|Volume 17 Number 6 June 2015||
Mark N. Posey
First Peter was written to people in the midst of a storm they had not caused and could not control. The storm was in the form of all kinds of trials. Peter said in 1:6, “you have been grieved by various trials.” The word “various” literally means, “many/multi-colored.” It refers to all kinds of trials. The word “trials” literally means, “adversity or problems.” Peter was saying, “I realize that you are going through all kinds of problems.” He was not just talking about persecution and the threat of death, but he also meant health, money, family, work and any kind of problem one might face. Furthermore, Scripture is clear that we will face problems (Matthew 7:24-27; 2 Timothy 3:12). However, notice three principles that will help us endure problems that we did not cause and cannot control.
The problems we face are only temporary (v. 6b). Notice the qualifying phrase in vs. 6, “for a little while.” Problems are not going to last forever, and we need to remember that they are, by their very nature, only temporary (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17). In fact, we should have this attitude toward all things. We should not become too attached to this world’s pleasures or problems. We must keep in mind that we are pilgrims (1:1). The temporary nature of problems also applies to temptations. Temptation cannot last forever—it’s not that strong. If we wait, it will eventually go away. James said, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (4:7).
The problems we face do not have to make us miserable (v. 6a). Peter made reference to all the good things given to us by God. He listed them in vs. 3-5. We have been given God’s mercy, new life, living hope, eternal inheritance and protection through faith until Jesus returns. With such blessed assurance, we should not allow a few temporary problems and trials to rob us of our rejoicing. The most important things (i.e., God’s mercy, power and eternal life) cannot be taken away from the faithful and obedient. Abraham Lincoln said, “A person is as happy as he makes up his mind to be.” Peter says even though we suffer grief, we have every reason to rejoice because of God’s goodness toward us.
The problems we face will help us grow (v.7). The principle is that pain precedes growth. Weightlifters have a slogan: “No Pain, No Gain.” The slogan can also be applied spiritually. There is no gain without the pain of discipline, perseverance and self-denial. Just like every workout makes an athlete a little stronger, so every problem/trial we endure increases spiritual strength. Peter said that “the genuineness [proof] of your faith…though tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory.” Remember, we have the power to overcome any trial that comes our way because God is faithful and will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).
In conclusion, trials are not meant to take strength from us. Instead, they strengthen us.
Be Careful Not to Fall
Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written as a warning to us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:11-12)
Paul reminded those in the church at Corinth of the blessings the Israelites enjoyed while in the wilderness. He also reminded them of the mistakes that they made during their journey along the way, as they became victims of the temptations they faced, yielding to them and having to deal with the consequences. The Christians in Corinth, in like manner, had been richly blessed by God, but they were subject to temptations in life. They needed to remember God’s blessings to make sure of where they stood spiritually, that they might truly be rooted and grounded in the will of God. Otherwise, they would fall victim to sin and not find the way of escape to endure them victoriously.
Both the Israelites and Corinthians serve as examples to us, warning of the pitfalls Satan places before us in life. We must make sure we stand on the rock and not in quicksand if we would bear the burdens of life and be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). How does one fall spiritually? Most of the time it isn’t by suddenly being tossed over a wide chasm, but it is by making choices that take us there step by step, where we willingly fall off. The psalmist warned, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1). From walking to standing to sitting, sin gradually deceives one into ending up where one never would have thought he or she would be. Paul would later warn the Corinthians, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
The writer of Hebrews also warned us, “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1). The term “drift” carries the meaning to float by or drift past as a ship, or to flow past as a river. Figuratively, it means to slip away, suggesting a gradual and almost unnoticed movement past a certain point. It is used figuratively of persons meaning to glide away, to swerve or deviate from something, such as the truth, law or precepts. There are few who make a conscious decision to forsake the assembly of the saints, but missing here and there leads to his or her absence becoming a regular habit. No one would say that prayer and Bible study are unneeded, but allowing other things to crowd into life can gradually take away any time for them. It can be almost imperceptible for the things of life to consume one’s resources where there is nothing left to give to God. With time, the temptations of life can supplant the will of God. One will have fallen, thinking he or she is still standing!
The writer of Hebrews also went on to say, “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (2:3). “Neglect” carries the meaning of being careless, to overlook or to regard lightly. Words can deny such an attitude long after actions show it to be true. We must pay much closer attention to spiritual values, to know them and live by them, if we would avoid neglecting what is eternally important to us. When we neglect our precious Savior for temporal pursuits, we will drift spiritually, and ultimately we will fall.
Be careful not to fall! Spend time in prayer, in God’s Word, in worship of God and fellowship with other Christians, and in Christian service. Never forget the love of Christ and the fear of God. Start every day with God, reminding yourself of His presence throughout the day and ending it with thanksgiving to Him. Make sure you really stand where you believe you are. Don’t drift, don’t neglect and don’t lose what is of eternal importance. Stand with God in Christ and find escape from the temptations of life. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).