Suffering: Not Pointless, But Purposeful – Part III

Writing to a persecuted church suffering the barbarous indignation of an increasingly hostile Roman Empire, Peter reminded his afflicted brethren that their suffering was not pointless. God was not distracted by the busy universe, unwittingly allowing His people to careen off the cliff in a moment of neglect. He was not uncaring or impotent to stop suffering. Quite the opposite was true.

Much like a master sculpture has purpose in the blows he inflicts upon a canvas of priceless marble, so God has purpose behind the suffering He allows into the lives of His beloved people. Our difficulties are not arbitrary or meaningless; God designs our suffering to perfect us, to demonstrate the value of our faith, and ultimately to reward us at the revelation of His Son. Consider these truths from the text of Peter’s first epistle.

Set Apart Through Suffering

Our suffering happens within the context of God’s perfecting work, or “the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood” (1 Peter 1:2). The term “sanctifying” carries the idea of setting apart, consecrating,

separating. At the moment of salvation the Holy Spirit immediately sets us apart from the darkness of unbelief to the light of faith, from sin unto righteousness, from the condemnation of God, to the complete approbation of the Lord.

That short list of spiritual benefits describes the Spirit’s sanctifying work at salvation or justification. However, the consecrating ministry of the Spirit continues for the duration of a believer’s life. The Spirit of God increasingly separates us from our love for this world and sin, and sets us apart to love righteousness and walk in it, or as Peter puts it “to obey Jesus Christ.” As the context of 1 Peter teaches us, that life long process of separation is often aided by and crafted through the tool of trials applied perfectly by the powerful, purposeful, practiced hand of an all-wise God.

God uses our suffering to conform us practically to the positional holiness He has accomplished through the blood of Jesus. Suffering is never “fun” and frequently feels like an overwhelming weight, but allow God to lift your burden with this thought: if you are suffering then surely God is at work transforming you to holiness by the power of His Spirit. My brothers and sisters, let’s not despise the process of God’s sanctification but embrace it, for it is evidence of God’s great and eternal work in us!

The Treasure of Tested Faith

Suffering also demonstrates the worth of our faith, “even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold …” (vv 6b, 7a). Peter borrows the term “proof” in verse 7 from the field of assaying, the discipline of determining the value of metals, in this case gold. The process of assaying gold determines the true content and therefore the worth of the metal once its impurities have been removed. Peter tells us God tests our faith through troubles – as an assayer evaluates and affirms the value of gold – so that we may know faith’s true value and stand confident and joyful in our faith.

Trials force us to trust our unfailing God, and when we see Him faithfully care for His people it not only strengthens our faith, but it demonstrates the supreme worth of our faith to us. My friends, God allows hardships to enter our lives in part to stage for us the infinite value of trusting Him so that we might enjoy the benefits of a tested faith, i. e., peace, joy, and a God-ward confidence in all seasons of life.

The Goal of Suffering Is Glory

Lastly, I would like to point out that suffering and the tested faith it produces will result in eternal reward. “In this you greatly rejoice (our certain salvation), even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ

Interestingly, the phrase “praise and glory and honor” in verse 7 could refer to the “praise … glory … honor” we will receive from God on the day the Lord Jesus is revealed in His magnificent glory. It could possibly point to the “praise and glory and honor” we will resound to Him beginning on that great day (Revelation 4:10, 11). I believe the context of this passage points to the former, but the reality is this; amazingly, both are true! What a reward it will be to receive eternal praise, glory, and honor from God, and to offer up eternal praise, glory, and honor to Him as the result of our short-lived sufferings and distresses.

The hardships we experience in this life are divinely purposeful. God uses our troubles to perfect us, to showcase the value of proven faith, and to produce eternal reward for His beloved. We pray that you may continue to persevere in your challenges and stand comforted, confident, and joyful in your faith.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

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