DAILY DEVOTION - MAY 3
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“In all 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 the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
1 Peter 1:6–7 (NIV)
In Day 4, we spoke about all we inherit in Christ, receiving his righteousness, participating in his mission, and being assured of a glorious future. This inheritance is secured for us by our Father, who grants us grace and peace for today and hope for tomorrow.
But, there is one more thing we “inherit” in verses 6–7. When we inherit Christ’s identity, we also inherit participation in his suffering. Wait! What? Do we really have to suffer?
While not the happy inheritance we may have hoped for, being united to Christ means we are joined to all aspects of his ministry and mission. There is no uniting with Christ in his life without also uniting with him in his death. There is no glory for us without suffering, and no victory for us without the cross. Peter later writes in 4:13 that “insofar as [we] share in Christ’s sufferings” we will “rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” Jesus does not delight in our suffering. However, there is something in suffering that helps us more fully identify with him. And, similar to a pendulum, the degree to which we understand suffering will determine the degree to which we experience and appreciate joy this side of heaven.
Suffering is a never-welcomed part of human life. It is further complicated by the many reasons humans may suffer—as a result of the Fall or living in a broken world, at the hands of the Devil, or as a consequence of sinning. We may also suffer because we are sinned against, suffer for Christ, or suffer as a way of discipline to prepare us for the future. While the reasons differ, we know God is sovereign over all things, and he allows suffering because he has a greater purpose, working all things for our good (Romans 8:28).
The first time I trained for a marathon, I was not eager to follow my running plan and run a full 20 miles a few weeks before my race. However, the science behind it says that if your body is able to run 20 miles, then you can run 26.2. The running plan I was following was preparing me for the endeavor ahead. In the same way that powering through a workout is an investment in our health and prepares us for future challenges, so too God uses that which is uncomfortable (and even painful) to grow us and prepare us for what’s ahead. And, our own suffering makes us kinder and more empathetic toward those who struggle.
The suffering addressed in 1 Peter is primarily suffering for the sake of Christ and for the purpose of being better prepared for the future, a concept often called discipline. Discipline is a form of guidance or instruction that may involve, but is not limited to, correction. An example is the discipline athletes endure to train and become fit for their events.
In cases of suffering for Christ or of discipline from the Father, the Bible often uses the language of trials or testing. The most notable instance is in Genesis 22, when God “tests” the faith of Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham’s trial tested his faith, but also prepared him for future exercises in trust. In fact, the whole nation of Israel would refer to this episode throughout their history as a reminder that God will be faithful to his promises, even if it’s not clear how it will all work out in the end.
Trials are not without their discomfort—they can be downright painful. But, because of the goodness and grace of God, even the most painful of trials is purposeful. Peter himself has lived this reality. Now he is encouraging those suffering to realize that their trials are actually evidence of God’s love, presence, and care. Peter uses the analogy of fire’s testing gold in a crucible to help them understand (vv. 6–7).
Trials in our lives are God’s crucibles, the places where our faith is tested, purified, and proven genuine. The purification process described in verse 7 is a hot, uncomfortable, and grueling procedure. Metals like gold are tested by fire, being heated to extreme temperatures so that impurities surface and can be extracted or burned off. Once the dross has been eliminated, the heat is raised even higher so that more impurities can be discovered. Hotter and hotter, higher and higher, until all the dross has been removed and the gold is pure enough to be molded into its final form which, when all that is not genuine is removed, yields a most precious and durable metal.
In our lives, the trials are there to test and purify us. “Fire” tests our faith and, as our imperfections rise to the surface and are burned away, we become more like Christ, which is actually a mercy to us. Trials hurt and are uncomfortable, but they yield something better and purer than what was there before. The heat may cause our anger, self-reliance, distrust, self-pity, passivity, or self-righteousness to surface and burn away. Though the process is strenuous, there are mercies throughout it and glory at the end.
Peter concludes his illustration by saying that the product of the crucible is a faith proved worthy. And though even the purest gold can perish, a tested faith, guarded by God’s power, will never perish and is of exceedingly greater value.
What does Peter’s teaching mean practically for us as Christians? It means life will not be comfortable. In this present, temporary existence, there will be circumstances and events that cause us great pain and discomfort. The proverbial “fire” may seem unbearable to start with and, before things cool down, the heat may get cranked up higher still. In these moments, it is acceptable and appropriate to cry out to God who hears and who is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). Though he is sovereign over all, he is not without sympathy and care for those who feel crushed, overwhelmed, or heavy-hearted.
God is a real God who does not trivialize, minimize, or sugar-coat the hardships we endure. When something happens here on earth that was not a part of God’s original design in Eden, he grieves. He knows suffering hurts. He knows the crucible is severe and grueling. But, what 1 Peter 1:6–7 tell us is that God uses suffering to purify and prepare us. The process is painful, but God’s purpose is that such trials produce a product stronger and more precious than gold—a genuine, everlasting faith.