Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 January 29, 2017
“The Glorious Outcome of Trial”
Text: 1 Peter 1:6-7
Many of remember the long-running syndicated television show Hee-Haw—no matter whether we enjoyed it or groaned at it. A chief staple of that show was four men, each taking their turn relating their troubles, and separating the narratives with this oft-repeated, well-worn refrain, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me (Ohhh!)/Deep, dark depression; excessive misery (Ohhh!)/If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all (Ohhh!)/Gloom, despair, and agony on me.” This, however, is bad theology—after all, there is no such thing as luck, for God orders all things for His glory and our good—and it fails to tell the whole story.
It does seem sometimes in the Christian life that the men of Hee-Haw were right, though. Sometimes life hurts: either sharply by high, acute soul pain, or chronically by dull soul aches of long standing. We need not deny this fact to be mature Christians; in fact, owning the fact that life hurts at times makes us more authentic Christians—both before God and before an increasingly skeptical world. Moreover, these providential pains—these trials—work great good in us who belong (or who will belong) to Jesus Christ. Let’s see one way how in God’s Word to us today.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The Apostle Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, begins today’s passage, “In this you rejoice exceedingly….” In this phrase Peter refers back to the material in last week’s text. We rejoice exceedingly in the living hope that is ours in Christ Jesus. Our joy knows no bounds at our inheritance in Him: an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, ready to be revealed in the last time. This, as we noted last week, is good ground for rejoicing indeed.
This rejoicing comes and abides even though trials come, in God’s good providence. Peter, through the Spirit, has much to say about this—and what he says blesses our souls. The trials come only if necessary in God’s good purposes, but they are necessary for most of us. Recall these truths, though. God does not afflict maliciously, for He is not mean. Nor does God afflict whimsically, for He is not capricious. Rather, God afflicts to conform us to the image of His Son, and He does this for a host of reasons that support this fundamental aim—one of which we examine later in this sermon.
These generally necessary trials come, according to God in this text, but for a little while. They do not last forever. Nor does God prolong these trials any longer than they serve His purposes. Once God’s purpose in the trial is done, then the trial is done. More than this, these trials—which Paul, led by the Spirit in the second Corinthian letter, in the light of eternity—are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that cannot be taken away (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Let us not, however, minimize the degree of our suffering in trial. Trials, while they tarry, are grievous. Where the English Standard Version translators, at the end of verse six, render have been grieved, we may render more woodenly being made sad (or being made sorrowful, or being made distressed; Greek lupethentes [luphqenteV], from lupeo [lupew]). Trials wouldn’t be trials without this needful, difficult element. Even though our trials make sad, and grieve, and the like, there is much more to be said on the benefit of trial—and to it we now turn.
Trials come, according to our text today, to purify our faith. Peter likens our faith to gold, and he evaluates our faith even more favorably than he does gold. He calls our faith more precious than gold. This is remarkable. Gold, and what it represents, nations and individuals pursue above almost all else. Yet, as Peter points out, even gold perishes. We wonder how this may be. After all, gold, chemically speaking, is a most stable earthly element. Yet at the end of all things, before the re-created new heavens and new earth, even gold will pass away.
Our faith in Jesus Christ, more precious than gold, is proved—and proved genuine—by providentially ordered trial. That is, God tests and tries our faith in him by examination. Our faith, when enduring trials, bears weight and grows stronger. It also, as we note in today’s text, receives figurative heat, solvent, and the like—and the result is that God purifies our faith. The things in our lives which are not of God are consumed and that which remains, therefore, is of Him and is purified. Moreover, this purified faith (not to mention our purifying God) results in praise, glory, and honor at Jesus’ revelation—that is, at the consummation of this present age. God gets His praise, honor and glory for Who He is and what He has done for and in us.
Though trials come, and though they produce temporal sadness, yet we rejoice exceedingly. After all, we have a living hope in Christ—an inheritance secure in Heaven, the foretaste of which we enjoy now. This living hope remains unshaken because of trial. Actually, the trials actually refine our faith in Jesus. More than this, trials conform our beings increasingly to that of Christ Jesus; we become more Christ-like. Our providentially ordered trials, and our endurance of the same, result in praise, and glory, and honor unto our triune God—especially at His glorious return. Therefore, rejoice, beloved ones in Christ. Our trials have a glorious outcome indeed.