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Author:Rev. Arthur Van Delden
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mundijong
 Mundijong, Western Australia
 
 
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Rockingham
 Rockingham, Australia
  www.users.bigpond.net.au/avdelden/Sermons.htm
 
Title:Your faith will hold fast when you're tested
Text:1 Peter 1:6-9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith Tested
 
Added:2004-03-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Scripture Reading: Heb 11:32-12:11 / 1 Peter 1:1-9

Text: 1 Peter 1:6-9

AM
Ps. 138:1,2
Ps. 138:3,4
Ps. 42:3,5
Ps. 66:4,5
Hy. 53:1,2

PM
Ps. 146:1,2
Ps. 146:3
Ps. 42:3,5
Ps. 66:4,5
Hy. 53:1,2
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Arthur Van Delden, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:

During the course of our lives, we get tested quite often. When weíre in school or university, we get tested time and againómath tests, spelling tests, and the list goes on. When we want to get our driverís licence, weíre tested. When we want to make profession of faith, weíre tested.

I donít know about you, but Iíve always gotten a bit nervous each time I had to sit a testóany test. Iíve never had a great deal of self-confidence. I always think about what will happen if I fail, and I try to prepare myself for the worst.

But there is at least one test in life about which God does not want us to have any doubt whatsoever. There is one test that Godís elect will never fail, and that is the test of faith.

This morning (afternoon) we will see how the power of God kept the Christians in Asia steadfast when their faith was tested. I preach to you the Word of God with this theme:

YOUR FAITH WILL HOLD FAST WHEN YOU'RE TESTED
We will consider:
1) Faith tested
2) Faith proven
3) Faith rewarded

FAITH TESTED

When Christ explained the parable of the seeds to His disciples, He mentioned that some of the seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had no depth of soil. Jesus explained what this meant. "He who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles" (Matt 13:20-21).

The gospel is only superficially rooted in some. They appear to be real believers. They display the marks of the Christian. In fact, they display what appears to be a more rapid growth in faith than others. But their "faith" isn't genuine. It isn't real faith. That becomes evident when tribulation or persecution arise. Then their "faith" withers and dies.

The Christians to whom Peter wrote this letter had to endure extreme physical and emotional pain. (As we mentioned last time) secular history books tell us about the atrocities that were committed against the Christians. They suffered ridicule and scorn. They were regarded as outcasts in society. Their earthly possessions were confiscated, leaving the Christians homeless and destitute. Some of them were severely beaten. Some of them were sold as slaves. Women were raped and killed. Men were sent to the arena, and were torn apart by lions or bears or wild dogs. Some were dipped in tar and set alight as human torches.

The Christians to whom Peter writes would have wondered what the purpose was behind their suffering. And Peter writes to tell them the answer. Sometimes God finds it necessary to test the faith of confessing Christians, to prove that is genuine. Peter spoke about this necessity in verse 6 when he says, "Now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials." The words, "if need be" are special words. The same words are used with reference to the suffering and death of Christ, His resurrection and ascension. These were all necessary aspects of Godís plan of redemption. It is the same for the Christians. Their suffering is a necessary aspect of God's plan for His church-gathering work in Asia.

Peter speaks of their persecution as "trials." It could also be translated as "tests." By speaking of them in this way, Peter teaches the Christians in Asia that their suffering comes, not so much from the hand of their enemies, as much as from the hand of God. God is testing them. And that is a great honour. For God does not test people whom He has rejected. No, God only tests the people whom He has elected.

God loved Abraham. He was Godís friend. Yet God tested Abrahamís faith. He demanded that Abraham sacrifice his only son through Sarah, the promised heir. And so through the history of redemption, many have been tested. Think of Joseph in Egypt, or David being pursued by Saul, Or Daniel in the lionís den, or his three friends in the furnace. Above all others, think of Christ Jesus. All these were tested. In the same way God was testing the Christians in Asia.

