Recently I had a car accident and messed up my little hot rod (really it’s just a little hatchback). It has taken over two months and it’s still not repaired correctly. In fact, at this very moment my car is in the garage yet again. Wheres the joy in that?
Several weeks ago a good friend of mine lost his job of 20+ years. He started working on the docks and through commitment and training was raised up to a prominent position. Then just like that, a negative accusation was made and he was let go. Now what? Wheres the joy in that?
Even more recently my wife had been suffering with chronic back pain and she needed relief. After receiving steroid injections and reaching our maximum out of pocket deductibles for our insurance, her back actually got worse. Surgery was the only option and of course our insurance just renewed making our deductible start all over. To make matters worse, during recovery she formed multiple blood clots in her lungs which could have been fatal. Thankfully, after a week in the hospital she is home and recovering. Yet, where’s the joy in the midst of all of that?
How do most people respond to setbacks, hardships, or suffering? Usually they take it personally. They get angry. They blame others and even God, which then can lead to bitterness. (Of course we would never do any of these things.) Where is the joy in that?
The Apostle Peter wrote two letters to the believers that were scattered throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) who were suffering. In addition to the everyday circumstances that face humanity such as relational tensions, physical ailments, financial pressures, and temptation and oppression from Satan, they were facing persecution for being Christ followers. So Peter is writing to encourage them to have a more divine and eternal perspective on their temporary earthly lives and suffering. Easier said than done right?
So, let me ask you, where’s the joy in that? Well, thats the question I recently asked one of our connect group leaders who shared with me some of her trials and sufferings these past few months. So I challenged her to read 1 Peter 1 and find the secrets that he shares about how and why we can rejoice even in our suffering. Here’s a few things I’ve discovered.
1. We have the joy of the living hope
“In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (v3).
If God left us to our own devises we would be in bad shape for certain. Because of our propensity to sin and selfishness, we are on a fast track to pain, failure, and eternal destruction. Couple that with the fact that we liven in a broken and fallen world, there’s trouble all around us. But then Jesus stepped in and his love paved the way back to God. His great mercy means that I am not getting what I deserve. Instead I can receive His grace and get what I don’t deserve – new birth, salvation, a living hope. There is definitely joy in that.
Sometimes we loose that perspective because of an entitlement mentality. We have this strange inclination that we have rights to certain things in life or that we deserve certain luxuries. This entitlement mentality seeps into our christian life as well. We think that because we said a prayer at an altar one time that our spouse will always love us without question, that our kids will be little angels, that we will never have to worry about money, or deal with conflict at work, or struggle with sickness.
Truth be told, life happens. Jesus tells us, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45, NIV).Some things happen as consequences to choices that we have made. Other things happen because we live in a dying world. Regardless of the reason, we need to embrace the new life that He has freely given us. Let that be our joy regardless of the situations we may face.
2. Our setbacks, sufferings, and trials are temporary
“though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (v6).
It’s very difficult to see clearly when we are in the midst of a struggle. Most often that is because we are focused on the wrong thing. We usually have too narrow of a perspective and focus on the temporary earthly things. We need to change our line of sight and see things from an eternal perspective – see the bigger picture.
Paul encourages us in a similar way as he speaks to the Corinthian church.
17 These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever! 18 So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 TLB)
In the heat of the moment of our sufferings, we need to “look forward”. We need to realize that our troubles will soon be over. Win or loose, live or die, the joys of heaven will last for eternity. We must choose to focus on the things with eternal significance.
3. Our faith is put on display giving GOD glory
“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 in revealed” (v7).
Rather than looking at our circumstances as something happening TO us, perhaps we need to consider that it may just be an opportunity for God to work THROUGH us or to do something IN us.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, says something along the same lines. He said that we should consider is “pure joy” when we face trials and testings of our faith. In fact, he says that the person who perseveres under trial is blessed and will receive the crown of life (James 1:2, 12). That not only brings us joy, but it also puts God’s love and power on display, bringing others to Him, which of course brings Him joy.
4. Our faith grows and matures
Think for a minute what Peter had experienced in his life. He followed Jesus for over three years, watching all the miracles and hearing all his life lessons. He was there when they arrested Him and then watched Him get beaten and crucified. Then he preached a monumental message which led to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and birth of the church. He himself was arrested, beaten and eventually killed for his role in expanding the influence of the gospel. He knew a little bit about suffering to say the least.
Perhaps as Peter penned these words, he was reminiscing the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23) when Jesus spoke of how the seed – the message of hope and salvation – falling on three different types of soils. Not only did he not want their faith to “fall away” (v21), he wanted them to be encouraged by the fact that the very things that test and stretch our faith, also strengthen and grow our faith.
The author of Hebrews tells us “faith is assurance (the substance) of things hoped for, a conviction (test) of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, ASV). This assurance, this hope, gives us the ability to see the spiritual realities in the midst of our struggles. Our confidence then comes in knowing that we can do ALL things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).
Life Application: Answer the following questions to process what you’ve learned with what you’ve experienced.
How might God be using your current circumstances to remind you of the hope of salvation?
In what ways can you acknowledge that these sufferings are only temporary? What does that do for you emotionally?
In what ways can God use your trial as a way to show off his glory?
How will you allow this experience to grow your faith?
2 Corinthians 4:16-18