.
In fact, in some way, we benefit from this inheritance now. Ephesians 1:3 says we have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6 says we are seated in heavenly places with Christ. This means Christ is ruling in heaven but we are there in spirit with him. Everything that is his, is ours; we are co-heirs. This is a phenomenal concept. In fact, God is preserving this inheritance, keeping it from decay or being stolen, even right now. Let us hear that this inheritance is not only heavenly, but it will be earthly. Jesus declared that the “meek” would “inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5).
There are many people in this life who never receive their natural inheritance. Maybe they don’t receive it because the inheritance is lost or its value changes. But the inheritance to which Peter refers can never perish, spoil, or fade and God is protecting it for us. That’s something we can rejoice in, even when our natural inheritance is taken away.
3. We rejoice in our eternal security.
“Who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation” (1 Pet 1:5).
Some people are kept from their inheritance because of their own death. Peter says this is not true for the believer; though the believer may die, we are being sheilded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation (v. 5). Now this is something that only those who understand the reality that God is keeping the salvation of every believer can truly rejoice in. I have found many young Christians that have lost joy or even fallen into spiritual depression, thinking they had sinned in such a way that they had lost their salvation.
Listen, if you are truly born again, you are kept by God’s power “until the coming of salvation” which will be “revealed” at the coming of Christ (1 Pet 1:5) and not the power of your faith. God is the one who gives you faith (Ephesians 2:8–9), and he is the one who keeps it. The promise of Romans 8:28 is only true if our salvation and inheritance are secure; only then can all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. This is a wonderful truth for us, and it is one in which we must focus on in the multicolored trials we may go through. We can focus on our inheritance and security in heaven.
Too many Christians fail to focus on the benefits of their salvation, and therefore, have lost joy when their inheritance on earth is affected. Scripture says we should “rejoice in this” (1 Pet 1:6). We should rejoice in all the benefits of our coming salvation. This is how Paul could suffer and yet still be joyful (2 Cor 6:10); his salvation was always on his mind and he did not lose focus on it.
Application Question: Why do so many Christians lose this joy in their salvation which is meant to sustain them during trials?
It is very possible for Christians to lose the joy of their salvation. We see evidence of this with David. Look at what he prayed in Psalms 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (emphasis mine). Why had David lost joy in his salvation? The Psalm tells us it was because of sin. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge” (Ps 51:4).
Listen, many of us have lost our joy. The heavens are our inheritance, and the earth will one day be as well, yet so many of us walk around in sadness, anger, and depression. Why is that? It’s because sin has taken away our joy. It may be personal sin, as with David. It may be the sin of a wrong focus—focusing on the things of the world, the economy, and the problems in life. Scripture commands us to “think on godly things.” Listen to what Paul says:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Many of us have lost our joy because we have sinned by losing the right focus. What must we do if we have lost it? (1) We must confess our sins and turn away from them. (2) We must regain our focus on Christ and the inheritance that he is bringing at his revelation.
One of the things I love about 1 Peter is his focus on the gospel and having joy in our salvation. He has brought us back to the basics. In fact, one of the things that I respect about the reformed tradition (Presbyterians, Reformed Baptist, Reformed Church of America, etc.) is their focus on the gospel as well. I don’t come from a completely reformed background. As you may know, reformed people see the major theme of Scripture as “redemption,” and therefore, in many of their sermons they come back to the gospel because they see everything connected to the gospel. I feel like Peter is doing that here—he brings us back to the gospel; he brings us back to our salvation. It’s extremely important because it so easy to lose the joy that should be ours.
How can we have joy in the midst of our trials? We do that by rejoicing in the benefits of our salvation. We have experienced the new birth. We have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven, and our salvation is secure because God is shielding it for us.
Application Question: What ways have you experienced the loss of joy in your salvation?
Why did you lose it? How can we better strive to keep it?
Focus on Eternity
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:6
Next, he says the trials are only for “a little while.” Now for some of us who have been going through a difficult situation for six months, a year, or ten years, the timing may not feel short at all. Maybe we have been in a bad marriage or dealing with a difficult boss or some type of persecution. In what way is this temporary?
It is temporary, not just because of the fact that it will end in time, but it is a “little while” in comparison to the salvation and inheritance you will experience for eternity. That is the context in the previous verses (1 Pet 3-5). Paul said something similar in 2 Corinthians 4:17–18:
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (emphasis mine).
See when Paul was looking at his troubles being “momentary” (v. 17), it was in comparison to the coming glory, which would be eternal (v. 17, 18). It seems to be the same argument used by Peter, since he has just talked about our heavenly inheritance. Trials only last for a little while in comparison to our eternal salvation.
