A week ago, Sunday, I had the distinct privilege of delivering the morning sermon for Victory Christian Fellowship in Lynden, WA. The passage I was asked to speak on is 1 Peter 1:3-7. One of the concepts explored during this lesson, pulled from verse six, is that “Life is pain.”
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
– 1 Peter 1:6, NIV-1978
Jesus confirmed this idea in John 16:33, saying, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
The apostle Peter further confirms the and says we should not be surprised at the trials we endure in life.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
– 1 Peter 4:12, NIV-1978
During times of trial and grief, we tend to think of God as far off, disconnected from our suffering. The reality is God is as near as the molecule of air rubbing our cheek.
Why, O LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
– Psalm 10:1, NIV-1978
Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?
We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up and help us;
redeem us because of your unfailing love.
– Psalm 44:22-26, NIV-1978
I cannot speak for you, and would never presume to do so, but I can tell you my cry to the Lord frequently echoes the cry of the psalmist. Books and articles have been written, sermons and lectures delivered, songs composed and sung, all trying to answer the question, “Why do the righteous suffer? How can a God of love allow so much undeserved suffering? Where is God as I endure this relentless agony?”
Confession time … I slipped an extra word in the paragraph above. There is no such thing as “undeserved” suffering. We suffer because we live in a world marred by sin and death. Our world is a world of sin and death because we make it so with our sin, our selfishness, our rebellion.
… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
– Romans 3:23, ESV
And it is our disobedience that has dropped a wall between us and God, between us and all that is good and pure and holy. The problem is not with God. The problem is with us.
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.
– Isaiah 59:1-2, ESV
I am not suggesting that every calamity each of us experiences can be traced back to a specific sin event, but rather that we have pain and suffering and death as realities in our lives because sin, in general, is a reality in our lives and our world. So, it is not the pain of life that is undeserved. It is the grace and mercy of our loving God that is undeserved, yet he showers us with it with every sunrise.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
– Titus 3:5, ESV
Consider this excerpt from the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome:
… we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings …
– Romans 5:2b-3a, ESV
Based on the above, I heard a brother in Christ say that a Christ-follower has twice as many reasons as a non-believer to have a good day. The non-believer has a good day … when it’s a good day. A Christ-follower has a good day when it is a good day, and, when it’s a bad day! We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (good day), and we rejoice in our sufferings (bad day). This is why Isaiah says God trades us “beauty for ashes.”1
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
– 1 Peter 4:13, ESV
So, why or how is it that we rejoice in these sufferings? The answer to that is in 1 Peter 1:7, right back where we started.
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 is revealed.
– 1 Peter 1:7, NIV-1978
If we pull out the parenthetical statement, it reads like this: “These [trials] have come so that your faith may be proved genuine.” The trial that you endure proves the authenticity, the legitimacy of your faith. Without that authentic faith, the trial would have crushed you, but because of your faith, you stand.
1. Isaiah 61:1-3