Secrets To Joy In The Midst Of Trials
from Gregory Brown Bible Study Series, Secrets to Joy; Bible.org
1 Peter 1:6-9
In 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 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. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
In this epistle, Peter is writing to Christians that are spread throughout Asia Minor, which is modern-day Turkey. They had been scattered because of the persecution coming from Rome. These believers were being persecuted for following Christ; they were being persecuted for being different. He writes to encourage them. Listen to what he says in 1 Peter 1:6: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials”.
Peter says it is possible for these believers to have both great joy and grief in the midst of their trials. This verse can also be translated as a command “rejoice in this.” The believers were suffering in all kinds of trials. The word kinds can be translated “various or multicolored.” Some had, no doubt, lost their land, their loved ones and their careers, and yet Peter says they can still have great joy in the midst of these multicolored trials.
What is the secret to joy in trials? What’s the secret for a Christian to have joy while suffering through bankruptcy, cancer or even a lost child? Is it realistic that both joy and grief can exist together?
As we look at Scripture, we see that Peter is not the only writer who teaches this apparent paradox. Paul in fact lived it. Look at what Paul said about his trials in 2 Corinthians 6:10: “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything”.
Paul said he was at the same time “sorrowful” and still “rejoicing.” To have joy in trials is not to deny pain. It is to recognize the fact that they can exist together. They can co-exist in the same way an expectant mother can go through the travail of birth and still have joy in thinking about what is to come. She has joy because she has the “right focus” as she considers this new baby that will be birthed into the world. In the same way, believers must have the right focus in order to have joy in their multicolored trials.
1. We rejoice in our new birth.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth (emphasis mine) into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3).
Peter says we have been given a new birth (v. 3) into a living hope through the resurrected Jesus Christ. We rejoice in the fact that we are new and we are not the same anymore. There was a time when we were dead to God, but now we are alive to him. We are alive to his Word, alive to worship, alive to one another, where before we were dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1–5). This is something we can rejoice in even in the midst of trials. But that’s not it. Peter says there is more.
2. We rejoice in our undefiled inheritance.
“And into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you” (1 Pet 1:4).
With this new birth, we receive an inheritance in heaven (v. 4). Jesus said in his high priestly prayer in John 17:22 that the glory he had in heaven has been shared with us. Romans 8:17 declares that we are co-heirs with Christ, and therefore, what is the Son’s is ours.
In fact, in some way, we benefit from this inheritance now. Ephesians 1:3 says we have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6 says we are seated in heavenly places with Christ. This means Christ is ruling in heaven but we are there in spirit with him. Everything that is his, is ours; we are co-heirs. This is a phenomenal concept. In fact, God is preserving this inheritance, keeping it from decay or being stolen, even right now. Let us hear that this inheritance is not only heavenly, but it will be earthly. Jesus declared that the “meek” would “inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5).
There are many people in this life who never receive their natural inheritance. Maybe they don’t receive it because the inheritance is lost or its value changes. But the inheritance to which Peter refers can never perish, spoil, or fade and God is protecting it for us. That’s something we can rejoice in, even when our natural inheritance is taken away.
3. We rejoice in our eternal security.
“Who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation” (1 Pet 1:5).
Some people are kept from their inheritance because of their own death. Peter says this is not true for the believer; though the believer may die, we are being sheilded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation (v. 5). Now this is something that only those who understand the reality that God is keeping the salvation of every believer can truly rejoice in. I have found many young Christians that have lost joy or even fallen into spiritual depression, thinking they had sinned in such a way that they had lost their salvation.
Listen, if you are truly born again, you are kept by God’s power “until the coming of salvation” which will be “revealed” at the coming of Christ (1 Pet 1:5) and not the power of your faith. God is the one who gives you faith (Ephesians 2:8–9), and he is the one who keeps it. The promise of Romans 8:28 is only true if our salvation and inheritance are secure; only then can all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. This is a wonderful truth for us, and it is one in which we must focus on in the multicolored trials we may go through. We can focus on our inheritance and security in heaven.
Too many Christians fail to focus on the benefits of their salvation, and therefore, have lost joy when their inheritance on earth is affected. Scripture says we should “rejoice in this” (1 Pet 1:6). We should rejoice in all the benefits of our coming salvation. This is how Paul could suffer and yet still be joyful (2 Cor 6:10); his salvation was always on his mind and he did not lose focus on it.
It is very possible for Christians to lose the joy of their salvation. We see evidence of this with David. Look at what he prayed in Psalms 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (emphasis mine). Why had David lost joy in his salvation? The Psalm tells us it was because of sin. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge” (Ps 51:4).
Listen, many of us have lost our joy. The heavens are our inheritance, and the earth will one day be as well, yet so many of us walk around in sadness, anger, and depression. Why is that? It’s because sin has taken away our joy. It may be personal sin, as with David. It may be the sin of a wrong focus—focusing on the things of the world, the economy, and the problems in life. Scripture commands us to “think on godly things.” Listen to what Paul says:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8–9
Many of us have lost our joy because we have sinned by losing the right focus. What must we do if we have lost it? (1) We must confess our sins and turn away from them. (2) We must regain our focus on Christ and the inheritance that he is bringing at his revelation.
One of the things I love about 1 Peter is his focus on the gospel and having joy in our salvation. He has brought us back to the basics. I feel like Peter is doing that here—he brings us back to the gospel; he brings us back to our salvation. It’s extremely important because it so easy to lose the joy that should be ours.
How can we have joy in the midst of our trials? We do that by rejoicing in the benefits of our salvation. We have experienced the new birth. We have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven, and our salvation is secure because God is shielding it for us.
© 2014 Gregory Brown
Greg Brown earned his MA in religion and MA in teaching from Trinity International University, a MRE from Liberty University, and a PhD in theology from Louisiana Baptist University. He has served over fifteen years in pastoral ministry, and currently serves as chaplain and professor at Handong Glob teaching pastor at Handong International Congregation, and as a Navy Reserve chaplain.