This is the type of view Christians must develop on the earth. Many people are only thinking about tomorrow or focusing on the next immediate milestone: graduation, marriage or retirement, but that view is too shortsighted. We must develop an eternal perspective.
This life is not just about our future career, marriage, or retirement. Do you know we are being prepared for eternity and an eternal destiny? It is not just about getting to heaven. It’s also about the role we will play once we are there. What we do today will affect our eternity. In the Parable of the Minas, listen again to what the master told the servant who used his minas well:
The first one came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more.” “Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities” (emphasis mine).
How he served on earth affected his future service—the service he would do for the rest of his life. Oh yes, this is the perspective we must have. Our short fifty to seventy years are all about preparing for eternity, not just getting into heaven.
Paul saw his trials as short and momentary. Peter saw them as little in comparison to the glories of eternity, and so must we. We must develop an eternal view in order to have joy in the midst of our trials. If we only are thinking about tomorrow, next year, or thirty years from now, we will not have a sustainable joy. We must have an eternal view. When we view our trials in comparison to eternity, then they become light and momentary. Therefore, we can have joy.
Application Question: What things keep you from developing this eternal view point in the midst of your trials? How can we develop and sustain an eternal view point?
Focus on God’s Sovereignty and Purpose in the Trial
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:6
What is the next reason we can rejoice in trials?
We can rejoice in trials because they have purpose. They are not haphazard; they are not by accident—and God has not forgotten about us. Look at what Peter says: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to (emphasis mine) suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Pet 1:6).
He says “you may have had to.” This can be translated “if necessary” as in the ESV or “if need be” as seen in the KJV. What does Peter mean? He means that God is in control of our trials and they do not happen by accident. As a father, he only allows us to go through things that are necessary for us. He doesn’t waste anything. Understanding this reality is one of the major reasons we can rejoice in the midst of trials.
It is this way with any good father. A good father only allows his child to go through trials if they are necessary. The child wants to quit Little League Baseball because he’s not very good, but the father knows that the discipline and perseverance he is developing is needed for whatever career God leads him into. The father makes the child finish the season only because it’s necessary for his growth. The child may cry and complain, and it is not that the father is immune to the child’s tears, but it is because he knows what’s best. Our Father knows what’s best as well. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews said about trials: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father” (Heb 12:7)?
In this passage, the writer says to endure “hardship” as discipline—God is treating you as sons. The writer uses the word hardship to refer to any kind of trial we go through. The point the author is trying to make, is that God is in control of every hardship a believer goes through (cf. Eph 1:11; Rom 8:28)
Now there are those who struggle with this and say, “What about trials that come from Satan or my own failure?” Yes, God is in control of those trials as well. That’s why the author uses a general term for hardship. Paul says the same thing in other texts, look at 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (emphasis mine).
Paul says not only is he in total control, but he is specifically controlling the temperature gauge on every trial. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. He knows exactly what you need and how much you can handle. Believers can rejoice in trials because of this--they have purpose.
Now why would these trials be necessary for us? The fact that they are necessary means there is “intention” behind them. Let’s look at a couple of reasons why trials would be necessary.
Interpretation Question: Why would some trials be necessary and in what ways?
1. Some trials are necessary to turn us away from sin.
This is what we see happening to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11. They were abusing the Lord’s Supper, and God brought weakness, sickness, and even death on them. Look at what Paul says:
That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:30–32
Sometimes God brings trials to discipline us, to turn us away from sin. Listen to what David said about his experience with discipline: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word” (Ps 119:67). Before discipline came, David was living in sin, but after the affliction, he obeyed God’s words. Often, trials are necessary to turn us away from sin and toward obedience. Like every good parent, sometimes God will bring discipline in the life of a believer to give them motivation to obey. In the situation of the Corinthians, this included weakness, sickness, and even death.
Death is the ultimate way to turn someone from sin. He did this with Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5. They were lying to the church about their giving and because of this God took them home.
2. Trials sometimes are necessary to protect us from sin.
What does that mean? Let me explain through the illustration of Paul and his thorn in the flesh.
Second Corinthians 12:7 says: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (emphasis mine). We are not sure what this “thorn” in the flesh was. God has chosen not reveal it. I have no doubt that God did this so that we could apply it to any trial we experience, whether sickness, depression or demonic persecutions. Whatever Paul’s trial, it was given to him because of the “surpassing great revelations” he had received from God.
