1 Peter 1:9 tells us that the goal of our faith is the salvation of our souls. It really should be, but as Christ-followers, has our salvation become such an accepted, taken-for-granted part of our lives that we focus our faith elsewhere? Do we see our eternal lives hanging in a faith balance, or do we reserve our faith for healing miracles and comfortable, prosperous lives? Something has gone askew in our thinking when we focus our faith on what we need and want, rather than on the person of Jesus…and most of us would claim we don’t do that.
But, there is an easy way to test that out: are our lives characterized by joy? “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you don’t see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible, glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9) If we cannot say we are filled with glorious joy, what is robbing us of the experience?
Generally speaking, they are the cares of this world. They range from strained/lost relationships, to financial hardships, to critical health issues, to the stress of raising children/getting everything done/job performance, and everything in-between. This very large box of concerns could be labeled hardships.
Peter is candid about the fact that we will suffer grief in all kinds of trials. But he also offers an incredible explanation. He pits the value of our faith against the worth of gold, proclaiming faith as the greater. But, as gold is refined by fire that burns out all the impurities, faith is purified through trials. If our faith falters when God does not deliver us from the trial or negate the hardship, do we believe Jesus still knows, sees, and cares? Or do we believe He has turned His back? The way we answer this question demonstrates whether our faith is in God, or in an outcome we want from Him. If the latter is the case, the equations that most characterize our lives are: Jesus + (whatever we need or want) = abundant life; or Jesus – (whatever we need or want) = no joy.
Ouch! Too convicting! But correctly seeing hardship for God’s purpose of making us better is an incredible starting point.
This concept is simple, but not easy, therefore faith is absolutely required to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Phil 2:12-13) We have to believe that God is faithful, and a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Heb 11:6) Stepping into this reality gives us the long view of God’s plan, complete with the goal of living forever in His Presence. So, it gives meaning and purpose to everything we endure in this life.
But how do we rest in that truth in the heat of the moment, when everything seems to be crashing in on us? “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4:18) And, “Lord, I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)