Your Faith… How Genuine Is It?
I’ve been thinking a lot about Peter lately. He was a man with genuine faith. And it had been tested.
Trials come to all of us, testing our faith—marriages that are heartaches rather than havens, a newborn spending days in NICU while anxious young parents try to comprehend what is happening, a teenage friend spiraling in and out of debilitating depression, jobs lost, retirement plans decimated, cancer reports coming back with life-altering results. What should our response be in light of danger and grief and brokenness?
Peter addresses this issue in 1 Peter 1:6–7,
“In this you rejoice, though now, for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Do you see the contrast between the “in this” (the “imperishable inheritance kept in heaven for you” Peter tells of in 1:4) and the “though now”? Peter wants us to compare our eternal heavenly inheritance with the “little while” of our earthly pilgrimage. In light of eternity, our trials here will take on a different, less grievous hue:
“The sufferings of this present age are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Rom. 8:18)
“This slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Cor. 4:17)
I see something else in Peter’s words, “you have been grieved by various trials.” The text here seems to mean experiencing a great distress or heaviness. It is not wrong to express deep emotions in suffering. Our Christian faith is not stoic—it is a faith of deep emotions and authentic feelings. It is all right to feel heavily burdened and tearful. Jesus did! “Jesus wept.” What a comfort. He understands. He cares.
There is a story told of a famous preacher who often studied at home. One day his young daughter was playing in his study, distracting him while he worked. She banged her finger on a drawer of his desk and started whimpering. Irritated by the interruption, he picked her up, told her to go to her mother and closed the door loudly behind her. The girl ran to her mother and cried and cried. Her mother tried to comfort her and asked her why she kept crying so hard—“Does your finger still hurt, darling?”
“Then why are you still crying?”
“Because Daddy didn’t say ‘O-h-h-h-h’ when I got hurt.”
We have a Savior who says “O-h-h-h-h” when we suffer. And we will suffer. If you are human, you will suffer. He took on our form, and He understands grief and sorrow.
Peter teaches us in verse seven that God uses the various trials we experience to test our faith—how genuine is it? This helps us distinguish genuine faith from superficial faith. All our trials are meaningful, purposeful. Trials prove our faith and purge out the elements that need to be washed away to purify our faith. I am—you are—a mix of faith and flesh, and the only thing that has value in God’s sight is faith.
“For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23)
So God tests me. He burns away my superficiality to help me get real with God, which is the only true place of joy in the entire universe. Peter says it is like being “tested by fire”—ouch! That can be very painful. Right now, my faith is mixed with impurities. So in God’s great love for me, He puts me in the fire and turns up the heat. And that is where I get real with Him.
Have you ever said, “I wouldn’t have chosen that trial, but, now, looking back, I wouldn’t trade it for anything?” That is the purifying work of God. God purifies my soul until all I have left is Jesus, and I think that’s wonderful because I find Him to be enough! “My soul finds rest in God alone (Ps. 62:1).” What if He turned down the heat and took me out of the refiner’s fire before He became my greatest joy?
Don’t merely resign yourself to suffering—utilize it! Embrace it! Suffering reveals where my security is—a job? a husband? good children? a healthy body? Let’s not be women who fight the purposes of God in our lives. Mom Ortlund puts it this way, “In light of eternity pain has a short life, but it must live that life.”
Not only do our trials bring genuine faith in this life; they will “result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). To become a genuine, proven Christian means praise in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Think of gathering around the Throne and hearing Jesus call you to come near Him. Imagine Him putting His arm around you, speaking to others gathered close by, beginning to tell your story, “Let me tell you about my servant. She trusted me in hard times. She took up her cross. She followed me. Her suffering did not define her—her trust in me did. Her faith is genuine.” Then you will turn to your Savior in wonder, awe, and thanksgiving and give Him all the glory for purifying your faith.
Where are you broken and grieving today? How is Jesus purifying your faith these days? What encouragement do you gain from Peter’s words?