Sermon Text: 1 Peter 1:6–9
Preacher: Pastor Brian Sauvé
Joy Inexpressible & Filled With Glory
One thing that I love about the Bible—one of the reasons I am so glad that Refuge Church is a people who love this book and let me preach through it for 45 or 50 minutes at a time every week—is that the Bible is a book that is written by actual, real people.
That, for example, this morning, we get to receive from our brother Peter, one of the 12 disciples, one of the foundational Apostles of the Church. That the words of First Peter are actually words in a letter, written by a real person. These words aren’t cold, disinterested, detached data; they are a person poured out on paper.
And that person for us, Peter, is not just an Apostle, not just a leader of leaders, not just one of the 12—but a pastor. And it shows in our text this morning. His pastoral heart for the people of God shows in 1 Peter 1:6–9.
“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. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
-1 Peter 1:6–9
In these verses, we get into what actually seems to be one of the primary things that moved Peter to write the letter, namely, suffering.
One of the great burdens and purposes for pastoral ministry is to prepare God’s people to suffer. To prepare God’s people for trial.
To teach the people of God what it looks like to walk with God through suffering. One of my jobs as your pastor is to prepare you to bury your children, to face financial hardship, to walk through the abandonment of a spouse, to strengthen your hands to cling to God through cancer and incurable disease. Through depression and mental illness. To have friends hate you for your faith. Through every sort of shade and color of trial.
A Many-Hued Suffering
In this text, agony and ecstasy hold hands in the same sentence. Do you see it? Do you hear the vocabulary?
“In this you rejoice!”
“…praise and glory and honor!”
“…rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory!”
“Tested by fire.”
This is one of those passages that shows the utter uniqueness and potency of the gospel. To put it really simply, Peter here shows us that the gospel is so good, so precious, so powerful, that it is able to produce in Christians “…joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,” even in the face of tremendous suffering and fiery trial.
That the gospel isn’t a finicky sort of thing that only works in certain optimal circumstances, but that it works in every kind of human circumstance.
To see what Peter’s doing, we need to begin by not passing too quickly over the phrase “various trials” in verse 6. Peter writes a people whom he knows are in the midst of suffering.
Though there were certainly specific types of suffering faced by the Christians of Asia Minor who first received this letter—the first rumblings of persecution against the Christian Church in Rome, which would overflow into state-sponsored persecution within a few years of his writing—the phrase that Peter uses to talk about suffering is a broad word.
The trials are various. The word Peter uses is an interesting one, the Greek poikilos, which is literally many-colored. It’s a word that would be found in secular Greek writings often to describe something like the multi-colored sheen of a bird feather.
So when Peter uses this word here to describe trials, the idea is very vividly to say that he knows the many-hued, multicoloredness of human suffering—the sheer diversity of suffering in a fallen world.
Our trials here in this cursed world are painted in every hue and shade. Some of the trials in this room today are open and obvious ones that lots of people know about, and some of the trials in this room are secret and perplexing and you may not even be able to explain them out loud.
There is an impossibility every preacher faces in preaching a text like this, even to such a small group as Refuge Church, namely, the impossibility of knowing and addressing ever shade of trial and suffering that is being experienced, even right now, by all of you gathered here.
7 Reasons to Rejoice
And into that, Peter’s pastoral word is to say, “Christian, there is a joy that you can share in even in this.”
He talks with a bold, firm assurance: “I’m so certain that this gospel produces joy inexpressible that I’m not going to say, ‘You *can* rejoice.’ No, I’m going to say, ‘You *do* rejoice!’” Why? How? How can I rejoice in suffering? Peter gives us 7 reasons.
1. Rejoice in trial, because the glory of verses 3–5 outweighs worlds—let alone the trials of verses 6–7.
Peter begins verse 6 by saying, “In this…” In this, you rejoice. Ok, in what? In verses 3–5, in what we saw together last week.
“According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
-1 Peter 1:3b–5
In other words, the Father in his mercy has resurrected you from death, united you to a living hope that can only die if Jesus does, and promised you the inheritance of Christ, the firstborn of all creation. What might that inheritance look like. Oh I don’t know… maybe ALL THINGS!
Oh, and all of this is unfading, imperishable, undefiled and kept for us in heaven. Oh, and you are being guarded by God’s power through faith for all of it. Here’s the point:
What possible earthly trial could outweigh the kind of glory held in verses 3–5? Could poverty outweigh this inheritance? Could terminal cancer outweigh living hope? Could job loss outweigh new birth? Or as Paul might ask considering Romans 8, could nakedness, famine, or sword outweigh this inheritance, this grace, this hope?
No! In this we rejoice, even though trial.
