Dear Friends in Christ,
The Apostle Peter began his First Epistle General by encouraging Christians about their resurrection hope in Christ Jesus. Verse four states that we have “… an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven…” Those first Christians needed such encouragement, for they faced periodic persecution from both Jewish and Roman authorities. So Peter went on to write:
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith- the salvation of your souls. [verses 6-9]
One of the chief reasons why our merciful and loving God allows trials to come into our lives is so that we will have opportunity to grow in our faith. Just as muscle groups that remain unused atrophy, so our faith would wither away if we had no chance to exercise it. What does it mean to exercise faith? It means that we have to learn to become totally dependent upon God to supply all of our needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus. As long as everything is going fairly well for us in our lives, then we don’t have to give God a second thought.
The Apostle James wrote, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” [1:2-4]. Saint Peter compared the testing of our faith to the refinement of gold, wherein the impure substance must be heated to the point where the pure gold separates from the other minerals. Our problem as newborn believers is that we all come into the Christian faith as impure, unrefined ore. The impurities of our lives are all of the habitual practices and desires which are self-centered rather than God-centered. God purposely allows trials to come our way in order for us to depend more and more upon His presence and His power to supply our needs and to give us the wherewithal to accomplish great things for the kingdom of God. Under the fiery crucible of afflictions, we can see our faith grow as He supplies our needs. We all need to first seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and then the other things which we need He will provide.
Genuine and proven faith in God is reasonable, for it is based upon the validation of all that Christ said and did when He rose from the dead. A genuine Christian hope is also personal. The Apostle Peter made that clear in verse 8, where he wrote to his readers about Jesus, “whom having not seen, you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” This is no mere intellectual belief, this is a personal faith in Christ, based upon a relationship which is made possible by the Holy Spirit. We receive Christ in loving faith, not just intellectual faith; and this truth is totally consistent with God’s greatest command that we love the Lord our God with all of our being. It is not enough just to believe about Christ’s death for our sins; but instead, we must repent and give ourselves in loving faith to follow the Savior who leads us through all trials unto the inexpressible joy of the resurrection. Receiving Christ means embracing in love the one who said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” [John 16:33]. God never forsakes or disowns His children: He allows for our faith, hope, and love for Him to be refined for our own happiness through the various trials of life. Let us therefore flee to His presence in prayer, in His Word, and in the fellowship of His people as we encounter hardships; knowing that the end of our faith is the certain and eternal salvation of our souls.