Growing Through Trials
1 Peter 1:3-9
April 9/10, 2005
God uses trials in our lives to strengthen our faith and to bring us to maturity. When trials come we should keep the long view and remember He has our best in mind.
It’s the time of year when the lawns are all nice and green. Lawnmowers are up and running - and some people - the ones who really like to mow - are putting fertilizer on their lawns. Nice little chemical pellets. But that’s not what farmers use!
I grew up in the suburbs of Seattle and didn’t spend much of any time on a farm, but I remember shortly after moving to Canby in 1992 riding my bike out around some of the farmland in town and smelling the absolutely worst smell I can remember. I thought that the sewage line had broken somewhere - I mean it just about knocked me over. Then I realized what it was - nearby was a truck that was full of manure of some sort - evidently to fertilize the fields. I really had no idea that that was how my vegetables on my plate got to me - through the use of manure that smelled so terrible. (To this day I wonder how the “fertilizer truck man” does it!)
I wonder who it was that first discovered that manure mixed in the soil with plants would help them grow to maturity faster, and bear more fruit than without. Whoever it was - perhaps they found the principle in the Bible. Because it is a clear teaching of scripture that if we want to grow to maturity in our Christian faith, if we want to become strong and bear spiritual fruit, one of the things we’ll need is....fertilizer. Yup, dirty stinking fertilizer. Stuff that on the surface seems to have no purpose except to smell up our lives, but, when put in the hands of the master gardener, causes us to grow to maturity. I’m talking about the trials and adversities that all of us face from time to time in our lives.
I want to answer two questions today about the “fertilizer” of adversity in our lives:
Why do we need adversity?
How should we react when the fertilizer of adversity is plopped into our lives?
And to answer this, I want to use the text of 1 Peter 1:3-9 as our home base so let’s read it together now.
1 Peter 1:3-9
3 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,
4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you,
5 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.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
7 These have come so that your faith-- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Why do we need trials?
So that our faith may be proven genuine (v. 7).
Without trials we do not need faith very much.
If we want genuine faith, it needs to be exercised.
ILLUS: On December 29, 1987, a Soviet cosmonaut returned to the earth after 326 days in orbit. He was in good health, which hasn’t always been the case in those record-breaking voyages. Five years earlier, touching down after 211 days in space, two cosmonauts suffered from dizziness, high pulse rates, and heart palpitations. They couldn’t walk for a week, and after 30 days, they were still undergoing therapy for atrophied muscles and weakened hearts.
At zero gravity, the muscles of the body begin to waste away because there is no resistance. To counteract this, the Soviets prescribed a vigorous exercise program for the cosmonauts. They invented the "penguin suit," a running suit laced with elasticbands. It resists every move the cosmonauts make, forcing them to exert their strength. Apparently the regimen is working.
We often long dreamily for days witout difficulty, but God knows better. The easier our life, the weaker our spiritual fiber, for strength of any kind grows only by exertion. (Craig Brian Larson)
So it is with faith, if we want it to grow strong, we need to push through tough times and remember God’s faithfulness to us even when we don’t see him!
Why else do we need adversity in our lives?
So that we may come to maturity in Christ.
Romans 5:1-5 tells us this about suffering: 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into ourhearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (NIV)
A similar passage in James 1:2-4 says: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Both of these passages tell us that the trials in our lives, the suffering we endure, is used by God to help us develop into the mature men and women of God that he wants us to become.
In fact, if we look closer at the passage in James 1, we see that if our lives are without “trials of many kinds” we will end up being IMMATURE, INCOMPLETE, and LACKING SOMETHING.
How should we respond when trials are plopped into our lives?
We should keep the long view in mind.
This means to remember that we are eternal beings and that this life of ours is really only the “basic training” for the reality that will be accomplished when Jesus returns and sets up His eternal kingdom.
Look back at 1 Peter 1:3-9 and we see this principle at work. Peter, writing to encourage Christians who have been scattered from their homes due to the persecution of Roman Emporers (which is far more of a trial than most of us will EVER endure), starts off by reminding them of God’s great mercy and gifts for them: 3 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, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you,
In other words, Peter tells them “Even though you’ve been scattered from your homes and your entire lives have been disrupted, don’t let that make you forget the awesome inheritance that is waiting for you in heaven. These trials are really only for a “little while” if you’ll keep the long view of things!”
A similar idea is found in 2 Cor 4:16-18: 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
We’ve got to remember that the trials that we are experiencing are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
Even if we don’t understand why a trial has come our way or what possible good could come out of it, we need to remember to keep our eyes on the eternal, the unseen.
ILLUS: For what is our life really. It is so short. Remember the trees in the park by the Raymond’s home.
Remember that God is using the trials - and everything else in our lives - to accomplish the greatest good in our lives and in his kingdom.
Rom 8:28-29 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
God’s ultimate aim in our lives is not to make us happy, comfortable, affluent, successful, healthy, and stress-free. His ultimate aim is to conform us to the likeness of his Son. To make us more like Jesus.
And he will use everything that happens in our lives to bring this about.
ILLUS: Infertility and adoption - though it caused grief for us, we were reminded by this verse that although we couldn’t see it yet, God had our ultimate best in mind, even though he chose to not answer our prayers for a miraculous conception.
What happened, though through a lot of anxiety, stress, and financial cost, was two children now have opportunities that their birth parents would not have been able to provide.
We have been able to be instruments of God’s grace into the lives of the birthfamilies of both of our children.
We have learned so much about the truth that when God adopts us into his family, nothing can snatch us away from him!
We were lucky, for we were able to see and experience almost immediately the “greater good” that God had in mind for us through our trial. But not everyone is so lucky.
In fact, many people will not see for years, or perhaps even until they stand before the Father someday, what God was doing through the various trials of their life.
CONCLUSION: In John 16:33 Jesus promises us that “In this world you will have troubles...” so, though we don’t have choice about whether we will get fertilizer in our lives, we do have a choice about how we will respond.
Will we shake our puny finger back at God and say, “how dare you do this to me?”
Will we lose hope in our eternal salvation?
Will we lose faith in God’s ability to make good on his promise that for those who are called according to his purpose ALL things work together for good?
Or will we submit to his sovereign ways, keep the long view in mind, and THANK him even for the fertilizer of trials that we need to grow mature and become fruitful for him.
Dedication time -
confess any disbelief or anger with God.
ask for the grace to keep the long view in mind.
thank God for his sovereignty over all the affairs of our lives.
submit your future into his all-wise hands