In the previous verses (1-6), Paul had talked about how he was taken to heaven and saw visions and things he could not speak about. These would make any person proud. If Satan, who was originally an angel without a sin nature, fell into pride—how much more likely a human who was exalted to write near half of the New Testament? In order that he would not become proud, God humbled him through a demonic affliction. It does not say Paul was prideful, but God was saving him from the sin of pride through this humbling experience. Maybe that is why God touched Jacob’s thigh and caused him to limp after wrestling with God and prevailing. Maybe that was why God allowed Peter to go through such a humbling trial at the cross since he would be the Lord’s chief Apostle.
In the same way, many trials we go through could possibly be a form of God’s grace to keep us from sin. We have probably seen this in some of the people God has chosen to use in the greatest ways. Charles Spurgeon, who was called the Prince of Preachers, used to struggle with depression that was so bad at times he couldn’t leave his bed for weeks.
The trial given to Paul was a work of grace to keep him from the sin of pride.
3. Trials are ultimately needed in order for us to grow in character.
Listen to what Hebrews says: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb 12:11).
For those who are trained by going through hardship, it produces a harvest of righteousness. Hear this: peace, patience, endurance, love, and joy are fruits of trials. There is a harvest for those who have been trained by pain. Look at the life of any truly godly man or woman, and you will see that godliness has always been marked by trials.
We are trained by persevering through the trial and seeking the Lord and his Word in the midst of it. However, those who are not trained by it often develop strongholds. Hebrews 12:12, 13 says this: “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed” (emphasis mine). Many develop strongholds and addictions by going through trials. It is harder for them to love, harder for them to forgive, or harder for them to have peace. They become “lame” and “disabled.” Only those who are “trained” by the trial, develop the character God wants.
4. Trials maybe necessary in order to further equip us for ministry.
Listen again to what Paul said:
Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 1:4–6
Paul said he had learned that God comforted him in the midst of trouble so he could comfort those in any trouble. There are some Christians, especially young Christians, who struggle with how to comfort somebody in the midst of a failure, a loss, or some depression. This is not their fault, and it is not necessarily a lack of spirituality. Many of them just don’t have the experience of going through trials with God yet. This is where he prepares his counselors.
One of the wonderful promises about this text is that God uses trouble in order to comfort us so we can comfort those who go through “any trouble” (v. 4). This means that my trial with depression is used to help believers who have experienced trials that are different from mine. I don’t necessarily have to experience exactly what they have gone through to comfort them.
In the midst of pain, God creates a reservoir in you. This reservoir allows you to go deeper than you have before. Those of you who are hard-hearted and never cry, God teaches you to cry through pain. He teaches you how to be able to feel others’ heartaches. He teaches you how to better hear God’s voice in times of suffering. All this will enable you, in a special way, to be able to minister to others.
My calling to ministry was also marked by trials. After feeling impressed to go into ministry, I struggled with depression for over a year. But, during this depression God comforted me through his Word. I probably read through the Bible fifteen times in close to a year and a half. When people hear me preach, they will hear a strong emphasis on the importance of Scripture, the importance of daily meditation on the Word of God because that is the way God “comforted me” and I, therefore, comfort others the same way.
It is a mystery, but God brings comfort through the broken. It’s only the broken whom he can pour his precious grace through to minister to others.
What other reasons are trials necessary? The next reason is because it “tests our faith.” We will focus on that in the next section, as it is also a secret to having joy in the midst of trials.
Application Question: What are your thoughts about the concept of God being in control of every trial and him only allowing them if they are necessary?
Focus on Your Faith
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 (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:7
Peter says that trials are used to prove the genuiness of one’s faith. The word proved is used of testing metals through fire. In this passage, faith is both compared and contrasted with gold. Gold is one of the most precious metals because it is one of the most imperishable. It lasts for a very long time. Gold can be passed from generation to generation. The imperishableness of gold is one of the things that make it valuable. If it only lasted for a couple of years, it would be less expensive.
The contrast is that true faith is more precious than gold in that it never perishes. In fact, true faith is indestructible. If faith is genuine, it will last until the revelation of Christ when he comes, and it will result in praise, glory, and honor from God (v. 7).
Trials to our faith, are like fire to a precious metal—the fire tests the genuineness of it. Each metal has a different melting point, and that is one of the ways you can tell if something is really genuine. The metallurgist will put it in the fire and see at what temperature it melts. If it melts early, it is not real. Trials have the same effect on a believer’s faith.
