The Trial of Our Faith
by Rev. James Slopsema
"That the trial of your faith ,being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" II Peter 1:7
Semon Text: 2nd Peter 1:7
Preached: Sunday, July 27, 2008
The churches to which Peter was writing were in heaviness through manifold temptations. We learn later in this letter that this heaviness or grief refers to the severe persecutions the saints experienced at the hand of the world.
We also find ourselves frequently in heaviness through manifold temptations. We too must suffer for Christ's sake in the midst of the world although we may thankfully add that in our present society this opposition is not nearly as severe as that experienced by the church in the days of the apostles. But in addition to this we also experience the sufferings that come upon mankind in general: sickness, physical infirmities, loss of loved ones, financial difficulties, broken homes . .
God has a purpose in these sufferings. They are designed to try our faith.
Our attention is called to gold which is tried by fire. So also is our faith, which is much more precious than gold, tried by the sufferings of this present time.
Furthermore, we are assured that this tried and tested character of our faith will be found by Jesus in the day of His appearing, with the result that we will be approved by God, receiving both honor and glory.
What a glorious comfort and encouragement in the face of our present sufferings!
How precious gold is! Gold is so precious because of its purchasing power. With gold you can secure food, drink, and clothing. And that's not all. With enough gold a man can enjoy luxury, pleasure, power, security, the esteem of his fellow man. Almost anything earthly can be acquired, if only you have enough gold. For that reason men have worked, fought, and even killed for gold.
But as precious as gold is, our faith is far more precious.
Faith is precious exactly because it brings to us the salvation of God in Jesus Christ. Through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, God has prepared for us a glorious salvation. In Jesus there is the forgiveness of all our sins. In Jesus there is the power of a new life free from all the sin and
misery that characterizes the life of mankind today. In Jesus there is a hope of yet a better life to come in heavenly glory.
This salvation is ours by faith alone. Salvation is not something we must earn. It's not something that can be purchased with gold and money. It's a free gift of God received by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Salvation full and free is promised by God to all and everyone who clings in his heart to Jesus Christ and relies upon Him for all things.
How precious then is our faith!
Daily we must thank God for our faith in Jesus. For even this faith comes from God and not from us.
But the point is that our faith is more precious even than gold. This is true because, as precious as gold is, it perishes, whereas our faith does not.
Indeed, gold does perish. It perishes in the sense that so easily we can lose our hoarded gain of gold and money.
We may work long and hard, scrimping and saving to amass to ourselves a fortune of gold; and tomorrow it may all slip through our fingers. Great fortunes have been lost overnight.
Besides that, whatever gold and riches you may manage to acquire in this life will be lost to you when you die. At death you leave everything behind. You won't be able to take so much as one gold piece with you.
This isn't true, however, of our faith. Our faith in Jesus Christ and the salvation it brings us will never perish. The devil seeks to destroy our faith; but God will preserve us in it. Nor do we lose our faith when we die. We carry our faith and salvation with us into eternity to enjoy its blessings eternally. In fact, these are the only things we take with us when we die!
And now consider how short our life here on the earth is in comparison to eternity. Gold is something that pertains only to this life, and will be lost at death - if we don't manage to lose it before. On the other hand, our faith and its salvation is ours to enjoy eternally.
How much more precious is our faith than gold which perishes.
God tries our faith, as gold is tried by fire.
When gold is melted by fire the impurities rise to the top' In this way gold can be tested for impurities. But gold is also purified in this way. For the impurities that rise to the top are easily skimmed off. This is trial by fire. When gold is tried by fire it is tested and purified.
In like manner God tries our faith by the fires of sufferings and affliction, not only to test our faith but also to strengthen and purify it.
This truth must be contrasted to the efforts of the devil to destroy our faith through suffering.
Mention has just been made by Peter of the heaviness through manifold temptations. These temptations refer specifically to the severe persecution the saints were experiencing. Through the fiery persecutions which he brought against the churches, the devil sought to tempt the saints to abandon the Christian faith.
The devil still works the same way today. Whenever we suffer, the devil is nearby to tempt us. If possible he would use our present sufferings to discourage us from continuing in God's ways. He seeks to make us bitter against God so that we turn from God and walk in unbelief. Many of us may presently be struggling with these devilish temptations.
However, God is sovereign over both the devil and our suffering. And He uses the same sufferings, which the devil uses to tempt us so severely, to try our faith.
First, through our sufferings God puts our faith to the test an exposes its weaknesses. Mind you, God doesn't test our faith so that He may come to know the strength or weakness of our faith. God, who knows even the hearts of man, knows the nature of our faith without ever putting it to the test. Our faith is tested through suffering that we may come to know the true character of our faith. What startling revelations about our faith are made to us in the hour of suffering!
But through the trial of our faith God also strengthens and increases our faith. The devil may seek to destroy our faith through suffering; but God strengthens it the devil may seek through suffering to drive us away from Christ (and sometimes he succeeds for a while); but God uses the same sufferings ultimately to bring us closer to our Lord and Savior, the fount of all our salvation. Consequently, it is through suffering that we grow and increase in our faith. And with the increase of our faith we also are enriched in all the blessings of salvation, the least of which is not mighty works of faith in the service of our God.
The devil tempts; but the Lord tries our faith, as gold is tried by fire.
Now it is true that no suffering for the present is joyous but grievous. Nevertheless, we can be content and patient in these sufferings, when we bear in mind that God uses these sufferings to try our faith, which is much more precious even than gold that perishes.
This trial of our faith will be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is coming again. When He comes He will appear visibly on the clouds of heaven with His holy angels. And He will judge the living and the dead, all according to their works.
In that day the trial of our faith will be found unto praise and honor and glory.
The trial of our faith obviously doesn't refer here to the actual testing of our faith but rather to the tried and tested character of our faith. Through a lifetime of trials and tribulations God strengthens and purifies our faith so that in the strength of faith we live lives of service to God in the midst of this world.
This tried and tested character of our faith with all its fruits will not be lost in the day of judgment. Nor will it be overlooked. It will be found by the Lord Jesus Christ. It will be found unto praise and honor and glory. It will be found unto. praise in that Jesus Christ will express His approval of our faith and the works of service that have arisen from it. He will say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." But our faith in that day will also be found unto honor and glory in that Jesus will reward our tried and tested faith with its works with great honor and glory in heaven.
This is the ultimate purpose of God in our suffering. God sends suffering, first, that our faith may be tried and strengthened. But His ultimate goal is that this tried and tested character of faith may be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
Clinging to this by faith we can patiently bear our present sufferings and burdens.
Were it true that our present sufferings serve no good purpose, we could hardly endure them. Then all that is left for us is bitterness and despair.
But since God uses even sufferings to bring us honor and glory through the trial of our faith, we can endure every affliction and be content.
The Rev. James Slopsema is the pastor of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was president of the Protestant Reformed Synod in 2002.