Is There Purpose in Suffering? Part 2 (1 Peter 1:6–9)
Summary/Overview of Part 1 (1 Peter 1:5–9)
Peter’s audience was in a hard place. Their lives had been disrupted. Peter could empathize with them and reminded them of the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. They had been born again to an active and living hope. As they embraced their disruption and, focused on Christ, they were promised to be rewarded with a stunning inheritance waiting for them in heaven. Part of the purpose of suffering is to grip onto Christ’s living hope so that they will receive a full reward.
I enjoy looking at Debbie and my wedding photos. They remind me of how beautiful my wife has always been, how happy she makes me feel. The wedding photos remind me of my life-long commitment to be faithful to her and her alone. Weddings are something to be celebrated and remembered. They reflect God’s love and design for a relationship between a man and a woman. When I find a couple in my office who have lost their way with each other, I will often have them write a letter to themselves, reminding themselves of how they fell in love and what drew them together. This often will help reignite their feelings and allow them to revisit what drew them together.
When I look at my wedding photos, I find rejoicing erupt in my soul, but our life together has taken us through many difficulties. We have endured marriage after the honeymoon as we learned of each other’s faults. We have learned to give grace to each other, forgive, and to appreciate our unique differences. We have endured our daughter, Rachel, being been brain injured and who lives with us as an adult who cannot care for herself. Caring for Rachel is a joy that is full of struggles. We have waded through the fear and pain of breast cancer. Being spiritual leaders is fraught with hurtful words, misunderstandings, and pride. When I flip through our wedding pictures, I remember and rejoice what God has done.
Peter states in 1 Peter 1:6 that his audience of first-century believers “greatly rejoice” in God’s faithfulness to them while they are in the middle of having their lives disrupted and dispersed (1 Peter 1:1). Peter reminded them that they were born again (1 Peter 1:3). He reminded them that as they embraced their struggles with a “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3), they would be rewarded with a stunning inheritance in the future. It is always helpful to look back and remember just how faithful God is to us.
Because the world is broken, suffering persists. As Peter’s audience rejoiced in what God had done for them and the inheritance waiting for them, suffering screamed all around them. Peter calls those sufferings, “various trials”. These trials are common to all people. It is not limited or focused on being persecuted for the faith. Various trials include common struggles all people experience; sickness, accidents, and other painful events in life. These common trials come “if necessary”.
Trials are in fact necessary for us to prove if our focus is on God or on our own efforts for control. When we find that our focus is on ourselves in the midst of trials, we can learn that we need to adjust our focus back to trusting God and cry out to Him. If we find our focus is on God during trials, we know that our inheritance is growing. We are investing in our eternal future. It seems that each person’s inheritance has different qualities, depending on how we face various trials in our lives. This is part of the purpose of suffering.
Our faith, Peter tells us, is more precious than gold. The eternal inheritance we are investing in as we follow Jesus cannot be lost (1 Peter 1:4–5) because it is protected by God Himself. Our struggles may feel like we are going through a fire. As our focus is on God in the middle of these trials, we can be sure that Jesus is taking notice of how we handle them. When the day comes, and we find ourselves before Him, Jesus will give us praise and glory and honor for how we have lived for Him. Hearing Jesus say “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:14–30), is more precious than any amount of worldly goods and comforts we can amass in this life. We must ask ourselves if we actually believe this – especially in the midst of trials. Our focus will determine how we endure life’s various trials. When we do believe God’s Word and focus on Christ, we will become more generous with our time, talents, and treasures in many ways for His glory.
Jesus Himself knows of “various trials” because He experienced them while He lived on the earth. He endured much because of His great love for us (Philippians 2:5–13). He wants to share His glory with us – that is such an awesome, generous gift (John 17:22–23). We would do well to remind ourselves, and others, of all that God has done, is doing and will do as we face the sufferings in this world.
At times, doubts will rise about God and His goodness; especially when we are suffering. This is a common human experience. Peter offers us encouragement when he wrote, “…and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” The outcome of our faith, Peter reminds us, is the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9). This salvation is our future abundant life that will be lived out forever with Him in His Kingdom.
Our response to all of life’s disruptions and trials is to live with a passionate present hope in the One who loved us so much, that He willingly became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14). He made this sacrifice so that we will enjoy Him forever. Jesus is anticipating that day when He will be able to give us praise and glory and honor for how we choose to live for Him. I pray you are faithful, fruitful, and finish well so you will hear those words, “Well done,” as you endure various trials in this life!