2. Rejoice in trial, because all trial is fleeting, but this joy is forever.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while… you have been grieved by various trials.” For a little while. What does he mean by that? What does Peter consider to be “a little while?” Is this some kind of promise that their trial is only going to last for a few weeks?
No, clearly not. Peter is doing the kind of thing that Paul does in 2 Corinthians 4:17, when he calls your whole life, your entire life, a light, momentary affliction. “Yeah, you’re going to have trial. There will be suffering. But don’t worry. It’s only going to be for a little while. 70, 80 years, tops.” That’s the kind of thing that is going on, here.
And maybe you’re thinking, “Peter, that’s not a little while. That’s a long while. C’mon, man.” But hear him out. This isn’t hyperbole. A little while is a relative kind of measure of time—a little while compared to what? In this case, a little while compared to eternity.
Maybe you’ve heard of Mayflies. They’re entire lifespan is 24 hours. Imagine being a Mayfly who has a bad day. Bummer. Imagine having a conversation with a Mayfly.
“Yeah, it’s been a tough season.” “Oh no, Mr. Mayfly, what’s wrong?” “Yeah, I got hit with a pretty bad gust of wind there. Really blew me off course for a while.” “Oh yeah? How long did the wind go on for?” “Oh, about 4 1/2 seconds. I thought it would never end.”
To a Mayfly, a bad gust of wind is like a bad year for you. That’s the kind of thing Peter is doing when he says that trials are just for a little while. If the normal human lifespan was 10,000,000 years, what would you call a few decades? How about if you were standing down eternity?
3. Rejoice in trial, because no trial comes but through the hands of a sovereign God.
There are two pairs of words that Peter sneaks into the middle of verse 6 that out-punch their weight class in importance: “if necessary,” and “so that.”
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, IF NECESSARY, you have been grieved by various trials, SO THAT…”
This is the language of purpose. To say that something is a necessity is to say that it is a necessity for some purpose. To say that something is a necessity for something is to say that there is someone who is planning and strategizing on one end of the thing.
An alternator is necessary to keep your car’s battery charged. Striking a block of marble with a hammer and chisel is necessary if you want to make a statue. Necessity is the language of purpose. To say that something is necessary is to say that someone is out there trying to get something done.
So who is that here in verses 6 and 7? Who might be standing over your life, deciding what is and is not necessary and for what purpose? Who is standing over your life, deciding what joys and what trials are going to be allowed in? Because that’s what Peter is saying is going on, here.
Unquestioningly, verse 7 answers, God is the one doing that! The purpose given for the trials in verse 7—the refining and proving of faith in order to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ—leave us with no doubt about that. Those are God’s purposes.
Meaning this: In your suffering and trials, God is the gatekeeper. He is the one saying Yes! or No! to trial in your life. This might sound like bad news to you: “What? Why would God do that? Why would God let me suffer?”
I want you to see this morning that this is tremendously good news this morning. I want you to leave here this morning, not doing what we often do at this truth, which is shift uncomfortably in our seats and try to come up with some kind of intricate philosophical workaround, but rejoicing at this solid sovereignty of God.
So the first thing we need to do is face this head on. Does God will your marriage troubles? Does God will your terminal illness? Does God will the persecution of the saints in first-century Asia Minor, the Civil War, Middle Eastern unrest, and deadly tsunamis? I have been massively helped by Pastor John Piper’s answer to those kinds of questions. He says,
“The answer is No, God does not will it, and Yes, he does. No, in the sense that he does not delight in pain for its own sake; he does not command sin or approve of sinning. But Yes, he does will that these things be, in the sense that he could prevent any of those things but sometimes does not, but rather guides them, because of higher designs than the destructiveness of sin or the deceitfulness of Satan or the painfulness of suffering.”
-Pastor John Piper
That, I believe, is the answer that Scripture gives us over and over again, Old Testament and New Testament. Before you shudder, consider the glorious truths that follow from this answer of Scripture to the “why” of your suffering.
4. Rejoice in trial, because no trial is meaningless in a world governed by a sovereign God.
If every trial only enters the lives of the people of God by passing through the gatekeeping will of God, and if God is not a capricious, petty tyrant, but a loving, self-giving Father, then it follows that his yes to suffering in our lives is not the yes of an enemy, but they yes of a friend.
See, if God is not sovereign, then our suffering is at bottom a totally random and meaningless kind of thing. It’s suffering that has no “so that,” no kind of necessity in it whatsoever.
If God is not sovereign, then your suffering is either totally meaningless and random, or it is the result of God’s inability to prevent it or deliver you from it. Both of those options are really, profoundly bad news.
“Hey, good news for you, friend! I know you’re suffering right now, that you have incurable cancer, and I want you to know that God is bummed about it. But he can’t do anything about it. He just doesn’t have the power.”
