1 Peter 1
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
In that passage, Peter reminds us that as followers of Jesus Christ, there will be times when we must endure ‘all kinds of trials’. Some think that becoming a Christian means that all of life’s problems will suddenly go away. In fact, as Peter pointed out, God often uses the difficulties in our lives to test and strengthen our faith. Anyone who knows my wife and me personally knows our story. It was the death of our three year old grandson in February of 2007 that brought my wife and me to the point where we had to turn to Jesus Christ. So that passage in 1 Peter was especially true for us.
Ian was our son’s youngest child and he died suddenly and unexpectedly on the morning of February 3rd, 2007 after a bout with strep throat. Some of the memories of that day are still fresh in our minds, like they only happened just yesterday. Even though it’s been eight years, it’s still a very somber time around our home this time of year. We often wonder what Ian would look like now. We wonder what he would be like.
That day and the weeks that followed were the darkest and most difficult times our family ever faced. To make matters worse, it seemed as though the pain and grief we were feeling would never end. There was no end in sight. Not only were we grieving over our grandson, we watched helplessly as our son cried over his little boy. There was nothing we could do as his parents to take his pain away. Healing seemed impossible. It was like a dark cloud had settled over us. That’s how it is when trials come your way and you don’t have a relationship with Christ. Like so many people nowadays, I told myself I was basically a good person and gave some occasional lip service to being a Christian, but I did not live for Christ.
A few weeks after Ian died, the pain was still overwhelming. When we were at the hospital the morning Ian died, one of my wife’s friends came to the hospital. Shortly after Ian passed away, she told us about her church and its pastor and how they’d be there for us in case we needed someone to talk to. I hadn’t been to church in years and I couldn’t remember the last time I prayed. But a few weeks later, the pain was still overwhelming. On my way home from work one night, when it seemed like the whole world was caving in, I recalled what she had said about her church. The sort of pain I was in was not the kind that was going to heal on its own. This was a very deep spiritual pain and I needed the kind of help that only comes from God. I had actually passed the church a few miles back, but there was something that told me to turn around and go back. When I pulled up in front of the church office, I didn’t know what to expect. A part of me wanted to put the truck in reverse and go home. But I got out and went to the door. Dan Liles, the worship leader at the time, noticed me out there and saw that something was wrong. He immediately took me inside and called for the pastor, Mike Mowery. To make a long story short, that was the night I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. Mike and Dan have since moved on, but the seeds they helped plant took root.
There are a couple of reasons I wanted to share that part of my testimony with you. First and foremost I felt led to do so by the Holy Spirit. But the other reason is because at some point, most followers of Jesus Christ will experience trials and pain in their lives. When I was baptized in August of 2008, Mike said something that has stayed with me ever since. He said when people go through what my family and I went through, they choose one of two paths. They will either turn from God, or turn to God.
Some of you may have experienced a trial by fire in your own lives. Or you may be going through something right now. If you haven’t been through some sort of trial or difficulty yet, you probably will at some point in the future. You may even have to go through a series of trials. Sadly, there are many Christians who walk away from the faith when trials overtake them. They can’t believe God allowed something bad to happen to them, so they choose the path that leads away from God. They get angry with God. They shake their fists at God. Some find their way back, some don’t.
Trials and difficulties and hardships can come at you in any number of ways. It could be the loss of a job or a sudden financial setback. Maybe your spouse unexpectedly asks for a divorce. It might be the loss of a loved one as it was in my case. Or maybe it comes in the form of bad news from your doctor. The Bible tells us to expect trials and difficulties, so don’t be surprised when they come. Take it from me; don’t turn away from God when bad things happen. If you go against God, you’re going to lose that battle. Choose the right path.
When you go through your own trial by fire, your only refuge is your faith in Christ. If your wife leaves, comfort is not found in the arms of another woman you picked up in a bar. Comfort is only found in the arms of Christ. If you find yourself grieving over the loss of a loved one or if you’ve been hit by some really bad news, don’t drown your sorrow in a bottle of tequila or Jack Daniels. Your source of strength is in the living water of Christ. If you lose your job, don’t despair to the point that you consider doing something foolish. That one is personal for me because five of my former co-workers from my days at Delta Airlines have committed suicide. Guys, it’s only a job. God will provide you with another.
My point is this: If you’ve been through a trial that has caused suffering in your life, healing comes through Jesus Christ. It’s seldom easy, especially when you’re the one who’s hurting. For both my wife and me, our healing did not begin until our tears were shed at the foot of the cross. Healing may not come instantly, but it will come. And when it does, you will know that it was only through faith in Christ that healing was even possible. Your faith will be made stronger than you ever thought it could be. It will be proven genuine, just like Peter said, and Jesus will be praised, honored, and glorified in the end. I know this to be true……because of my own trials by fire!!