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. (1Peter 4:12-13)
There is no question that we all have passed through trials of one sought or another. There are those of us who are already going trials that they are even wondering if they will ever come to an end. There are those who have not gone through the worst of all trials yet. This passage applies to each one of us because it teaches and trains us on how we are to conduct ourselves when trials come.
When we talk about trials, what exactly are we talking about? The Greek word that is translated into trial is according to Webster’s dictionary given as:
TRI'AL, n. [from try.] Any effort or exertion of strength for the purpose of ascertaining its effect, or what can be done. A man tries to lift a stone, and on trial finds he is not able. A team attempts to draw a load, and after unsuccessful trial, the attempt is relinquished. This ordeal is fiery that is fire burning like the one used to refine gold.
What it means is trial by itself is difficulty in order to ascertain one’s ability for the sake of strengthening in order to accomplish the desired effect.
From the passage the beloved both of the Lord and of His apostle are assured of one thing that trials will come. This is why he says, “when it comes upon you”. Usually we tend to think of trials negatively – it is something that we can do without. But I assure with the same words of the Lord that trials are bound to come. Therefore you should be taught of the Bible on how to handle them “when it comes upon you”. We have a couple lessons for us to learn from the passage to help us learn and be trained on how to conduct ourselves when fiery trials come. So the first thing that we learn is negatively present - that we are not to be surprised when such trials come and the second is positively presented, that we are to rejoice when they come!
1. Do not be surprised when trials come
This is a very different view from what we are used to. We are always surprised when difficulties come to our lives. If you hear that your husband or your child has been diagnosed with cancer, what would be your immediate reaction? It is that you will faith in shock! I think I will be too shocked myself. I very vividly remember when I took my wife to the hospital to deliver our firstborn – as soon as I we arrived the doctors responded promptly and after a brief examination they came back to me and said, she is not in the best condition. But we will do our best to save the mother!” I was surprised as every green father would be. And then I went to the washrooms and prayed. To cut the long story short, after all the shock a few minutes later the doctors proclaimed me a father of a bouncing baby boy!
Why is it that our Heavenly Father says that we are not to be taken aback by shock and surprises when trials come – as fiery as they may be? Two reasons are given:
i) It is a test
You have all done tests for at one time or another. It is for one time not always – in other words tests do not last long. They are momentary. I know that many people or so much afraid of tests but before you object may ask you why do you do tests?
The Lord has told us why He tests us,
He told us through His brother inspired by the Spirit to count it all joy … when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas 1:2-4)
If we want to go to heaven as people who are mature Christians lacking in nothing, if we want to spend eternity in glory with our Saviour and He desires of us to be holy as He is holy, how can we dispute or want anything else other than what He wants of us?
Is it a test when you lose a loved one and yet he will not come back? Yes, in the sense that the Lord will strengthen you at that time, and minister to other people and brethren through the same. How about when one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness – yes it is a test for God will weave blessings from the trials that He brings our way… has He not promised that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”?(Rom 8:28)
The assurance that we have from the Scriptures is, that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Rom 8:18).
If this is the case why is it that when most of us loose the loved ones mourn so much that they do not even turn up to worship the Lord with His church. It is like a written rule that when many of you lose your relatives you are so caught up by the relatives and the funeral and burial preparations and it is like nothing else matters at that including God – and yet you will go to work after a day or two? Brethren we need to reconsider our priorities.
Remember that it is a test from God and YOU MUST NOT FAIL! You must not fail because you have the Spirit of God to help you always – it might be that you do not depend on Him for guidance? Would it be that you do not read from the Bible to know the will of God in these matters?
ii) It is not strange
Is it strange that you are found to have a terminal illness like cancer? No because you are neither the first one nor the last one! Is it strange that you do not have money to pay fees? Is strange that you are an orphan? Is it strange that your house was demolished by the government? Is it strange that your children are rebellious although you think you have done all that the Word of God requires you to do to bring them up in the way of the Lord?
Is it strange and yet it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Heb 2:10)? Is it strange and yet our Master went through the same. Is it strange and yet He has told us that we have to go through the same so that we would enjoy the blessings for it? Has He not said very clearly that "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Mat 5:10-11.
For most people when they fall into fiery trials they tend to ask the question, “why me?” There are those who question God, “How can you allow this to happen to me and yet I have believed in you?” It appears as if you signed a contract with God when you believed that there would be no calamity that will before you!