But Peter won’t let you have a weak, impotent God like that. No, the God of the Bible is not a God who throws a world into motion and then hopes that his purposes will stand. No, he is working all things together according to the counsel of his will, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 1. He is working all things together for good for his people, as Romans 8 assures us.
His hand is steady on the wheel of your life, and therefore your suffering is not a meaningless thing; it is doing something. God is doing something with all of it. There is an intelligence, a purposeful craftsmanship, that is at work in our suffering. And Peter tells us one of the purposes of God in our suffering in verse 7.
5. Rejoice in trial, because a God is using it to prove out the genuineness of your faith.
So that… So that what? “…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.”
God is using trial in the lives of his people like refining fire, to burn off impurities. He’s using trial in the lives of his people like a blacksmith uses heat to temper and harden steel to hold an edge. He’s making us sharp. Literally, one of the things that verse 7 tells us is that he’s making us glorious.
The revealing of these things, the final revelation of the finished faith of Christians, is going to be praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
If you read this section together with Romans 8 (which you should!), you find that what God is doing with his people is inexorably refining them, drawing them, crafting them, towards such a glory that Paul tells us there that even creation is longing for the revealing of the sons of God. It arrives at glory along with us, and so it’s saying, “Hurry up!”
And apparently one of the chief means by which he is doing this, bringing us to that glory, is by producing in us a trial-tempered faith. A tenacious faith that clings to the goodness and worth of God even through suffering. A durable faith that endures through the hatred of the world, the corruption of our physical bodies, and every other sort of suffering.
And the thing about faith that is proved and tempered through the heat of trial is that it cannot be produced in any other way. You can’t temper steel to the point that it can hold an edge the right way without heat, and you can’t produce the kind of faith that God intends to produce in his people without trial.
So trial produces a tenacious, tempered faith. And that faith is also producing something in turn.
6. Rejoice in trial, because the faith that God is forging through it will overflow with praise and glory and honor.
“Ok,” you may say, “but why does that matter? Why does it matter if my faith is proved out through suffering?” Listen to how Peter finishes the sentence in verse 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.”
The point is praise. The end is glory. Your trial-proved faith is joining in with the great aim of all creation, the glory of God. Think about it: What reveals and magnifies the glory of God like the people of God worshiping God even through the deeps of suffering?
When you say on your deathbed, “God is glorious. He is my portion. He is enough. He is my hope. He is my joy. You can have my life, my health, my money, but give me this God. Give me Jesus.”
This is the faith of Job, praised by God, that could cry out from the pit of suffering, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him!”
That magnifies the goodness, the beauty, the all-sufficiency of God like nothing else. That shows something that is true of him that no other imitation can do. God is making in us a faith that preaches. A faith that heralds his worth. That is something that makes no sense to someone who doesn’t know God.
But lest you think that God is magnifying his own glory at your expense, #7…
7. Rejoice in trial, because the outcome of our faith is the salvation of our souls.
Verse 8–9, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. (You can almost feel Peter marveling at us, at far off Gentiles in Asia Minor and Ogden, UT who believe in the Lord that he has seen, but whom we have not). Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
It’s not as if, in suffering, God is magnifying his own glory at your expense. No! In magnifying his own glory, he is producing in you a faith whose outcome is the salvation of your soul. That’s his wording, not mine: the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
There is no problem for the Protestant Christian in saying that our faith results in salvation. This is no works righteousness. No, this is just one more link in the chain of God’s sovereign goodness and faithfulness to sinners. Paul gives us an exploded view of 1 Peter 1:9 in Romans 8:29–30,
“…those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn of many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified, he also glorified.”
Called to faith, justified by faith, brought to glory by faith—and no contradiction in that chain with the claim that it is all of God and all of grace. It is God’s sovereign grace that calls forth true faith, sustains faith, tempers that faith through the fires of trial, and brings that faith to its logical conclusion—the salvation of our souls and revealing of our truest selves, glorified sons of God.
Salvation is the outcome of faith, because faith is simply trusting in the God who saves to save.
Don’t Despair, But Believe
So listen: Are you suffering? Do you have suffering in your life? To some degree, all of us can now, have been able to in the past, or will in the future answer that with a resounding Yes! I do!
What would our brother Peter say to us? He would look you in the eyes, a brother who has also suffered greatly, and he would say, “Don’t despair. Don’t give up. Don’t think the Father has left you or hates you. No. He is at work, even in this. He is proving out your faith, producing in you something more precious than gold, and he is with you.
Jesus, who suffered with us, is with you. He is bringing you safely through to the day when the outcome of that trial-proved faith will be revealed in a glorious salvation. So don’t despair, but believe.”