Peter uses an image that was so common in the OT, namely, that of purifying gold by heating it in the furnace. By this means, the real gold was separated from all other impurities that devalued the gold and took away its beauty and splendour. In like manner, God brought trials or tests upon the church. For what purpose? So that the faith of all professing Christians might be tested in the furnace of affliction.

Through such trials, it becomes apparent whose faith is only superficial. For those who have only superficial faith abandon it when they saw how much they have to sacrifice to keep it. They cling to their earthly possessions rather than to their heavenly inheritance. They cling to this life, rather than to the life to come.

But those whose faith is genuine believe in the glorious inheritance that they are going to receive. For them, their faith is much more precious than the most precious thing on earth. And they are prepared to sacrifice all things on earth in order to hold fast the faith through which they are made heirs of the kingdom of God.

What was the ultimate purpose of these trials, then? Peter tells us that God wanted to put His stamp of approval upon these Christians.

Sometimes in the store you buy some electronic equipment. Many companies endeavour to exercise some form of quality control. So sometimes you will see a little sticker somewhere on an appliance that has the letter "QC" followed by a number. "QC" refers to "Quality Control." The number refers to the employee who has tested the appliance to ensure that it works. If it works, it gets this sticker. The purpose of this test is to assure the purchaser that the product he is buying works.

Well in a similar way God sometimes wants to test the faith of His children. He does so, not for His sake, because He knows what lives in the heart and mind of every man. No, God does not test faith of His children for His benefit, but for the benefit of the believer himself. God wants to be able to put a stamp on the believer, a stamp of His approval, so that the believer may be sure that his faith is genuine.

As far as the faith of the Christians in Asia was concerned, the proof was there. This brings us to our second point.

FAITH PROVEN.

Peter writes about this in vs 8: "Öwhom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joyÖ." Peter marvels at their faith, especially when he compares it to his own initial lack of faith as a disciple of Christ.

Peter saw Christ. He was one of the first disciples whom Christ called. He followed Christ everywhere. He was one of the privileged three, who were allowed even to witness His transfiguration on the mountain, and to hear Godís approval of Christ. He saw all the miracles that Christ performed. He heard the wonderful words that Christ spoke. But when Peter was tempted in the courtyard of the high priest where Jesus was tried, Peter denied the Christ. Where was his love for Christ then? Where was his faith? Three times Christ came to Peter to ask, "Peter do you love me?" But the love and the faith of these Christians was evident. They never saw Christ. Yet they loved Him so much that they were willing to die for the sake of Christ. They believed, even though it cost them so much.

Peter assures them that their faith is genuine. They love Him and believe in Him without ever seeing Him. This is the faith that Christ himself commended. Thomas would not believe without first seeing. But Christ said to Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). That describes these Christians in Asia.

Where was the proof of this love? In the fact that they were willing to suffer for the sake of Christ! Christ proved His love for His people by giving His life for them. And now these Christians were willing to do something similar. They were willing to suffer, even to die, for Christ's sake. To be sure, the purpose in their death was altogether different. Nevertheless, these Christians were willing to suffer rather than to deny the work that Jesus Christ did for them. This was a proof of their genuine love for Christ their Saviour.

Another proof of their genuine faith was their joy. Peter speaks of this joy at the beginning of vs. 6. "In this you rejoiced, even though if need by you have been grieved by various trials." And then in vs. 8 Peter comes back to their joy. For Peter, the joy of the Christians is one of the great proofs of their faith.

Look at how Peter describes their joy in vs. 8. He says that "believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory." Their joy was inexpressible. It defied description. They possessed a sense of that glorious inheritance, which no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has the mind of man conceived. And so their joy is inexpressible. Donít misunderstand Peter. Heís not saying that they didnít express their joy. Heís not saying that it was tucked away deep within them, and never surfaced. No, it was evident for all to see. Their joy radiated from their faces. The songs that filled their heart and mouth conveyed their joy. But they could not describe this joy in words. It was a joy that defied description. Perhaps the word "indescribable" would better convey the Peterís meaning.