Many of us have the same mentality of the disciples in John 9. When they saw the man born blind they immediately thought – it must be because either his parents or himself are so sinful. They reasons we question God in the line of why is because we think we are being punished for some sins. Although it might be the case sometimes let us know that when God brings a difficult situation in our lives – in our marriage for example, with the children or with our finances where we are in need. It is not so much directly because it is a direct punishment for sins committed but it is because we still have lessons we have not learnt. It is because we have not been attentive enough to be corrected by the Word of God and so the learning by experience will draw a closer attention from us. Nebuchadnezzar would not listen to God until he was humbled. Paul an obstinate man was unable to learn from the Word of God it was until God struck him with blindness for three days that he learnt. This is true of all of us but God extends His grace and He does not deal with us all as our sins deserve – however even when He comes with an experience that will force us to listen to Him it is for our good.
2. You are to always rejoice when trials come
Christians are called to rejoice in sufferings to the degree that they share in Christ’s sufferings. We are to keep on rejoicing so that increasing sufferings are increase a believer’s joy in Christ! This was the case with the disciples in Acts 5:41 because they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. Therefore, the effect is that these trials confirm that we indeed belong to Christ! This is the sharing in His suffering unites us with Christ so that because we rejoice now we share with Him in the glory to come!
Two things here then in as far as why we are to rejoice when trials come:
i) Because then you share in Christ’s suffering
Peter goes back and forth about this theme that our suffering has something to do in as far as sharing in Christ's sufferings is concerned. Suffering should not be ignored, whether it is inflicted upon us by actions emanating from our own actions or thoughts or sin or it is as a result of negligence or sins of others. It was of paramount importance that Christ suffer for the atonement of the sins of people. This was what Christ himself insisted upon in Luke_24:26, 46-47: and said to them, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"and again, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Clearly, Christ had to suffer for us because there is no other way He could purchase redemption for us. He also had to rise again because he could not otherwise apply the redemption to us. If He did not suffer die and rise we would not have the gospel!
As Christians we are called to go the way of the Master step by step and so He has told us that “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” (Phil 1:29). Therefore this means that our willingness so suffer for the course of Christ is as important as believing in Him –because if you believe in Him you will suffer anyway. What did Paul pray? He prayed, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Phil 3:10).
Look very few of us have had to suffer because of a position they have taken about Christ. This week I met with a brother who was put between a rock and a hard place by his relatives because they demanded to know his faith. And when he told them that he is a believer in Christ, they were shocked and stated to him that they will never give him any support and he should not even greet them! When did you have your life under threat like what we hear from the Somali Christians? If your life was put at stake because you believed in Christ would you be willing to die?
Being a believer in Christ is not lip service to God it is being very conscience that there will be decisions that you will take based on Christian principles that will alienate you from your families. There are times when you will defer with your boss over your Christian convictions and you lose your job! There are times when you have to close a relationship because you discovered that the person you are dating will not lead the family in a godly way because of his careless conduct and so you have to terminate or halt a relationship – tell a lady of thirty five to terminate a relationship over such Christian ethics and she might tell you that you are crazy. Yet the Lord is clear for His sake we must be willing to pay any price and face suffering even death so that we might share in His suffering. What didn’t He go through? God being killed by His creatures and for their salvation!
ii) Because it shows your desire for the glory of God
We read that we instead of being surprised of fiery trials we are to rejoice … that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. There is a way with sufferings that in so many ways magnifies the Name of the Lord. This is why many have said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Matthew Henry commenting on this passage says that the good behaviour of Christians under sufferings is the most difficult part of their duty, but yet necessary both for the honour of Christ and their own comfort.
The reasons for this scenario is that trials like the fire that refines gold takes away dross, trials are the great furnace of mortifying the sinful nature. This is the thought that Peter has when he says, “… 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. (1:7)
Would you notice how the idea of the glory of God is tied up with the refined faith? Christ ransomed us from sin and sinful habits to present us as a bride without wrinkle or blemish at His glorious appearing so that He may be glorified. When you stand before God wearing the robes of righteousness from Christ that are unstained – it will be such a glory and honor to the Lord. But as it is it is also very important that we display the effects of our salvation to other people while on earth that God may be glorified; that Christ may be magnified as the Sole Saviour. This is the manner in which we will attract sinners to come to the fountain to cleanse from the power of guilt of sin.
Do you ask yourself how you may not be taken by surprise when trials come? May I recommend that when you are overwhelmed by sickness bereavement you will be willing to share with your pastors as soon as possible for two reasons so that we may come right away to comfort you in prayer and so that we can advice you accordingly? With the same breath I recommend that when such times come seek to work more closely with the brethren than the relatives because then you would be sure that they will steer you more towards the Bible than the relatives who usually are cultural. This is only possible when we are those who are willing to bear one another’s burdens.
Do not be those who are thrown off the balance by trials so that you panic as to forget God’s purpose for you. Do you seek to ask how can God be glorified the most when you are in the valley of the shadow of death so that you do not fear? Then you would be the most Scriptural and prayerful. May the Lord help us to do His good pleasure even when we go through fire.