No doubt there have been many miners who found something that looked like gold. It was beautiful, but when they put it into fire, they found out it wasn’t. It melted at a lower temperature. It was not as strong or valuable. Genuine gold will last at high temperatures.
That is similar to genuine faith. However, genuine faith lasts forever, and faith that ultimately falls away from God in the midst of trials is spurious. It is false faith. A lot of times we don’t talk about false faith in church, but it is a reality. In fact, James talks about a faith without works, as “demonic faith.” He says even the demons believe and shudder (Jas 2:19).
How do we know if we have genuine faith? One of the ways we can tell is by our response to trials. Listen to the story of the seed sown upon rocks.
The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away (emphasis mine).
See, this person was in the church, heard the Word of God, and he responded with joy. In fact, it seems like a very emotional “conversion.” However, this person’s faith was very shallow and didn’t last. Why is that? Maybe the conversion was based on bad teaching? In many of our churches, we call people to faith saying that if you come to Christ, you will be able to hit homeruns, you will be able to make straight A’s, you will never be sick, and you will be wealthy. At times there is an unhealthy form of the gospel taught in the church.
When this person eventually encounters trouble or persecution, they fall away from God and never return. Maybe they were believing God for healing, and it didn’t happen. Maybe they realized following Christ would mean being different, or as with the people in Asia Minor, it meant being persecuted for their faith. This person inevitably falls away from Christ and never returns. His faith was not real, and the trial was meant to demonstrate that. That is one of the blessings of trials; it proves our faith, whether it is real or not.
For many, when they go through a church split or they were harmed by a church leader, they fall away from the faith and never return. This is not true faith. Listen to what John said about those who were in the church but left the church of Ephesus to follow the Gnostic cults.
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 (emphasis mine).
1 John 2:19
He doesn’t say they lost their salvation or lost faith. He simply says “they did not really belong to us.” They weren’t really saved. He says if they were saved, they would have “remained.”
See, true faith, unlike gold, is imperishable. Gold is valuable in part because of how long it lasts, but gold will eventually fade and corrupt, unlike true faith. True faith will last in the face of trials. It’s one of the ways we can tell if it’s genuine.
Let us remember, how Jesus responded to those who professed salvation in Matt 7:23; he says, “I never knew you.” They were not saved and lost it. No, they were never saved. He never knew them, though they were in the church and served in the church. It was never true faith.
A good example of this is Peter and Judas. They both denied Christ when they were tested through the trial. Peter fell away and came back because he had genuine faith. Judas denied Christ and never returned. Jesus had always said that one of the disciples was unclean and a devil (John 6:70). Judas didn’t have genuine faith.
In the same way, trials are necessary in order to prove the reality of one’s faith.
How do you respond to trials? Does it draw you closer to God, closer to his Word and closer to the people of God? Or, does it pull you away from him, his people, and his will for your life? Trials help us evaluate our faith.
True faith is ultimately indestructible because God keeps it by his power. One of the reasons we can rejoice in trials is because it proves the genuiness of our faith. It proves to us and others that we are part of the kingdom of God (Philip 1:28, 29).
Application Question: What are some ways we can focus on our faith in trials in order to keep our joy?
Focus on the Future Glory
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 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 (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:6–7
What other reasons can we rejoice in trials? We rejoice because trials bring a greater future glory. When it says the trials have come so that our faith “may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed,” this seems to be referring to the reality that God will praise you, glorify you, and honor you for your faithfulness in going through trials. Christ taught the same thing. Listen to what he said:
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (emphasis mine).
He said, “Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven.” There is a reward given for suffering. James said the same thing: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life (emphasis mine) that God has promised to those who love him” (Jas 1:12).
Here is a question: does simply going through a trial warrant reward in heaven? No, it’s how we go through the trial. James says blessed, or happy, is the man who perseveres under trial.
We see Israel going through trials in the wilderness, and God disciplined them. They fell away from God, they complained about God, and they were divided. But there is another way to go through trials. It is the way of faith—it is the genuine faith that is tested through the trial. God rewards those who faithfully “persevere.” Listen to a few other texts:
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life (emphasis mine).
Listen to what Christ said: “Be faithful” and you will be rewarded. God will honor those who have been faithful in the way they have persevered through trials. They did not become like the Israelites who murmured, gossiped, became divisive, and ultimately turned away from God. Those who are faithful—meaning that they didn’t quit, meaning that they continued to trust in God and honor him in the midst of trials—will be richly rewarded.
The writer of Hebrews says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (emphasis mine)” (Heb 11:6).