Furthermore, it was a joy "full of glory." Some have translated this "glorious joy" which well conveys Peterís thought. What Peter means is that these Christians already experience in part the perfect, complete, and wonderful joy that will be theirs when they enter their glorious inheritance. We speak of something similar in LD 22 of our Catechism. "I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joyÖ"

Now how does their glorious joy give proof of that their faith was genuine? In this way: it proves that these Christians were living out of the glorious hope that they had. It proves that their happiness was derived from the things that they would experience in the world to come.

Remember the context in which these words were written. The Christians were being severely persecuted. They were suffering heavily. Yet experienced all kinds of hurtful thingsóthings that we would expect to make them very sad and sorrowful. But they weren't. They were happy. They were filled with joy. That is because they lived out of the hope that God gave them.

This is what Peter says when he writes in vs 6, "In this you greatly rejoice." He is referring here to what he has spoken about in the previous verses. "This" refers to the fact that they have been elected by God, sanctified by the Spirit, sprinkled with the blood of Christ and so included into the covenant of grace. They have been born again to a living hopeóa hope that will never die. And that hope is the hope of a glorious inheritance which is securely guarded in heaven for the heirs, who are themselves carefully preserved by God, who ensures that they will unfailingly receive that inheritance.

"In this," says Peter, "you greatly rejoice." Their joy is not determined by the hurtful things they experience in this life, but by the glorious things that they will experience in the life to come.

Oh, the Christians to whom Peter wrote did not have perfect faith. At first they were grieved by their trials. But now they are happy. That is clear from the tense of the verbs that Peter uses in vs. 6. Their rejoicing is in the present tense, while their grieving is in the past tense. "In this you rejoice (present tense), though for a little while you were grieved (past tense)." They were grieved, sad, sorrowful. But now they rejoice.

Why the change? Was their suffering over? No, it was still a present reality. That is clear from the fact that in this letter Peter speaks 8 times of their suffering in the present tense. What changed then? Their attitude! Their disposition!

Youíve probably seen one of those hard plastic rolly-polly bears or clowns that little toddlers play with. Itís similar to a Japanese Daruma doll. It has a half ball on the bottom instead of legs, which it allows it roll from side to side. It also has a lead weight in the bottom, so that if you push the bear or clown over, it pulls itself up again. Well, faith does the same for us what the weighted bottom does for this rolly-polly toy. Sometimes the trials and troubles of this life knock our faith off balance, and for a time we are sad and sorrowful. But our faith pulls our inward disposition up again, so that our joy returns. Even though the suffering remains, we are able to rejoice in the midst of these sufferings because of the glorious hope that lives in us.

So these Christians to whom Peter writes were deeply saddened and sorrowful about what had happened. And no wonder! For their suffering was very great. Their faith took a great knock. But their faith didnít die. Like David, they undoubtedly asked themselves, "O my soul, why are you grieving, why disquieted in me? Hope in God your faith retrieving."

These Christians in Asia retrieved their faith. Their faith was restored again. They remembered that they were just strangers in this world, and that they were heirs of the kingdom of God. When they focused their attention on their inheritance, they were filled with joy again. They could rejoice despite their suffering. For their happiness was not determined by what they experienced in this life; their joy was determined by what they would experience in the life to come.

Furthermore, they remembered that their suffering on earth was only "for a little while." When Peter mentions this, he doesnít think so much in terms of months or years or decades. He is not measuring time with a watch or a calendar in his hand. He is measuring time on earth in comparison with eternity. The trials of this life might seem long when we are in the midst of them. But the time of trials is only a drop of water in the ocean of eternity.

No wonder the Christians in Asia rejoiced. As Paul said, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor 4:17). And elsewhere he wrote, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom 8:18).

These Christians, then, focused their eyes on the glorious future that lay before them, and they clung to that future. They let that future determine their disposition. By doing so, these Christians proved that their faith was genuine. They could be sure of receiving the reward of faith, which is our third point.

