By Olivia Heaton | October 2019 WBS Devotional
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, 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… –1 Peter 1:3-7 (NASB)
Fire, in its most natural form, is destructive. One exception is the case of the flowering Banksia shrub. When wildfires threaten, not only is the Banksia able to survive scorching flames, but fire is the mechanism that brings life and great beauty from this strange desert plant.
Banksia plants are laden with tough woody cones protected by a thick outer bark. Within these well-guarded cones lies the heart and future of the plant—columns of ripe seeds that will never see the light of day unless they encounter extreme heat.
The fire’s temperature unlocks a hormone within the plant and causes its cones to open, filling the air with thousands of winged seeds. Swept up in the hot winds, the seeds mingle with the ash, blanket the ground, and begin growing in a brand new landscape. For the Banksia, fire is not a danger but the key to its growth and survival.
In today’s passage, Peter is writing to a group of Christians scattered and weathered by the heat of intense persecution. This was a spiritually arid and hostile environment, where slander, riots, abuse, and ostracism were common threats. Peter and his fellow apostles had routinely encountered the same kinds of torment during their own ministries, and Peter, nearing the end of his life, was writing to encourage his brothers and sisters in the faith to remain hopeful and joyful as they faced their own trials.
In verses 3-5, Peter assures his downtrodden brethren, and us, that though the suffering of this world can be great, heaven holds a far greater reward, one that can never perish or fade away (1:4). He also promises they would be “protected by the power of God through faith” (1:5)—not so they would be shielded from trials, but so they wouldn’t fall away from Him when those trials inevitably came.
“In this,” Peter says, we shall “greatly rejoice” (1:6). By “this,” he is speaking of the promise of our eternal inheritance—our salvation and the future glory we will enjoy forever in the presence of God. This promise was what enabled him to look past his own suffering and walk away from the temple rejoicing after being flogged by the Sanhedrin for proclaiming Christ (Acts 5:40-41).
In our world today, trials like these are hardly considered causes for rejoicing. Though James, like Peter, instructs us to “consider it all joy” when we encounter various trials (James 1:2), we typically rejoice only after we have safely escaped them. Peter reminds us that trials, no matter the kind, only last “for a little while” when measured against eternity and are extremely valuable and even “necessary” in this life (1 Peter 1:6).
Why is this? Because trials have the ability to test and develop our faith in ways nothing else can. James echoes Peter’s teaching, explaining that trials are capable of bringing about endurance, maturity, and, eventually, complete development (James 1:2-4). And, when these trials are faced with joy, they also confer the rewards of “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7) upon those who faithfully endure them. Peter and James never claim that health, wealth, success, and prosperity bring about these things. Rather, they are the blessings of a life punctuated by pain and continual testing of faith.
Like the Banksia, it often takes fiery ordeals to crack through our tough exteriors and cause our hearts to open so that our faith takes root and grows. Fires wound and leave permanent scars, but they also test the strength of whatever is placed in the flames. For me, my father’s losing battle with ALS and the miscarriage of our third child represented those fires. To this day, they remain the ones that hurt the most but also the ones that have produced the greatest amount of fruit in my life. Although the type of trial will vary from person to person, Peter assures that the likelihood of experiencing them will not.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
If we want the kind of endurance, maturity, and development the Bible speaks of, we must be willing to allow the flames of certain trials to touch us and not be so quick to put out fires as soon as we see smoke. Though we may quietly wish for a life free of difficulty or heartache, is that what we really want if it means our faith is never tested and the fruit of the Spirit within us is never allowed to emerge? Would we really want to exist pain-free if it means we remain hardened and never grow in our love and desire for the Lord?
Scripture reminds us time and again that suffering, though painful and capable of lasting a lifetime, is an eternal blessing because it brings the intimacy of fellowship with Christ. As His beloved children, we can grow and rejoice in the grace and knowledge of our Savior even as the fires of our lives affect the things we love the most, trusting that we serve a God who loves us, protects our faith, and holds for us the greatest of all treasure which no flame can ever touch.
Father in heaven, You are the author and perfecter of our faith. Though the suffering You allow into our lives can be agonizing and even long-lasting, we trust that it is always purposeful and productive in that it draws us nearer to You. Just as your Son suffered in the flesh for us, help us to remember that You are working out Your good purposes through the suffering we face day by day. Grant us the faith to trust in Your plan for our lives and to have a godly response when trials come. May we never lose sight of Your goodness or of the hope of heaven! Amen.