Are you faithfully seeking him in the midst of your trial? God says, “That’s what I’m looking for. I will reward those who have faith in the midst of their trials. I will rejoice over them and honor them. I will give them a crown.” Peter saw this and focused on this in the midst of his trials. He also called these suffering saints to focus on it as well.
This is a wonder. Typically, we honor those who are successful and do great things. This is common in the world. But look at Christianity—we honor and worship a man who died on a cross. This was something shameful in that culture. Who would honor a person who died in an electric chair?
But we see this reality throughout the Scripture. We see the man Job, memorialized in Scripture for his faithfulness in going through trials. God honors him in Scripture and, no doubt, in heaven.
We can rejoice in our trials because those who are faithful will be honored and praised by God. They will be memorialized even as Job was.
Application Question: In what ways should the prospect of future reward and glory encourage us as we face trials? How can we encourage others with this when they are suffering?
Focus on Your Relationship with Christ
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 goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:8–9
Peter, in speaking to these Christians, says they are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” because of their love and belief in Christ. How can this bring joy? It brings joy because it is in the midst of the trial that we see Christ and know him more. It is this loving relationship with Christ that allows us to endure and have joy in trial or tribulation.
I cannot help but think about Jacob and Rachel. As you know in that story, Jacob served Laban for seven extra years to receive Rachel. Genesis 29:20 says: “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (emphasis mine).
It was hard work to serve for her, but it felt like only a few days because of love. Many people have experienced this in the midst of trials. It is the relationships around us that often enable us to endure hard times. There is often a bonding that happens with others while going through hardship together.
Trials can create a tremendous intimacy. Many have experienced this in athletics or the military, as they have gone through both joys and difficulties with those around them. There is a deep intimacy created, which is often hard to replicate apart from the experience of trials.
For the believer, the great thing about trials is that Christ goes through them with us and in the trial we can experience deep intimacy. Christ said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Matt 28:20). He is there, and his presence enables us to get through it, and even experience the sweetest joy. You will find that it is in the fire that your intimacy with Christ becomes the greatest. Ask the three Hebrews who were thrown into the fire in Babylon. While in the fire, they found the Son of God there with them.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God (emphasis mine).
Daniel 3:24–25 (KJV)
Our loving relationship with Christ can create some of the greatest joy even in the midst of the fire. How many of us are missing joy in our trials? Maybe we are lacking joy because we are not cultivating this loving relationship with Christ. Listen to what Christ said to the church of Ephesus in Revelations 2:2-4:
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love (emphasis mine).
It is possible to work hard for Christ, persevere through trials, to hate what God hates, and yet still lose our love for Christ. This happened to the church of Ephesus, and it is common for us. When you lose your love for Christ, trials don’t feel like they last only a few days as it was for Jacob working for Rachel. Christianity can become like arduous labor; it can become legalism, and it can steal our joy, if we have the wrong focus.
Many Christians go through trials without joy, because they are not focusing on their loving relationship with Christ. In fact, they have lost their first love like the Ephesians. They have lost it, and instead, are loving other things more than Christ. They love work, friends, TV, hobbies, etc. If you have lost your first love, you cannot have joy in the midst of trials or in the midst of your service for Christ. It will become drudgery. When this happens, the secret is to refocus on your relationship with him.
Are you lacking joy in the midst of your trial? Go back to your first love. This relationship will carry you and give you joy.
Application Question: How do we cultivate our first love again so we can have joy in trials?
1. Spend intimate time with him one on one.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).
2. Spend intimate time with him among his people.
Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt 18:20). Though this was originally given in the context of church discipline, we can be sure that this is true whenever God’s people gather together for religious purposes.1 Christ is present wherever his people gather for the purpose of worshiping, honoring, and serving the Lord.
3. Obey him. In obedience to Christ, we experience God’s love.
“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love (emphasis mine), just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:10).
4. Spend intimate time with him through the Lord’s Supper. He knew we were prone to forget. The Lord’s Supper is given to help us remember him.
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (emphasis mine).
How can we have joy in the midst of trials?
- Focus on the benefits of our great salvation—our new birth, our inheritance, and our security.
- Focus on eternity; trials are brief in comparison to eternity.
- Focus on God’s sovereignty and purpose in trials. The trial was not an accident it was necessary for your growth and maturation in Christ.
- Focus on your faith; trials prove the genuineness of our faith.
- Focus on the eternal glory; faithfulness in trials will be rewarded.
- Focus on our relationship with Christ; trials can bring deep intimacy with Christ.
Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown
Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.
1 Ryle, J. C. (1993). Matthew (164). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.