FAITH REWARDED

God wanted these Christians to go through the furnace of affliction, so that having tested their faith, He might given them His stamp of approval. For all those who bear this stamp will receive praise, glory and honour.

Do you remember the parable of the talents. When the master came back he praised his servants who were faithful in their duty. He said to them, "Well done" (Matt 25:21). Well that, says Peter, is what God will do to those who have held fast to their faith in the midst of trials. God is going to commend them for their steadfastness. He is going to praise them for their endurance.

God will also glorify them. Paul said if we suffer with Christ, then we will also be glorified with Him (cf. Rom 8:17). We will share His glory. We will share in the splendour and majesty of Christ. We will receive the crown of glory, and be seated with Christ around the throne of God.

Christ said, "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor" (John 12:26). That is what these Christians have done. They have followed Christ. They were willing to walk down the road of suffering and sorrow for the sake of Christ. They were willing to follow Him even to death. And just as the Father honoured His Son after His suffering, so the Father would honour those who suffer for Christís sake.

This must have served as a rich encouragement for these Christians. For they suffered just the opposite of honour in this life. They suffered ridicule, shame and dishonour from the hands of the ungodly. But from the Father they shall receive praise, glory and honour.

And lastly, says Peter, they shall receive the end of their faith ó the salvation of their souls. We could translate this, "You will be rewarded with the purpose of your faith, which is your salvation." They have held fast to their faith in the midst of these trials in the hope of receiving the glorious inheritance that God has promised them. And Peter assures them that they will receive it.

Peter speaks about "salvation." When we hear that word, we automatically thing about salvation from our sin. But the Jews used this word differently. For the Jews, this word had the connotation of escape from trouble, deliverance from or victory over enemies. And I think that is the way that Peter uses the word here. Peter promises that they will be delivered from their trials. They will enjoy the ultimate victory over their enemies. Though it might appear that they are defeated by the powers of darkness, they will be more than conquerors on the last day.

What an encouraging word is given to us, then, beloved. Our three sworn enemies ó the devil, the world and our own sinful selfó never cease to attack us. Our enemies will try to draw us away from the faith, and have us join them in their life of unbelief and disobedience. It is not Godís plan to shield us from all their attacks. Sometimes God will test our faith, in order to prove that it is genuine. He will test us by various trials to prove whether we are ready to make sacrifices for Him.

Do you wonder how you will react, beloved? Do you ever wonder whether you will remain faithful in the face of severe trials? Beloved, may I remind you of what Peter wrote in verse 5. He wrote, "you are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

These Christians to Peter wrote did not respond the way they did through their own power. If it were not for God sustaining them in their trials, they would have failed the test miserably. But Godís power was at work in them. He was strengthening their faith to meet those trials head on. He strengthened their faith so that they make the sacrifices that they made. God made the joy of the faith conquer the sorrow of the persecutions. The Spirit of God filled their hearts with inexpressible joy. The Spirit of God focused their faith away from their losses on earth, and made them see what they stand to gain in the kingdom of God. In these verses we see how God worked out what he promised in verse 5. They were kept by the power of God through faith for salvation.

What God has done for these saints of olden days is what God will do the saints through all ages. We donít need to worry about being tested. Because God will see to it that all of His elect will pass the test.

Do you know why? Because of our Lord Jesus Christ! He took the test for us, on our behalf. And He passed with a perfect score. We who have been given to Christ have already passed the test with Christ. He made our salvation sure. When we go through any tests, itís only to prove to us Godís preserving power at work in us.

What an encouragement for us! We have passed the test in Christ, and therefore we will pass whatever tests we face in this life. Through such test, our faith will be proven genuine. And we shall receive praise, glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. We shall obtain the salvation of our souls. AMEN




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Arthur Van Delden, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.users.bigpond.com/avdelden/WebSermons/1PT1v6t9.htm

(c) Copyright, Rev. Arthur Van Delden

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